How to Prepare Your Multiplayer Game to Scale (It’s Not Just About Servers)

May 25, 2021By Subspace Team

TL;DR

It’s every smaller game studio’s dream to have breakaway success, but planning for success from the start will help ensure rapid growth doesn’t bring everything crashing down.

Estimated read time: 5 minutes


Picture this:

You launched your game this week after years of work. The rave reviews are rolling in, and players are praising the concept, gameplay, and graphics on social media. You’re getting so much more attention and many more players than you expected. In fact, you’ve surpassed all the goals you set for the first month in just the first three days! The game’s taking off like a rocket.

But, by day four … Houston, we have a problem.

You didn’t anticipate this much traction, and since you didn’t plan for this level of use, the influx of players is breaking, well, everything.

Are your palms sweating yet? It’s every smaller game studio’s dream to have a breakaway success, but it’s also their biggest nightmare that success will bring everything crashing down.

One way to avoid this fate (and more than a few nightmares) is to plan for scale from the outset.

Server Reservation

Okay, I know we said it’s not just about servers, but servers do play a role. It’s important to consider whether regional servers may be necessary or how you’ll go about adding server capacity if your game picks up steam internationally.

The location of the servers matters, and you want to make sure that your players don’t experience delays because of distance. You need to have a plan for adding regional and international server capacity quickly.

Keep in mind, even well-placed severs won’t quite do it if your gamers don’t have a good path to get to them.

Network Optimization

Servers are only part of the solution. The internet’s core infrastructure wasn’t built for the low-latency demands of real-time gaming, and as a result, many players experience lag. Lag has been known to cause players to abandon games, which could bring your meteoric rise to a screeching halt.

Game abandonment isn’t a theoretical issue. When more players unexpectedly show up than you planned for, you need the infrastructure to handle them. You might imagine there’s no such thing as “too many players,” but if your resources are at their limit and people end up waiting, there’s a good chance they will abandon your game.

You can build some in-game options or features to help minimize the impact. For example, AI can take over for small moments of broken connections, allowing a team member to tag in for a dropped player, automatically reducing graphic quality during poor connection moments, providing warnings about signal strength, and so on.

However, the best solution now exists and stands in a class of its own, providing an opportunity to bypass clumsy workarounds and get to the route of the problem. Subspace can take care of network optimization for you by dynamically finding the most reliable, highest quality, and fastest path for your data to travel.

Instead of sending traffic to the IP address of the normal internet path, the game client sends traffic to a Subspace address running on Subspace infrastructure that picks up and routes that traffic across faster paths all the way back to the game server. The result is improvements of over 100 milliseconds in latency for some players, plus reduced packet loss and latency variance (jitter) and increased security and game integrity,” according to Games Industry.

Dynamic network optimization means there’s far less chance that players end up waiting and abandon your game. Your game’s rocket growth path continues upward instead of crashing to the ground.

Network Security

Popular games attract players, of course, but they also attract the attention of people with malicious intentions. A small game is rarely targeted for a hack (where’s the fun in that?), but if you scale fast, you may find yourself suddenly on hackers’ radars.

Learning to “think like a hacker” gives you a better understanding of your vulnerabilities, and understanding your vulnerabilities early can prevent them from becoming threats.

In 2019, the gaming industry became the main target of DDoS attacks, closely followed by the gambling industry. Even voice and video conferencing have become targets. You need to have a plan in place prior to your launch to protect your game and your players from hackers and other malicious activity.

Proxy servers are the standard solution, but they introduce latency, making them a no-go for real-time gaming. “Bringing down that latency is not trivial at all, but a combination of technologies and innovations such as HTTP/2 multiplexing, optimized routing, and bigger pipes in peering deployments can bring down the delays so much that the user is actually experiencing negative additional latency,” according to a McAfee white paper published in 2019.

All of that sounds complicated.

A simpler solution—and the only way to get real-time security without added latency—is to run the game on infrastructure built for real-time, something only Subspace can offer.

Prepare for Scaled Player Matching

As you add users from around the world, your peak playtimes and player skill levels may start to have a wider spread, which leads to more difficult matchmaking. Consider what’s optimal for gameplay, such as the number of players, their skill levels, relative distance from your servers, etc., and make matchmaking as flexible as possible without sacrificing gameplay or player experience.

Players aren’t usually willing to wait through a long matchmaking process, it can go as far as to ruin the otherwise successful reception of a game. So, even if your resources scale as your game gains popularity, you need to take measures to expand your low-ping radius to ensure the broadest possible pool of players is available and to facilitate effective matching.

Conclusion

The tasks and considerations associated with a successful game launch are numerous. Although it’s not all about servers, you do need to make sure you have adequate server capacity. You also need to think about what happens if you have a sudden, unexpected influx of players, or sudden security concerns, as well as how you’ll handle matchmaking when your players are located around the world and have varying skill levels.

Subspace was created to meet exactly these challenges, serving as an off-the-shelf gaming network solution (it’s like a gaming Autobahn for everyone). The Subspace gaming network solution is deployed in scores of data centers across six continents, letting you improve your multiplayer game server performance with an optimized network. Subspace PacketAccelerator reduces latency and accelerates packets, helping to increase your players’ performance and decrease their stress. Subspace GlobalTURN allows you to run TURN globally, without deploying or managing servers of your own.

Unlike the internet at large, Subspace is built to work in real-time. With dynamic network optimization, your players will experience less latency, shorter wait times, and real-time play. Since the platform is built for real-time use, real-time security is an integral part of the product. Traffic from hackers and other malicious actors is easily identifiable, so your players are protected. Finally, effective matchmaking is never a problem, even as you gain players with different skill levels in far-flung places around the globe.

With Subspace, your game’s launch can go smoothly, your meteoric rise to success won’t be cut short, and your game can be enjoyed by players around the globe.

Want to start building on Subspace today? Sign up here.


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