Vertical Slice

In game development, a vertical slice refers to a portion of the game that can be considered representative of the final game. I like to think of it as a cross section of a piece of cake, a “vertical slice” if you will. The problem with a vertical slice though, is you’ve got to bake the whole cake before you can take it. Well, that’s not entirely true, more like baking a muffin, which will taste like the final cake. I feel like a coffee would go well with that last paragraph.

A vertical slice is good for publishers and the like because they can get their hands on the game and understand exactly what they might be investing in, as aside to seeing a pitch or design document. A vertical slice is not usually good for developers because they’ve got to get final assets in place very quickly, which is especially inefficient if they’re trying to secure contractor time at awkward blocks in the project, which is especially true of audio.

We’ve been working diligently away on MacGuffin’s Curse to reach this vertical slice for probably longer than we initially imagined, because we’re perfectionists and want to show a polished product. We’re nearly there, but not quite. A lot is hinging on this vertical slice, it could mean the difference between getting successful distribution and disappearing into obscurity, which is why we see benefit in taking the time to make it awesome even if it takes a few extra weeks. Because what’s a few weeks in a 26 week development cycle?

One thing I realise in hindsight is that Jolly Rover was at the vertical slice stage when I received funding for it, because I had built the prototype and paid to get assets done before seeking further investment – which was expensive! The vertical slice of Jolly Rover was what allowed me to move so rapidly on development as a one man design/production/programming team, so while it can be inefficient to do a vertical slice, there are good things to be said for the development of one early on.

About Andrew

I do all the boring stuff that's gotta be done so I get to do fun stuff sometimes.
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2 Responses to Vertical Slice

  1. Iacus says:

    But can you always ensure that the vertical slice will actually be representative of the final product? The very nature of the creative process ensures that you will make changes, adjustments and tweks to the game until it’s an acceptable quality, and that level of quality may not even be in your mind when you finish the vertical slice!

    • Andrew says:

      This is definitely true, the game can sometimes change substantially from the vertical slice. But in any game there will be a set of core mechanics that need to be tested that make sure they work, in addition there is a visual and audio style that can be established; it’s rare that all of these things will change significantly during the course of development. Vertical slice is for publishers in the vast majority of times, and it’s to give them something they can hold in their hand and understand what they’re investing in, and when entering into a relationship with publishers deviation from what is presented in the vertical slice can be difficult, which makes it a double edged sword. But with any good relationship communication is key, and if you can construct a persuasive argument to make the publisher understand the need for change to make a better product then you’ll be right.

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