Gameloft Sees Smooth Launch for LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed All In on AWS
Location and infrastructure barriers in the games industry often lead to the development cycle happening in distinct stages: one team creates a game, and then a different team builds an infrastructure that helps the game scale. At Gameloft, one of the biggest names in mobile games in the last 20 years, the studio team creates games, and the Infrastructure Services and Online Platform Solutions (ISOPS) team is responsible for the infrastructure. Having distinct groups, however, can result in the unused potential of fully integrated infrastructures and features. Gameloft theorized that greater collaboration between the studio team and the ISOPS team would enable better game design and increased functionality, ultimately resulting in a better experience for players. As a pilot run, in March 2020, just before its 20th anniversary, Gameloft built and launched LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed all on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.
The increased agility, stability, and elasticity of the cloud-based infrastructure solidified Gameloft’s future technology plans. “I can’t imagine a launch without having the cloud-native scalability that AWS provided us,” says Marianne Barousse, director of ISOPS for Gameloft. “I’m not going back,” adds Michael Stolls, technical director at Gameloft Toronto.
Being on a separate Amazon EC2 infrastructure helped us provision the infrastructure for the launch of our game. This is one of the smoothest worldwide releases for an online game that I’ve had at Gameloft.”
Technical Director, Gameloft
Flexible Computing Capacity and Collaboration
Gameloft—which has more than 4,000 employees located in 19 different studios and 190 games that see millions of downloads—has long been at the forefront of mobile trends, adapting to new technologies to stay relevant in its two decades in business. For years, Gameloft developed and hosted its games in its own data centers, but as it increased its portfolio, it wanted to gain more flexibility, especially with accurately provisioning compute capacity. “When we released Disney Magic Kingdoms in 2016,” says Stolls, “we had to do a lot of smart estimating and calculating of how big player data was going to be, how many players we expected, and what our daily active user count was going to look like. We had to fit ourselves into our own infrastructure to make sure that the launch was smooth.”
With multiple games sharing infrastructure in the data centers, it would be impossible to coordinate maintenance windows with all the different teams—making any maintenance that needed to be done that much more complicated. This meant that the game teams had to share the responsibility of ensuring a well-operating system. Since LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed was hosted entirely on the AWS Cloud, however, Gameloft was able to better prepare the launch since there was no risk that any load test would affect other games running in the data centers.
Even before its newest venture in the cloud, Gameloft had some experience on AWS. About six years earlier, the company began using Amazon CloudFront, a fast content delivery network service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency and high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment. “We’ve used Amazon CloudFront for years,” says Barousse, “and we currently use it for many of our games, even the ones hosted in our on-premises data center.”
Then in 2018, the company started taking advantage of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity and is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers, particularly for multiplayer games. Gameloft started hosting its game servers on AWS, taking advantage of AWS’s global footprint to bring its games closer to where players actually are and thereby improving user experience. “For games with multiplayer—and especially synchronous multiplayer—you need to be as close as possible to the users,” says Barousse. “We currently have three data centers, whereas AWS has a lot more reach.”
Gameloft’s interest in more fully integrating development and maintenance presented another opportunity to work on AWS. “With LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed, we were building a game while building the infrastructure as well,” says Stolls. To do so meant changing how the teams interacted with each other and with the infrastructure. “We needed to review our automation process, infrastructure creation, and maintenance,” says Barousse. “And it’s easier to do that on the cloud.”
Evolving the Development Process on the AWS Cloud
The LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed studio team and the ISOPS team stayed in close contact throughout initial development to prepare for the launch—an act that was a leap of faith. But communication proved to be key, with the ISOPS team continuously consulting with the game team regarding processes and setup to help it address its needs. This enabled everyone involved to catch issues even before they were noticed in the game. Stolls also found great value in the ability to ramp up bot testing using Amazon EC2. “We ran about 200,000 bots all at the same time, and they ramped up within a few minutes,” he says. By the time LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed launched in March 2020, Gameloft had its AWS Cloud infrastructure set up and ready to handle the influx of players. “Being on a separate Amazon EC2 infrastructure helped us provision the infrastructure how we felt it needed to be provisioned for the launch of our game,” says Stolls. “This was one of the smoothest worldwide launches for an online game that I’ve experienced at Gameloft.”
The team initially overprovisioned the infrastructure during the launch to provide an uninterrupted experience for players. From there, the team saved around 40 percent on provisioning costs by optimizing its use of Amazon EC2 instances in a portion of its autoscaling groups after the launch. “We went from C5 instances to M5,” says Stolls. “Then we ended up with the R5 instances because they provide a lot more memory per central processing unit.”
Working in its own game-centric bubble also enabled the LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed team to make use of logging and monitoring features as well as graphs through Kibana and other open-source tools compatible with AWS services. With the power to query logs and other data more efficiently and the ability to receive alerts, the LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed team has since been able to fix problems without widely impacting the player experience. “The AWS infrastructure really improved our ability to work faster—to debug faster and make changes faster,” says Stolls. “Now we can schedule maintenance for the low peak times so that we have less effect on players. ISOPS always did a great job at keeping our games running, and with LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed, we’re able to maintain a high uptime and work together to provide stability.”
Expanding the AWS Infrastructure for Other Game Teams
Teams across the company are now clamoring to make use of the same innovative tools that enable greater coordination between game teams and the central infrastructure team. “We’ve decided that all the new games will be launching using the same model as LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed,” says Barousse. “One of the biggest benefits of running a game on AWS is the provisioning part. We were able to use more tools to decrease any risks at launch. If you run your game on AWS, you can overprovision your game infrastructure at launch without any capital expenditure investment.” Furthermore, Gameloft is currently migrating Kubernetes management to Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS). The company is also exploring the potential of machine learning to detect cheating and even to design games.
By fully building and hosting LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed on the AWS Cloud, Gameloft was able to grant its teams greater infrastructure autonomy, enabling the teams to adequately provision compute capacity and maintain LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed without affecting other Gameloft games. At the same time, it increased collaboration between the studio team and the cloud team. “It was great to see,” says Stolls. “We were all in this production together, both teams. It really added to the whole accomplishment of releasing the title.”
Founded in 2000, Gameloft is one of the biggest mobile game companies in the world. The company is headquartered in France and has 19 different studios worldwide. Its nearly 200 mobile games have been downloaded millions of times.
Benefits of AWS
- Facilitated infrastructural autonomy for an individual game team
- Ran 200,000 bots concurrently in preparation for launch
- Enabled 40% savings on provisioning costs after launch
- Enabled the development team to streamline maintenance
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2)
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment.
Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service.
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