Presented by Heroic Labs
Live operations is a strategy that AAA game studios, publishers, indies and even single player games can use to grow their game. Gone are the days of releasing a static game and only delivering new content in the sequel. No, games of all sizes have fully embraced online delivery and have become living franchises constantly evolving with new content after release. Which is great for gamers and developers – we all get to benefit from faster turnaround and new gameplay experiences more often.
This is the philosophy of live operations, to understand what players are enjoying and to give them more of it. Embracing games as an evolving community. It’s never too early to add LiveOps to your game. In fact, the sooner you add it the better so that you can make data-driven decisions from your first playtest sessions rather than when it’s too late. Read on to find out what LiveOps features you can add to grow your game or skip ahead and check out Satori, a new full-suite LiveOps product for game studios and publishers from Heroic Labs, the makers of the open source Nakama game server.
Know your players
In the era of games as a community, LiveOps
can help game studios and publishers of all sizes gain valuable insights into
their player base and identify actionable opportunities for growing their
audience and revenue. These high level outcomes sound great, but practically
speaking, how does a studio start implementing live operations into their game?
It begins with the players, more specifically representing the individual
player identity. Think about your average player, what things do you know about
them that are important to your game? Like when they registered or purchased
your game, where they live and other demographic information. There are many of
these identity properties that tell us who our players are, sophisticated
LiveOps systems can even infer or compute further complex properties from
Send events and measure metrics
Now that you know how to describe your players
you can start measuring their interesting interactions during play sessions.
Like when their game sessions begin and end, whether they completed the
tutorial, engaged with a new game feature or made an in-app purchase after
seeing a promotion. And just like identity properties, you can compute complex
metrics from the simple. Session information can be turned into insightful
daily reporting, and engagement wielded into player journeys. Game events
should be captured through lightweight client libraries integrated into your
game, batched together and streamed to the server in the background without
getting in the players’ way. Event capture doesn’t end there, events should be
propagated to 3rd party systems such as data lakes and warehouses to power
Segment players into audiences
Once raw player events are streaming to the
server, you can begin to make sense of the data at a high level. A good place
to start is segmenting your players into audience groups based on shared
identity properties. Audiences should be updated in real-time and be described
with an expressive vocabulary to capture players through logical conditions,
property ranges, and overriding rules to explicitly include and exclude
specific players. Segmenting players into locations, age groups, and engagement
levels will give you the foundation to deliver dynamic features to them. This
is where the operations part of LiveOps really kicks in. You can remotely
configure features, run new gaming experiments or scheduled live events to your
community of players.
Remotely configure features
One of the most important LiveOps features to
implement are feature flags. A feature flag is a game variable for specific
audiences that can be remotely configured from the server. Use flags in your
game to configure the user interface differently depending on the geographic
and cultural context by defining layout, setting theme colors, and enabling or
disabling entire features. Or release new features behind a flag and gradually
enable it for more of your players. It is important that flags continue to work
when there is no network and fallback to default values. Feature flags are one
of the pillars of LiveOps, and when used efficiently, enable controlled feature
deployment and configuration with minimal client updates.
Like feature flags, experiments deliver feature configurations to audiences, but only for a fixed duration. Experiments should have clear goal metrics to determine if they were successful. You may also want to limit the number of players in an audience group that take part in the experiment, start by thinking about the data you need to make statistically significant decisions on the outcome. Embracing an experimental game design culture will empower your team to work iteratively and make data-driven decisions faster. And once your successful experiments are complete, convert them to permanent feature flags for your players.
Schedule live events
Live events are for delivering established
features on a schedule, and like experiments they have a duration and should
track goal metrics like engagement or return on ad spend (RoAS). Battle passes,
leagues, tournaments, seasonal events, special offers and even recurring
messages or push notifications are all examples of live events players interact
with on a daily basis. A successful live event calendar requires careful
planning and should take into account event diversity, player availability and
fatigue, and clashes with other internal and even external events. LiveOps is a
living and evolving process. Live events may call for further experimentation
if goal metrics are falling or novel experiences are identified. Vice versa
experiments may create permanent features and spawn live events.
Build or buy
Developing a couple of LiveOps features
in-house can be quick and easy at first, but building a complete LiveOps system
and infrastructure from scratch that spans multiple titles and studios is a
challenging undertaking. You have to consider tracking, segmentation, and
feature delivery at massive scales as your game grows. Unfortunately existing
analytics solutions don’t cater to game-specific use cases, especially when it
comes to live events, and often require piecing together multiple services into
a complicated mess.
Heroic Labs, the creators of Nakama the open source game server that powers online game experiences on web, mobile, desktop, and console have released early-access to Satori, a new LiveOps product to help game studios and publishers of all sizes gain valuable insights into their player base and identify actionable opportunities for growing their audience and revenue.