It’s easy for indies to shy away from the technology enjoyed by triple-A teams. After all, such tools are assumed to be expensive, complex, and tailoured for studio headcounts that demand vast seas of desks.
Microsoft has increased efforts in recent years to provide teams of all sizes with accessible tools and services, allowing them to support their games with multiplayer, leaderboards, data and analytics, community features and a range of publishing tools.
Today, that range is neatly packaged up in ‘games as a service’ offerings from third-party tech centered around Microsoft’s own Windows Azure cloud platform (see ‘What’s on offer’). A platform-agnostic initiative, it’s particularly relevant to teams building a back-end for iOS, Android, Windows and Web projects.
And it’s all integrated with Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online toolset, meaning studios can easily create games and build a cloud back-end in a unified development pipeline.
ON THE GROUND
But what does all this really mean for small teams, and what are the tangible benefits?
“To us using the cloud is critical. We couldn’t make the game we want to without it,” says Joe Stevens, co-founder of Whispering Gibbon, currently hard at work on mobile title Tiny Trees, and a user of Microsoft’s offering. “There are already so many services out there but what is really exciting is the growing number of easily customisable services. People can take advantage of these to bring really exciting elements to their games. This is something we’re looking forward to seeing more of.”
Another studio making use of the suite of cloud solutions and services is Cool Game Arcade, as MD Jon Wetherall explains: “Cloud services allow us to create games which give the players persistent logins and user data. This allows us to form a closer relationship with our players, both in terms of understanding how to improve their experience and to move their play from device to device or even to different platforms.”
Games as a service
Meanwhile, the team at Beard Bandits – formed by University of Hull graduates – have found that the cloud offers much more than its most obvious attributes.
“We have primarily used Windows Azure for our cloud services, and we found it helpful for quickly building services and prototyping our ideas,” says owner John van Rij. “Cloud services have also helped us to refine Comet Chaos.”
And for James Mintram, director of Lemon Moose Games, harnessing these cloud services and tools have been an exercise in accessibility and affordability.
“I don’t think there is any non-technical barrier to leveraging the cloud. As Microsoft Bizspark members we get an allowance per month to use with Windows Azure services.”
For these teams, games as a service firms like GameSparks are doing great things. It’s affordable, accessible and flexible, and the benefits they bring means it’s something many teams would be wise to consider.
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