Hi-Rez Studios and Unity Gaming Services
Divine Knockout (DKO) is a third-person platform fighter that takes a very familiar style of gameplay – damaging enemies enough to be able to knock them off the platform – and adds another dimension, literally. Taking the classic 2D brawler design to 3D opens up new ways to play, new obstacles to fight against, and a whole new type of game.
Divine Knockout is built in Unreal Engine 4 and relies on Unity Gaming Services Multiplayer and GameOps solutions to be able to support top-level multiplayer action.
Designing and launching a well-balanced, cross-play friendly multiplayer title
PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 4 and 5
Third person platform fighter
Rally Here with Hi-Rez and UGS
UGS and Unreal knock it out of the arena for DKO
When Hi-Rez looks for solutions for their multiplayer title, they look for live games services that are built to scale. In the case of Rogue Company, Divine Knockout, and other titles, this means multiplayer and live ops solutions with a proven track record in their studio from Unity Gaming Services.
Hi-Rez predominantly develops games in the Unreal Engine and adopt many of the engine-agnostic solutions within UGS because they do exactly what Hi-Rez needs: Integrate seamlessly with Unreal Engine through easy-to-use SDKs, provide sample code to reference for development, and have a whole team of experts behind them to provide support if needed.
“We're running a combination of Unreal Engine plus Unity Gaming Services plus our own platform. We take the best things that are on the market that can do what we're trying to do and are aligned with the way we believe that multiplayer games should be made. And so things like Analytics, Game Server Hosting, all those things like really just fit in and made our platform stronger without us needing to do the work in house.” – Alex Cantatore, VP of Brand, Hi-Rez Studios
Removing the platform divide
Hi-Rez Studios, as an early adopter of cross-play in their titles, knows that platform availability can be a barrier for multiplayer gamers to play and enjoy games with friends. That’s why they look for cross-play friendly solutions for their live game operations to help gamers connect across distance and platform divide in their multiplayer titles – and UGS was crucial to make it work in Divine Knockout.
Having already experienced the cost-saving and cross-play enabling power of Game Server Hosting and Voice Chat together in Rogue Company, Hi-Rez knew UGS was the right pick for helping Red Beard Studios launch Divine Knockout as well. Game Server Hosting (Multiplay) is optimized to not only support cross-play, but to also enable significant cost efficiencies when launching a game across multiple platforms.
“We went down the path initially of, okay, this cross-play cross-progression thing, how do we make it work? That was where we found that some Unity Gaming Services would be crucial to making that work.” – Alex Cantatore, VP of Brand, Hi-Rez Studios
Avoiding another server knockout with Game Server Hosting (Multiplay)
One of the biggest challenges with launching a multiplayer game is predicting how many players your servers will need to support on launch day (and beyond). However, prediction methods are unreliable at best and guessing wrong can mean disappointing gamers across the globe with the game going offline – which Hi-Rez experienced first hand with a previous title, Realm Royale.
After a quiet release of Realm Royale on steam, popular streamer Ninja decided to try it out with some friends. The game went from having 1,000 players to one million in a very short amount of time and the servers simply couldn’t keep up. The team has always wondered what they might have missed out on with Realm Royale if they had the right system in place to manage server capacity for the game. They needed a solution to decrease the chances of missing out on another lighting-strike moment, so they started using Game Server Hosting (Multiplay).
Game Server Hosting (Multiplay) not only saved the developers of DKO time and money on building their own solution in-house, but the flexibility of the solution means that any Hi-Rez title can easily scale up or down to match the server capacity needs at any time.
“Game Server Hosting (Multiplay) gives us the ability to have failover. For cost optimization, when we’re launching a game, we know that there’s going to be a high volume of traffic, but we don’t want to commit to that traffic right out of the gate for the long term. It gives us a lot of elasticity in our platform to be able to expand and contract as the game ebbs and flows through its lifecycle.” – Pritesh Patel, Senior Producer, Hi-Rez Studios
Achieving perfect balance with GameOps
Fighting games utilizing various characters and a wide range of abilities always requires just the right amount of balancing to keep the game fun and fair for all players. Hi-Rez has experience with this kind of balancing from previous titles like Paladins in their arsenal, which gives the team a solid understanding on how to do this correctly – and this time they had Unity Analytics on their side to make the process easier.
Analytics provides the Hi-Rez team with character data from each game session played, allowing for thoughtful tweaks to damage numbers and unique abilities to have a solid impact on improving gameplay.
But there was a key step to get players into match queues that needed to be polished. Hi-Rez knew that important mechanics like movement and stage recovery had to be taught to new players for them to feel comfortable competing in online matches. Fine tuning their new user experience and creating an informative but concise tutorial would assist new players to have the tools needed to jump right into games with bots. After multiple iterations, the team was confident enough to let the fighting begin.
“We went through about seven iterations of our tutorial, trying to find the perfect length and balance to set players up for success. We also found that the more games were played against bots, the more players would stick around. It’s fun to be good at games, and you gotta make sure they're having fun.” – Alex Cantatore, VP of Brand, Hi-Rez Studios
Maintaining a live service game also comes with potential bugs that can negatively impact a players experience. Utilizing Backtrace, the team is able to consistently pull in crash dumps from PC and console, in a single comprehensive crash report. From there, crashes are then triaged and addressed based on number of occurrences and prioritized by their impact on gameplay experience.
Empowering a global game design team with Parsec
Hi-Rez Studios and Red Beard Games have developers and professionals working from all corners of the world to create engaging multiplayer experiences. But game development from remote workspaces and across distributed teams is not always easy. Many remote desktop solutions don’t provide the capabilities – like precise gamepad support and high frame rate displays – game developers need to test their creations. That’s why Hi-Rez and their studios like Red Beard Games rely on Parsec to keep their team efficient and productive from anywhere they choose to work.
With Parsec’s high performance and ultra low-latency remote access, developers at Hi-Rez and adjacent studios can access their GPU-enabled workstations from anywhere to test, develop, and debug their cross-platform games more securely. Parsec’s encrypted connections are peer-to-peer, meaning data is directly passed from host to client machines.
"Parsec is what enables our employees to work remotely. You can work on a game from hundreds of miles away without dropping frames. Other solutions can’t keep up with playtesting needs. The experience is just horrible. The fact that you can see what a game looks like running remotely in Parsec is what made the difference for us.
Parsec is essential to our QA team – it’s been an absolute life saver because our QA team connects all the various game consoles, for our cross-platform games. It’s imperative that we can remotely test games with the gamepads – we couldn’t do it without Parsec.” – Alex Cantatore, VP of Brand, Hi-Rez Studios