CS/INFO 3152: Introduction to Computer Game Development

Communication Lab 4
Outlining Milestones

Due: Not Turned In

The focus of today's lab is to work on the milestone document, which is due this weekend, together with your nondigital prototype. In this document, you will layout your sprints for the semester, as discussed on the the first day of class. You will predict what features will appear in each deliverable for the remainder of the semester.

We know that this is a hard document to write, because it is so early in the semester. While you might have a good idea what you will do for the gameplay prototype, beta release is very far off. We simply want you think constructively about the process. We understand that these milestones are very likely to change as the semester progresses. But making a guess about what you are going to do helps you get organized.

If you are unsure about anything, the course staff will be circulating about the room. They have been through this exercise before, do not hestitate to call on them for help.


Outlining the Milestone Document

The milestone document outlines what you plan to do for each two week deliverables (gameplay, technical, alpha, beta, final), and how you plan to split up the work. This document is not a contract; you are allowed to change your mind as the semester progresses. However, it is a good way to start thinking about your process.

Obviously, the milestone document is to big to do in a single communication lab. Therefore, we want you to focus on the most important subset. Start with the five major two-week software deliverables:

  • Gameplay Prototype: First software prototype; a throw-away prototype in any language.
  • Technical Prototype: An evolutionary prototype of a technical component; written in LibGDX and Java
  • Alpha Release: Basic code complete with a playable level; should include a level editor
  • Beta Release: Basic features complete with a several playable levels; should have plans for user testing.
  • Final Release: Levels complete but perhaps not polished; bug fixing only at this point.

For each of the these five milestones, write a paragraph describing the following two items.


Deliverables

What do you expect to show us in class for this particular milestone? Remember our description of Scrum(lite); you are picking a small list of features from your final project, and implementing them for this smaller milestone. Which features are you choosing for for this milestone?

Obviously, your features should match the description of the tasks listed above. However, it is also a good idea to put in smaller tasks that are important, but not on the schedule. For example, we require that everyone complete a level editor for their game. We strongly recommend that you finished this by alpha release. However some groups only create a simple editor for alpha, and push the most of the work on the level editor off until beta (and their games are not as good because of this).

Another thing to keep in mind is issues such as game AI. If your game is a strategy game, where AI really matters, then you should start working on it right away. However, if it is a platformer or other game where AI is less important, then you can delay it until the end.


Test for Acceptance

Now that you know what the deliverables are, how do you measure success? Or more appropriately, how would you tell that the milestone was a failure? Answers like "playable gameplay prototype" are not enough; we need to know what you mean by terms like "playable".

To help you with your test for acceptance, imagine that I am grading your milestone deliverable. How would you like me to evaluate it for a grade? What would count as an A, and what would count as a B? While I will not actually give letter grades on an individual milestone, this is a good way to express your test for acceptance.

It is very important that you have concrete goals for your tests for acceptance. Subjective criteria like "the game is fun" is very hard to measure, and so you cannot tell if you passed the test or not. On the other hand, you can measure things like "my roommate really likes the game" or "the majority of the focus group we kidnapped off the street believe the game is better than Modern Warfare". Other examples of good tests are "we can play the game for 20 minutes without it crashing" or "our artist, who has no programming experience, can use the level editor to make a level". These are the types of things we are looking for.

If you are unsure of what consitutes a good Test for Acceptance, look at the milestone document for Lifted. This document has some of the best acceptance tests that we have ever seen.


Submission

You should try to complete as many of the deliverables and tests for acceptance as you can during lab time. However, we are not going to ask you to submit this communication lab by itself. Instead, you should spend the rest of the week expanding your work from this lab into a full-blown milestone document. You will then submit this document this weekend.