First-person shooters (FPS) have always been a popular genre in gaming, but the more recent rise of online gaming in the past decade has led to a dramatic increase in interest and expectation of quality in both performance and gameplay. Current industry trends have pushed the boundaries of innovation and creativity in FPS titles. New game modes, from battle royale to extraction mission-type multiplayer games, have necessitated a rethink in how games are developed.
On the technical side, multiplayer games must be run on high-performance, low-latency infrastructure. This ensures that gamers can find matches easily, regardless of whether the matchmaking system is based on skill level or regional placement. Additionally, games must not have poor performance issues during play, and must be resilient to other potentially catastrophic problems such as DDoS attacks from bad actors. Players should ideally be able to connect to other players within, and sometimes beyond, their region with minimal latency and generally have low matchmaking times before they enter a match.
The performance of Prophecy Games’ latest release, Starsiege: Deadzone on i3D.net’s network indicates that both its gameplay and multiplayer mechanisms have been seen as a success by players. In this case study, we look at Starsiege: Deadzone and how i3D.net with RallyHere helped improve the game’s latency, optimized costs, and dramatically reduced instance spin-up time, resulting in players getting into matches faster and better player experiences.
Starsiege: Deadzone is a corridor extraction-style FPS set in space, with both player versus player (PvP) and player versus environment (PvE) elements. The game was released in early access on July 18, 2023, with the ambition to build a community and an active player base. The game allows players to team up with up to two squad members and carry out missions on unique space stations for rewards. Players can encounter other ‘raiders’ like themselves or AI enemies on each mission, with the ability to loot new guns and items to help survive the many challenges.
Prophecy Games originally relied on cloud providers to deploy resources for matches of Starsiege: Deadzone. However, while employing a cloud model is easy due to the low barrier for entry, rising concurrent user (CCU) numbers can quickly lead to ballooning costs. Trying to predict the number of players playing a game at any time is very difficult. This means that game developers usually only have two options under the cloud strategy: overcommit on compute resources, ensuring that all players find available matches, or under commit to save costs wherein some players are left out in the cold. The first option leads to wasted resources and higher costs, while the second negatively affects player experiences due to the inability to find matches.
This conundrum led Prophecy Games to shift to a hybrid approach, with a mix of the bare metal of i3D.net, alongside the ability to rapidly burst into multiple public clouds when a rise in CCU led to a temporary increase in resourcing needs. RallyHere’s purpose-built live operations platform proved to be the perfect fit to overcome these resourcing issues.
RallyHere is a cross-platform games as a service solution for live service games. They provide gaming studios and publishers the comprehensive tools they need to successfully manage the live operations of a multiplayer title. Empowering developers of all sizes to execute a range of operations, from content updates, to real-time community management and player engagement initiatives, they increase speed to market and optimize costs at every stage of the game dev process – pre, during and post-launch. The combination of RallyHere and i3D.net allowed for Starsiege: Deadzone to easily handle between 500-5000 CCU without exponentially raising costs or interrupting game sessions.
RallyHere’s expertise allowed for optimizing hosting strategies and post-launch support, with i3D.net working as a trusted partner to deliver performance, availability and scalability. Additionally, RallyHere gives the studio access to proprietary technology and workflows wherein it can site combine low-population regions to ensure optimal user experiences and matchmaking.
This power combination — utilizing RallyHere’s robust middleware and i3D.net’s reliable infrastructure — continues to power Prophecy Games’ live operations at scale, while players enjoy the latest patches and new content!
One of the major strengths of i3D.net is its network infrastructure with a global network, over 60+ Points of Presence, providing Prophecy Games with lots of locations to choose from, and/or being able to spin up new ones very quickly, which has been critical to making the best use of this RallyHere feature.
The switch to i3D.net’s network provided flexibility, speed and performance, all in one go. The ability to utilize both bare metal and cloud resources allowed Prophecy Games to customize their use of resources according to real-time information on player count and matchmaking needs. The speed of deployment has also made it much easier to scale games within and across regions as a result. As a result, there has been a significant boost to player experience as well.
There has also been a meaningful reduction in latency — between 30 – 50ms. This drop in latency gives Prophecy Games the ability to deliver the real-time responsiveness that today’s multiplayer titles require, improving player experience and engagement as a result. This is extremely important for a game like Starsiege: Deadzone, which relies on its community/player base to help developers improve the overall experience in the long run.
A successful game requires a robust player base, which in turn requires the consistent use of resources. Publishers and developers have often highlighted how costs for cloud services can end up rising exponentially as more players come online. Prophecy Games witnessed this firsthand, which was one of the major reasons for them to seek out an alternative solution.
Naturally, the studio sought out all major providers to find what worked best for Starsiege: Deadzone. This market comparison revealed that leveraging i3D.net’s bare metal servers provided them with potential cost savings of 20-40%.
A successful video game also brings the threat of bad actors into play, and both i3D.net and Prophecy Games were mindful of this potential risk. Prophecy Games and RallyHere could rely on i3D.net’s in-built anti-DDoS solution to stave off any attempts to disrupt servers. With automatic attack detection, Access Control Lists and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) Flowspec, i3D.net’s anti-DDoS solution was designed with video games in mind, keeping low latency and high performance as non-negotiables. This is why while competing solutions might increase latency by 30-60ms as a result of Anti-DDoS mechanisms, Prophecy Games only observed less than 10ms added after working with i3D.net’s Anti-DDoS.
i3D.net’s network architecture is geared for performance, and this is evidenced by the improvement in matchmaking times, a significant drop in latency and cost optimization for Starsiege: Deadzone. The game has garnered support for its gameplay and the ability to find matches and have a smooth gaming experience have been critical to this.
i3D.net’s partnership with RallyHere and Prophecy Games has highlighted the need for due diligence when publishers and studios are looking for the right infrastructure, liveOps, and connectivity partners. Making a sensible choice can often be the difference between ballooning costs and a cost-optimized high-performance service that helps take your game to the next level and beyond.