Game Dev Glossary: Prototype, Vertical Slice, First Playable, MVP, Demo

Someone on our discord brought up a good bit of nuance in response to the Vertical Slice talk - there’s a bunch of different terms for things that seem really similar. Each of the terms are the same basic concept - a demonstration of gameplay - but they each have small but important distinctions. Let’s go over them here.

[Vertical Slice] - We just went over this. It’s a functioning version of all planned game systems in the game working together for a representative final game experience.

First Playable - Basically the same as a Vertical Slice. Some people have some bigger distinctions between the two, the First Playable is the milestone that marks the end of preproduction and the beginning of production.

Prototype - A playable example of a single gameplay system to prove out the concept. Examples might be character movement, a combat combo system, or a specific game mechanic. The above screenshot is from the Breath of the Wild systems prototype - wind, fire, etc. was modeled in this prototype before being translated to the 3D game world.

MVP - Minimum Viable Product. The absolute bare-bones critical path minimum of whatever deliverable we’re working on that meets acceptance criteria. This can refer to the whole game or a specific chunk of work we’re doing (e.g. a specific system, a feature, etc.).

Demo - A stripped-down build of the game for exhibition, either for executives, tradeshows, or public-facing. Split into pre-release demo and post-release demo, with the post-release demo being easier to deal with.

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