Medal of Honor: A Unity case study
Respawn Entertainment has grown into a generation-defining AAA studio with top titles including Titanfall 2, Apex Legends, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Their latest title, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, reboots a famous franchise for the Oculus VR Platform. After its highly successful experience with Unity Hybrid Scaling (Multiplay) for Apex Legends, Respawn again enlisted Unity Multiplayer Services to deliver network management, matchmaking, and voice-chat capabilities.
Bring classic multiplayer series to Oculus VR Platform
Facebook’s Oculus VR Platform
San Fernando Valley, LA
About Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond (MOHAB) is set in World War II, where players are agents of the Office of Strategic Services in war-torn Europe. It’s a return to the franchise’s roots, built drawing inspiration from interviews with actual veterans – you’ll land on the beaches, parachute out of B-17s behind enemy lines, and team up with heroes of the French Resistance to dismantle Nazi-occupied Europe. More than just a WWII skin, Respawn has successfully brought history to life with Above and Beyond to create an extraordinarily immersive VR experience.
- Unity does the networking, matchmaking, and voice comms better and much faster than the studio could, freeing them to focus on gameplay
- Respawn’s team easily understood Multiplay’s features and API, saving them an enormous amount of development time
- Unity’s matchmaking logic is highly customizable, letting the team quickly balance skills, parties, and server resources
- They implemented engine-agnostic Vivox fast and it supports cross-play on all platforms
Focusing on the gameplay
From the start, Respawn planned to concentrate on gameplay while using off-the-shelf components and services wherever possible for back-end and networking tasks. For MOHAB, the team was responsible for building a AAA experience for an enormous global audience with high expectations. Respawn’s title would represent a new level of multiplayer VR games for the breakthrough Oculus Quest device.
Fast scaling for big launches
Respawn first tapped Multiplay’s auto-scaling hybrid-cloud technology for Titanfall 2 in 2016. Critics acclaimed its multiplayer performance, and Respawn entrusted the franchise’s next incarnation, Apex Legends, to Multiplay as well. Their decision was instantly vindicated when the shooter launched to explosive success – during the launch’s peak, the orchestration layer was spinning up more than 3,000 cores per minute with 6,500 virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud across 54 locations. Multiplay scaled seamlessly, leveraging global bare-metal and public cloud resources to serve up Apex Legends to 50 million players in 24 days and handle over 2 million concurrent users (CCU).
A tried and tested battle plan
For managing network infrastructure with MOHAB, Respawn knew Multiplay’s instrumentation, how to deploy it, and what it would cost. It was a known quantity, and it filled in all of Respawn’s checkboxes. And because the development team easily understood its inner workings and clear API, they saved an enormous amount of development time.
Another vitally important factor in choosing Multiplay was the confidence they had in the support team. Anticipating they would hand off live-ops after launch, Respawn knew that Multiplay would be a trusted partner for Facebook/Oculus.
Smart, simple matchmaking
Respawn went to Unity for matchmaking for the same reason it chose Multiplay: to let their developers focus on gameplay rather than infrastructure. And because it’s so tightly integrated with Multiplay, Unity Matchmaker (currently in closed beta) can consistently deliver an optimized distribution of players worldwide with diverse server resources.
Two factors stood out for Respawn when they evaluated Unity Matchmaker. The match logic was highly customizable, letting the team take out-of-the-box functions and quickly alter them to their exact needs to balance skills, parties, and server resources. They could control how Matchmaker filled servers to optimize the VR experience, backfilling, allocating, and deallocating dynamically. They didn’t have to wait for an external team to make tweaks.
Vivox: battle-proven comms
In VR, the body is the controller, and voice multiplies VR’s immersive effect. Although voice chat has become a basic feature in virtually all multiplayer games, its implementation for VR is still maturing. A lot of processing occurs on the client side, and many voice over IP (VoIP) services can only handle a small number of players – particularly if they use a peer-to-peer approach.
Engine-agnostic Vivox, the third Unity Multiplayer Service that Respawn brought on for MOHAB, could handle the load. It’s been proven at scale with over 120M monthly active users (MAU) and 99.9%+ uptime, and it seamlessly supports cross-play on all platforms. This was another example of where Respawn went for a plug-and-play, off-the-shelf solution and let their team focus on what they do best – gameplay.
Back-end impacts front line
“Gameplay first” is Respawn’s byword, and their mission is clear: “Every detail is crafted with purpose, and all of our development disciplines contribute towards creating an incredible gameplay experience for our players.”
From their first title, Respawn has partnered with Unity so they can focus their skills on stories and games, letting Unity Multiplayer Services deliver back-end components and services. This approach helps enable creativity and levels the playing field for any studio, from the smallest indie to a AAA like Respawn.
We could have done all the infrastructure work, networking, and voice chat, but why? We want to work on the game. Unity did the networking, matchmaking and voice components better and much faster than we ever could – it’s what they specialize in.
Working with Unity wasn’t like the usual outsourcing. There were different groups with different responsibilities, yet we were aligned every step of the way to launch successfully and on time.
There’s so much to think about when you’re dealing with network management. How many dedicated servers will we need, can we scale, how fast can we deploy? We just didn’t have a lot of those skills internally. But we saw how the Apex Legends team had leveraged Unity Multiplay. Our CTO said they just couldn’t have done it without them, so we had a clear choice with a proven service.
VR enables unprecedented immersion, but when a VR experience is multiplayer, you simply have to have consistent low latency and fast pings. This level of network management requires considerable and rare expertise. Offloading this and other highly specialized workloads is what let our small creative team build awesome gameplay within thrilling stories.