Massive Entertainment, a Ubisoft Studio: Connecting global gamers online with Google Cloud

About Massive Entertainment

Ubisoft Studio Massive Entertainment is an AAA, or major publisher tier, video game developer studio based in Malmö and owned by French company Ubisoft Entertainment SA. Its multinational team of more than 650 people from 50 different countries is behind well-known titles such as Ground Control, World in Conflict, and the Tom Clancy’s The Division series.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Sweden
Products: Compute Engine

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To support the anticipated launch of its online video game Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Massive Entertainment partnered with Google Cloud to deliver optimal experiences to players around the world.

Google Cloud results

  • Supports millions of concurrent global players with scalable virtual machines
  • Enables a smooth multiplayer experience with low latency times
  • Frees workforce time from handling infrastructure to develop gaming services

Scales automatically to meet spikes in demand

The day an online video game goes live to the public is a big day for its developers. That’s partly due to the challenge of testing its scalability without knowing how many of the more than 2.5 billion gamers across the world will start playing it straight away. However, for Swedish video game developer Massive Entertainment, a Ubisoft Studio, the launch of highly anticipated Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 went smoothly in March 2019.

“We were looking for a partner to trust with our game. The team of engineers and gaming experts at Google Cloud get it; they’ve played our games, and were always available to offer us deep technical expertise.”

Fredrik Brönjemark, Online & Live Operations Director, Massive Entertainment

The online-only action shooter video game is set in a dystopian near-future Washington, D. C. at the brink of collapse. Players are agents of the Strategic Homeland Division trying to rebuild the city and save it from crime. They can roam freely in this high-resolution virtual world, choosing how or when to approach objectives, customizing their character and gear, and sharing their experience with others by opting to engage in multiplayer scenarios. To make all of this readily available from the moment of launch for millions of global gamers, Massive Entertainment partnered with Google Cloud.

“Google Cloud performed beautifully in our early tests and private beta, and we were thrilled with its ability to scale in the early days of our launch,” says Fredrik Brönjemark, Online and Live Operations Director at Massive Entertainment. “More importantly, we were looking for a partner to trust with our game. The team of engineers and gaming experts at Google Cloud get it; they’ve played our games and were always available to offer us deep technical expertise,” he says.

Bringing millions of global players together

With seemingly endless courses of action available for players to choose from, and matchmaking capabilities which enable them to engage with each other online, The Division 2 is a complex livestreaming virtual world. In order to keep it running at all times and to scale the game capacity according to how many players are online, Massive Entertainment augments its in-house i3D.net data center capacity with the virtual machines provided by Compute Engine. These powerful virtual machines also support the core services required for game play, such as matchmaking, high scores, statistics, and inventory.

Björn Lindberg, Online Technical Director at Massive Entertainment, designs and implements online backend systems for the series of The Division titles and supports its multiplayer backend services. He explains that for games like The Division 2 to work, gamers need to connect to game servers, which are the authoritative source of events in a multiplayer video game. Game servers allow connected players to see their own accurate versions of their shared game. Some hundreds to thousands of players may be hosted on the same server simultaneously but do not always see each other because Massive Entertainment creates unique instances of the game world for each user.

The Infrastructure team at Massive ensures that players can access game servers and then, if they wish to, easily connect with other gamers. “Going online and finding a friend shouldn’t be difficult,” says Björn. With an infrastructure presence in 20 regions and more than 200 countries, Google Cloud assists his team on this mission by connecting game servers through a private fiber optic network. Its widespread presence decreases latency times between players, bringing them as close to each other as possible online.

Enabling a near real-time immersive experience for gamers

As players progress through the game, The Division 2 typically receives between 20 and 50 events per second streaming down from each game server. As the game developer, Massive Entertainment wants these events to be processed as fast as possible, so gamers playing against each other can see what their opponents are doing in near real time.

The core services of The Division 2, such as logging in and being able to find other players, are centrally located in servers in Europe. But other game services, such as real-time shooting in multiplayer scenarios, require the servers to be spread across other regions too, so that latency times won’t interfere in the dynamic between players. “A player from Australia, for example, might take half a second to log in to the core service in Europe. That isn’t much compared to an hour of play. But we don’t want that player to experience half a second of lag time when they ‘shoot’ the in-game character of someone playing from Europe, because that creates room for doubt: did I make a mistake? What really happened?” Björn explains.

He continues, “We needed a mechanism that scales to process more events as more players log in from different parts of the world. That’s what the virtual machines of Compute Engine do for us: they give us capacity to run game server processes when and where we need them.”

Massive Entertainment spreads game server resources around the world through virtual machines supported by Google Cloud. These machines constantly process and review events that happened even 100 milliseconds previously, so that players can share an accurate and coherent version of the game’s reality, regardless of where they are logging in from.

“If we had to rely on traditional hardware for the launch of The Division 2, we’d now have machines that we don’t need. Google Cloud is a much easier, more economic option because it’s scalable: we simply get high-spec virtual machines as and when we need them instead.”

Björn Lindberg, Online Technical Director, Massive Entertainment

Keeping pace with global demand for high game performance

“Some apps figure out their scaling problems as they arise, because they often have an organic growth of users. But in the gaming industry, there’s usually a lot of anticipation for the launch day of a game and everyone wants it at the same time,” says Björn. That’s one of the reasons why having capacity flexibility is key for Massive Entertainment.

“If we had to rely on traditional hardware for the launch of The Division 2, we’d now have machines that we don’t need. Google Cloud is a much easier, more economic option because it’s scalable: we simply get high-spec virtual machines as and when we need them instead,” he says.

Another reason why scalability is key for Massive Entertainment has to do with supporting its internal team. To build and maintain specific game features, the developers behind The Division 2 adopt a microservices architecture that gives separate teams the autonomy they need to work more efficiently. “A microservices architecture enables us to adopt a divide-and-conquer strategy: some of us just do matchmaking, others are responsible for logins, and so on, all in one common platform,” Björn explains. “Separating things this way helps us ensure that a service won’t crash if another service is having a hiccup.”

“Partnering with Google Cloud has made things very interesting for us: it has freed our time from managing hardware so we can focus on our core business, which is making great games.”

Björn Lindberg, Online Technical Director, Massive Entertainment

Meanwhile, Google Cloud handles the infrastructure that deploys these services and autoscales them according to demand. “This lets our developers focus on building and maintaining services without bothering too much about deployment,” Björn explains.

“Partnering with Google Cloud has made things very interesting for us: it has freed our time from managing hardware so we can focus on our core business, which is making great games,” he concludes.

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About Massive Entertainment

Ubisoft Studio Massive Entertainment is an AAA, or major publisher tier, video game developer studio based in Malmö and owned by French company Ubisoft Entertainment SA. Its multinational team of more than 650 people from 50 different countries is behind well-known titles such as Ground Control, World in Conflict, and the Tom Clancy’s The Division series.

Industries: Gaming
Location: Sweden