This article relates our experience in publishing a small board game as quickly as possible. Development started seven days ago, the app is now in Apple review team’s hands.
How did we go that fast? The answer is quite simple:
Keep EVERYTHING as Simple as Possible!
We stripped the design down to the simplest thing that would still provide a fun experience. A single player game against an AI opponent, with absolutely no options to configure anything.
A prototype game engine with console interface was developed in the evening. The next day, we estimated that it wouldn’t require more than a week to build a mobile version, so we went for it.
Here’s the project’s timeline, followed by some interesting lessons.
- Day 0: 1/2 day to develop a prototype game engine
- Day 1: Sketch the interface, think about user experience, prepare the project
- Day 2: First playable version were you play against yourself and see nothing more than raw tiles on screen
- Day 3: Add the initial user interface to pickup tiles and start a new game, add an AI
- Day 4: Finalise the user interface
- Day 5: Add sounds, animations and polish the controls
- Day 6: Polish, polish, a sum of tiny stuff that makes a finished product
- Day 7: Marketing material for the store
Full development took 14 times the time required to build the simplest prototype.
An evening for a prototype, a full week for a full game.
Polish accounted for 40% of the development time.
By the end of day 3 we had a fully playable game. Day 4 to 6 were mostly polish, only the most necessary polish.
Nothing more that sketches were really showable until 1/3 of the project.
The methodology we used for this project worked very well.
For the first half of the development, we defined the scope of the project, then developed without distractions until we could play on the device. The important in this phase is to remember to skip every aspect that does not go toward this milestone: a playable version (or “alpha”). No visual effects, no unnecessary graphics, no sounds.
Once we reached the alpha milestone, it was time to organise a bit. Here we like Scrum, so we went Scrum. We created tasks, assigned priorities by business value, then developed until we reach our deadline.
The only risk is to fail reaching a releasable state at the deadline. To lower this risk, we put aside every cool feature we’d like to add, and focus only on the necessary. We kept asking ourselves, “can I release without this?”, if the answer was yet, we just skip it. There still is a chance we can get back to it later if.
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