A vertical slice, in the context of game development, refers to a portion of a game that demonstrates the core, essential features and functionalities of the final product. This slice is representative of the quality, aesthetics, gameplay mechanics, user interface, and other key elements that are expected in the completed game. It's like a cross-section or sample of the game that goes from the bottom to the top of the "stack" of features, hence the term 'vertical'.
Traditionally, creating a vertical slice is part of the pre-production phase in game development. It serves several purposes such as:
Prototyping: A vertical slice can help developers prototype various gameplay mechanics and systems, test them, and gain feedback.
Pitching: Developers can use vertical slices to pitch their games to publishers or investors, demonstrating the game’s potential.
Estimation: Building a vertical slice helps in estimating the scope of work, resources, and time required for the full game.
For instance, if you're developing a role-playing game (RPG), your vertical slice might include character creation, basic combat, a small quest, dialogue system, and some exploration--all built to a level of quality representative of the final product.
Keep in mind that the vertical slice should not be considered a 'demo' or 'beta' version of the game. It's primarily meant for internal use and not for public distribution, as its main goal is to test mechanics, identify issues early, and set a quality benchmark for the team. A successful vertical slice will help your development process run more smoothly and ensure that everyone on the team understands the vision for the final product.