Highwinds began offering CDN services to Sneaky Games, a social game studio that specializes in creating and running free-to-play games in October 2013. The Austin-based game developer boasts titles including Fantasy Kingdoms, Fantasy Kingdoms' Cloud Village, Syfy Monster Island and the popular and growing Arena of Heroes.
Last week, we sat down with two of the guys, Studio Head Marshall Adair and John Wussow, Director of Technology, to talk about free-to-play and cross-platform gaming, their experience using a CDN and what's coming next for Sneaky Games.
Customer Q&A: Sneaky Games
Highwinds: Tell us about Sneaky Games. How did you guys get together and what do you love about games?
Sneaky Games: Sneaky Games started with just a few of us. We had all been previously working for other game development companies or for contract gigs making advert-games. In 2009, we saw an opportunity (as others did) in the exploding Facebook and social games market, and knew we could compete with what was out there. So, we started with just a few people, rolled up our sleeves, set ourselves a really rigorous deadline and built a fantasy-themed farming/builder game. It immediately took off and allowed us to spin up a few other teams to work on some new games, an analytics platform and cross-platform internal technology.
Games are an inspiring medium, both to interact with and to work with. We feel that there is so much more to explore in games, what they can accomplish and how they can 'entertain'. We want to help define what games can do. Not to mention, games are evolving with the devices and platforms as they are being adopted too, which is an exciting to be a part of.
Highwinds: You appear to have a hit on your hands with Arena of Heroes. Why do you think your fans enjoy the game so much?
Sneaky Games: Arena of Heroes is a 'first' in many ways and is 'unique' in many others. It's the first ever turn-based asynchronous MOBA (multiplayer online battle game), it's the first ever cross-platform MOBA and it's the first turn-based tactics game to use radii instead of a grid for measuring movement distance and skill ranges. It remains familiar in so much that it mimics a real-time game, using mechanics of a traditional MOBA but applying them to a turn-based game-flow. So it is a fresh take on a well-established game genre, and I think that resonates with our players.
Highwinds: Which platforms are currently supported and which ones are going to be supported in the near future? Tell us about your cross-platform and mobile strategy.
Sneaky Games: Arena of Heroes is currently available on PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad. Soon, within a few short weeks, we'll also be hosted on the Web (Facebook, Kongregate, Google+, etc.) as well as Android and eventually on the Windows Surface and phone. And so, your account and games can be transferred between any of these devices seamlessly and even mid-battle if you prefer.
Cross-platform to us was a way to ensure all types of gamers could share a single, great experience in the same game. Each platform we have Arena of Heroes on gets special attention to ensure the game feels the same, despite having drastically different processing powers and controls. For us, it was important to allow everyone to play each other too, which makes sure players are always available, considering we're a PvP game that's huge. We hate waiting for matches … on any game, especially our own.
Highwinds: Before you started using Highwinds for your CDN needs, you were using one of our well-known competitors. What drove the decision to switch and how has your experience been?
Sneaky Games: We certainly were. Our old CDN was fine and dandy and it worked for our purposes. But, we had a few issues with it, such as the long time to purge edge servers. That was a biggie - we really hated having to wait for our games to update if there was an issue or a change to our content. Every minute/hour/day on a live game really counts, and so time is directly correlated to revenue. Reducing time to purge has increased our revenue.
Also, for a faster purge time, better world-wide reach and way (way, way) better communication and support, Highwinds is somehow cheaper. Go figure. So both from a business perspective and a technical perspective, making a switch to Highwinds just made sense and we've been more than happy with the switch.
Highwinds: Our readers may like to hear your advice about preparing your games for delivery to multiple platforms and devices via a CDN.
Sneaky Games: Most of the data that is delivered through the Highwinds CDN is the content for our PC patcher and the Mac DMG version of our game. We also use Highwinds to deliver some dynamic images in game. The most important thing we use the CDN for however is to tell the client which game server to use based on version number. This allows us to continue to service our live customers while providing a new client to submit for approval to the various app stores. Without this, being cross-platform and delivering a new version of the game would be almost impossible.
Highwinds: Are there any specific delivery challenges for a turn-based, MOBA game like Arena of Heroes?
Sneaky Games: Not specific to turn-based games, but for our cross-platform support, the 50MB and 100MB download limits on the mobile app stores are a challenge we come across. We have discussed the possibility of adding a patcher to the iOS and Android clients to deliver the game to 3G and 4G customers, but this feature has not been implemented yet. Every other aspect of CDN delivery has been similar to our Web-based games.
Highwinds: We have seen gaming companies move to a much greater cadence of sending updates and patches when they have a free-to-play model. When you monetize, offering new DLC (downloadable content) and getting new artwork and assets to the end user is even more important. Can you expand on this a little?
Sneaky Games: Sure thing - and you're right, this is a trend we see and are glad to be a part of. Free games are often described as a service, which means continuous support for your customers. This, by definition, for games is DLC or patches - which basically update and add more revenue streams for your product. So, the more rapidly and stably you can provide these updates, the more revenue potential your product has.
Highwinds is thrilled to welcome Meteor Entertainment to our online gaming family with the global launch of HAWKEN on the GDN. To publish HAWKEN, Meteor Entertainment selected GDN Deliver for global CDN distribution as well as GDN Balance, a download traffic load balancing solution that guarantees the best delivery experience for gamers worldwide by making traffic shaping decisions based on real-time performance data.
HAWKEN is a free-to-play multiplayer mech first-person shooter developed by Adhesive Games and published by Meteor Entertainment. HAWKEN entered Open Beta on December 12, 2012 (12.12.12). The game creates an intense and enjoyable battle experience that captures the feeling of piloting a heavy war machine while keeping the action fast-paced and strategic. HAWKEN brings the feel and look of a AAA title to the free-to-play sector. It's been called one of the most anticipated games of 2012, winning more than 20 press awards at industry events.
About Meteor Entertainment
Based in Seattle, Meteor Entertainment is a newly-formed video game publisher focused on successfully publishing free-to-play games globally, with an emphasis on compelling content and setting the standard for customer service and community engagement. Meteor Entertainment's first tent pole title is HAWKEN, developed by Adhesive Games.
Highwinds provides content delivery infrastructure to Valve as part of their global strategy to expand and support Steam, the world's largest online gaming platform. Valve, a long-time Highwinds customer, is experiencing exponential growth with Steam, and the Highwinds GDN is contributing to the platform's global reach and popularity.
Over the past several years, Steam has sustained massive increases in its key figures, including sales, total user accounts, daily active users and simultaneous players. Today, over 1,800 games are delivered over Steam to more than 40 million active users, with the number of peak simultaneous players exceeding five million. With its global network infrastructure, high bandwidth capacity, fast delivery speeds and industry-specific software tools, the Highwinds GDN is positioned to support Valve's Steam platform as it continues to grow.
Funcom, an independent developer and publisher of online games, tapped the Highwinds GDN for the delivery of its online games to global audiences. In addition to supporting Funcom's existing game titles today, Highwinds will also support the public release of Funcom's highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game, 'The Secret World,' set to launch in the summer of 2012. Highwinds GDN provides Funcom and its online audiences with reliable gameplay via HTTP caching, which supports game downloads, patches, content expansion and in-game monetization.
Highwinds' commitment to the gaming community is commendable. It's evident in Highwinds' dedicated and experienced account team, and it's evident in their solutions to support the evolving needs of the gaming industry. We look forward to a long and rewarding partnership.
Ole Schreiner COO Funcom
'The Secret World' (TSW) is currently in beta, with over 750,000 gamers now registered as beta testers. Funcom expects the number of beta registrations to grow significantly in the coming months as the company ramps up its major PR and marketing initiatives towards launch. TSW is consistently mentioned as one of the most anticipated MMOs in development, breaking new grounds and genre conventions by introducing a modern-day setting, a story-focused MMO experience and a freeform progression system using no classes and no levels. 'The Secret World' is developed and published by Funcom and will be distributed by co-publishing partner Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA). TSW is available at www.thesecretworld.com.
Funcom is an independent developer and publisher of online games for PC and consoles. Funcom has provided outstanding entertainment since 1993 and continues to expand its track record of more than 20 released games. Recent titles include 'Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures,' 'The Longest Journey,' 'Anarchy Online' and 'Dreamfall.' For corporate information, visit www.funcom.com. For information about Funcom games, visit www.anarchy-online.com, www.dreamfall.com, www.thesecretworld.com or www.ageofconan.com. Funcom is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange under the ticker FUNCOM.
GameFly, the leading video game service, allows members to rent one or more video games concurrently, with no due dates, late fees or shipping charges. Users can easily select from over 8,000 console/handheld titles or 1,500+ PC games for immediate download, and manage their list of games online at www.gamefly.com, the GameFly App for iOS and Android devices, or the new digital PC Client. Members receive games via First-Class Mail and return them to GameFly at their convenience using prepaid mailers. In addition to selling video games through the "Keep" feature, GameFly also sells new and used video games.
"Highwinds has been great in proving that their network can support our sustained growth as well as huge traffic spikes on game release days – without ever sacrificing fast download speeds or high-quality experiences. By choosing Highwinds, we gained a partner who understands gaming and has solutions that address the unique delivery challenges we face."
Highwinds supports the huge global growth of Wargaming.net's free-to-play massively multiplayer online (MMO) war series games, including World of Tanks and the highly anticipated World of Warplanes, on the Highwinds GDN.
World of Tanks currently boasts over 65 million registered players and recently set a new Guinness World Record for "Most Players Online Simultaneously on One MMO Server," breaking its own previous record by more than double. A game known for its strategic and team-based tactical action, World of Tanks puts players into the seats of some of the most iconic armored vehicles to ever grace the field of battle. With more than 300 tanks from six different nations, the game continues to be updated with new content on a regular basis, including the recent inclusion of real-world physics and a completely overhauled rendering and graphics engine.
World of Tanks will soon be joined by World of Warplanes, an aerial combat MMO set in the golden age of military aviation, and later, by World of Warships, a naval action MMO that submerges players into devastating sea wars and challenges them to conquer the high seas. Highwinds began supporting Wargaming.net in 2012 with global game delivery over Highwinds GDN, the ultimate platform for delivering online games to global gaming audiences, and the companies have been expanding the business relationship over the past year for game delivery services.
"World of Tanks continues to grow at an impressive rate and working with Highwinds has helped us ensure that growth is well-managed," said Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming. "We look forward to our continued work with Highwinds GDN as we evolve to grow World of Tanks and plan for the releases of our future titles."
Eric's Best Online Games, (EBOG.com) boasts more than 5000 manually categorized Flash, unity3D and Shockwave free online games. The site is run by Sunny Island Marketings LDC, a game development company founded in 2008 that also runs the popular 85Play.com free online games website. The team at Sunny Island has created a number of games, including City Slaves, and services their customers as a unique blend of programmers, designers, consultants, project managers and IT professionals.
Both EBOG.com and 85Play.com rely on the Highwinds GDN Deliver service to power their browser-based games. The network's best-of-class response time and throughput guarantee an excellent game play experience for their fans who can download the games or play in the browser.