Project Xandata: Keeping up with competitive players on a tight budget

When Secret 6 created their intense competitive 3v3 FPS, their old servers couldn’t handle the strain at a reasonable cost. So they chose Gameye to cut costs and improve their lag issues.

Competitive players want to show off their mechanical skill and need a game that feels responsive. When they shoot, it needs to feel like it fired. When they swing a sword, it needs to feel like it struck. And a bad connection can ruin that experience.

The Philippines-based studio, Secret 6, knew this when they created Project Xandata. It’s a high-octane first-person shooter with an immense customization system. Teams of three pit themselves against each other and every millisecond counts. Just the sort of game that competitive players love. But things weren’t running smoothly with their old servers and they had a limited budget. They needed an upgrade. A tough project, but one that our platform could handle easily.

Challenge

Their old servers couldn’t keep pace

When Project Xandata first went into early access, their server provider was costly. This was particularly problematic on their budget. They resorted to squeezing multiple binaries into a single instance to host their matches. Which meant they had to use a giant spreadsheet and spend hours trying to predict how much they were going to spend.

Solution

Scale to the demand, without the price tag

After a quick test, it was clearly the right choice. So Secret 6 switched over to our platform. They knew they would get predictable costs, reliable servers and be able to set up in any region they liked.

There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, we walked Secret 6 through how to figure out their resource profile (how much compute power a single instance of their game uses) and make sure they were only ever using one instance for one match. Secondly, our orchestration. They could spin new servers up on demand, whenever they needed them. This all meant they didn’t need to pay for servers they weren’t using, while making sure one match never affected another.

“We had a budget, so we had to do loads of calculations. And it was confusing and frustrating, not knowing if we’re going to go over,” Gene Gacho, Technical Director and Creator of Project Xandata.

Not only were the servers costly, they were slow to spawn new instances. Making changes to the game, such as releasing new customization options, meant they had to plan around the long wait times. They needed something that they could easily update, that would spin up new servers quickly whenever they needed them, and where it wouldn’t cost the world.

Bad connections lead to bad matches

Putting sessions together came with another downside. When one match used too much computing power, the other matches would lag. A death sentence, as competitive players demand a good, speedy connection. This was a problem that was compounded by the internet infrastructure in the Philippines.

“There are basically two ISPs here in the Philippines,” Gene explained. “You can’t really connect a game between ISP A and ISP B. If you’re playing on one and try to play a game that’s hosted on another, they’ll route you around the entire network, which causes a lot of latency issues.”

This split in the infrastructure causes issues for multiplayer games. Players in the Philippines often suffer with lag when trying to play, even in well-established titles. But Project Xandata is new, the first original IP from the studio. They are still building up an audience. A competitive audience that demands perfection.

Secret 6 needed a secret weapon. So they came to Gameye.

Roll out changes instantly

Along with switching from their server provider, they wanted to change matchmaker, too. Not a problem. Our platform is completely agnostic, able to plug into any tool that they want. And if they want to roll out a new set of weapons or skins, it’s easy to update everything.

“It took our old provider forever to start up. But with Gameye, it’s pretty much instant,” Paolo Sy, Senior Server Engineer says. “In the past, whenever we had a new build, it would take ages to roll out the changes. We had to spawn the servers in advance with the old tools. Now, we just have to request a server when it’s needed and it responds quickly, and the API is reliable. Whenever there’s a match found in PlayFab, Gameye spawns a server immediately.”

With our servers, they could cut down how quickly it took to boot a new server by forty minutes.

Keep the competitive players happy

Now that the servers were set up with one binary to an instance, Project Xandata was no longer getting complaints from their players. No lag, no downtime. Just good, reliable servers. Even with the infrastructure in the Philippines.

“No news is always good news when it comes to servers,” Gene says. “Nobody is complaining about laggy servers and the players are really happy. We’re not getting any negative feedback from these competitive gamers. What’s more, when we’re connecting to Gameye servers, there’s not been a problem with the ISPs. Nobody has a lag advantage.”

All together, this meant Secret 6 could focus on what really matters: creating new content. Using Gameye made sure that their servers were one less thing to worry about.

"When we’re connecting to Gameye servers, there’s not been a problem with the ISPs. Nobody has a lag advantage."
Gene Gacho, Technical Director and Creator of Project Xandata

What’s in store in the future?

Project Xandata is still in early access, as Secret 6 refines the formula and makes it even more engaging for competitive players, adding more and more customisation options, skills and weapons. In the future they’re planning on expanding away from the Philippines into other territories.

But they’re already prepared. With our orchestration, they’ve already got servers running in Amsterdam and California. As the game grows, our systems will grow with them.

They’re still in their optimization phase right now. We’re helping them here, too. The way our servers work, they can experiment and try out different settings. For example, they’re tweaking and playing around with their tick rate (how often the processor goes through a cycle). They can do these experiments easily with our platform, meaning they can focus on optimizing and improving their game, instead.

“We’ve worked really hard on the animations and making the game feel really good,” Mig Sevilla, Product Manager says. “But pretty is only half of the story. On our end, we make sure the new skills look good. But if they don’t feel good and responsive during the match, then it’s all for nothing. Now, it feels responsive.”

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