Other Gadgets

Building castles in the air!

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on March 20, 2014


Here is how the cloud is helping game developers break out of their limitations.

LP Recharge is not your run-of-the-mill social media game. It is special for more than the usual reasons. First off, it is supported by one of the most popular American rock bands, Linkin Park (hence the acronym, LP), which has so far sold over 60 million albums worldwide.

Equally interesting is the content of the game, which was released in September last year. Its plot is set in the near future where humans have depleted most natural resources, and whatever energy is left out there lies under the control of machines and an elite minority. Players fight machines and the captors and ‘recharge’ the world with clean, sustainable energy.

Interestingly, LP Recharge is one of the many new games that put cloud computing to good use. Linkin Park boasts of a Facebook fanbase of over 55 million followers, and a significant share of its fan base are potential players of LP Recharge. And that’s precisely what the game’s developers, Kuuluu, a company founded in 2011 in Basel, Switzerland, had in mind while deploying Recharge on Facebook. “We knew there would be a lot of traffic, and wanted it to perform flawlessly,” Jendrik Posche, the executive producer at Kuuluu, told media at the IBM Pulse conference on cloud computing held in Las Vegas last month. In traditional ways, running such a game on social media would require gargantuan infrastructure, including dedicated servers. Ensuring smooth online streaming would be a Herculean task.

But help came from the cloud… Literally. LP Recharge became one of the many games that put cloud computing to good use. To power the game, it used cloud capabilities of SoftLayer, an arm of the $113 billion IT behemoth IBM, which, of late, has invested heavily in the cloud. Since 2007, IBM has pumped in over $7 billion in 16 acquisitions to rev up its cloud initiatives. IBM bought SoftLayer in June 2013 for about $2 billion. What Kuuluu did was to hire the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) utilities of SoftLayer and use that to run LP Recharge.

IBM estimates the global gaming market to be worth $111 billion by 2015, driven largely by cloud gaming. Online, streamed and downloaded games recorded nearly $40 billion in revenues in 2012. And the number is only to increase many fold in the years to come. That’s an opportunity major cloud providers such as IBM, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are eagerly waiting to tap.

And developers and game-makers are happy, too. They now don’t need dedicated servers or similar infrastructure. By leveraging the cloud built on open standards to host and stream heavy-duty, graphic-rich games, without interruption and offer instant access to games across devices. This means, users can stream games directly from the cloud, rather than downloading them locally, freeing up storage space on user devices and making access to updates easier and more efficiently.

Like Kuuluu, Multiplay is another beneficiary of the cloud play in gaming. Multiplay is one of the world’s largest hosts of online game servers and hosts one of Europe’s biggest online gaming communities with over seven million gamers playing on their servers every month. The company provides high quality, affordable game servers for all major titles, including EA’s Battlefield. For locations in Europe, the US and Asia, they chose SoftLayer bare metal servers. Multiplay supports nearly 500,000 gamers on SoftLayer’s IaaS platform, hosting over 60 gaming titles including Minecraft, Battlefield 4, DayZ, Starbound and Team Fortress 2. Over 100,000 peak concurrent gamers play every night on SoftLayer ‘bare metal’ servers throughout the world.

Such advancement was barely imaginable even five years ago. Indeed, the cloud has changed the rules of the gaming industry.

(The writer attended the IBM Pulse 2014 conference on cloud computing in Las Vegas recently.)

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Published on March 19, 2014
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