How multiplayer tool sets can speed up iterations for GaaS


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Gaming's evolved, but has your studio?

GaaS significantly changed gaming — not least for those who create the games. New challenges arrived, most notably a need to keep players engaged and excited over the long term with more complex game worlds and social features. Rapid iteration and flexibility have become increasingly vital, rendering some long-standing development methods obsolete.

At GDC's 2021 virtual event, Manuel Karg, Improbable VP of customer experience, hosted two industry veterans to get their take on how studios can transition to modern development practices, manage third-party technology solutions and free up resources to focus on what matters most. They were also asked how they’d like the industry to look ten years from now.

About the panel: Josh Holmes is a co-founder of Midwinter Entertainment, previously of EA and Disney — and 343 Industries, where he worked on the Halo franchise. Jean-Marc Broyer is CEO of RETO MOTO and his CV includes stints at Ubisoft, EA, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Amazon.

Gaming's evolved Four key takeaways

1. Rethink how your studio works to keep players engaged

GaaS created a significant shift in the cadence of development and the manner in which studios approach how they work. “Players expect we will regularly make new content and features, fix bugs, have events and everything in-between,” says Jean-Marc. “Everything needs to be coordinated. It’s a cycle that repeats itself over and over again.”

Studios therefore need to establish a rhythm that aligns with customer demands. “Your transition to GaaS needs to be made as a team and you must establish the heartbeat of your service,” explains Josh. “Once you go live, learn from players — understand what resonates most with them, what they desire and how quickly you can bring those experiences to them.”

2. Prioritise internal resources on core competencies

There’s long been an industry debate about external tools and solutions, because of the inherent risks. But they can provide benefits and accelerate a team. “Leveraging external tools, solutions and partnerships allows us to remain small and agile, and to focus on our core strengths and competencies as a development team,” says Josh.

Decide what you really want to do as a studio. You might wear multiple hats, as is often the case in Jean-Marc’s small team. But he says wider roles should not erode the studio’s focus and suggests key rules for outsourcing: “To get perspective, for scale, to push risk outside the company and for things beyond your core expertise.”

3. Mitigate outsourcing risk by carefully selecting trusted partners

Your approach to outsourcing must balance benefits and risks. Consistency and quality of service is particularly important for live games. “We must be open for our players 24/7,” says Jean-Marc. This places a lot of dependency on partners — and makes it crucially important to find the right ones.

Choose those with strong track records and validate solutions you’re leveraging. Add consistency to operational ability by aggregation. “Put everything under one roof and you mitigate risk, improve service and uptime, and don’t have to contact several different people when there’s a problem,” explains Jean-Marc. Once that relationship is established, Josh says you’ll have a “trusted partner and solution you can rely upon that accelerates what your team is capable of”.

4. Pull down barriers to evolve gaming to an even better future

Ten years ago, no-one would have believed we’d have such capable, freely available toolsets to use today. Josh expects a similar revolution in multiplayer: “Bringing down barriers for creators and allowing a new generation to build content that can be shared and experienced by thousands of players is the evolution that most excites me.”

He wants barriers to tumble elsewhere, too, such as between hardware platforms and marketplaces — things that “don’t serve the player experience”. Jean-Marc also wants a more open future for gaming: “I hope our industry will start to recognise individual talent, like the entertainment industry does — and that we’ll use standards instead of competing technologies, formats and hardware, to make content shine on any screen — without any barriers.”

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