Concrete Software: A Unity case study
How does a studio manage frequent game and promotion updates while keeping their focus on player experience? Concrete Software, well known for its bowling and golf titles, was trying to develop and migrate to a proprietary content delivery system (CDN) when they learned about Unity’s Cloud Content Delivery (CCD) solution.
To ensure cost-effective content delivery while letting developers focus on gameplay
8 Unity designers and artists
Edina, Minnesota, U.S.
Checking out CCD for free
Unity’s CCD offered a fully scalable, engine-agnostic, gaming “back-end as a service” (BaaS) for their content delivery needs. Trying it out, Concrete bowled a few lines at the free 50 GB/month level, rolled nothing but strikes, and it’s now fully deployed.
- Saved months of development and migration time plus the ongoing requirements of maintaining a proprietary service
- Developers focus fully on game development rather than back-end issues
- Content is reliably stored and delivered by an enterprise-grade CDN provider with the most points-of-presence (PoPs) in the industry
- Pricing is scaled precisely to the studio’s needs
Making fresh content a priority
Concrete Software is a growing studio whose PBA Bowling Challenge and PGA Tour® Golf Shootout have been top-ranked games in both the App Store and Google Play. With over 23 million downloads, they’re building on their success by expanding to consoles with the releases of Rapala® Fishing – Daily Catch and Arctic Cat Extreme Snowmobile Racing.
Particularly with their PBA/PGA games, they have to constantly update environments and pro characters – venues redecorate for the holidays and new faces continuously break into the leaderboards. And in all their games, in-app purchases are ever-changing elements, with regular promotion updates and reconfigurations. “Constantly testing and evaluating new content to see what’s resonating best with users is fundamental to success in this business,” says Sarah Frost, Concrete’s Business Operations Manager.
Deciding against a proprietary CDN
Releasing multiple in-game promotions each week requires a tightly managed flow between QA staging environments and production pipelines. “We have to make sure that each content item is immutable and if a change is made, to not have it affect the item being served in production, without it first being tested in a staging environment,” Frost adds.
Concrete had started setting up a proprietary promotions management system that would deploy remote content, maintain object versioning, and enable multiple buckets for development, staging, and production. The design and coding was within their scope as developers, but it was a major project and it consumed a lot of studio resources, not the least of which was QA.
According to Chief Technical Officer Mike Lehne, “If a player gets the wrong asset, or worse, a broken one, it’s annoying for them and a huge headache for us. We have to pull ourselves out of whatever we’re creating in the game and fix it immediately.”
An engine-agnostic cloud solution
“It was quite an ‘oh wow’ moment when Unity told us they were about to release an enterprise-grade content delivery network that they had designed exactly for studios like ours,” says Lehne. Unity’s CCD system is an end-to-end solution for storing, managing, and deploying content releases, and its pricing is scalable for any size team.
“It has everything we needed for what we had been trying to build, and it was integrated into the Unity platform.” CCD was also engine-agnostic, an important feature for Concrete. They first applied Unity CCD to their bowling game, built in Unity. Since the solution’s value was clear and the migration path was smooth, they applied it to their golf game, which had been built with another game engine. “The service was very straightforward and it took just three months to implement it in the two game environments,” Lehne adds.
Scalable pricing is a hole-in-one
For Concrete, Unity’s CCD made deploying both game and promotional assets more of an incidental task rather than a major project. Actual storage is handled by the leading enterprise CDN, and Unity’s CCD simplifies and scales the pricing with a standard fee based on delivery volume. Storage is included. According to Frost, “We got started with Unity’s Cloud Content Delivery for free. After that, it’s quite reasonable, as it’s pay-as-you-go, and Unity doesn’t charge for the first 50 GB each month. It’s much less expensive than developing and maintaining a proprietary system.”
Security and support were concerns for Concrete, but they had confidence in Unity’s experience in both areas. “CCD has separate, configurable permission schemes and 24/7 monitoring. In addition, whenever we’ve needed help with complex issues, Unity has responded right away,” says Lehne.
Gameplay is the big winner
The cost benefits to Concrete for using a BaaS for content delivery were clear, and for both Frost and Lehne, the benefits to players were considerable also. According to Frost, “Unity’s CCD saved us months in development time, time that our engineers were able to spend on gameplay instead of the back-end.”
That time translates into their players having more fun with better games and more frequent, transparent updates. “Serving up content has to be frictionless. We don’t want to disrupt gameplay, or worse – make anyone wait for gameplay!”
Keeping players and developers happy
The quick implementation of Unity’s CCD paid off for Concrete and they’re constantly discovering other Unity features that improve either their game or their workflows. One important feature is Unity’s well-known ability to support many different platforms, and Concrete is currently working on a game called Monster Spades for the new Intellivision Amico.
With Unity’s CCD, Concrete doesn’t have to worry about having to build, test, and maintain their own content delivery system. By offloading the back-end work to Unity, everybody – from game designers and developers to seasoned and brand-new players – benefits.