Posts Tagged 'Cloudocracy'

March 11, 2016

Cloudocracy: Exit Games talks friendship, survival, cheating in the gaming world

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

This week in our Cloudocracy series, we’re talking to Chris Wegmann, founder and CTO of Exit Games, the company behind Photon Server and Photon Cloud. The Exit Games mission is to make multiplayer gaming easy. Chris, along with with his team, made that happen for 140,000 developers worldwide, creating the largest live cloud for MOG (multiplayer online games) with 45–70 million active users monthly. This is quite a demanding group, to say the least!

It’s no wonder it took Chris quite some time to find the right cloud infrastructure. Having worked with SoftLayer, he admits that it’s more than just infrastructure—it’s an asset to his users and his users users. (You can read more about Exit Games in the case study here.)

Video gaming began as a battle of humans versus machines (think Space Invaders), but for many players today, gaming is about competing or cooperating with friends. We interviewed Chris to discuss screen addiction, cheating, and more.

Chris Wegmann, founder and CTO of Exit Games

SOFTLAYER: If you were stranded on a desert island, what online multiplayer games would you play to keep you company?

CHRIS: Assuming the desert island has good connectivity I would play 8 Ball Pool, Pixel Gun, and Clash Royale. They are fun to play, and you don’t need to be a super expert. You can start easy and enhance your skills over time. They’re really well done, although only one was built using our Photon technology unfortunately!

SL: How and why did you start Exit Games?

CHRIS: In 2003, I was working at a company that was building next-generation services for the brand new 3G networks. My cofounders and I thought multiplayer games on phones could be great. We were horribly early with that idea! We had a rough time trying to survive. Multiplayer gaming started to become popular when the iPhone launched and Apple launched the App Store [in 2008]. We were able to stick around, turn the company around, and we’re now one of the leaders in synchronous multiplayer real-time gaming.

SL: How did you survive? What was different for you?

CHRIS: We had a razor-sharp focus on one particular function: synchronous real-time multiplayer gaming, and nothing else. It’s all about low latency, so we run data centers in a lot of locations worldwide, in partnership with SoftLayer. Game developers can leverage our network, the stability, the performance, and the low price.

Another factor in our success was that we decided very early to use Unity. Unity was not so popular then, but it now has millions of developers and has brought us thousands of professional and indie developers.

All of our products have a free tier, so they’re easy to try out. Then you pay per use. If your game is successful, you pay more. If not, you don’t pay a lot. It’s a fair business model that gave us market penetration.

SL: We hear a lot about the increase in the amount of screen time young people have today. Should we be concerned about online gaming replacing real-world socializing?

CHRIS: It’s a concern to me, especially when I see all the teenagers and kids constantly looking on phones and Facebook, communicating all the time. It seems to be in our nature to communicate all the time.

I remember when I was a kid, my friend and I had Commodore 64s, Game Boys, and whatever later on. Kids are definitely addicted to that stuff, and it’s the parents’ job to restrict it and make sure they are still playing board games and getting social contact.

SL: How big of a problem is cheating in online gaming, through hacking and bots, and what can be done about it?

CHRIS: It's a big topic. The more popular a game gets, the more cheaters and hackers will be attracted to it. Some of our customers’ games are becoming successful quickly and unexpectedly. When a game takes off quickly like that, it’s important that the developer gets up to speed quickly with how cheating could affect their games.

On mobile phones, it’s harder to hack, because you don’t have the tools you have on PCs. On PCs, there are professional companies that build bots and in-memory tools where you can decompile the game and change values in memory, so you need to take countermeasures faster on PC games. You need to be able to track profiles and ban and block users.

Of course, people like to play with friends, but it’s only fun to play if you have opponents with similar skills. Usually your friends are not necessarily good at a game you like to play, so it’s not fun to play with them. You want to play people who have real skill, too, not cheaters. One strategy is to let cheaters play with cheaters. So you need to think about skill-based matchmaking, not just random matchmaking.

We’re partnering with companies to offer anti-cheating chat filters and skills-based matchmaking. We look at what other services developers need and aim to provide a turnkey solution for them—with everything wrapped into a convenient package so it’s easy to use and has a sensible business model and price.

SL: What advice would you give to up-and-coming game developers on crafting an engaging multiplayer experience?

CHRIS: Start by reviewing the most successful multiplayer titles out there and take them as a benchmark. Every half year or so, the bar is rising in what needs to be done. In the past, few companies could afford to build games on a huge scale, but now small teams can build something really good.

Learn more about Exit Games’ Photon Engine here.

 

-Michalina

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February 17, 2016

Cloudocracy: Getting to the art of the matter with Artomatix

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

Today we’re launching a new series that will celebrate individuals and teams building on the SoftLayer cloud: the builders and founders, the creators and the disruptors, the developers and the architects, the dreamers and the visionaries, the inventors and the reformers. The Cloudocracy. 

We’re starting with Neal O’Gorman, co-founder and CTO of Artomatix. O’Gorman calls Artomatix the “artist’s personal slave robot.” The software uses machine learning-based artificial imagination to empower game dev studios that address mundane and dreary art creation tasks. Creating a beach full of pebbles or an army of zombies—with all the elements being unique—now takes minutes, not weeks, which can generate a tenfold increase in productivity. (For more details, read the complete case study here.)

At the GDC Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this spring, Artomatix will launch its inventive approach to generating video game art. We spoke to O’Gorman to find out more.

SOFTLAYER: Thank you for joining us today. Why don’t you start by telling us what Artomatix does?

O’GORMAN: Eric Risser, our co-founder, CTO, and the inventor of our incredible technology, built a game when he was a teenager and he was the artist on the team. He made a house and was delighted with it. Then he realized he had a whole village to create. From then on, he has been looking to solve that problem. Artomatix uses machine learning to quickly make high-quality variants of art assets.

SL: That sounds cool. We hear a lot about machine learning nowadays, but rarely about its use for creative applications. What do you do for Artomatix?

O’GORMAN: Unfortunately, what takes up too much time is funding. You close one funding round and go directly into the next. We’re in the process of closing our seed round. We received EU funding from the Creatify program, which helped us hire SoftLayer. We’ve also received funding from early stage investor NDRC, EU grants, and NVIDIA. We need to get to a point where revenues are coming in, which is the challenge for every startup. In the first year, we worked with companies who sent us art, we generated results, and sent it back. We validated that we were delivering the quality they needed. Then we had to build a product fast enough for them. With SoftLayer, being able to select bare metal servers and identify high-end GPUs gives us the speed we need.

SL: If you were stranded on a desert island, but you could take a few music albums and games with you, what would you bring?

O’GORMAN: Music hasn’t been a huge part of my life, but whatever you listen to in your teenage years ends up sticking. I’d definitely take the greatest Irish band that never made it out of Ireland, The Stunning.

SL: Were you in the band?

O’GORMAN: No! If you haven’t heard of them, and I suspect most people haven’t. Check them out.

For my game, the first one is definitely Quake. I got addicted in college and had to stop playing games because I was playing it too much.

For my next game, I’d say Texas Ask’Em Poker. I didn’t play for The Stunning, but I did create Texas Ask’Em Poker. When I lived in Germany, I was a quizmaster in the local Irish pub. I came across a poker company looking for new games and I had a eureka moment with the idea to put a quiz element into poker.

My final game would be Turrican on the Commodore 64 in the late 1980s. You run around, fly around, and just use your flamethrower. A classic!

SL: Pretty much everything on the Commodore is a classic, although some of the artificial intelligence was more artificial than intelligent in those days. I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about computers taking over creative jobs. Should video game artists feel threatened by your technology?

O’GORMAN: If there are Chinese whispers [the game more commonly known as “telephone”], artists might get concerned. But the reality is that we’re here to help artists spend more time being creative. We’re not replacing their creativity. We’re replacing their tedious, mundane tasks. With hybridization, we can take a few different concepts, iterate, and provide different ideas for the artist to choose from. Artomatix is always based on an example, and that needs an artist.

SL: Game developers can sleep easy! What kind of games will we be playing in 10 years, and how will we be playing them?

O’GORMAN: We’ll see a big push on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). AR is much more intriguing because with VR you're closed off to the rest of world—you’re not living in the real world. For AR, one of the keys for success is that new art needs to be created on the fly, and it needs to be in sync with the environment the person is in. Picture you and your family sitting at breakfast. On the screen, there’s an extra chair at the table. It’s not an exact copy of another chair, but it fits in perfectly. Sitting in it is someone who looks like a family member, but not any particular one. And they’re a zombie.

SL: Scary stuff! Good luck with your launch!

O’GORMAN: Thank you!
 

 

-Michalina 

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