The Vertical Slice

Jul 09, 2011

The vertical slice is one of the dumbest things the game industry has ever come up with.  I threw this together to show how dumb it is.  Not sure why I was thinking about it today, but I was.  The publisher I'm working with now doesn't want a vertical slice, some don't, but there are quite a few that do.

It's just a dumb way to build a game and it results in wasted time and money and doesn't produce the best game possible.

A publisher handing a developer a big chunk of money to make a game should mean a carefully planned preproduction, and if it's risky from a game play or tech stand point, absolutely build a prototype (not just for them, but for you as well), but doing a vertical slice is just kowtowing to the uncreative.

We work in a creative industry, I expect the 'execs' to understand that creativity.  Given that they are the ones getting stinking rich off of all our hard work, shouldn't we expect that from them?

What if movie studios required vertical slices of movies.  It just doesn't work.

Vertical slices might work in a medium where you start at the beginning and grind though in a fairly linear fashion and what comes out is 90% complete.  Maybe writing a novel works this way, but making movies and games do not.  They are an iterative processes.  You build foundations and the build up from there.

Da Vinci didn't paint the Mona Lisa one strip at a time, he slowly built it up from sketch to finished painting.  That's the way games should be built.

Stephen Lujan
Sorry to be so contrary, but this image not at all analogous to the industry meaning of "vertical slice." Working by vertical slices is the opposite of starting at the beginning and grinding through in a linear fashion. Its the solution to the problems that emerge from that kind of development. A vertical slice is a working feature that adds value to the end product. It would be akin to the artist painting the face first,  a complete feature of the greatest value to the end project.

Luis blandon
Someone will end up here like I did so I have to respond to the comment. You are partly correct but Gilbert is saying that it's a COMPLETE (not somewhat complete and you can ignore the lack of polish) demo of a wholly unfinished game. Yes it solves problems, but not to the extent its needed.
To revert to his film analogy... Would kubrick have been able to develop the beyond the infinite sequence in 2001 and used it to properly sell his films tone, originality, and final style? (A vertical slice). Doubtful. But did he probably do test shots of the effects theyd use throughout the film and screen tests with the actors to see if theyd be interesting? Of course. The second is not a waste of resources but a valuable proof of concept.