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byOliver Löffler | Kolibri CTO 2021-01-25

How Kolibri Games Went Social And Why It Takes World-Class Partners to Make World-Class Games

In the following post, Kolibri Games’ CTO and Co-Founder Oliver Löffler explains why the young mobile games developer chose PlayFab to push their product to the next level.

Kolibri Games

Kolibri Games meets PlayFab

It was GDC in 2017. I had come to San Francisco with a few of my developers in search of a partner to help us realize several key features and next steps we had planned for our game Idle Miner Tycoon.

In the two years since the game’s release, we had already come a long way: our team of five guys in a shared flat had turned into a 40-person game studio in an office in the heart of Karlsruhe, and we had generated millions of global downloads – all thanks to Idle Miner Tycoon. We had thrown the game on the market as a prototype, after only eight weeks of development, and had been improving and expanding it with content and features based on feedback from the community ever since.

For quite some time already, our players had been requesting social features. They wanted to be able to play with their friends, wanted to see each other’s progress in the game, and wanted to save their own progress in the cloud.

Even though our team had grown quite substantially, we were still developing just as lean and agile, and wanted to use our time as efficiently as possible to uphold our weekly update schedule. Our team had very limited knowledge in backend development and cloud infrastructure, meaning that we had no means of efficiently building the backend and social features all on our own.

… and then we met James Gwertzman. James was giving a demo of PlayFab at GDC and we were immediately hooked. The platform looked intuitive and required no backend or infrastructure knowledge to operate. It offered an easy way to connect friends in the game and a convenient method for storing information about players in the cloud and, therefore, a path to build a cloud save feature. On top of that, it brought sufficient flexibility with CloudScript to properly customize the in-game experience for our players.

But most importantly, we felt that we had found someone who shared a similar vision to ours. At Kolibri Games, we’re strong believers in the power of LiveOps and games-as-a-service approaches to development: we started with a small team, developed lean and agile, released our MVP on the market and continue to expand the game in weekly updates together with our players, always keeping it alive with new features and in-game events. PlayFab shares our belief that LiveOps is vital to building sustainably successful games, games that are played and loved forever.

Eventually, we decided to partner up and integrate PlayFab into our live games, Idle Miner Tycoon and Idle Factory Tycoon.

The Integration 

Once we had decided on the integration, PlayFab offered a variety of out-of-the-box features and a simple and easy to use SDK to access them.

Our initial use cases were:

  1. A cloud save feature. We wanted to store players’ progress in the cloud and allow them to access and download it on any other device they own.
  2. Friend leaderboards. We wanted to build a leaderboard where players could see how far their friends had progressed in the game and how they rank against their friends’ progress.
  3. Time-limited in-game events. We wanted to implement event mines – mines with intriguing and funny themes that are only playable for a week, where players earn rewards based on how far they have progressed in the mine.

What sounds like ambitious goals and a ton of work in fact only took a few weeks to make it into our games. Our developers found it easy to navigate the platform and we received great support from the folks over at PlayFab (especially from Brendan, who was responding to our questions literally day and night).

Initial worries we had about scalability proved to be completely unfounded. The platform handled our 10 million MAU with ease. Even large spikes in numbers during LiveOps events (10X increase in users in the game from one second to another) were no problem for the servers.

A World-Class Partner

I admit I was quite excited when I heard the news that PlayFab would be joining Microsoft in 2018. We already had a good relationship with Microsoft – by that time our build pipeline, as well as our entire data pipeline, were running on Azure. Microsoft already had a ton of experience in gaming and I was sure they would be a great partner to PlayFab, aiding their future growth and development.

The decision to maintain PlayFab as an independent platform, but as part of the Azure game stack, meant that we could more easily integrate the service in our existing Azure tech stack and were able to synchronize it with our data pipeline to get more powerful analytics.

Overall, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the exceptional help we have received from PlayFab over the years. The team helped us grow our product and our company and was an important part of our journey to becoming a world-class mobile game developer.

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