How to Overcome 5 Important Video Game Deployment Challenges
Before anyone can experience the newest, latest, and especially greatest result of thousands of hours of creativity and technical savvy, game developers and their delivery partners face sky-high expectations from the very first download request.
Video game deployment is a complex multi-step process, and each launch, live-event, or even simple update must be carefully evaluated before success can be assured. Though the potential pitfalls are undeniably important to avoid, occur regularly, and are generally well-known, even some of the most respected names in the industry stumble soon after the launch button is pressed.
The good news is this – today’s gaming industry has an incredible number of resources to help them make their ideas comes to life. What’s more, it no longer has to depend on primarily on cloud providers to deliver their games; instead, edge computing technologies are becoming an industry-leading way to make everything faster, reliable, and more secure. To put it simply – you can avoid being “the one” whose launch overloads and spills out into the message boards each and every time by taking your game to the edge.
In this series of posts, we’ll discuss five important video game delivery challenges, key considerations that should be top-of-mind when dealing with them, and ultimately how to use the real edge of the internet to provide the ultimate experience to audiences all around the world.
- Preparing for demand surges
- Quickly delivering game downloads and updates
- Supporting players in various geographies
- Protecting against attacks
- Creating a fair playing field
Today, we’ll start with challenge #1, preparing for demand surges.
Preparing for Demand Surges
The ultimate aspiration of even the simplest game is for it be a runaway success. Still, a surge in demand can quickly become a prime example of a very unpleasant surprise that results from the intended positive outcome. No matter the catalyst – strong initial interest, a fast-growing fanbase, region-specific popularity, current events, and even the time of day – anyone responsible for deploying digital games must have a scalable plan in place for (potentially lots of) newcomers if they want to join the party. We all know that people get mad quickly, and run swiftly to the nearest and most popular forum to complain, when they’re excluded from the guest list.
The key here is to look closely at how the traffic to your server is being handled from multiple angles. Don’t simply rely on your own servers to support your traffic, even if you have multiple servers, even if they are typically reliable, and even if they’re seemingly well-positioned around the world. Instead, think about making appropriate modifications that will allow them to scale, including how you handle the following:
Protecting Server Capacity
Your game servers do not have to be the actual source of each download. Instead, consider protecting your origin(s) with an edge-based caching redundancy that reduces the number of requests the download’s primary location has to handle. Additionally, by using this resource at the “edge of the internet” instead of in a private cloud provider’s data center, it’s much more likely to be closer to end-users, meaning they can complete the download faster, quickly move out of the way for others, and ultimately increase the game’s potential profitability.
If you are using a CDN, or even multiple CDNs, it’s important to note that not all of them are most likely optimized for the type of large file delivery that the gaming industry requires. Take a very close look at where and how you’re storing your game downloads and even smaller updates. As many are aware, it can be a burden to deliver large files globally.
It may be time to look for a way to house your files in a better fitting “box” that cuts it into as few pieces as possible, if any based on the size of the file you’d want to deliver. If a surge in demand causes downloads to stall between these pieces and restart the entire process all over again, a bottleneck of frustrated potential players will quickly form. For this reason, StackPath does segmented downloading that does not have to completely restart if interrupted in most cases.
Additionally, consider using the CDN to cache static assets, such as trees, character costumes, and then using edge-based compute solutions, such as VMs and Containers, for match making and load balancing. Compute instances with auto scaling can quickly address any issues caused by a rapid increase of users. By separating these things appropriately, you’ll be able to maximize the capabilities and power of both and ultimately support a low-latency gaming experience each and every time.
Match-Making and Load Balancing
When someone located in London, for example, requests a download, how do you determine where to send them? Is it based on where their requested experience is stored? How much traffic your server is receiving in general? Is it determined by where they’re physically located? Maybe a combination of all of the above that you have to manually configure and aren’t quite confident in? Do you feel like you have a strong handle on this issue? One that will work each and every time? Are these questions making you sweat, maybe just a little bit? Sorry about that…
At StackPath, we’ve taken a close look at how to dynamically and efficiently handle all of these issues. Our CDN uses Anycast technology to route the request to the closest CDN PoP for the lowest possible latency in responding to each gamer’s request, and these PoPs are located throughout the world in highly populated areas. By placing them even closer to the end user than you may expect, and also deploying compute instances in those locations as well, we can support a flawless experience time and time again.
When it comes to game launches, you must make sure you’re prepared for the best of the best scenarios. Following these guidelines will prepare you for your biggest launch ever even if it catches you by surprise. After all, no one wants to be up at 3 AM the night after crossing what they thought was the finish line just trying to hold things together. Instead, you’ll finally be able to get that well-deserved full night of sleep.
Let us help you take your game to the Edge of what’s possible.