Pocket Gems builds next-generation, collaborative mobile game with Google App Engine

Pocket Gems wanted to stay on the cutting edge of the mobile games market by creating the next generation of mobile games — synchronous, multi-player, collaborative titles leveraging the cloud. The company chose Google App Engine for its scalable infrastructure that supports hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users and tools for managing the backend required to keep the game running.

Playing all together now

The fast-changing mobile game industry can be fickle — companies must anticipate the newest trends and take advantage of them to keep players engaged. Pocket Gems believed it spotted the next trend: collaborative mobile games built from the ground up on cloud infrastructure.

“We think the leading mobile games in the future will involve online communities,” says Harlan Crystal, Pocket Gems co-founder and chief technology officer. ”They’ll require technologies that allow for synchronous play on mobile devices. The next generation of mobile games will take advantage of cloud technology and the ubiquitous connections of mobile networks. Really creative things are going to come out of it.”

To bring this idea to life, Pocket Games built War Dragons, a mobile, multi-player game with a strong social component.

“The first wave of mobile games were single player games connected to the cloud,” Crystal explains. “The second wave will be about playing together in collaborative situations. These games have more depth, as well as human interaction that add a whole new layer of enjoyment. Someone’s going to make games involving all of those things because that’s what gamers will prefer. We want to be that company.”

A dynamic engine for a young industry

To achieve the team’s ambitious vision, War Dragons had to support synchronous multi-player gameplay and scale seamlessly as users joined. Pocket Gems chose to host its platform on Google App Engine given its scalable infrastructure that supports hundreds of thousands of users playing synchronously.

“For War Dragons we created many events to keep our players engaged, and with Google App Engine, we can change the game on the fly if a problem happens,” says Gustavo Ambrozio, software engineer. “We can also make quick server-side fixes using Google Cloud Platform.”

Developing successful games requires constant iterations of seeing what works and what doesn’t, and then altering the game to reflect that. Ambrozio says, “At Pocket Gems we say we’re fun-driven and data-informed. We need to figure out if a feature of a game resonates with players and data helps us move in that direction. So we do a lot of A/B testing and comparison of our user metrics using Google Cloud Platform.”

That testing is at the core of another of Pocket Gems’ goals for War Dragons: to build a game that is customized for individual players, rather than one-size-fits-all.

“We’re always thinking about ways to improve the game for all player types, not just the casual player but also the core player,” Ambrozio says. “We need a lot of data to be able to understand how casual players play the game versus hardcore players. Our analytics sits on top of Google Cloud Platform. Using Google Cloud Platform, we’re able to sift through our mountain of data and find what’s important.”

Building what’s next

With the launch of War Dragons, Pocket Gems has established itself as a pioneer in collaborative, multi-player mobile games. Shortly after its launch in April 2015, War Dragons became one of the top-grossing games in the App Store. It has received more than 12,000 highly favorable customer reviews in iTunes.

Pocket Gems has also positioned itself well for the future. Crystal believes that using Google technologies will help Pocket Gems remain at the forefront of mobile gaming.

“Thanks to Google Cloud Platform, we’re in a good position to create what’s next for players,” Crystal says. “There’s still a lot of creativity that needs to be unleashed — and we’re sure that Google will help us do it.”

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