Velan Studios and Unity Multiplayer Services
Velan Studios is an independent studio founded in 2016 with the vision of using breakthrough technology to deliver revolutionary gameplay experiences. In 2021, the studio launched their first live-service title: Knockout City. The multi-platform action game amassed over a million downloads across all platforms while still in beta. With little experience in live-service launches, Velan trusted UGS products, Multiplay and Vivox, to provide the hosting and voice solutions for Knockout City.
Create a fun multiplayer game without expertise in online infrastructure
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Providing support for Velan’s first live-service launch
Velan knew that the best way to relay how fun their game is by showing – not telling. They were convinced that players needed to experience Knockout City just once for it to blow them away, so they came up with a launch plan that was a little outside the box.
Block Party was the Knockout City launch event that gave 10 days of unlimited access to all players, allowing them to enjoy team-based catching and throwing fun with exclusive cosmetics for players who purchased the game during the event. The idea was to kickstart their community, get players trying the game, and launch big.
“We had no idea whether there’d be 10 people or 10 million people who wanted to play it – we had to be prepared for all of those scenarios,” said Rich Nolan, producer on Knockout City at Velan.
Keeping an eye on the ball
“90% of our team had never released a live service game before. We needed someone who could help us deliver a launch on all platforms in all regions around the world simultaneously – because that was not something we could build internally,” explains David Nathanielsz, chief operating officer at Velan Studios.
Nolan and the team knew they had to find a way to mitigate their lack of experience and nail the hosting solution to make Knockout City a success, without getting distracted from what would make the game enjoyable.
Having seen the work Multiplay had done on several of the biggest multiplayer titles in the world, Velan Studios were convinced that they had found the expertise and experience to make their vision work.
War Room launches – a real knockout
One of the key aspects of Multiplay was a collaborative element that didn’t exist with a lot of the other providers Velan was considering at the time. To ensure smooth rollouts, Multiplay also set up dedicated war room launch meetings with live support from key team members and active responses to any issues encountered.
“At first, we developed different dedicated server abilities with other providers in parallel – and it was like night and day, the support we were getting with Multiplay vs these other providers. We eventually said: ‘Ok it doesn’t make sense to keep these other things alive, let’s go all in on Multiplay.’” – Rich Nolan, Knockout City Producer at Velan
The Knockout City Utopia
Velan wasn’t content to get their game online, launch it, and leave the rest to fate. They were looking to build a game with an active, engaged, and well-protected community. The team pursued a design which kept the user in mind and made as safe an environment as possible for their players.
Central to this plan would be strong in-game voice comms, with a few specifications designed to ensure a non-toxic community. After assessing some options for how to integrate voice chat in a way that helped their game reach its full potential, Unity Multiplayer Services again won out with Vivox being the chosen solution.
Overall, between the ease of using the solution, the links to platform holders, and game industry expertise, Vivox became a real time saver.
One city, united
People like their games to be cross-platform, and Velan knew it when they were building Knockout City.
Velan wanted to make sure they launched with a large consistent player base, without fragmenting down their audience on a per-platform basis, which would increase matchmaking times or lead to poor matches.
“We wanted a big pool of players to pull from for matchmaking and that is a self reinforcing feature,” Chief Operating Officer David Nathanielz told us.
The team found that both Multiplay and Vivox were instrumental in delivering the cross-platform experience that led to rave reviews, with Ars Technica going so far as to say: “Knockout City has the game industry's best cross-platform multiplayer [we’ve] seen.”
Want to dodge backend infrastructure work?
Velan managed to realize a vision of a game which they had bounced the idea around for years.
They were able to take the idea and run, jump, and paraglide with it, forging the most enjoyable version of their concept while not being restricted by a lack of experience with online multiplayer architecture.
By utilizing Unity Multiplayer Services to get their voice chat and server hosting up and running, Velan managed to make Knockout City an exciting game, with a safe and friendly community for its players.