teaching machines

CS 491: Project Milestones

February 6, 2020 by . Filed under gamedev, specifications, spring-2020.

This semester you and your team will be dropped into a box. Calories will be dropped in one side of the box, and a game will pop out the other.

To help structure your progress, your box is actually expected to pop out four versions of your game in various stages of completion. These milestones are described below.


Your first milestone is a prototype of your game on paper and in some digital experiments. It should allow you and your playtesters to test out the game’s mechanics, visualize the user interface and level design, and help you piece together a coherent sequence of play.

Deliverables include the following:

The central purpose of the prototype is to fail fast—to find issues in your design before you’ve committed too much time into them and become their slave.

Vertical Slice

The second milestone is a digital prototype of a single playable screen or level of your game. Its assets are probably rough stand-in shapes and sprites. It lacks main menus, music, and other non-primary interface elements. Avoid tackling horizontal concerns; we aren’t interested in a cohesive whole at this point.

Deliverables include the following:

The central purpose of the vertical slice is to familiarize yourself with the game engine by applying it to a contained portion of your game.


The third milestone is an alpha version of your game. There may be bugs and incomplete features, but the all mechanics should be in place.

Deliverables include the following:

The central purpose of the alpha version is to provide playtesters a feel for the overall structure of your game. Along the way, you will almost certainly develop tools and workflows that allow you to scale your efforts across levels.

Final Build

The fourth milestone is a build of your game that you can ship to your players for evaluation. All levels should be complete, with a cohesive narrative gluing together the gameplay. In addition to the core gameplay, sound and visual effects should be present to give your game polish.

Deliverables include the following:

The central purpose of the final build is to tie together all your ideas, art, and code into a package that you can deliver with reasonable confidence to your players.


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