Features > Into Business > PreviewLabs is about Rapid Prototyping
    • posted on: 2012-01-20 by Rai Sewgobind | 0 comment(s)

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      • Name :  PreviewLabs
        Place :  Kontich, Belgium
        Type :  Rapid Prototyping
        Platform :  Multi-platform

      ‘Secure the risky part of game development; Get the most of your ideas; Cost effective game prototyping’. With these statements, PreviewLabs puts its goal to help a developer/publisher with a project by Rapid Prototyping. PreviewLabs was founded in 2009 by Bernard François and is a part of the Cronos Group (IT services), based in Belgium. To get to know more about this service, we’ve asked Bernard a few questions.

      Now that we know that PreviewLabs provides this service, what exactly is Rapid Prototyping?

      Bernard: “By rapid prototyping, you can quickly create a playable version of a specific aspect of a game. In many cases, prototyping is used to explore the core mechanics of a game concept, but it can also be used to investigate the feel of an art style, to prove that a certain technology is suitable for a project, etc.

      While prototyping, a lot of lessons can be learnt. It allows you to detect flaws in the gameplay and try out possible solutions before having a full production team on the project. When prototyping multiple concepts, it can be used to select the most promising one. All this allows you to create more successful games.

      Rapid prototyping is rapid because of many reasons. One of them is the limited scope: you’re not programming a full game. Therefore, a prototype usually takes only a couple of days to two weeks to complete. Most prototypes can be built by a single programmer, avoiding a lot of time for communication. Only one person needs to understand how the code works. In many prototypes, no custom-built graphics are required.
      The limited scope also means you don’t need to structure your code in the same way you would when you’re implementing a full game. When working on a full game, you need to have a solid base to start from. Only achieving this takes longer than implementing a prototype.

      In order to be fast, a mixture between conventional coding techniques and a ‘quick and dirty’ coding style is used – depending on the goal of a prototype.”

      I understand that some people now see their project undergoing this service, but for what kind of projects/developers would this be interesting?

      Bernard: “Prototyping is most interesting for game concepts with at least a bit of innovation. So basically, everyone who develops these games, pitches them to publishers or investors, or who needs to communicate the concept effectively to a team would benefit from working with us.

      This can range from startups and small teams – sometimes they don’t even have programmers in-house yet – to medium sized companies who are occupied with ongoing projects, and larger (slower) companies.”

      Now let’s say that a developer is interested and thinking about it, why would he choose PreviewLabs above prototyping in-house?

      Bernard: “Good question; people ask me this quite often. This is understandable, as at first sight, one may think working with an external company would be more expensive. However, we do offer a cost-effective solution, mostly due to our specialization.

      Some reasons why people work with us:
      -    To benefit from the fresh ideas that we deliver along with the prototypes.
      -    If objective judgment is required. When prototyping internally, the people who worked on it will try to defend it, making objective judgment hard.
      -    We can prototype ideas for the next project while a team is still busy with an ongoing project. This reduces the time between projects, saving a lot of money.
      -    Because they need a prototype real fast. Most companies don’t have people who are prototyping full-time. This means they aren’t as specialized and routined in prototyping. Also, they may have no staff available immediately.
      -    Because it’s easy. Based on a bit of concept information, we can make an estimation and get started as soon as it’s approved. No need to free staff, set up and coordinate a team, etc.
      -    If they want to know before-hand how much they spend on a prototype. When prototyping in-house, a prototype may take longer to implement, resulting in more costs.”

      Bernard explains how this service works when it comes to contacting and keeping in touch with clients.

      Bernard: “As PreviewLabs is quite a unique company, people mostly haven’t heard about it yet and won’t be looking for a company specialized in prototyping. This means we need to spread the word ourselves, which we do mainly by setting up meetings at various trade shows. The next events where we will be present are Casual Connect Europe in Hamburg (February 7-9), and the GDC in San Francisco (March 5-9).

      Customers also come to us directly after being referred to us by previous customers, or after visiting our website.

      After delivering the first prototype, along with our recommendations and insights, the customer gets the chance to play around with the prototype and explore the gameplay using our tuning system. As it’s easy to try out some additional ideas in an existing prototype, this often leads to a next build. This allows our customers to get the most out of the prototyping process. Mostly, additional builds are used to try out additional features or to add fancier graphics for pitching purposes.

      Having said this, the way we work may vary to make sure it fits well in the customer’s workflow.”

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