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Google Cloud and Phoenix Labs: Dauntless in the face of demand spikes

January 15, 2020
Sunil Rayan

Google Cloud for Games Managing Director

In the role-playing video game Dauntless, players work in groups to battle monsters and protect the city-island of Ramsgate. Commitment reaps big rewards: with every beast slayed, you earn new weapons and armor made of the same materials as the Behemoth you took down, strengthening your arsenal for the next battle. 

And when creating Dauntless, game studio Phoenix Labs channeled these same values of resourcefulness, teamwork, and persistence. But instead of using war pikes and swords, it wielded the power of the cloud to achieve its goals.  

Preparing for unknown battles with containers and the cloud

For the gaming industry, launches bring unique technological challenges. It’s impossible to predict if a game will go viral, and developers like Phoenix Labs need to plan for a number of scenarios without knowing exactly how many players will show up and how much server capacity will ultimately be needed. In addition, since Dauntless was the first game in the industry to launch cross-platform—available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PCs—it would be critical for all the underlying cloud-based services to work together flawlessly and provide an uninterrupted, real-time and consistent experience for players around the globe.

As part of staying agile to meet player needs, Phoenix Labs runs all its game servers in containers on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The studio has a custom Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) cluster in each region where Dauntless is available, across five continents (North America, Australia, Europe and Asia). When a player loads the game, Dauntless matches him or her with up to three other players, forming a virtual team that is taken to a neighboring island to hunt a Behemoth monster together. Each “group hunt” runs on an ephemeral pod on GKE, lasting for about 15 minutes before the players complete their assignment and return to Ramsgate to polish their weapons and prepare for the next battle. 

“Containerizing servers isn’t very common in the gaming industry, especially for larger games,” said Simon Beaumont, VP Technology at Phoenix Labs. “Google Cloud spearheaded this effort with their leadership and unique technology expertise, and their platform gave us the flexibility to use Kubernetes-as-a-service in production.”


Addressing player and customer needs at launch and beyond

When Dauntless launched out of beta earlier this year, the required amount of server capacity turned out to be a lot. Within the first week, player count quickly climbed to 4 million—rapid growth that was no small feat to accommodate.

Continuously addressing Reddit and Twitter feedback from players, Phoenix Labs’ lean team worked side by side with Google Cloud Professional Services to execute over 1,700 deployments to its production platform during the week of the launch alone. 

“Google Cloud’s laser focus on customers reaches a level I’ve never seen before,” said Jesse Houston, CEO and co-founder at Phoenix Labs. “They care just as much about our experience as a GCP customer as they do about our players. Without their ‘let’s go’ attitude, Dauntless would have been a giant game over.”


“Behemoth” growth, one platform at a time 

Now that Dauntless has surpassed 16 million unique players and launched on Nintendo Switch, Phoenix Labs is preparing to expand to new regions such as Russia and Poland (they recently launched in Japan) and take advantage of other capabilities across Google. For example, by leveraging Google Ads and YouTube as part of its digital strategy for Dauntless, 5 million new gamers were onboarded in the first week of launch; using YouTube Masthead ads also increased exposure to its audience. Phoenix Labs has migrated to Google Cloud’s data warehouse BigQuery for its ease of use and speed, returning queries in seconds based on trillions of rows of data. They’re even beginning to use the Google Sheets data connector for BigQuery to simplify reporting and ensure every decision is data informed. 

At Google Cloud, we’re undaunted by behemoth monsters—and the task of making our platform a great place to launch and run your multiplayer game. Learn more about how game developers of all sizes work with Google Cloud to take their games to the next level here.

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