Migrating from bare metal to the cloud, KIXEYE’s journey
KIXEYE, a leading creator and publisher of massively multiplayer online real-time strategy games (MMORTS), first began experimenting with the cloud almost a decade ago when KIXEYE successfully moved across one of its games, VEGA Conflict. And now, after a 7 year-long journey, KIXEYE has successfully migrated all of its game portfolio to AWS.
Most known for titles such as War Commander, VEGA Conflict, and Battle Pirates, KIXEYE launched its first title back in 2009 using on-premises data centers as the foundation for its game servers and backend services. The company needed high-power performance and security to support its browser-based games, but over the years, the team grew increasingly frustrated with the level of support its legacy data center provider could offer.
“We started seriously looking for an alternative back in 2014,” says Lewis Sobotkiewicz, VP of Technology. “It was hard to get in touch with customer support at our previous provider and we had problems with ongoing games. One time, our provider accidentally kicked a power cable out, which caused a game outage. We even had a Distributed Denial-of-Service attack (DDoS) against one of our games. The provider’s solution was to turn off all service to the game, which made it difficult for legitimate players to get on. So ultimately our solution was to route through AWS.”
Knowing that AWS has built-in support for DDoS threats and other risks is something that is now helping the team sleep better at night. “I’m less concerned about security issues that have bitten us in the past,” Sobotkiewicz explained.
As the popularity of KIXEYE’s games continued to grow, the biggest challenge for Sobotkiewicz and his team became the need for increased capacity for weekly game events – which can double or even quadruple player concurrency with each event. KIXEYE had to continuously overprovision its bare metal game servers to accommodate increased player numbers, which created additional expense. With help from AWS Enterprise Support, KIXEYE turned to Amazon EC2 Reserved Instances (RIs)— which provided a significant cost benefit, while ensuring the compute power required to give players a great experience during every game event.
Sobotkiewicz says, “Previously, we would have to keep our capacity up all month long to cover our events, but with AWS we can have the extra capacity we need in minutes. Recently, we realized that our servers were at capacity during an event, and our players were starting to notice. So, we turned off battles and converted instances to higher capacity types, and then turned battles back on. We were able to provide the capacity we needed for the event without having any downtime, and minimizing interruption for players. That was something that we would definitely not have been able to do before.”
KIXEYE’s journey to the cloud has leaped forward since 2014, when only around 10% of the company ran in the cloud. Today, over 90% of KIXEYE’s infrastructure is hosted on AWS. The next step is to migrate KIXEYE’s caching layer and databases to Arm-based AWS Graviton processors. The ultimate goal is to migrate 100% to AWS. Sobotkiewicz explained, “without AWS helping us feel prepared for the migration, I think we would have been too gun shy to actually pull the trigger on this. But thanks to their support, it helped us feel confident that we’re doing the right thing.”
In 2019, KIXEYE was acquired by the Stillfront Group and moved headquarters from San Francisco to Victoria, Canada. As a company, it continues to have employees across the globe, not only in the US and Canada, but in Spain, Vietnam and Australia, and is currently recruiting developers around the world.
Sobotkiewicz explains how the acquisition is driving KIXEYE’s modernization, “One way that our parent company is driving us forward is making sure our risks are as low as possible. So that was another main motivator for moving to AWS. Plus, we’re finding that we have fewer downtime issues on AWS than we had on conventional hardware.
As VP of Technology, Sobotkiewicz wants to position his team to become thought leaders on development, security, and operations (DevSecOps), developing templates that can be rolled out across the group to aid with common AWS services, from setting up a centralized logging service to creating an ELK stack.
“Because our team has a lot of experience with AWS and building shared services, we’re well-positioned to provide those,” says Sobotkiewicz. “Our peers can focus on developing great gameplay experiences rather than the backend infrastructure. We would like to move into a position where we’re able to leverage the full skill-set of our team, because we do have a strong DevSecOps team that are able to build those centralized services.
With Stillfront acquiring more than 21 mobile and browser-based game studios all over the world, Sobotkiewicz believes the team at KIXEYE will pioneer AWS adoption across the group. “As for the future, I would definitely like most, if not all, of the Stillfront studios to have an AWS presence or to be served from AWS. And here at KIXEYE, we can help to build the internal skills that are needed for that.”
Founded in 2009, KIXEYE creates, develops, and publishes massively multiplayer online real-time strategy games (MMORTS) for computers, tablets, and smartphones. The studio is based in Victoria, BC, with additional employees spread across Canada and the United States. An innovator in the free-to-play genre, KIXEYE creates games with long-term appeal, entertaining millions of players worldwide. The company brings players together to compete against the best of the best, forge strong alliances, and delight in award-winning strategy games.
Do you feel excited to work amongst some of the most creative and talented individuals in the industry? If so, KIXEYE could be the place for you. For a list of our current open positions please visit https://corp.kixeye.com/#careers