SaaS for Game Devs: a Quantum Leap
I joined MaxPlay nearly 12 months ago, and with that was introduced to the game development industry. It’s been a wild year.
My entire career has been in enterprise software, so it’s been a whirlwind year as I’ve learned about the game industry. Even though I focused on distributed simulation in grad school, the reality of hands on game development and operation is a completely different thing. The learning curve has been steep, and my time here has been filled with a lot of long days.
In the enterprise space, we focus on identifying business processes and then using technology to optimize and automate them. The ultimate goal of this work is predictable repeatability, guided by efficiency that improves profit margin. By contrast, the game industry, from my limited experience, has a lot of people that are motivated by the act of creation: they are artists, and they want to make something beautiful.
This juxtaposition is what energizes me as I work hard to learn the landscape. I see the opportunity to empower the artists of the game world with efficient tools. We can automate the drudge work, and let game developers focus on the more creative aspect of their art. (The fact that I can make geeky jokes with my coworkers about the video games I’ve been playing for many years is just icing on the cake. I never miss an opportunity to suggest that someone might be eaten by a grue if they walk into a dark conference room. Many groans ensue.)
At the highest level, that concept of automation translates to the current trends in enterprise software: Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). These terms have become industry buzzwords for a reason: they have completely changed the modern enterprise and how companies build and deploy information systems. By bringing those tools to the world of game development, MaxPlay will make a real, significant, and meaningfully positive change to the daily lives of developers everywhere. This blog post is your introduction to how and why this technology will improve your workflow.
The Platform Approach
The fundamental idea that helped me move from the enterprise space to the game industry was this: I think of every new game being developed as I do starting a new company. When you build a new game, you are really starting a business: you start with a great idea then build and release a product, acquire and retain customers, and balance costs and revenue.
Seen through this lens, you can easily apply the platform approach that has come to dominate enterprise software to game development. Companies have learned to package both the data and functionality of common workflows into a single, connected, and extensible system: the platform. This provides easy access to the underlying data, builds common work patterns, and becomes a foundation upon which developers can rapidly build new features. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, leverage this approach to realize tremendous value for their customers. MaxPlay will be no exception, to the benefit of game developers.
While some of my game industry veteran colleagues think this sounds a little dry, for an old enterprise guy like me, it represents a huge opportunity. This was the driving reason for me to join MaxPlay. From my past experience, applying solutions from one category into a new segment can lead to dramatic progress. Not the incremental innovation of technological growth, but the kind of “quantum leap” that reshapes an entire industry. That’s why I’m here, and that’s what I believe we can do for game development.
Here’s what I’ve learned that seems applicable: most of the time spent building a new company, or in this case a game, is really about solving the same problems. You’re using your time and tools to build the same core set of functionality that you’d make for any other game. This includes rendering, physics, animation, audio, game simulation, etc. The remaining time is spent making a game unique, fun and engaging, then polishing to raise the quality bar.
The MaxPlay Game Development Suite’s game editor and runtime engine gives you tremendous power and efficiencies to build, iterate and polish your game like no other solution on the market (another MaxPlay blog), but that’s not the entire story. What about the core building blocks of team interaction, workflow and asset management? What about managing and running a live game? What about the data and live operations required to optimize a game’s engagement and financial success? That’s what the Platform approach provides: data and process combined using best practices that span both development and operations.
The GDS platform enables both quick development and an over the air update solution with performance tracked by real-time dashboards. Oh, and all of this is customizable so you can tune the system to your unique style and incorporate other services as you need.
We could, of course, provide the core set of functionality in a library that you link into your code. We could have that library automatically call our cloud to send operational data. That wouldn’t be a platform, that would be a link library, like many of the existing game development engine solutions out there. MaxPlay is going to provide you with much more than that.
Core Functionality Your Way
Here’s the difference: when we start getting into that core set of functionality, it’s not just a single feature: it’s how you stitch several things together that makes the whole cloth that wraps both the function and the data into a logical flow of tasks. As a provider of a platform for game developers, MaxPlay provides a set of functionality wired together in a way that reflects the most reasonable approach. Game developers want core functionality, but they each need to assemble it in a unique way that is tailored to their own tested way of working.
And that’s what we do: we allow you to connect our services, and easily access your data via those services in a way that makes sense. While everything is presented as a complete application, everything is, in engineering terms, loosely coupled, following a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) pattern. That lets us show you how things are connected, so you can easily pull it apart and reassemble it in a way that works for you.
The platform approach adds value by organizing your game data, both assets and operations, in a single, always available location. This opens up the promise of the integrated web, where you can build web pages that pull data from multiple sources to create unique views. With this approach, our solution reveals insights that would otherwise be hidden on a hard disk, locked behind a firewall.
Would you like to, for example, build a web page that pulls data from your scene graph and combines that with game telemetry to show your players how they did on a specific section relative to everyone else? What if you then combined that with, say YouTube videos of play throughs in that area that you could present in game? This is just one simple example of how the platform approach of “always on, well organized, easily accessible data” really opens the doors to innovation for game development. We’re sure that, as our customers start using the platform, they will build new, cooler uses of the technology that we haven’t even imagined.
MaxPlay is giving developers the foundational building blocks, workflow, and core tools that will be used as a springboard for creating immersive, entertaining, and successful games. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all disciplines of game development, from designers to engineers and even marketers, use our platform to expand their creations in ways previously not possible. Show us your best stuff!
Chief Platform Operator