How Meta’s Oculus Studios Division reduces game development time and costs with Amazon GameLift
Advancing the art of virtual reality (VR) storytelling is one the primary objectives of Meta’s Oculus Studios, the division that publishes popular multiplayer games, including “Population One,” “Onward VR,” and “Beat Saber.” As Meta’s Oculus Studios continues to evolve, establishing a reliable and scalable game development and hosting backend that their VR storytellers can tap is key. Meta’s Oculus Studios Core Engineering team opted to standardize its game hosting and matchmaking services for multiplayer VR games with Amazon GameLift.
Confronting challenges head-on
Multiple VR studios make up Meta’s Oculus Studios division, each with its own preferred way of working. While this ensures unique player experiences, it can also present game development and hosting complexities. The engineering team must support a broad range of game engines, from Unity to Unreal Engine, and even custom engines and platforms. Being able to understand and onboard each studio’s custom multiplayer system also requires ample runway. Additional considerations include building with live services, cross-play support, and features like chat—as well as integrating each studio’s release process.
The engineering team is also responsible for examining and integrating quality assurance, testing and release approaches, and office setups. Recognizing that maintaining siloed approaches would be unsustainable, the engineering team began working on a solution for game hosting and matchmaking.
Aligning for a common objective
The engineering team wanted to implement a simplified, repeatable strategy for integrating and supporting future studios. The goals were to increase developer velocity and streamline the creation of new multiplayer experiences and feature additions. Advancing how each studio manages support, expansion, and maintenance across titles was also part of this vision. The team settled on a common set of goals, such as accelerating new game and feature development.
Transforming this vision into a reality, however, would require the trust of all the studios. The team had to find a way to demonstrate how the solutions it was developing would serve them in reducing overhead and ensure all the studios were in alignment. They settled on a common set of goals. In the near term, the team aimed to accelerate integration into Meta’s Oculus Studios ecosystem for future studios, increase support across all studios, provide more scalable solutions, and improve resiliency and reliability for every game title. Looking ahead, the team is accelerating new game and feature development by making it easier to reuse common integrations, shared patterns, and code.
Finding the right technology fit
With a clear set of goals, an understanding of the accompanying challenges, and alignment from the VR studios, Meta’s Oculus Studios began exploring available multiplayer game hosting and matchmaking solutions. The idea was to pilot a hybrid end-to-end solution with “Beat Saber” and standardizing its multiplayer games to dedicated game servers rather than through the peer-to-peer (P2P) hosting model. Service-level agreements, matchmaking flexibility, world region availability, features, and support all played a role in the technology decision-making process.
Research and development (R&D) ensued, and the team ultimately decided to implement Amazon GameLift. Amazon GameLift is a fully managed service that makes it easy to host and scale dedicated game servers for multiplayer games. Commenting on the strategy, Mick Afaneh, Meta’s Oculus Studios Core Engineering, shared, “We wanted to partner with a service provider who not only understands the unique challenges that accompany large-scale services, but one whose technology could help us scale globally and reduce development costs across studios, while ensuring an optimal player experience regardless of location, making Amazon Web Services for Games and Amazon GameLift an ideal fit.”
The technology behind the scenes
With Amazon GameLift, Meta’s Oculus Studios can now upload a game server build to the service and choose the size of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance. The technology then creates game sessions, building out fleets of EC2 instances across multiple AWS regions. Integrated features like auto scaling make it easy for Meta’s Oculus Studios to scale up and scale down EC2 fleets based on the number of the active gaming sessions, helping to reduce costs. Amazon GameLift manages the underlying game hosting and matchmaking infrastructure for Meta’s Oculus Studios, freeing up more time for its VR studios to create compelling VR content. Because AWS infrastructure is global and includes AWS Local Zones to run latency-sensitive applications closer to end users, Meta’s Oculus Studios can reach players where they are geographically to ensure the lowest-latency VR gaming experiences possible.
Since kicking off the collaboration with AWS over a year ago, Meta’s Oculus Studios has developed a standardized approach for game hosting and matchmaking, and has migrated all multiplayer titles to Amazon GameLift. Afaneh concluded, “Collaborating with AWS and leveraging Amazon GameLift has helped us streamline how our studios host their experiences, giving us the benefits of a reliable, scalable solution that we’re constantly evolving, while opening up more time for our studios to focus on creating great games. We now have multiple layers of support inside and outside of our studios, and that’s been invaluable.”
Visit the Amazon GameLift page to learn more about the service and standalone multiplayer features.