Agile Game Development: Planning, what is a User Story?

by , under Scrum

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Recently, Jose Ramón and I are working with the guys from King.com at Barcelona. Some of our learnings there is that in game development, we tend to think that a game feature is a User Story. This belief leads us to think that developing US takes way longer than a reasonable time for a sprint, because we have to develop the concept, design, art, and also development. But, what about iterative incremental product development? Since your features take longer than a sprint to be delivered, and there is a dependency between art, design and coding, they can be translated to incremental user stories, delivered in different iterations.—–

Example game: Counter Strike by Valve.

Epic Title: Dogs.

Epic Description: We want to add a new character, a dog. The dogs can walk through the game, and interact with people.

We could have our feature splitted the next way:

Sprint 1: Defining the dog’s behaviour, which is actually a requirement for our artists and developers, because it will generate the actual user stories.  Some of the generated user stories might be these, ordered by business priority:

  • US1 : The dogs appears in the game, not moving, just like any other moveless element.
  • US2 : The dogs move through the scenario, without any special destination.
  • US3 : The dogs are able to bite people.
  • US4 : The dogs have a natural behaviour, some of them might be more aggresive, some others might be more calm…
  • US5 : The dogs, as nature animals, do their stuff somewhere in the scenario, usually in the corners, traffic lights…
  • US6 : The dogs can sit down.
  • US7 : The dogs obey to human orders.

Sprint 2

(US1) The artists develop the dog character, and as it’s moveless, we can have it deployed to our game.

(prepare the requirements for US2) The game designer start defining what movements the dogs will have: that is, he will only run at certain speed, he will open and close his mouth while running …

Sprint 3

(US2) Artists, animators and developers start working collaborating to finish this US.

(preparing requirements for US3) The game designer defines what injures this will cause to the player, defines the dog movement and player behaviour when being bitted.

 

Sprint 4

(US3) Artists, animators, and developers collaborate working to deliver this new US.

(you can imagine how it goes on and on … )

 

—–

The concept here is to have a continuous flow of “ready” User Stories, to have some always stories ready to be started, but with a limit to avoid falling into big upfront analysis. As a general rule, you P.O. , let me suggest you to come to a sprint plan enough user stories ready for around 1.5 – 2 sprints, based in the team’s average speed. That will give you enough space in case the team can compromise more than you thought for this sprint, or in case the pprint moves really smooth and during the middle of the sprint the team can start sprint+1 user stories.

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