Hello everyone. I’m Paul, Technical Director at Altitude Games. Today, we’ll be talking about the the importance of having a Live Ops team in your company and the different features you can do for your games.
How games have changed
Most of us in Team Altitude have been making games for quite a while. While most of us are core gamers who grew up with games such as Diablo and Magic:The Gathering, our generation was also exposed to old-school casual games such as Text Twist and the original Bejeweled.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bejeweled The first Bejeweled: a throwback to a time when the only achievement gamers needed was a higher score!
Bejeweled is one of the games that pioneered the Match 3 genre, and we’ll use this genre as an example for how far games have come. In a Match 3 game, the main mechanic is simply having players move symbols around to match them in groups of three. Games in the Match 3 genre are still massively popular, and we see this mechanic used across a swath of currently popular games such as Candy Crush, Puzzle & Dragons, Pokémon Fusion and Gems of War (one of my favorites).
http://store.steampowered.com/app/329110/ Gems of War: a classic Match 3 game using modern Live Ops techniques
While the staying popularity of the Match 3 genre shows that players still gravitate toward games with familiar mechanics, new technologies and trends have changed the way people play:
Mobile – With almost everyone in mature markets having access to a smartphone or tablet, players are starting to consume more and more of their games using mobile devices
Free-to-Play – This influx of mobile casual gamers has brought with it more people with a predisposition towards free-to-play games
Always-Connected – Access to gradually cheaper Internet access has allowed developers to start crafting gameplay and analytics that expect the user to always be online
This new mobile, free-to-play, always-connected audience has changed how games are made and consumed. To adapt to this, the more data-driven developers have started using tools such as analytics packages to analyze player behavior.
The new standard
By using player data to optimize retention and monetization for this new audience, developers have come upon some standard game features that work across games, almost regardless of mechanics or genre:
Gacha – Popularized by Japanese capsule toy vending machines, the appeal of paying virtual currency for a chance to get an ultra-rare item has proven to be a sticky feature that players like
Online Competition – While having many ways to implement this such as guilds, leagues, or leaderboards, the core concept is that players that compete with others for exclusive rewards have a high chance to be retained
Image Source: clashofclans.wikia.com Clash of Clans Tournaments – Players can join a clan and compete with other clans for rewards
Events – Special time-critical events have proven to be a great way to keep players playing and spending currency
Image Source: tsumtsumcentral.com Disney Tsum Tsum Event – Time-based events that give players exclusive and increased rewards only available during a certain time
Enter Live Ops
As these features have become standard across modern games, the game industry has come up with a term for this umbrella of services — Live Ops.
Image Source: http://media.amazonwebservices.com/architecturecenter/AWS_ac_ra_games_10.pdf An Example Online Game Architecure on AWS from Amazon
Developing Live Ops is usually a challenge for game studios, because its features require a team with a different skillset from the game development teams themselves. A Live Ops team must be able to build application and database servers that are able to scale with the influx of thousands or even millions of players. They must also be able to develop these technologies in collaboration with the game development teams and make sure game integration is spot on.
Altitude’s Platform Team
While providing a seamless Live Ops experience for the player is a huge and complex task, I’m proud to say that Altitude’s Platform team is more than ready to step up to the challenge!
The Platform team is an integral part of Altitude. Our game teams craft the code, create the art, and design the mechanics that make the specific games fun, while the Platform team develops and administers the standard Live Ops features; making sure that they work across all games in the Altitude portfolio.
While we have experts on cloud computing and web development, we also work with several technology partners such as Seer Technologies, Xurpas, and Amazon to make sure our server technologies are modern and reliable.
The game development industry is constantly changing, and the best developers measure and adapt. As games have changed from being standalone products to live services, a solid Live Ops team is a requirement if we want to compete with the best games in the market.
Paul Gadi is Altitude Games’ Technical Director
Paul has 11 years of experience in game production for studios such as Anino Games and Gameloft, and was chairman of IGDA Manila.