Carbonated Games case study: How our Live Ops platform prepared us for COVID-19

Carbonated co-founders Travis and Lloyd discuss their successes during the pandemic

Carbonated Games case study: How our Live Ops platform prepared us for COVID-19

Guest post written by Lloyd Tullues, co-founder and chief technical officer at Carbonated Games, and Travis Boatman. ceo-founder and CEO. 

We founded Carbonated in 2015, establishing our HQ in El Segundo, a sunny neighborhood in Los Angeles. Our team of talented developers comes from a variety of places, including major stints at EA, Zynga and Blizzard. The challenging and memorable experiences from those companies taught us that user experience is key to any thriving title and drove us to focus on two things: Our first title, a real-time PVP game called “MadWorld,” and our Live Ops platform called “Carbyne”.

While our game hasn’t officially been announced yet, MadWorld is a squad-based PVP combat game, set in a near term dystopian world. We’re doing some interesting things with cloud-based AI to enable new ways to play mobile games. But, more on that down the road.

Our Live Ops platform “Carbyne” was born out of a clear signal from the market - that Live Ops games not only dominate today, but are the future of great games.

Responding to player needs

At its core, we believe that great Live Ops is about responding quickly to players’ needs through a mix of what players say (feedback) and what players do (analytics). That said, listening to players is a tricky balance - you need great tools to be able to react quickly and accurately - with as little downtime as possible.

In order to do this, we started investing in our custom set of tools on Day 1, which helped drive our fully Live Ops-driven studio early in the development cycle. We can drop hot deploys, micro DLC updates, live management of game configuration, data validation, audit logs, real-time analytics - essentially modify almost any part of the game experience - at the drop of a hat and with zero downtime. And given we’re a mobile-first studio, our web-tools are mobile ready - so we can do this from anywhere... even the beach!

It’s worth mentioning that not everything we built was custom. In fact, by standing on the shoulders of giants, such as leveraging Amazon Web Services to do much of the heavy lifting, our small studio was able to develop these powerful tools, which are now live with players.

While we continue to invest heavily in Carbyne for Live Ops - we also make sure that our studio uses best in class cloud-based tools for development. For those folks in game dev, many of these tools are very familiar, and make us (and really most of the games industry) well suited to work remotely: Jenkins and Incredibuild for our builds, Discord and Slack for our communications and JIRA and Confluence for collaboration. We also have an always-on Zoom channel to create a “live studio” feeling from home. Due to our continuous pursuit of collaborative toolsets, we found ourselves well positioned for COVID-19, one of the most challenging forces in the modern era.

That said, not everything was as effective as being in the office, and a few things did manage to rain on our cloud-based parade. We saw some forms of innovation - particularly whiteboard sessions and verbal scrums - take a hit due to our work-from-home situation. We’re always talking to other teams and experimenting with new tools and processes, to help re-enable that high-speed innovation we had in our physical space.

Looking back at the five years since our founding, we’re fortunate for the people who’ve chosen to join us on this crazy journey, and the big technology choices we’ve made. Of course, we’re also grateful that the games industry is able to adapt to these trying times. While making games is extremely challenging, we’re excited and looking forward to releasing our game to players next year.

Despite all of what 2020 has thrown at us, we’re still going strong!


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