Going from game concept to playable takes planning.
Prioritized lists of estimated things.
All very acidic above-the-shoulders mustard shit.


I can’t predict the future. Nor can you.
So stop pretending. Start estimating. The right way.

How do I turn this into a Product Backlog?
How do I estimate User Stories?
Why not use hours or days to estimate User Stories?
How can Story Points help planning ahead?
How do I go from User Story to Tasks?

All hands on deck! (Working Title) or Ahod! for short is a 1v1 phase-based spaceship battle game. OK. Now what?

How do I turn this into a Product Backlog?

Describe the experience you want the player to have. Write it down. List the things you mention. Here’s how I did that in Trello.

Oh look, I just wrote User Stories. And set Story Points for each.

How do I estimate User Stories?

Story Points are a way to estimate a User Story. To set the “effort” it would take to get it done. And behind the word “effort” you can put anything you want. How long you think this will take? How hard is it to do? How unsure of the way to do it are you? Or a mix of all these things. Anything. As long as you do the same for every story in your backlog.

Pick one User Story which effort would represent 1 Story Point.

I used Enemy spaceship faces the Player. This is basically done by importing a spaceship 3D model and positioning it correctly. Small effort. Deserves 1 Story Point.

Now go through your backlog. For each story, set a number of Story Points relatively to what you estimated at 1 Story Point. The keyword here is relatively. Relatively. RELATIVELY. RE-LA-TI-VE-LY. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

Example. Take Player spaceship is in space. Same as the other one plus setting a skybox using a cubemap. Probably twice as much effort. So 2 Story Points. 2 x 1 = 2.

Why not use hours or days to estimate User Stories?

First. I have no clue how long any of these User Stories is really going to take. I could think it’ll take 1h and turn out to be just 10 min or maybe 2h because something with my cubemap doesn’t work and I need to figure out what it is.

Second, because I don’t really care about how much time something will take. I’m more interested in when it will be done rather. Which would imply having many other things done that I don’t list as tasks.

Third, because of how our brains work. Human brains suck at making absolute estimations. However, we’re awesome at relative ones. Nah? Check this out. Give me an absolute estimation of the height of liquid in this bottle?


8 cm? 10 cm? Ask around. You’ll get as many different guesses.

What about here? How many cm is this?


14 cm? 18 cm? You don’t really know and I don’t blame you. Note how hard it is to give an absolute answer even though here you can actually see the thing you’re estimating. Now imagine having to size a future task…

Ok. Now let’s do a relative estimation. Say the size of this is 1.


What size is the other one?


Instant 2 all around. Ask around again all those people who didn’t agree on the absolute height now all agree on the relative one.

Felt how easy that was compared to before? Our brains are better at this. That’s science for you.

How can Story Points help planning ahead?

Keep track of how many points you deliver every two weeks for instance. After several (at least 3) two-weeks cycles you’ll get a good average of your velocity (story points/period of time).

Say you deliver on average 14 points every 2 weeks. Meaning 1 point every day. Want to know when a specific User Story will be done? Look at your backlog. Count the Story Points until that User Story. Cross multiple.

How do I go from User Story to Tasks?

When starting work, I like to set up a Kanban board. A board where each column represents the steps in your workflow. To do, In progress, Done etc.

From the top of the Product Backlog, pick the stories to work on and put them in To do. Then break them down into Tasks. You can add a Checklist to the card for this (renamed Tasks here)

Let’s get those first User Stories done and maybe share something on Twitter #ScreenshotSaturday?

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