When we meet game developers, especially those creating premium titles, who haven’t had experience of managing live games beyond the odd patch or DLC update we are often asked “what is ChilliConnect?” It might appear to be a straightforward question, but due to the multifaceted nature of managing live games and the way in which it overlaps with a number of other aspects of game development there are often misconceptions and misunderstandings. To help provide some clarity we coined the term “Live Game Management”. It’s a great term for summarising what the ChilliConnect platform enables. Expanding further we would describe ChilliConnect as a cloud based, technology agnostic, single dashboard/SDK suite of tools for Live Game Management that encompasses Game Backend Services, Live Operations (Live Ops) and Analytics. That’s a bit of a mouthful but there is so much more ‘under the hood’ we need to go much deeper.
What it’s not
Let’s begin by dispelling a few common misconceptions. Firstly the ChilliConnect platform was never designed to be a standalone analytics platform. We’ve found that not only do studios have varying requirements from their analytics tools, but even within a studio a number of roles can exist that touch on data analysis – all with specific needs.
So whilst it’s correct to assert that analytics is a core element of the ChilliConnect platform, and underpins much of the wider functionality of the platform, our focus is not upon being the entire solution, but providing the foundation for future growth. We feel it’s very important that we don’t enforce a single analytics tool stack on a developer at the outset. More about that later…
Another assumption is that ChilliConnect is a real-time multiplayer solution. We do provide multiplayer features such as async multiplayer, matchmaking and messaging (with socket based connectivity coming very soon) however we have no plans to build a low latency real-time multiplayer solution. There are already plenty of excellent providers in the market such as Photon, Multiplay, Gameeye and others that have solved the unique server infrastructure and scaling requirements those games demand. Our approach will be one of integration rather than reinvention.
Finally we are not just a live operations platform! We provide extensive Game Backend Services “out of the box” which integrate seamlessly with the Analytics and Live Ops tools. We have designed the ChilliConnect dashboard to be the central hub for managing your game and herein lies its inherent power – bringing various disparate elements of building and running a live game into a single platform and workflow. That sounds great, but what does it mean in practical, nuts and bolts terms?
Game Backend Services
Games are utilising ever greater levels of connectivity to offer features that improve players enjoyment of the game, their engagement with it and its commercial performance. This drive towards connected and social play is however often at odds with the skills, experience and financial resources of many studios. ChilliConnect provides the answer allowing developers to add features such as player account management, game configuration/content management, cloud data save, leaderboards, multiplayer, messaging, gifting and much more!
Developers with no previous server side knowledge can even build server authoritative games by utilising Cloud Code, a feature that enables java/C# scripts to be written and deployed within ChilliConnect.
Once a game is live you can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that our experts are managing the server infrastructure, ensuring the Game Backend Services for your game are run reliably and can scale instantly to meet the changing demands of your player base.
Live Operations encompass any action a game developer might wish to take to modify their game after it has been made live. Some activities should already be familiar to the vast majority of developers. Releasing patches to fix bugs, new content packs to extend shelf life and updating the game with new features have all been used successfully across most games platforms and genres for a number of years. Live Ops also includes community management, dealing with customer problems, communicating with the player base and building a direct relationship with them.
The advent of Free to Play games, especially on mobile, has seen the scope of Live Ops extend even further to include running events, tournaments and promotions. A/B Testing is another core Live Ops activity which is vital in optimising game economy, balancing difficultly, running effective sales and promotions and improving pretty much any aspect of the game that can be configured in real-time.
It sounds like a lot of hard work (it is), but the rewards for developers that successfully execute Live Ops are substantial. Space Ape are among a number of studios that have publicly stated they make more than 2/3rds of their revenue directly from live ops activities!
When running Live Ops speed and accuracy are vitally important so we have carefully designed workflows in ChilliConnect to be consistent across the various Live Ops activities. The process of setting up A/B Tests, Scheduled Events and Permanent Overrides is the same – overriding Catalog data based on player segmentation. In addition with built in error checking and the inclusion of a helpful prioritisation tool we reduce user error close to zero whilst putting you in control of determining which of your Live Ops campaigns are most important at any point in time.
It’s a huge advantage to have Game Backend Services and Analytics in the same integrated platform as Live Ops. Not only do you have less SDKs to integrate into your game which reduces errors in development and when live, but ChilliConnect significantly reduces the time it takes to setup and run Live Ops. When time is money, every second counts! Want to run an A/B Test at short notice on a Friday morning ahead of a planned weekend sale? You can do that! Setting up an A/B Test takes minutes and you can then begin analysis of the results immediately using real-time KPIs.
Virtually all game developers now recognise the vital role player behaviour data plays in informing gameplay and commercial decisions. The ChilliConnect analytics solution provides everything you need to get started, but with the flexibility to grow as your game evolves and your player base increases in size. The analytics tool kit in ChilliConnect has been designed to support the features most often used in the early stages of a game’s life, with flexibility to support the need for greater granularity later on.
The main features include automatic tracking of core KPIs, up to the minute tracking of a sub-set of live KPIs, the ability to create custom game events, custom charting to visualise your game events the way you want, detailed segmentation and custom segmentation set up and daily data export. We have often seen developers assume they have to track everything in their game and then struggle to make sense of an avalanche of data.
Others spend thousands per month on data visualisation platforms and tools that are unsuitable for their current capability and resources. Our approach is different – to provide you with the data you need, in an easy to use format and at a compelling price, but without any of the complexity and cost you don’t need. Expanding further we offer two routes to gaining even greater control and understanding of your data. Each of these options are based upon the most common use cases we have experienced with developers. The first is to support the use of a “pure play” analytics platform alongside the ChilliConnect SDK. There are a number to choose from such as Amplitude, DeltaDNA and GameAnalytics.
If you are a small team, with no dedicated business intelligence team or data analysts, then this option will allow you to visualise and analyse your data in a much wider range of formats than ChilliConnect provides. The second option is to utilise our Data Warehousing solution. If you have inhouse data analysts we can collect, store and manage your data for you, allowing your team to write queries direct to the database. This option gives your team even greater flexibility in data management, opening up the opportunity to use powerful data visualisation tools such as Tableau, or even to build your own data dashboard using R.
The Future of Live Game Management
You may not have heard the phrase Live Game Management before reading this article, however it’s our belief the provision of these tools will have a huge impact on the industry, freeing up developers from tool creation to focus entirely upon game creation. We aim to be at the forefront of Live Game Management innovation for years to come. This requires continued development and refinement across the three areas of Game Backend Services, Analytics and Live Ops, using the feedback we receive from current and future customers to inform our roadmaps.
Live Game Management might be in its infancy, but it’s already having a huge impact on the industry! Thanks for reading. We’d be pleased to help you start your journey in Live Game Management. Sign up for a free 30 day trial, where you can explore the benefits of ChilliConnect at your own pace. If you’d like to know more please do get in touch, we’re here to help! – firstname.lastname@example.org