PubNub Brings War Dragons to Life

Why Pocket Gems chose PubNub to power engaging and realtime multiplayer games to thousands of players simultaneously

“DevOps isn’t our core competency. I’d much rather work with a dedicated service like PubNub to fulfill a well-defined need, like quickly transmitting data between players, so our engineering team can focus on the hard problems that are unique to our business.” – David Underhill, VP of Engineering

Pocket Gems, headquartered in San Francisco, began in 2009 by creating entirely new types of mobile games. They’re continuing that tradition today by developing genre-defining games and entertainment, such as War Dragons and Episode.

Pocket Gems’ PubNub journey started in 2014 with War Dragons, a synchronous real-time strategy game based on dragon attacks. The Pocket Gems team was looking for a chat solution, and earlier games were built on top of Google’s Google Talk infrastructure.

Choosing PubNub

The Pocket Gems team was looking for a more robust chat infrastructure solution than the one that was offered by their very large Infrastructure-as-a-Service vendor.

At the time, they had to build message fan-out and storage & playback themselves, and they were looking for a hosting presence in Asia too. The team investigated other solutions, and found that PubNub solved these technical hurdles.

The team built an in-house prototype of War Dragons on PubNub, and was very pleased with the results.

  • PubNub handled all messaging use cases (including fan-out), so Pocket Gems could focus on making great games.
  • PubNub offered value-add features, like Storage & Playback, that Pocket Gems needed and alternative services lacked. Storage & Playback is a must-have feature that allows players to seamlessly join battles even if they aren’t online at the very beginning of the battle.
  • PubNub already had a global presence across many data centers, including a presence in Asia, so Asian players would see less latency.

Since War Dragons was released in 2015, it’s been a huge success. War Dragons leverages PubNub (and its Presence and Storage & Playback features) for in-game chat, a critical feature for team coordination.

PubNub Multiplayer Game Customer

Implementation

PubNub, with its real-time state awareness, also powers the real-time multiplayer capabilities of War Dragons, so thousands of players can move around this virtual world concurrently, and engage in dragon battles.

War Dragons also leverages PubNub (and its Gateways/ Mobile Push capabilities) for push notifications, so players can get updates on their mobile phones for important events, like “somebody just stole resources from you.”

The Pocket Gems team was able to implement PubNub to prototype these capabilities with just one engineer in a couple days. Two engineers then took a few more days to move these features to production. Without PubNub, it would have taken much longer to just create a prototype. In addition, if Pocket Gems built their real-time infrastructure in-house, it would have required that they build a dedicated DevOps team to keep up with maintenance issues.

Pocket Gems plans to deepen its partnership with PubNub in the future. The team is currently testing ways to leverage PubNub Functions – serverless, programmable logic at the edge of the network – so War Dragons players can type commands like “/N200kF” to request food and other resources from teammates.


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