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It's never too early to add LiveOps to your game

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.

June 20, 2022

6 Min Read

Author: by Heroic Labs

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 these.


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 deeper learning.


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.


Run experiments

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.

If you’d like to find out more or get a personal demo, read the announcement post or email us.

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