Guns of Boom: A Unity for Mobile case story
After four months developing Guns of Boom for an alpha release on PC, Game Insight had an epiphany. They could capitalize on a gap in the market by building a mobile version of their FPS project for the casual player. What’s more, with the help of their past mobile experience and Unity, they knew they could create a mobile-friendly experience that would reach a broad market. Today, with one-million daily active users (DAU), it seems they were right.
Guns of Boom, a 4v4 mobile multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS)
A quality mobile game with everything players have come to expect from multiplayer console and PC FPS games
80-130 during development and ongoing operations
HQ: Vilnius, Lithuania
Guns of Boom launched in May 2017 and within two weeks, it had five-million downloads. All the work Game Insight had done identifying the best audience to target would have meant nothing, however, if the market wasn’t ripe for the right kind of multiplayer mobile FPS. And the right game was a high-quality one that was easy to play anywhere in short sessions.
- Created first look & feel prototype in around one month
- Unity Enterprise support helped eliminate days of development time
- Five-million downloads in first two weeks
- Acquired 50-million players in first year
- One-million daily active users (DAU)
A look & feel version in around one month
In 2015, Guns of Boom had been a fully playable PC game project with several levels. After conducting market and user research, however, Game Insight realized that they had a great opportunity to tap a niche market if they changed it to a mobile game.
They believed that if they created a multiplayer FPS that was quick, convenient and easy to play, people would embrace it.
“We’ve done everything we could to make the game design as accessible as possible. With features like auto-aim, the controls are so simple that anyone can master them in seconds. Plus, you can play anywhere: Waiting in line at the market, on the bus, in bed. You can play it lying down, sitting or standing. And our maps are not so big, so you turn the game on and have five minutes of non-stop action,” says Anatoly Ropotov, CEO at Game Insight.
Once they decided to port the game to mobile, there was no question about which technology they would use. The studio had vast experience creating mobile games with Unity like Airport City and X-Mercs, which experienced over seven years of success on the market. So they knew it had everything they needed to create a quality mobile game efficiently.
Unity saved them half a year of development
“With Unity, moving from the console version to the first mobile look & feel iteration only took about a week. After that, it was a matter of months to make the full transition from PC to mobile with optimized graphics, performance and controls,” says Ropotov.
They used the Unity Asset Store to speed up that first transition to mobile, and since they continuously add new content to keep players engaged, they still use the Asset Store for prototypes of new content.
“When you just need models or controllers or something similar, the research team can go to the Asset Store to create the first look & feel, and it can save them up to six months of development time,” says Ropotov.
Implementing the latest platform-specific tech
Another crucial factor for Game Insight was the ability to continuously update Guns of Boom with the newest features that would give their players the latest and greatest experience possible.
Every new smartphone release comes with a stream of platform-specific features, like haptic feedback, ARCore, ARKit, and 3D Touch, which means it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest technology. That’s why Game Insight has a strong R&D department, including four dedicated tech artists.
“Immediately after Apple or Google announces a new feature, we start researching how we can implement it,” Ropotov says. “Guns of Boom has 12 platform-specific features for Apple alone, and we implemented them really quickly – we are among the first in the world to do so. But if it weren’t for Unity’s multiplatform support and deep partnerships, it wouldn’t matter how fast we moved. Unity makes it possible for us to keep up with the latest mobile technology.”
Giving players a great experience not only means keeping up with the latest features, it can also mean implementing new technologies. For example, Game Insight released an Augmented Reality Spectator Mode immediately after Apple unveiled ARKit in September 2017.
Guns of Boom enters the world of eSports
The success of the AR Spectator Mode made Game Insight realize that there was big potential in the area of eSports. For almost two years, they have been partnered with the Electronic Sports League (ESL), recently launching a tournament with $500,000 in prizes. The kick-off was held at the 11,400-capacity Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland, and the ESL season finale in Los Angeles in November 2018 drew a peak of 15,000 concurrent viewers, making Guns of Boom the first mobile shooter to enter eSports at such a large scale.
So whether players are online or offline, playing for fun or for huge prize money, one thing is crystal clear: Guns of Boom has won the hearts and minds of millions of passionate players around the world and will continue to inspire and grow with them thanks to Game Insight’s leadership and their commitment to innovating with the latest technology.
Game Insight has been using Unity Enterprise Support for three years. In addition to a direct line between their developers and Unity engineers, they particularly appreciate the project reviews, which speed up production.
“The project reviews are very important because of our continuous, time-sensitive updates. Everything we get out of them we could do by ourselves, but it would take us much longer. The Unity engineer comes to our office, and we go through the whole project. How can we optimize memory, fps, etc.? What can we add to the visuals, shadows, cloth simulation, and post effects that will make our players happier? With Unity’s support, we can do in one day what would otherwise have taken us three on our own,” says Ropotov.
However, Ropotov notes that in order to get the most out of Unity Enterprise Support, it’s important to do your homework.
“A couple of years ago after a project review meeting on Guns of Boom, we received a letter from Unity telling us they’ve never seen a team so prepared with such precise questions. We took it seriously. We got great answers, and we used Unity’s expertise to speed up development and optimization,” Ropotov says.
Guns of Boom is in top form as one of the most-played FPSs on mobile because of four years of dedicated development, two years of live operations, and regular updates.
The Asset Store proved to be a great resource for Game Insight as they built early gameplay tests in a matter of weeks and got an early look & feel of the game experience.
The game supports older devices such as a Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5s. “These are our benchmark devices. We can’t do 60 fps on those devices of course but the game works very well at 30 fps. Guns of Boom has to be accessible for all, that’s why we don’t always use higher quality models in the game, though we sometimes use them for YouTube cinematics.” – Anatoly Ropotov
This talented team comprises 10–15 client developers, 5–8 internal QA staff, 8 server-side developers as well as teams of 2D & 3D artists animators, level designers, sound artists, and technical artists (combined with internal R&D personnel).
Guns of Boom’s level design and controls were painstakingly crafted to feel right for the mobile player experience. For example, they focused on making it feel instant and fast so it delivers the competitiveness and intensity that shooter-gamers were missing on the mobile platform.
The game receives one major update each month, and the studio hosts a lot of weekend events. This strategy keeps players’ attention and helps them re-engage with inactive players. The User Acquisition team brings six times more players to the game than organic downloads. Another pillar of the game’s success is engaging and acquiring new players via its active influencer-based marketing.
Guns of Boom makes great use of emerging AR technology, including the new AR Spectator Mode. “We follow each and every feature from Apple, Google or Samsung and integrate it instantly. Right after a show, we start researching how we can implement it. In Guns of Boom we have 12 platform-specific features for Apple alone.” – Anatoly Ropotov