We all want to think big. But to get there, we need to think small.

I’ve talked about this a few times, most recently in a 4 part series called, “Your Guide To Computer Programming.” Listen to episodes 166 through 169 for more information. I’ll go into a little more detail here about a minimum viable product or MVP for short. You might think of sports most valuable player when I say MVP. This has nothing to do with sports but knowing what your software MVP is will definitely increase your chances of creating a star.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about minimum viable products and for an example of what MVP I choose for the text-based adventure game. You can also read the full transcript below.

Transcript

By this time, you’ve taken your vague idea and started filling in the details. You’ve gone past simple games and are ready to work on your big idea.

In many ways, this is probably the hardest thing of all. What you need to do is figure out the absolute minimum your game can do that will still be fun and interesting.

I’ve talked about this a few times, most recently in a 4 part series called, “Your Guide To Computer Programming.” Listen to episodes 166 through 169 for more information. I’ll go into a little more detail here about a minimum viable product or MVP for short. You might think of sports most valuable player when I say MVP. This has nothing to do with sports but knowing what your software MVP is will definitely increase your chances of creating a star.

Normally, we think that the way to succeed is to surpass customer’s expectations, to create something so grand that no competitor can come close, to put all the final touches on a product until it’s perfect. Or if you want to succeed in your career, then you need to work extra hard, commit all your time and energy to your job, and go that extra mile.

Why with all this thought about going beyond, would I suggest something that meets some minimum level. It seems to go against everything we’ve been taught. I mean, did your parents ever sit you down and tell you that you were doing too much and needed to slow down? That your grades were too high and you should aim for lower grades instead?

Nobody ever suggests that we need to aim lower. And I’m not suggesting that either. Creating a minimum viable product is not about cutting corners and producing sloppy work. Just the opposite, actually.

It takes time to build software and when you only have a limited schedule to work with, then you need to decide where to spend that time and energy.

Trying to do too many things with your software will spread you too thin. Putting in another feature will take time away from fixing problems with features already included.

This is why you actually end up with a higher quality product when you can focus your efforts where it really matters.

And there’s another reason you should focus on an MVP. Things change. And you won’t know what customer’s really find valuable until your get their direct feedback. If you spend too much time on features you think are important only to find out later that the work was wasted, then not only did you delay getting feedback, you now need to backtrack to work on the things you should have been working on.

This is why an MVP fits into an agile methodology. You work on the smallest thing possible that has value to your customers, get feedback faster, and can use that feedback to figure out what to work on next.

How do you determine what you should focus on first? That’s the hard part. Because it’s natural for us to want to create something bigger and better than anything else. You need to pick just one thing though.

How you pick this one thing is up to you. Maybe you surveyed your potential customers and they responded with a clear answer. Maybe you’ve identified a flaw that exists in other similar products. However you decide, the point is that you must choose.

And don’t think that I’m suggesting this just because you work alone or on a small team. When I was working at Microsoft, the first public release of the Windows Server Group Policy Management Console consisted of little more than a navigation tree. That was the most valuable thing for customers. There were so many blank areas in that release. But that release started the process of getting feedback early and resulted in a successful product.

For the game that I’m currently working on, I decided to focus first on the map. The first version of the game will let a player move the character around and zoom in and out. That’s it. No battles. No epic quests. No inventory or weapons or armor. No spells. Just walking around. That’s my MVP.

By doing this, not only will you get feedback sooner, but you’ll complete something sooner. Just the fact that you have something done that somebody can install on their computer and run is a major accomplishment. You’ll have gone from that early vague idea to a runnable game. From there, it’s just a matter of adding more features.

If you want to see how this process works firsthand, then you can become a patron and select a reward level that includes game development sessions. Just go to takeupcode.com and click the link at the top to become a patron. Make sure to do this now while I’m in the early stages of the game so you can catch the beginning.

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