Stay organized with collections Save and categorize content based on your preferences.

Embark Studios: building the next generation of game development tools with Google Cloud

About Embark Studios

Founded in Sweden in 2018, Embark Studios aims to capitalize creatively on upcoming technologies, enabling developers to build a wider range of experiences, and letting players create and contribute. Its goal is to create a new world of ongoing, compelling, revolutionary play.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Sweden

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

Embark Studios uses Google Cloud to power a game development environment that removes obstacles to creativity and accelerates innovation.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables players to maintain a persistent presence over multiple regions and data centers with Google Cloud Spanner
  • Empowers developers to innovate with a custom-built, automated game server agent creating instances on demand
  • Encourages collaboration and engagement with new developers by embracing open-source technology run on GKE clusters

Launches multiplayer playtests on demand within minutes

In 2018, a group of gaming industry veterans founded Embark Studios in Sweden. With a wealth of combined experience in high budget, high profile, high stake AAA games, they knew how big the rewards could be, but they also saw room for improvement. "When you make a triple-A game, there’s a great deal of repetition and churn. We try to minimize that as much as possible by building tools that can be used across projects and by automating as much as possible," explains Luna Duclos, Senior Backend Developer at Embark Studios.

In 2022, Embark Studios will release its first game, ARC Raiders. This third-person cooperative shooter over multiple platforms aims to compete with the biggest and best games out there. Adding a multiplayer element adds an order of complexity to the project, as the studio takes on the hosting and matchmaking of gamers worldwide and tries to maintain the highest standards across multiple regions.

But, Embark Studios couldn’t afford to throw money or manpower at this project for years at a time, so to make ARC Raiders a reality with the resources it had, it needed to rethink the way games were developed. To get to where it needed to be, it required a powerful backend that could give developers the freedom to innovate and deliver a rock-solid, high-quality, high-performance experience for gamers. After evaluating its options, the studio chose to build its infrastructure with Google Cloud.

"Our philosophy is all about removing obstacles to creativity and Google Cloud fits right in with that. It was by far the easiest infrastructure solution to work with of all the ones we evaluated," says Luna. "Everything that we needed worked out of the box and we got started quickly and easily."

A games development platform for a global audience

Working hand-in-hand with Google Cloud in Sweden, Embark Studios built an infrastructure precision-tooled for breaking new ground in game development. "The Google Cloud team have been amazing with us and given us all the help we need when we’ve asked for it," says Luna. "We know the people we need to talk to and they help us get whatever we need to as quickly as possible."

The core of Embark Studio’s infrastructure is Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). The studio runs 18 separate clusters, running more than 50 microservices in total. Each game that the studio is working on gets three clusters each - for North America, Europe, and East Asia, with the option to easily add more if needed. In addition, the studio runs several more operations clusters for monitoring Continuous Integration and Continuous Development pipelines and an internal development cluster for hosting various tools.

Google BigQuery serves as the studio’s analytics solution, while Google Cloud Spanner has proven to be an invaluable database solution for ARC Raiders, due to its global distribution with very low latency. Normally, multiplayer games have to maintain separate databases for each region, so players have to choose one region and stick to it.

"With Google Cloud Spanner, the latency is so low between the regions that we can maintain a triple continent database," says Luna. "That means our players won’t have to choose between playing with their American friends or their European friends. They can just switch regions whenever they want."

"Our philosophy is all about removing obstacles to creativity and Google Cloud fits right in with that. It was by far the easiest infrastructure solution to work with, of all the ones we evaluated. Everything that we needed worked out of the box and we got started quickly and easily."

Luna Duclos, Lead Backend Engineer, Embark Studios

Building a customized game server agent

The tools are impressive, but what Embark Studios has been able to do with them is even more so. For Luna, one of the most important advances was the development of the Embark Studios game server agent. It is perhaps easiest to explain by describing the experience from the gamer’s point of view.

The player fires up the game client and interacts with the matchmaking service. Imagine the matchmaking service is like a front desk at a hotel, greeting the customer and taking in their preferences and specifications. The matchmaker then passes on the relevant information to the game server agent, which automatically interacts with the game clusters to spin up game servers with the necessary parameters. Thanks to the speed of GKE, this process is completed in a matter of minutes without manual input, allowing Embark Studio’s game clusters to spin up servers on the fly, instead of worrying about capacity planning. It is as if the hotel builds itself to the customer’s exact specifications as they are chatting away at the front desk.

While the game is still to be released, the impact this tool has had on the development process at Embark Studios has been remarkable. Game developers have to test and quality check their builds like any other developers, but running a playtest is a very complicated business, especially with multiplayer games. Due to the resources needed, most studios manually run these in a dedicated test environment perhaps once a week, which can seriously limit development speed. In addition, test environments often do not represent production environments well because they are not necessarily built to the same scale or with the same data.

But with its game server agent, Embark Studios can spin up a playtest whenever it wants, in a few minutes. Luna and her team have done away with separate test environments and everything is now in production. "Instead of building separate test, staging and beta environments, we build tools that we can safely use in production," she says. This freedom, combined with the automation and ease of use of the game server agent, means that game developers do not have to wait on the backend team to spin up servers for them.

"The game server agent we’ve been able to build with Google Cloud has really given us the freedom to innovate," says Luna. "When new developers join us, they’re shocked that they can just spin up tests ten, twenty, or as many times a day as they need to. It’s a point of pride for us."

"With Google Cloud Spanner, the latency is so low between the regions that we can maintain a triple continent database. That means our players won’t have to choose between playing with their American friends or their European friends. They can just switch regions whenever they want."

Luna Duclos, Lead Backend Engineer, Embark Studios

Embracing open-source tools

A key pillar of Embark Studio’s identity is its commitment to using open-source technology. Using a managed service such as Google Cloud hasn’t hampered Embark Studios in its open-source ambitions. Quite the opposite. The studio can tap into a high-performance, low latency global network and integrate it with open-source technology, such as the animation tool Blender or the programming language Rust. Luna even worked with Google Cloud to develop Quilkin, an open-source game server proxy that uses Google Cloud Agones to make game servers more reliable and less susceptible to DDOS attacks from bad actors. While other companies have this technology and use it for their own games, Embark Studios wants to share it with the world.

The studio is now focused on the launch of ARC Raiders, but there’s plenty more on the horizon. There are other games being developed in different genres, with the same goals of not only providing the best possible entertainment but also breaking new ground and inspiring new games developers. In addition to the product releases, Luna and her team are looking for more ways to reach out to the community by open-sourcing as much as they can. "We try to be as transparent about the tools that we’re using as we can," says Luna. "We’re trying to change the way the industry works and get everyone to follow suit, and we can’t really do that if we’re not sharing our work with the community."

"The game server agent we’ve been able to build with Google Cloud has really given us the freedom to innovate. When new developers join us, they’re shocked that they can just spin up tests ten, twenty, or as many times a day as they need to. It’s a point of pride for us."

Luna Duclos, Lead Backend Engineer, Embark Studios

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Embark Studios

Founded in Sweden in 2018, Embark Studios aims to capitalize creatively on upcoming technologies, enabling developers to build a wider range of experiences, and letting players create and contribute. Its goal is to create a new world of ongoing, compelling, revolutionary play.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Sweden