Alta VR Immerses Gamers in a Virtual Reality World with AWS
Journeying through a Virtual Town
Imagine embarking on a journey through a forgotten world with a group of friends. Along the way, all of you discover a mysterious abandoned town, work together to fix it up, and create a brand-new community. You even learn blacksmithing, carpentry, and cooking, all while creating your own story.
This is the world of A Township Tale, an open-world multiplayer role-playing game designed specifically for virtual reality (VR) and the top-selling game on the Oculus Quest VR system. After installing the game, players enter the world of A Township Tale using either their PC VR or Oculus headsets. While the game can be tackled solo, up to eight players can journey together by joining a co-op mode, using their headsets to interact with each other in real time. Australia-based VR game studio Alta VR launched the game for PC in January 2016 and later released it on the Oculus Quest store in July 2021. Today, hundreds of thousands play the game on PC and Oculus Quest.
We didn’t need extra code to save and back up data from persistent worlds, which ensured players’ virtual worlds were always saved. Relying on Amazon EFS to do this instead of creating a custom solution saved us weeks of development time.”
Principal Cloud Engineer, Alta VR
Virtual Worlds on the Cloud
When Alta VR was preparing to launch its game for PC, it evaluated several cloud providers to run its gaming application. It decided on Amazon Web Services (AWS) based on its ability to support a high level of scalability, a growing player base, and future content. “We had great support from AWS, and they connected us with gaming technology experts who shared insights on how to scale multiplayer games,” says Timo Schmechel, principal cloud engineer at Alta VR.
Alta VR knew scalability was of utmost importance once it decided to launch the game on the Oculus Quest platform. The business anticipated that there would be a much larger uptake of players on Oculus Quest compared to the PC version of the game, which would result in thousands of new players. “Because players create virtual worlds where other players can join and interact with them, it was apparent that we needed a very scalable architecture to support that capability,” Schmechel says.
Accommodates Tens of Thousands of New Daily Players
Previously, Alta VR was registering a hundred new A Township Tale players a day. Since going live on Oculus Quest, that number has grown to thousands of new players a day.
Schmechel says, “During our launch week on Oculus Quest, we saw tens of thousands of new players signing up per day. As of November 2021, our user base is at over a few hundred thousand and growing quickly. This is down to the popularity of the Oculus Quest, alongside our ability to scale containers quickly to accommodate a rapidly expanding player base.”
Supports Thousands of Concurrent Game Sessions
A Township Tale consists of persistent virtual worlds—worlds that continue to exist regardless of whether users are logged in. These virtual worlds are hosted as containerized applications running on several global Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) clusters.
Additionally, Alta VR uses a range of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance types, along with Amazon EKS, to support hundreds of nodes. This means each cluster can easily support thousands of concurrent game sessions. The clusters rely on Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) to allow each player to save their virtual world state to a centralized file system. “We didn’t need extra code to save and back up data from persistent worlds, which ensured players’ virtual worlds were always saved,” says Schmechel. “Relying on Amazon EFS to do this instead of creating a custom solution saved us weeks of development time.”
Alta VR scales the PC version of the game using Amazon EC2 instances and Amazon DynamoDB. It also uses a central application programming interface (API), hosted on AWS Lambda via Amazon API Gateway. The API scales to meet growth with the on-demand capabilities of Amazon DynamoDB and serverless nature of AWS Lambda.
Automatically Supports Traffic Spikes and Controls Costs
With the elasticity of AWS, Alta VR can scale up and down to support peak and non-peak periods. It also delivers low latency for gamers across the globe during peak times. The game sees 20 times more players in the evening than it does at other times of the day. This means scaling resources on demand so players globally can experience smooth gameplay regardless of traffic. Schmechel says, “Now we can spin up resources automatically in the evening, rather than managing those large clusters ourselves.”
This approach also helps Alta VR control its costs, which was a major consideration for the startup. “There isn’t an ongoing cost with our setup because it’s request-based. We also leverage Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, which makes sense because people only play the game for an hour or two.”
Delivers a Smooth Gaming Experience
Because A Township Tale connects players in virtual persistent worlds hosted in three AWS Regions in Australia, Europe, and the United States, players can choose their region upon server creation to gain a smooth playing experience. Given the success Alta VR has had with AWS, the startup is now considering creating a data analytics solution on AWS to gain insights into player behavior and further enhance the gaming experience.
Boramy Unn, cofounder and game director at Alta VR, says, “We already have basic analytics for functions such as daily active players and retention rates. In 2022, we want to focus on seeing how players interact with specific features, or how much time they spend playing, so we can improve or tweak the game, if necessary.” He concludes, “We’re really trying to push the VR industry forward by thinking about what the next several generations of games will look like, and work toward that vision.”
To Learn More
About Alta VR
Based in Australia, Alta VR is a virtual reality company and developer of A Township Tale, an open-world multiplayer role-playing game designed specifically for VR. The game provides an online fantasy universe where players cooperate with others to build equipment, socialize, and embark together on adventures.
Benefits of AWS
- Saves weeks of development time
- Scales to support tens of thousands of new players daily
- Supports thousands of concurrent game sessions
- Automatically supports spikes in online traffic up to twentyfold
- Delivers a low-latency gaming experience during peaks
AWS Services Used
AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers.
Amazon DynamoDB is a fully managed, serverless, key-value NoSQL database designed to run high-performance applications at any scale.
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a managed container service to run and scale Kubernetes applications in the cloud or on-premises.
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances let you take advantage of unused EC2 capacity in the AWS cloud. Spot Instances are available at up to a 90% discount compared to On-Demand prices
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