As games go free-to-play, cross-platform, and include more multiplayer components, so they are increasingly dependent on server-side components.
The GameSparks platform provides developers with a single integrated tool to build these components without having to set up and run a server.
Fully compatible with tools such as Unity and Marmalade, it enables you to focus on your game, not servers.
In this sponsored featured, company co-founder and CMO John Griffin looks at the top 10 pain points developers have to deal with and how GameSparks can help you overcome them.
Pain Point 1: Ongoing release management
"My game runs across different device types, and even the smallest changes take a lot of effort."
A server-side solution allows you to transfer some of the game logic, including rules, onto the back-end. Games that are more data-driven can then be updated and managed on-the-fly without any additional releases through the store.
In a game such as Candy Crush, the levels should be able to be managed as data. When games are structured in this way, the advantage is that they can be daily altered within the back-end game management console (much in the same way you would modify a website using a content management system).
Pain Point 2: Making free-to-play easier
"I need to analyse, experiment with and optimise my F2P game."
Most indie games developers, at least those targeting mobile, are going to have to come to terms with free-to-play games and this is no trivial matter. Monetising a game using in-game virtual goods and currencies requires a whole new set of skills.
Free-to-play games generally need in-game economies based around the goods and currencies and it will be impossible to nail this right from the start. Developers will need to continually tweak (or in more severe cases re-implement) the game economy. All of this will have to be data-driven so that this can be done from within the game management console.
Pain Point 3: Cross-platform multiplayer
"I need to make my game cross-platform and include multiplayer."
With the massive penetration of mobile games globally, it's strange to think that there could be serious bottlenecks. There are. The closed ecosystems created and managed by Apple, Google and others are serious inhibitors to player numbers taking off in your game.
Social mobile games are naturally viral things, particularly if you make them multiplayer. Having to restrict gameplay across cohorts that use the same device and store ecosystems is very limiting, however. Lifting these barriers can have an exponential impact on player numbers.
Pain Point 4: Third party integration
"I have many third party integrations in my game and it is becoming unmanageable."
It's true - there are a lot of third party SDKs and APIs that do everything from cross-promoting your game through to helping you manage storefronts, messaging players and providing analytics.
There are a lot to chose from. GameSparks can not hope to replace all of these great systems (at least not immediately!) but we do understand the burden of complexity they place on developers. We aim to remove it by providing an extensive range of third party integrations on the back-end.
In this way, the heavy lifting is done for you and we enable you to link to all of the capabilities from one integrated management console.
Pain Point 5: Scalability
"I am concerned about scalability."
Successful mobile games often attract player numbers numbered in the high millions. One of the worries is that if these millions of users all require something on the server, what does that do to the number of servers a game requires?
Equally, just because a game attracts a lot of players, that does not mean it is monetising them well.
Cloud environments exist to provide you easy-to-use bursting capabilities but they still need to be configured and managed. Games are 24x7 services but which developers are set up to monitor them and be prepared to resolve issues on a 24x7 basis?
Pain Point 6: Player communication
"I need to message my players when they are not playing the game."
Player communication is an important part of building your audience of gamers and communication cuts across the full lifecycle of player engagement.
Push notification solutions are plentiful but the important thing is to have them integrated into one single overall player messaging solution which manages all player communications, both during gameplay and when a player is not playing the game.
Pain Point 7: Cross-platform leaderboards
"I need cross-platform leaderboards."
As most developers know, players are competitive and leaderboards are a tried-and-trusted method of increasing player engagement.
There are a lot of potential solutions out there too. For games that will be released on multiple environments, the important thing is to have a platform-agnostic solution that is scalable and is updated in real-time as millions of scores are simultaneously posted.
Pain Point 8: Databases
"I need a database tool to manage game elements."
Nearly all games today have some data components. At the very least games have player data and event data that can be used for analytics. If they don't, it will be hard to make them perform any better than they did at launch from a commercial perspective.
As developers increasingly embrace data-driven games, the requirement to be able to create and manage new game-specific data elements increases. These should be integrated with the other game elements (such as messaging) to make the development and ongoing management process easier.
Pain Point 9: Downloadable content
"I need to manage downloadable content such as extra levels."
Most games have some form of binary assets that need to be delivered to players on their devices dynamically during gameplay.
This is usually called downloadable content (DLC) and various solutions charge different amounts for this. As player numbers increase and binary assets (sound, video, images, level data) increase in size, it is important to be able manage the cost of delivery.
Pain Point 10: Social integration
"I want to leverage networks such as Facebook to attract more players to my game."
It's likely too ambitious for a game developer to try and build their own social network. It's hard enough building a large player base yet alone expecting them all to talk to each other. Clearly, there are already some well established social networks with billions of users (read potential players) so it would make more sense to tap into these to build your player base.
Social integration is therefore fundamentally important and integrating one or more social networks can place a burden of complexity on the developer. An integrated server-side platform should have these integrations done for you.
GameSparks is a new cloud-based platform for developers to help them build server-side features for their games and then manage them as a service post-launch.
You can find out more details via its website.