Minimum Viable Product is a term that gets banded around a lot, especially in ‘Lean Startup’ circles. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, and being able to understand, plan and work towards an MVP can make planning and coding your product a much less stressful endeavor.
In this article, I’m going to talk about using MVPs to plan development, and why they rock.
So, let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario. Let’s imagine that it’s the early 20th century and there’s been a fire in the offices of Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Henry was about to demonstrate his Model T car to the world, which would revolutionize motoring. Sadly, the fire consumed his only prototype and all his blueprints. He’ll have to start from scratch.
What Makes A Car?
So, let’s pretend you’re in Henry Ford’s shoes. You need to reinvent the car that would ultimately shake up manufacturing and transport and you decide to create a minimum viable product. This contains all the features you need to sell, market and demonstrate your product, and no more. So, what do you need?
- The ability to increase and decrease speed as required, and to traverse obstacles and roads.
- A chassis, to keep out rain and to protect the internal components.
- Somewhere for the driver and any passengers to sit.
This is the minimum viable product of an automobile. All the other cool stuff like heated seats, bluetooth and iPod docking can come later. For now, this is all he needs for him to call his product a car.
How Does This Relate To Games Development?
As someone getting into games development for the first time, I’m constantly aware of the need to have an MVP, and to work towards it.
Having a pre-defined minimum viable product is actually the cornerstone of all my planning, as it keeps me conscious of essential features, and allows me to ignore that pesky little voice in my head that asks ‘what if?’. The pesky little voice that, when obeyed, results in distraction from your main objectives, and adding lots of non-core features before you’ve completed the essential facets of the game.
In retrospect, someone ought to have told the developers of Duke Nukem Forever about this fabulous concept.
What I’m Working Towards
So, I’m working on a game right now. Here’s what my MVP is.
- My application will be able to parse a JSON file.
- That JSON file will then be rendered in the game as a room.
- The JSON file will contain information relating to a character, and that character will be able to traverse the room.
- The JSON file will contain information about events, which will be interpreted by the program. These events will be predefined.
And you know what? That’s all I’m going to do. At least initially. I can add the sparkles later. I can make it look prettier once I’ve got core functionality down.
You can’t build a house without foundations.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity and you want to read more about lean concepts, I can’t recommend The Lean Startup enough. It’s a fabulous read.
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