Apr 4, 2014

Building for scale: Three things online game developers need to know


scalable game designAt GDC 2014, we had a great experience learning about the exciting trends and advancements taking place in the gaming industry. When we weren’t busy trying out the new VR headsets or attending informative sessions, we enjoyed interacting with the attendees and learning firsthand about the challenges faced by online game developers. Many of these conversations revolved around the topic of gaming infrastructure, and particularly scalable game design.

Before you launch
How does a game developer plan for a massive game release? Whether you’re working on a new game or redesigning an existing one, you need to consider scalable game design early. You are going to eventually have to solve this problem, so it’s best to go ahead and address it at the beginning.

Here are a few things to consider about your network architecture to successfully launch a scalable online game.

  • Tiering – We recommended a multi-tiered architecture to allow scalability at the web and app level and still get performance out of the database. Web tier, app tier, and database tier.
  • Database design – Decide if you are going to have a distributed database system or a SQL-based set up.
  • CDN – With millions of very small files, you’re probably better off using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) for file delivery, especially if you hope to reach a worldwide audience.

What is your foundation architecture?
Your MMOG needs to accommodate your average number of daily concurrent users as well as sudden traffic spikes. If you are truly building for scale, it’s important to establish a foundation architecture of core servers that are always on to handle your baseline, but with the ability to burst into the cloud when the number of users increases. Building a foundation architecture is much more cost effective than building for peak usage and paying for resources that aren’t needed during normal traffic volume. A hybrid solution which allows to you burst into the cloud or a bare-metal cloud solution is a good option for scaling up and down quickly in a cost-effective way.

Speed matters
While low latency is always important, it’s critical when building a scalable online game. One of the GDC attendees said he was met with a “blank stare” when he asked his hosting provider to increase the ping speed between servers. We politely suggested finding a company that provides better support and understands why he was asking the question in the first place.

One of our goals at Internap is to provide online game developers with the infrastructure they need to launch and support their games. Whether you are building a new game, or redesigning a current game, it’s important to understand your network architecture and make sure you have the capabilities in place to achieve scale.

Learn more about the infrastructure for scalable game design by viewing our presentation with Hi-Rez Studios from GDC.

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