Furyion Games: A Unity case study
How does a studio balance complex gameplay options without breaking the bank or delaying launches? Unity Game Simulation, a cloud simulation service, is transforming game balancing for Furyion Games and studios of all sizes. For the first time, any developer can cost-effectively leverage the equivalent of millions of playthroughs and produce actionable results in hours or days rather than weeks or months.
To quickly and cost-effectively balance complex gameplay options for a new game
Windows, OS X, and Linux
8 in total: 2 artists, 1 lead tester, 3 programmers, 1 community manager, 1 writer/narrative designer
Action-packed battles with monsters and machines
Death Carnival is a fast-paced top-down shooter with extreme weapons and online multiplayer mayhem. In a future of tasteless synth-food, the only real flavor is won from a game-show battle against hordes of monsters and machines. In Death Carnival, winners feast, losers splatter, and the crowd roars. Players can play solo or bring along three friends in online co-op mode.
One of the biggest development challenges facing Furyion, the studio behind Death Carnival, was the sheer number of weapons and variations that a player can choose from. With all the possible combinations, how could Furyion make sure that their weapons were balancing properly for enjoyable gameplay? That’s why they turned to Unity Game Simulation for help testing and perfecting their weapon socket system.
- Balanced a complex weapons system in just over three days, saving $80,000 and 600 hours of testing
- Condensed the equivalent of 165 million playthroughs into just 10 efficient simulations
- Spent less time performing repetitive tasks, and more time on finalizing creative game elements
Taking aim on the perfect game
For over four years, Herbert Yung, Furyion’s founder and studio director, has been passionately devoted to making Death Carnival an amazing game and player experience. So what drives him and his small multitalented team?
“When we work on almost any game element, whether it’s music, mechanics, graphics or controls, we ask ourselves ‘Does this let the player feel like a powerful hero facing overwhelming odds?’ That’s the spirit that infuses our work, which we like to think is similar to our own challenges as indie devs entering the highly competitive game-making space.”
Balancing complex weaponry takes substantial resources
With an elaborate weapon socket system, broad weapon parameters such as bullet spread and bullet speed, Death Carnival presented an enormous challenge to avoid dreaded imba (imbalance). Yung says, “We had always balanced every weapon by hand. We would create a new weapon, implement the artwork and gameplay mechanics, compile it, send it out to playtesters, fix bugs, rebalance, send it back out to playtesters – and repeat. It was a long process but we accepted it as inevitable if we wanted a quality game experience.”
A Death Carnival weapon typically required five test iterations to reach a good game balance. On average, each iteration:
- Took an hour for the client build and upload
- Required four hours for real-time observation and gathering feedback
- Included an hour for weapon tweaking and dev testing
For 20 base weapons, and assuming no major weapon changes, that added up to 600 hours of testing. Any permutations increased these hours significantly. Even with minimal hourly labor rates, the costs were substantial. “For a similar amount of testing from a third-party service, the costs would be staggering,” Yung adds.
Millions of playthroughs with cloud simulation
Furyion has been a Unity shop since its inception, and they make great use of Unity tools like the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), Remote Config, the Post-Processing Stack, and the Asset Store. When the team learned that Unity was creating a game simulation solution, they were quickly on board with a capability that would let them run millions of playthroughs in the cloud. After integrating Unity’s Game Simulation SDK by configuring parameters (such as bullet spread and bullet speed) and instrumenting metrics (such as the amount of damage done by a weapon), Furyion uploaded the game to Unity’s Game Simulation Dashboard to run experiments and download results.
To generate realistic data, they started with a straightforward simulation that included player bots that behaved similar to real players. They ran three different weapons as a base simulation, and for each weapon Furyion tracked survivability (player deaths) and level completion time. Level completion time helped identify the damage output potential of each weapon because the bots were designed to destroy all enemies before moving on.
Next, they ran mass simulations to evaluate all possible combinations of weapons, including base weapon, ammo, weapon module, and power-ups. When they searched the combinations and visualized all results as a heat map, Furyion quickly saw the progress from one set of simulations to the next. After tweaking multiple variables for each weapon component, they were able to balance survivability and level completion time.
Faster balancing means more time for game polishing
With Unity Game Simulation, Furyion was able to condense the equivalent of 165 million playthroughs into 10 efficient simulations, taking just over three days to balance their weapons system. They estimate that the tool saved them at least $80,000 and 600 hours of development time. That time would previously have been spent on manually balancing and measuring weapon performance. According to Daniel McGuinness, Furyion’s lead developer, they can now spend their resources polishing the creative aspects of gameplay and weapons.
“When I first heard about Unity Game Simulation I was worried that I would have to spend a lot of precious development time getting it integrated rather than working on adding new features to our game. That’s why I was so excited to see how simple it was to get running, especially since we were already using Unity’s Remote Config.”
As well as deploying Unity Game Simulation to balance its weapon systems, Furyion is looking forward to using it to help solve level-design problems and to find ideal difficulty settings. As Yung puts it, “In a way, we’re trying to make chaotic battle mayhem run like a Swiss watch, with perfect balance and timing. I’m glad Unity is with us on this journey.”