Key Backend Services for successful Games and a unique gameplay experience

Shohel Khatri 12th May 2021 - 8 mins read

Mobile gaming as we all know is a niche in industry. There and tons and tons of mobile games available, each with about a million downloads.
Every mobile based game, be it online or offline requires some kind of backend services. Usually, game developers/studios focus all their energies on game development rather than on backend services and its server infrastructure. In this blog, we will try to highlight what are these backend services and break them down based on functional and operational perspective.

What are backend services?

Backend includes all important logic and processes running behind the game and that are not visible to the user playing the game on his/her device. The backend enhances the gaming experience through multiple value-added features and an architecture that makes games dynamic and interactive.

Functional Services:

The backend of your mobile application mainly depends on the functionality and features that are integrated. These functional services are nothing but features through which an end user would interact with on a daily basis while playing the game. We have listed down the most common and essential ones.

1. Player Operations

Every game requires some backend service which can handle its user data, some of the most common features include:

  • Player authentication – this feature allows a player can login using a device ID/ an email ID and password/ a user name and password
  • Third-party Social integration – this feature enables logging in/ posting to social media without making the user leave the app
  • Player game progress, stats and profile information – this feature includes a dashboard of player information and game details

2. Clan/Guild/Team

Clans, Guilds or Teams, all these terms mean the same, every game uses its own jargon. The functionality (mostly) boils down to players joining groups to play together or compete against other teams. Though the implementation for each genre of game maybe nuanced, here are some common features:

  • Clan moderator/admin operations – Administrators or moderators are the ones who have control on adding, demoting, removing or declining members
  • Global clan leader board – these are a set of APIs that help with managing and monitoring competitions
  • Clan events – these include creating events that the whole team can participate in
  • Clan scorecard / achievements – this feature showcases the overall achievement of a clan, listing daily winners etc., this data can be exported
  • Clan profile – this feature includes having the details of all the players competing against each other

3. Leaderboard

Leaderboards have become an essential feature with online games since it adds a competitive and social element to the game, which eventually increases player retention.

  • Daily, Weekly and All-time leaderboards – this feature enables requesting a time frame within which the player’s results are shown through a leaderboard without having to create separate leaderboards for each time frame
  • Customisable leaderboards – this feature lets you build a custom achievement list
  • Realtime updates – this includes a console that allows accessing data to view the records as an when they are updated in real-time

4. Chat & Gifts

More people are spending time on online games than ever before. Players feel a sense of community when they are able to share their ideas/thoughts with other players at the same time help out other players through gifts, coins, etc.
The below-mentioned features enable real-time, event-based communication. Most commonly used libraries to create the same are & redis pub-sub.

  • Chat with friends
  • Chat within clan
  • Chat with the opponent
  • Send/Receive gifts

5. Game Inventory / Economy / In-Game-Stores

Having a robust game economy helps with better monetisation prospects making sure you maximise revenue at the same time keeping players invested in the game.

  • Game currency config (real, soft, etc) – this feature lets you create, configure, and manage your game's currencies (types of real and soft currencies include Gem’s, Jewel’s, Coins etc.)
  • Auto Reward system – this feature allows players to win rewards on a daily basis, for instance on logging in
  • Selective store purchases – this API allows the app to present items on purchase through gems/ coins
  • Integration with payment gateway/ App platforms – this enables for easy payment processing through integration with payment gateway/ UPI

6. Multiplayer

Gone are the days when players used to play chess or a race car against a computer system. Every game developer/ studio wants to enable real-time multiplayer capability for that extra thrill element. But building a reliable multiplayer engine comes with its own challenges which requires careful considerations.

  • Realtime multiplayer – this enables players to interact with each other in real-time
  • Turn based multiplayer – simply means that this enables players to take turns while playing a game
  • Asynchronous multiplayer – this feature enables players to take their turn without having to interact with each other in real-time
  • Game lobbies/ rooms – these can be enabled in order to play multiple rounds of games with the same people by creating a lobby and sending them an invite
  • Distributed Game servers for low latency – this allows for usage of multiple servers for the game to be working smoothly without crashing, enabling a great gaming experience

Operational Services:

Operational services are utilised by the game developer/ studio who has developed the game and wants to manage different operational aspects of the game. They may also be referred to as Admins who can add various functionalities to the backend portal. They are further segregated as Admins, Game admins, user admins and support.

1. Player Management

  • Manage players – this feature enables Search, Filter, Block, Unblock players easily
  • Manage access related issues – in case a player is having an issue with accessing the game, this feature allows the admin to manage such issues
  • Push personalised rewards – these are more like push notifications or frequent updates which allow engaging with players in real time but are personalised
  • Segment users for remote config – this feature allows admins to create need-based player segments to which they can reach out to
  • Push notifications – this feature triggers a push message to the user’s device

2. Game Analytics

There can be hundreds of metrics which can be analysed by combining data from multiple sources for understanding user behaviour, stickiness, revenue, etc.
Some of the KPIs are:

  • DAU/MAU (Daily active users/ monthly active users)
  • Player retention
  • Custom funnels for dropout rates – within this feature, admins are allowed to visualise and monitor user behaviours, find drop-offs and boost conversion thereafter
  • New Installs/ Uninstalls, etc.

3. AssetBundle Management

AssetBundle is content that is stored separately from a main game. It helps create and manage assetbundles which can be deployed whenever required. With AssetBundles, content management is simplified and textures, game objects etc. can be replaced easily.
Few features within AssetBundle includes,

  • Upload static media assets
  • Swap assets for existing links
  • Deliver content through CDN (Content Delivery Network)
  • Create secure links

4. Game support

This is something that no gaming studio wants to miss out on. Most studios entirely focus on developing a robust game, but fail to provide support for technical or any other gaming related assistance. By providing gamers this kind of support, they will feel valued and satisfied, creating loyalty and lifetime value.
Some key features in game support services include:

  • Ticket creation through contact us / complaint forms
  • Manage tickets (Search, filter, acknowledge tickets)
  • Integration with internal support desk / CRM tool for better TAT (turn-around time)
  • Dashboard (open, closed, in progress tickets)

Summarising briefly about what you need to look for while planning to build your next game

There are numerous BaaS (Backend as a service) platforms which can support all or most of the above features mentioned. You can just build your game and plug in the required backend services from a BaaS provider. Easy, right? Well, there is a catch. Most of the big and successful games out there are hosted on their home-grown backend platforms. This doesn’t mean you have to start building your own, but with big scale comes big costs with these BaaS providers, which most of the times is not sustainable in the current cut throat market. Hence, building and managing your own backend can help alleviate that cost and bring more flexibility and opportunities to customise features as per the game’s demands.

Do you think you have made the right choice with regards to your existing backend infrastructure? OR you are currently thinking about your next game development and how to build that robust backend for the same? Well, we are here to help you with your backend services while you focus on the innovation aspects of the game.

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series where we will focus on how it looks like to build your very own custom backend on Cloud.

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