Bohemia Interactive has created a label dedicated to releasing prototype versions of games.
Entitled the 'Incubator', the first titles are called Ylands [a colourful sandbox game] and Project Argo [a tactical shooter], which are experimental projects that are available to download.
The offer is slightly different to Steam Early Access in that the games are not all necessarily for PC. Furthermore, these titles are described as 'experiments' and may never actually get a full release. As a result, most games will be made available for free, although Bohemia may charge for titles it knows will eventually become a fully realised product (such as Ylands).
"The benefit for us to release a game so early as part of Bohemia Incubator is that we'll know very soon whether we're going in the right direction, or if we should change our course - or even focus our resources on something entirely different," Bohemia CEO Marek Španěl tells Gamesindustry.biz.
"We hope that by introducing the Bohemia Incubator label, it will also be more clear to our players what to expect from a game, and we can build upon our relationship with our users and involve them in our processes and decision-making. That said, we do aim to only release Incubator games when they are functionally working and have an appropriate level of polish."
Bohemia isn't the only big developer to invest in experimental projects. The likes of Ubisoft with its Fun House, for instance, is encouraging its creators to try new things. Part of the reason for this is commercial; these projects are cheap to produce and you never quite know where the next Minecraft will spring up from.
However, for triple-A studios there is an additional benefit in terms of supporting its talent. The ability to develop small, experimental titles allow the studio's staff to flex their creative muscles.
"Serving the creative needs of our developers, and cultivating a company culture around our values of curiosity, creativity, and community, is indeed an important part of the Bohemia Incubator initiative," Španěl says.
"It can be hard for developers to work three or four years before they can see the results of their work."
Marek Španěl, Bohemia Interactive
"Our primary development focus is on our two major and large open-world gaming franchises: Arma and DayZ. However, these type of games require many years of development and support, and it can be hard for developers to work three or four years before they can see the results of their work once published. On top of that, we simply also need to learn and grow as a company and improve as developers more quickly, For this, we need a mix in our portfolio of open-world games with a long development and post-release cycle, and games that are smaller in scope, but are still open platforms."
The Bohemia Incubator label is not necessarily all about games, however. Bohemia says that its programme will also allow the firm try out new content creation tools, companion apps, and services.
"These days, there's simply much more to developing a game than just the game itself; there are many supporting, and perhaps equally important, services and features ranging from online components, meta-games, game launchers, tools, and also community platforms," Španěl says.
"Those are all things that we'd consider a potential focus area for an Incubator project."
Bohemia's Incubator label is only intended for the company's internal teams, although Španěl says he is at least open to the idea of external developers getting involved.
"The aim is to have no more than three or four games as part Bohemia Incubator simultaneously, so we can iterate properly and also decide what works and what does not," he says.
"That said, as the very nature of Bohemia Incubator is to experiment and try out new ideas, we'd certainly consider to open it up to external developers as well. For example, if there's a third party interested in a closer collaboration with us, and they are able to show a good playable proof of concept that would fit well within Bohemia Interactive's vision for gaming."