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How to leverage launch events for a great player experience (without your servers crashing)

Improbable Multiplayer Services shares advice on delivering a successful 'event' for your service-based game

Imagine it's the morning after the night before. Talk of your studio's big launch event is all over the forums. Only, there's no mention of servers crashing or players waiting for matches. The focus is all on gameplay. Straightaway, your team can start iterating based on feedback.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe not.

Events are the lifeblood of your game and your studio

Events are a key strategy for game studios. In fact, they're crucial to the survival of your game. Aside from fresh launches, there are the regular updates and new content drops that reinvigorate live games and improve player engagement and retention. Then there are the free weekends, eSport tournaments and new console or store releases that attract new users. Plus, the paid promotions and influencer streaming sessions that fuel publicity for your game and your studio.

Done right, fun events contribute to a great player experience. The trouble is, they're challenging to manage operationally. Unknown factors, such as the number of players expected to join, or where in the world those players are likely to be, create an unpredictable demand for compute, all too often resulting in poor player experience. Not ideal when your studio is centre stage.

"A successful event requires various scenario calculations, testing potential break-points, and setting up the necessary infrastructure."

Successful events require specialist infrastructure and thorough testing

Of course, you can manage event operations in-house. But, depending on the event, there are countless consideration factors that can make it a time-consuming, expensive and ultimately risky ordeal. Not to mention you need the relevant expertise, which can put a spanner in your agile-team ideals.

For updates, free weekends and content drops, you need to rigorously test the environment before you hit 'go'. If you're lucky, the main change from your usual setup will be the scale in infrastructure and other backend elements. When it comes to launching in a new store, there's more uncertainty around your potential player audience. A successful event requires various scenario calculations, testing potential break points, and setting up the necessary infrastructure to support your game.

But launching in a completely new environment brings with it the highest degree of uncertainty. You're dealing with a different audience, an unfamiliar tech environment, and a whole new shop system. Making sure the event runs smoothly entails scale testing, scale test validation, sim player testing, login testing, along with implementing the relevant business and infrastructure models.

Then, of course, there are the war rooms. Whether in-person or remote, every event needs a team of engineers on standby for when player feedback starts rolling in and things start breaking. (Which, let's be honest, they always do.)

Outsourcing game server operations lets you focus on what you do best

The other option is to outsource event operations. On the tech side, you'll have access to hybrid infrastructure made up of bare-metal and cloud, the advantage being that you only pay for the extra cloud compute when you need it. Plus, you'll also get purpose-built orchestration technology designed specifically for events.

You might be thinking you could just buy cloud compute and use an unmanaged orchestration solution for autoscaling. But the real advantage of an all-in-one events solution is the human expertise that comes with it. Having worked with various combinations of engines, backends, voice and other tools, a game server operations team will have playbooks and runbooks for almost any scale already in place. Effectively, partnering with them allows you to temporarily increase your capacity, experience and expertise, without the need to grow a bigger team in the long term.

"Events are a fact of gaming. Having a dedicated operations team to ensure your backend tech works empowers you to focus on what you do best: creating a great experience."

If you don't have the relevant experience in-house, a game server operations team can consult on the best configurations for your game and anticipate typical breaking points to make sure they're properly tested for. Pre-launch, they'll be looking at stability and scalability environments, test processes, performance optimization, game scale testing and creating custom runbooks. For launch, they'll set up an incident response team and a ticket desk, plus they'll manage an in-person or remote war room. You'll also have direct line support throughout your event.

Events are a fact of gaming. Having a dedicated operations team on hand to ensure your backend tech works as it should empowers you to focus on what you do best: creating a great player experience. Which, after all, is the only way to win in an increasingly competitive space.

How RETO MOTO collaborated with Improbable for Heroes & Generals launch on Epic Game Store For the launch of Heroes & Generals on Epic Game Store, RETO MOTO collaborated closely with Improbable Multiplayer Services (IMS) in their war room. Throughout the event, key engineers reviewed game data to spot issues as they arose, meaning they were able to troubleshoot quickly. During the weekend peak, extra monitoring was put in place to protect player experience.

Thanks to open communication between the RETO MOTO and IMS teams, everyone involved had visibility and understood the priorities, which mitigatedthe risk of miscommunication or inefficiency.

Check out the case study

For more information on Improbable Multiplayer Services, check out the website here.

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