Nifty Games: A Unity Case Study
Rolling out regular content updates to mobile game players is crucial for live operations. Studios need reliable content management and storage solutions, but building and maintaining these complex systems from scratch can be costly and time-consuming. Studio Nifty Games experienced this challenge for themselves, and explored Unity’s Cloud Content Delivery (CCD) in order to stay as lean as possible in their development and production cycles.
Remaining flexible in terms of content management and deployment
SF Bay Area, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Real-time, head-to-head mobile sports games
A team focused on efficiency
Nifty Games was formed in 2018 by veterans of the video game industry. The studio’s focus is on building real-time, head-to-head mobile sports games, and feature multiple titles made with Unity: NFL Clash is set to launch worldwide in 2021, and will be followed closely by NBA Clash, expected to enter the market by 2022.
The casual and quick-session nature of their games is also reflected in their approach to development. Having worked at many larger studios, the leaders at Nifty Games knew the importance of staying as lean as possible by integrating tools that would alleviate the development process and optimize the allocation of resources.
Designed with users in mind
Nifty Games had been using Unity Cloud Build to create and share builds internally when they learned about CCD, and partnered with Unity early on to integrate the tool for the development of NFL Clash. “Our motivation was to remain nimble and update content over the air without having to submit a new build every time. Being able to test out content without affecting live players - that flexibility and security was really important to us,” says Ibs Rageh, VP of Engineering. CCD offered Nifty Games a solution that combines content management, cloud storage, and a reliable content delivery network. CCD also works with Cloud Build to keep a paper trail back to source control to fix any bugs that would appear in live content bundles.
Streamlining key workflows
CCD allows developers to upload asset bundles to buckets, where these releases can be badged and distributed to designated players. It was important for Nifty Games that the bucket and badging systems supported the needs for both development and live operations.
In particular, the development workflow couldn’t be bogged down with busywork. Nifty Games leverages the use of a floating “latest” badge to designate the latest content in a bucket, which frees the engineering team from needing to oversee the publishing of builds throughout the day. “That flexibility is great to streamline and let people focus elsewhere,” says Rageh. “That’s where you see a lot of the homegrown solutions fail.”
Supporting live operations
CCD’s features allow Nifty Games’ developers to test the exact content that players will have available to them without any risk. “What you test in one bucket is going to be the exact same as the assets you’ll be testing when you promote it to another bucket,” explains Rageh. “You have the peace-of-mind that the content that’s received QA sign-off is exactly what’s going out to the players.” In addition, by using Unity Remote Config to specify which badges would be served to which audiences, developers are able to selectively grant access to the internal team without affecting the existing, live player base.
Focusing on player experience
For NFL Clash, although multiple people know how to use CCD, there is only one designated team member that oversees the day-to-day promotions between buckets. “The workflow is so intuitive and streamlined that it becomes much more of a project management task than an engineering role. Plus, the more the QA team can be self-sufficient in managing the releases, the better,” says Rageh.
Without CCD, the most likely option would have been to dedicate an entire tech team to build and support tools made in-house — which Nifty Games wanted to avoid. “We wanted to find a solution that required less of the engineering team’s time so that they can focus on making great games!”
Growing with Unity
The timing of CCD’s early integration within the development cycle for NFL Clash was a key factor in its success, and Nifty Games consequently repeated the process for NBA Clash. As the team grew and more partners were involved in the development of their games, they continued to use CCD to optimize workflows for content management and deployment. This scalability demonstrates how CCD can be of great benefit for teams of various sizes, and with differing needs.
“The implementation of Cloud Content Delivery has been a huge relief, and it’s been incredibly flexible and robust for both NFL Clash and NBA Clash. It’s been an awesome partnership.”