GDC 2017 Day 4 & 5 TL;DR Recap: How MZ Developed Game of War and How Niantic Scaled Pokemon Go

By Scott Reyburn, Director of Content Marketing
Monday, March 6, 2017 / 3 min read

Game Developers Conference GDC 2017 Niantic Pokemon Go Ed Wu

Previous GDC 2017 coverage:

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the mecca of the mobile games industry and the games industry at large. But a mecca with a steep price tag. No matter if you live in San Francisco’s backyard or fly halfway across the world, GDC will cost you a pretty penny to attend.

Fortunately for you, we’re footing the bill so you don’t have to. This year, we’re bringing you, the Fybe Pulse community, all of the latest mobile gaming insights from GDC 2017.

Every day this week, Fyber Pulse will be condensing all of GDC into “tl;dr” key points from many of the mobile gaming talks we’ll attend each day. Here’s what we have in store for you from day four and five of the show:

Tl;dr: Game of War: Developing a Single-World MMO

Game Developers Conference GDC 2017 Machine Zone MZ Game of War

  • How did MZ create one of the most popular mobile games ever? They put a lot of thought and preparation into all of the technical infrastructure that goes unnoticed by the typical mobile gamer. “Game of War was designed from the very beginning to become the largest single-world MMO out there,” says Brendan Seaman, technical director at MZ. “It’s a pretty lofty goal, but that’s what we were aiming for. We had to think a lot about how to scale on the backend obviously to support this massive number of players in a single world. We really wanted anyone, anywhere, to be able to play the game. It may sound ridiculous, but we wanted to see how close we could get.”
  • At MZ, they leave no stone unturned when it comes to making sure their mobile games are compatible for as many players as possible in as many countries as possible. Seaman says, “If you end up ignoring these markets, you’re automatically putting these users out of your reach.” Later, Seaman says, “During Game of War development, we actually gave everybody like second or third gen iPods to develop. It was a nightmare. It was terrible. But it really allowed us to spec the game for those types of devices and made sure it ran very well for everybody.”

Tl;dr: Creation of Planet-Scale Shared Augmented Realities: Pokemon Go and Ingress

Game Developers Conference GDC 2017 Niantic Pokemon Go launch

  • Without question, Pokemon Go, a mere mobile game, was the biggest phenomenon of 2016. How did Pokemon Go bring 650 million people to play a mobile game that requires them to go outside to play? “Technology can motivate people to action, especially when it’s connected to other people,” says Ed Wu, director of software engineering at Niantic. “We believe that through the power of technology, we can inspire people to go out and experience the real world.” Wu later says, “That feels truly incredible and a real privilege to be using our abilities to code—a time when much of the software industry seems to be interested in getting people to a pair of VR goggles to box themselves up from the world. We’ve had a chance to do something completely different.”
  • While VR continues to be labeled as the future of technology, Wu drove the point home that AR is the future, today. “We believe we have conclusively demonstrated that augmented reality is as much about shared world state overlaid on the real-world and combined social interactions as it is about immersive hardware devices,” he says. “We know those immersive hardware devices are coming, and the bright, intelligent people are working incredibly hard to make them a reality, but the market reality for us right now is that what everyone has in their pocket is a cell phone.”
  • Pokemon Go didn’t launch gracefully. But that wasn’t for a lack of effort on Niantic’s part. The Pokemon Go developer put a lot of thought into what kind of resources they would need to roll out the game globally. “I thought we did those estimates in a fairly responsible and sane way,” Wu says. “So knowing that we had an immensely popular and beloved IP and a proven track record of success with Ingress, we looked at the market and growth curves for the top-end launches on mobile games, gave ourselves a little margin for how they typically launched, and handed over both a number we expected as well as a ludacris five-times number over to Google.”

And that’s a wrap for GDC 2017! We hope you learned some valuable insights from some of the best and brightest in mobile gaming. Keep it locked to the Fyber Pulse blog for a never-ending amount of practical insights and advice.

Tags: Insights