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Hi-Rez and First Watch keep good company

Industry vets Hi-Rez Studios trust Unity Multiplayer Services to manage their vital backend infrastructure for Rogue Company.

Hi-Rez Studios and Unity Multiplayer Services

Hi-Rez Studios is an industry-leading video game developer at the forefront of the free-to-play (F2P), games-as-a-service (GaaS) model. Their titles boast a dedicated game community of more than 70 million people worldwide on PCs, mobile devices, and consoles. For Rogue Company, the latest blockbuster developed by First Watch Games and published by Hi-Rez, the team once again entrusted Multiplay and Vivox, part of Unity’s Multiplayer Services, to support their backend infrastructure.

The challenge

Scaling server and voice infrastructure for a smash hit IP launching on PC, console and mobile simultaneously.

Launched

October 2020

Platforms

PC, Xbox, PS4, Switch, mobile

Engine

Unreal 4

Genre

Third person shooter

Supporting a record-breaking launch

First Watch Games don’t do things small. For Rogue Company, their most ambitious title yet, they wanted to launch the game in every region of the world, on every platform. Partnering with Unity, the Hi-Rez team were able to scale the game exactly how they wanted, without any headaches.

The results

  • Hi-Rez’s biggest-ever launch
  • Successfully scaled to millions of players in 24 hours
  • Crystal-clear voice comms are used by millions of players
  • Patches were rolled out with zero downtime to players
  • Hit highest number of users in a 24-hour period for any Hi-Rez game on day 3

Balancing creative focus and backend challenges

Hi-Rez consistently produces exciting and immersive game experiences at scale. This creates unique challenges that Unity Multiplayer Services are designed to solve. Demand volatility is one — if they underestimate loads for a launch or update, they could alienate and lose thousands of potential users. And if they overestimate or traffic falls off, they could waste revenue on needless capacity. 

Providing seamless voice communications across PCs, consoles, and mobiles was another challenge. And for a F2P/GaaS offering that goes through regular major revisions, the tools have to work seamlessly with existing code.

To help with these issues, Unity has increasingly supported First Watch development teams with backend capabilities. Multiplay Hybrid Cloud server hosting and Vivox voice communications have been easy-to-implement, reliable, and cost-effective solutions that let First Watch build what they’re best at while leaving some of the backend heavy-lifting to Unity.

The evolving Hi-Rez/Unity relationship

2005: Starts development of Global Agenda, Hi-Rez’s first MMO; uses Vivox for voice communications and the Unreal game engine

2010: Buys and provisions on-premise servers for Global Agenda launch; traffic overloads servers on launch day yet drops within opening weeks, leading to wasted capacity over game’s lifecycle

2014: Engages Multiplay-managed server infrastructure for SMITE and Paladins

2015: Launches console versions of SMITE using Vivox for voice communications; uses Vivox for all Hi-Rez games thereafter

2020: Integrates Multiplay Hybrid Cloud for Rogue Company launch, combining traditional managed bare-metal infrastructure with the public cloud for cost-efficiency and flexibility

Launching without limits: Why running out of servers is not an option

Major studios like Hi-Rez are always evolving and learn important lessons with each title. The story behind Realm Royale, and how that influenced the backend development for Rogue Company, is a cautionary tale for studios everywhere.

When Fortnite went down temporarily in 2018, Twitch superstar Ninja, and his legions of fans, turned to Realm Royale and had Hi-Rez’s Ops team scrambling to spin up servers.

Once player numbers returned to manageable levels, Rob advised the CEO that he’d need 40 more people if they were to manage an influx of players like that again. However, after investigating a number of solutions, including scaling up the team and speaking to the other leading cloud providers, Hi-Rez chose Multiplay instead.

Integrating Multiplay Hybrid Cloud at Hi-Rez ensures that when players log in to Rogue Company, they get the same great player experience, regardless of their location. Elasticity is crucial to configuring network infrastructure – big spikes in traffic during launches and updates can quickly crest and drop. 

Multiplay Hybrid Cloud enables studios to deploy to 150+ data centers worldwide, and all major public clouds, for resilience and performance at scale. And as an F2P game, Rogue Company updates are frequent, making zero-downtime patching an important Multiplay feature for Hi-Rez. Beyond the platform, Multiplay’s team partners with Hi-Rez to optimize everything from matchmaking to player density, to ensure players get the best experience possible and costs are controlled.

Crossplay and cross-save from day one

From the very beginning of Rogue Company, a core pillar of development was that the game should support crossplay, allowing players to pick up where they left off, on whatever platform they were playing on.

Multiplay and Vivox supports this vision, working seamlessly on any platform. Both solutions have been tried, tested, and optimized to not only support crossplay, but to also enable significant cost efficiencies. Multiplay’s Scaler feature, for example, enables the optimization of game-server density (the amount of game instances you can run per machine). This means game servers from different platforms can run on the same machine. It’s these small refinements that, at scale, make a big difference.

Enhancing immersion with better player communication

When players talk to each other across platforms in real-time, they stay in games longer and improve retention. Having used Vivox on all of their previous titles, and with crossplay so important, Hi-Rez once again turned to Vivox.

Building on lessons learned from the roll out of cross-platform play for SMITE, the team knew that platform-level voice solutions wouldn’t cut it for Rogue Company

With Vivox proven at scale to 120M MAU and 99.9% uptime, the Hi-Rez team were given the confidence that, as Rogue Company grew in popularity, voice comms would scale with them.

Dedicated support services ensure consistent performance

To support a multiplayer game like Rogue Company with a global audience at scale, you need follow-the-sun operations and support. Multiplay and Vivox have strategically located support teams in the U.S., Korea, and the U.K. that work alongside the Hi-Rez operations teams to ensure that Rogue Company is covered 24/7/365. 

Rogue Company is also supported by a dedicated technical account manager who proactively monitors their systems and helps perform scale testing to ensure smooth rollovers to the cloud. This point person is on-hand for the Rogue Company team for everything from the pre-launch war room to the first eSports event.

Rob Pedrosa, Director of Ops and Services, Hi-Rez Studios

“When designing a game the size and scale of Rogue Company, you’ve got to pick your battles. We’re a team of industry vets, but our specialties are gameplay design, dialog, environment and character art – not necessarily backend infrastructure like game servers and voice comms. These are essential for any competitive shooter, so we made the decision early in the planning process to get the support we needed to do it right.”

Rob Pedrosa, Director of Ops and Services, Hi-Rez Studios
Chris Ranney, Technical Director - Engine, Hi-Rez Studios

“Multiplay has been our backend partner for a number of years, providing a stable platform of servers for our players. For our upcoming title we’re taking our relationship to the next level and using Hybrid Cloud, a necessary step to ensure our players get the very best experience at scale. Servers are a vital component to a successful title, so we’re delighted to be working with a team and platform we trust for Rogue Company.”

Chris Ranney, Technical Director - Engine, Hi-Rez Studios

Add Unity Multiplayer Services to your team

Top studios put gameplay first and aren’t distracted by complex infrastructure issues. Unity’s multiplayer services, including Multiplay and Vivox, augment your team with the specialist skills needed to deliver incredible player experiences. Tried and tested at scale, and evolving with industry changes, Unity Multiplayer Services keep you ahead of the competition.

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