Google launches a-built ‘Game Servers’ beta for high-scalability cloud gaming backend

Google today announced the availability of “Game Servers” in beta test mode, a managed service offering using a service called Agones, which is an open-source game server hosting and scaling project built on Kubernetes.

Using Agones, game developers and publishers can provide critically needed servers for games to maintain great multiplayer experiences. Game developers now increasingly rely on dedicated severs in order to deliver lag-free and high-fidelity gameplay for connecting players, but scaling in these environments can be difficult.

In order to open up choice and control for developers, Google said its Agones-based Game Servers will make it easier to deploy, manage and scale servers based on demand.

Game Servers does this by amplifying Agones’s ability to help manage global multicluster game servers without the need to build out and host dedicated servers in datacenters.

Developers already running Agones in production workloads can turn on Game Servers by registering Agones-managed game server clusters with the new Game Servers application programming interface. Developers who have opted in can also turn it off just as easily at any time by switching back to manual management.

Using Agones, developers can group clusters together into groups called “realms.” Realms are logical groupings of Kubernetes clusters designed around gaming latency requirements, which is a fundamental necessity of many multiplayer games for providing the best multiplayer experience. Game server and scaling policies can be defined to simplify fleet management across realms and the clusters within them depending on whatever granularity the developer needs and still maintain visibility and control.

“While there are currently a few off-the-shelf solutions that provide basic game server management functionality, we saw an opportunity to be helpful to developers in two specific areas: simplicity and control and flexibility and portability,” Scott Van Woudenberg, product manager at Google Cloud, told SiliconANGLE in an email. “Focusing on simplicity and control, Game Servers beta will include management and scaling policies that allow developers to define — with great specificity — how and when to scale their game server fleet, without having to deal with cumbersome or complex processes.”

Game Servers allows for numerous types of scaling control, such as automated timed scaling to happen during expected peak hours during the day across different regions or to reserve capacity for planned events across specific date/time ranges.

For example, a developer might want to prepare scaling capacity for the upcoming launch of a new expansion to its game. In the lifecycle of games, player audience often tends to wane between content cycles, but can suddenly jump up again upon the release of a new content patch or expansion. The need for a larger number of servers is an obvious prediction.

Extremely popular games such as “World of Warcraft,” the massively multiplayer online game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, have experienced slowdowns because of such sudden influxes of players after releasing expansions. That has caused certain realms of the game to go over capacity and thus players would have to sit on a waitlist before they could play.

Using Game Servers with Agones, game developers can better automate scaling based on predicted numbers and help elastically prevent this sort of crunch.

“Sometimes scaling is predictable, but other times, it can definitely take you by surprise. Each game is unique and we wanted to include flexibility into Game Servers to accommodate each type of scenario,” said Van Woudenberg. “As we continue to build out Game Servers’ feature set, we’re looking at enhancing some of the policy management capabilities to optimize not just for an expected influx of players, but also for additional levers, such as cost.”

In the beta, Game Severs will initially support clusters running on Google Kubernetes Engine only. The Game Servers team will continue to work on supporting hybrid and multi-cloud for later this year. By the second half of 2020, the team envisions adding more advanced policies and integration with open source matchmaking frameworks, such as Open Match.

“While most of our platform technologies are industry-agnostic, Google Cloud also intentionally wants to develop solutions that drive business value for specific industries. Keeping this in mind, we specifically built Game Servers beta to best serve the needs of game developers,” added Van Woudenberg. “Game developers have very nuanced requirements, which is why we and the open-source community initially taught Kubernetes how to host, run, and manage game servers. These efforts resulted in Agones, our open source game server hosting project, created with Ubisoft in 2018. Agones works great for regional games, but going global still requires some orchestration.”

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