Customer Stories / Games / Ukraine
Frag Lab Scales to Two Million Players in 5 Weeks Using Amazon GameLift
Learn how Frag Lab in the video game industry used Amazon GameLift to support remote game development and rapid player growth at launch.
When six developers with over a decade of experience developing video games at a large Ukrainian studio left to form Frag Lab, they wanted to start fresh using the latest technology. That’s why Frag Lab built its first game, Shatterline, using Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using cloud technology like Amazon GameLift—dedicated server management for session-based multiplayer games—Frag Lab reduced the cost and complexity for its small team while increasing scalability to better meet player needs.
Opportunity | Flexibly Developing and Deploying Frag Lab’s First Game Using Amazon GameLift
Founded in 2017, Frag Lab is a video game development studio based in Kyiv, Ukraine. The studio’s first game, Shatterline, is a fast-paced, free-to-play shooter that offers two modes: a traditional, player-versus-player experience and a cooperative, player-versus-environment expedition.
Before forming Frag Lab, the founders had extensive experience developing a successful shooter video game using in-house technology and bare metal servers. They had seen firsthand the challenges and cost of managing that kind of infrastructure and wanted to invest instead in cloud technology for Shatterline to support rapid growth. Because Amazon GameLift works out of the box with 3D game engines, including Open 3D Engine (O3DE)—an open-source 3D development engine for game, simulation, and multimedia creators—Frag Lab could start production quickly and run a working session within a few months.
When Frag Lab began developing Shatterline, nobody could have predicted the external challenges that were ahead. First, the small team needed to adapt to a remote work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, in February 2022, the team needed to leave its Kyiv headquarters during the late stages of Shatterline’s development because of the war in Ukraine. “Because of the war, many of our team members aren’t in Ukraine, but we can still continue to work and develop the game effectively because we can deploy our internal build on AWS,” says Sergii Rustamov, technical director at Frag Lab. Frag Lab packed up its equipment and moved the majority of its team to a temporary office in a hotel room on the western side of the country. “We started thinking about how we could restart the business so that we could continue adding value, paying taxes, and being helpful to the economy of the country,” says Max Dembik, chief executive officer at Frag Lab.
Frag Lab supports its backend infrastructure using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), secure and resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload. “When Shatterline was in the late stages of development and the team was in the active war zone, it was crucial to have a fully managed and scalable set of tools to launch the game,” says Ana Babkina, director of operations at Frag Lab. “AWS was a huge support in that effort.”
Because we can scale using Amazon EC2 and Amazon GameLift FleetIQ, we could handle the unanticipated traffic. The game was live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Technical Director, Frag Lab
Solution | Providing Great Player Experiences to Two Million Players While Reducing Development Costs Using AWS Services
Using AWS, Frag Lab saves on costs and pays only for the services it uses. Because traffic volume can vary dramatically throughout the day, it is costly to use bare metal servers and challenging to order hardware in advance. Frag Lab flexibly scales using AWS to meet immediate needs and keep costs low. For further cost optimization, Frag Lab uses Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, which make it possible for users to take advantage of unused Amazon EC2 capacity on AWS and are available at up to a 90 percent discount compared with Amazon EC2 On-Demand prices. Using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, Frag Lab optimizes costs without causing significant interruptions to the game or negatively impacting the player experience. The company also deploys game servers worldwide so that people in different countries can play Shatterline together. To support that global dynamic, Frag Lab uses Amazon GameLift FleetIQ, which optimizes low-cost Amazon EC2 Spot Instances to deliver inexpensive, resilient game hosting for players.
In September 2022, Frag Lab launched Shatterline, making it available for early access and anticipating only a small number of players. Frag Lab didn’t do any advertising for the launch and expected a few thousand players to test the game over a 5-week period. Four days into the launch, a video game influencer posted a video about Shatterline, which caused the game to skyrocket in popularity. In the first 5 weeks, two million people around the world played the game. Frag Lab had tested for a maximum of 5,000 concurrent users, but the company successfully scaled to handle 20,000 concurrent users. “Because we can scale using Amazon EC2 and Amazon GameLift FleetIQ, we could handle the unanticipated traffic,” says Rustamov. “The game was live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
By primarily using AWS, Frag Lab reduces complexity with a single infrastructure provider and makes it simpler for the team to test, deploy, and develop its game. Using AWS Cost Explorer—an interface for visualizing, understanding, and managing AWS costs and usage over time—Frag Lab can review its architecture and adjust if needed. “We can have a small team because the AWS technology works, and we don’t need any bells and whistles to maintain stability,” says Rustamov.
Frag Lab’s players benefit from AWS technology as well. By deploying pools of service in locations close to players using Amazon GameLift FleetIQ, Frag Lab achieves 2 percent packet loss on average and pings of 40–60 ms—strong metrics for action shooter games. The company also improves the player experience by tracking interest in the game in different regions and responding to feedback right away, which is critical for building a good relationship with players and maintaining engagement in a competitive sector. For example, using AWS, Frag Lab can scale up quickly if it receives feedback about capacity shortage in specific regions.
Outcome | Working alongside the AWS Team to Raise the Profile of Ukraine in the Global Gaming Industry
Since the early access release of Shatterline, Frag Lab has released updates to the game every month. The company continues to fix issues and will make improvements until the game is ready for commercial release.
As a studio, Frag Lab aims to build great games using AWS, showing the world that Ukraine is a strong player in the video game industry. “We always feel that the AWS team really cares about us,” says Rustamov. “I have told our engineers many times that AWS is a customer-oriented company. It’s in the company’s DNA.”
About Frag Lab
Based in Ukraine, Frag Lab is a video game development studio that was founded in 2017 by six developers with over a decade of experience. The company’s fast-paced, free-to-play shooter game, Shatterline, is available through early access.
AWS Services Used
Amazon GameLift deploys and manages dedicated game servers hosted in the cloud, on-premises, or through hybrid deployments. Amazon GameLift provides a low-latency and low-cost solution that scales with fluctuating player demand.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 600 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.
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Amazon GameLift FleetIQ
Amazon GameLift FleetIQ optimizes the use of low-cost Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Spot Instances for cloud-based game hosting.
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AWS Cost Explorer
AWS Cost Explorer has an easy-to-use interface that lets you visualize, understand, and manage your AWS costs and usage over time.
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