** Originally published on the 29th of April 2018 **
For those of you who don't know - PoC stands for Proof of Concept. In the world of software development (but definitely not limited to) PoCs are used as a first step towards a new project. The basic concept is this: "we don't know if we can actually do this project, and how hard it's going to be - so let's try it out. Let's build a small proof of the concept, just so we can show it works, and understand it better." Usually, PoCs are presented to CEOs and other C-level people, together with a power-point presentation that explains the differences between the PoC and the real-world, the short-cuts that the developers had to take along the way, etc.
In the world of game-development, the concept of PoC is actually more prevalent, and (I believe) more important. It's easy to think that with today's technology everything is possible. While that statement may be true - that doesn't mean everything that's possible is also easy. That cool game idea you have - is it going to take you weeks to code? months? years? can you tell? How about the voice acting? The sound effects? The art? How long will those take?
PoCs to the rescue!
In the movie Indie Game: The Movie in an interview with Jonathan Blow he says something along the lines of "you should be able to PoC a game - any game - within a couple of weeks". What Jonathan is basically saying - using today's modern software, you should be able to bring an idea to life easily - hopefully, within 2 weeks. At that point, you can test your game idea - by yourself, with friends, local or over the internet - and see what people think about it. If they like it - great, you might have a winner. If they don't like it - you might need to tweak your original idea, or dump the idea all together. The good news: worst case - you only lost a couple of weeks!
So, we've been PoCing...
In today's competitive world of game development, it's hard to choose the right project to focus on. Ideas are like assholes - everyone has one. However, dreaming up a good idea for a game - one that might have a chance in this market, is actually much harder.
And so - we PoC. We try out different games. Different mechanics. Different story lines. Different atmospheres. Different target audiences. And so on. We try.
Game engines (such as Unity3D and Unreal Engine) come with a host of built-in features and demo projects that really speed up development time. In addition, you can find many tutorials online - a lot of them featuring full-fledged projects - that if you follow, can help you bring a basic project to life in a matter of hours. Add to that free (or very cheap) assets you can find in many marketplaces - and that's all you need. Build your project using all of these assets, add your unique flare - and you have a playable PoC!
Here's a list of a few of the games we tried out (and abandoned, for various reasons) in the last few weeks (screenshots all over this post):
Unnamed Mech FPS - First Person Shooter for VR, where you sit inside the Mech, and battle other players to the death. There were actually considerations for making this into a full-blown MMO, but the scope of this one is a bit too much.
Eat All Humans - A riddle game, where you control an endless horde of zombies, with varying capabilities. Your goal - help the zombies eat all the humans in the level. Cute graphics in a post apocalyptic world.
Unnamed hovers racer - Again, in VR, you play a race driver. Although the racers don't actually fly, they hover close to the ground, and have varying capabilities including a whole range of weapons, traps and special moves.
Lost in Space (working title) - A point & click adventure where you play a lone robot, woken up on a ship in distress, where all the crew is asleep, and you have to work with the ship's AI to save them.
After trying out several PoCs, in different levels of completion, we've decided to focus on one: Lost in Space (working title). While all the other projects are relevant and interesting in their own ways, we weighed them against each other, checking various points like - time to market, competition, easiness of development, cost and so on, and chose the game that makes the most sense for us.
While the results may be different for each and every developer - the process is probably pretty much the same: try out different PoCs, weigh them against one another, and choose the one that works best for you.