East Side Games: An ISS case study
“We are serving millions of players with our mobile apps and therefore needed a reliable partner who could help us resolve any critical issues as quickly as possible,” explains East Side Games’ technical director, Omar Abdelwahed. “Because of this, we went straight to Unity.”
In the fiercely competitive field of mobile games, developers need every possible advantage. Even the most exciting graphics and gameplay can be quashed by slow loading time, high memory usage, or suboptimal graphics performance. That’s why Vancouver-based indie studio East Side Games turned to Unity to help troubleshoot and finesse game performance ahead of a big launch.
East Side Games worked with Integrated Success Services (ISS), a Unity team that helps developers avoid obstacles or resolve issues before they impact productivity and players. Each client is assigned a Developer Relations Manager (DRM), a specialist who works closely with the team to help them isolate any bugs and responds to questions or problems. Unity Developer Relations Engineers (DREs) also perform in-depth Project Reviews that dig into every aspect of a project’s build to ensure that each phase, from planning to post-launch, is executed smoothly.
Optimize memory usage, reduce loading time, and improve overall performance
100, with 50 engineers, designers, and artists using Unity
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Catching critical issues before players do
East Side Games started out in 2011 making social and browser games with Flash and ActionScript. Today, the studio creates narrative-based idle games that spin off cult TV comedy IPs, as well as their own developer tools. As the company expanded and wanted to bring their games to a broader mobile audience, they moved development to Unity. “Unity’s most compelling feature is that it allows us to create games for multiple platforms with a single codebase,” says Jay Allan Jethwa, associate technical director.
Since 2017, East Side Games has created three games in Unity: Trailer Park Boys – Greasy Money, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The Gang Goes Mobile, and Bud Farm Idle Tycoon.
Enhancing performance through ISS
A strong user community and extensive documentation make it easy for East Side Games to develop in Unity. But when the studio’s technical team encountered an issue they couldn’t resolve, they reached out to Unity ISS for help.
- Resolved the initial underlying technical problem to help East Side Games meet their planned release timeline
- Identified additional opportunities to optimize game performance
- Trained East Side Games in Unity best practices
- Facilitated ongoing direct access to a Unity engineer, the DRM, for support tailored to their needs and workflow
Troubleshooting issues and streamlining performance
In the weeks leading up to a big release, East Side Games’ technical team discovered an issue that nobody could explain, which caused the game to leak memory under certain circumstances. Builds would periodically fail without any apparent cause or descriptive error message, and the problem was isolated to just one game.
Unity’s support engineers reproduced and identified the issue. They created a tailor-made version of Unity for East Side Games to keep their production schedule on-track, then rolled out a patch release in case other developers had similar issues.
“Without help from ISS,” Jethwa says, “we never would have been able to find the issue in a timely manner.” After developing the fix, ISS shared their Project Review, a deep dive into East Side Games’ tech and ongoing projects that located several smaller issues to improve for a better overall player experience. Unity engineers visited the studio in Vancouver to delve into the team’s code and workflows and staged an onsite “Ask Me Anything” session to facilitate two-way information sharing.
“Unity exceeded our expectations with the results of these reviews,” Jethwa explains. “Not only were we able to have many in-depth discussions with their engineers, who were visiting us in our own office, but we also gained a deeper understanding of how the Unity engine works under the hood.”
The issues the Project Review highlighted included:
- Accelerating initial load times by implementing a dynamic Asset Bundle loading and unloading strategy
- Using the Memory Profiler to inspect and reduce memory usage
- Correcting settings for audio clips to save runtime memory and improve CPU performance
- Removing redundant assets by optimizing import settings and identifying unused elements and plug-ins
- Deploying the Unity Profiler to facilitate rapid iteration and catch spikes in CPU usage and garbage collection frequency
- Minimizing resource-intensive operations in the graphics driver
As Abdelwahed puts it, “We are utilizing this service to catch most of the issues before they can reach our players.”
Providing a direct connection to Unity
East Side Games continues to touch base regularly with their Unity DRM, who has developed an in-depth understanding of the studio’s technical operations and needs. They maintain a biweekly meeting and a dedicated Slack channel to expedite issues with quick check-ins.
“ISS literally lets our engineers sleep better. We know that Unity has our back if anything critical should come up,” says Jethwa. “This starts with the ability to ask questions whenever we get stuck on our progress while working with a specific Unity feature and receiving a reply within a few hours. It continues with Unity’s Sustained Engineering team, which has provided us with custom builds of Unity in case we encountered critical issues. Last but not least, it gives us a direct connection to Unity, their engineers, and product managers, and the ability to share feedback and feature requests with them.”
Maintaining a close, collaborative relationship helps Unity ensure that East Side Games can stay focused on what they do best: pushing the boundaries of narrative idle games by creating performant, high-quality mobile experiences for their players and fans.