Game Release Horror stories – and What We can Learn from Them

Joseph SibonyJoseph Sibony
Published On:
January 26, 2022
Estimated reading time:
3 minutes

It’s no secret that building games is stressful (that’s a bit of an understatement). But speaking in degrees, the start of the process is nowhere near as stressful as the days before, during, and just after a launch. It seems that as we get closer to the finish line, Murphy’s law becomes a more powerful force in the dev process.  

A small bug can crash servers, or an unexpected cyber-attack can leave players locked out of their games, or a global pandemic can completely invalidate a game launch’s marketing rollout. So, what can you do when disaster strikes? We spoke with some leading voices in the game dev world to learn more about their biggest last-minute release nightmares, and how they overcame them.  

Surviving a DDoS attack on launch day 

You’ve made it through the worst of the crunch and managed to launch a fully functional game. But the launch window is far from closed, and success does not just rely on internal resources. What happens when the external vendors and resources you use (such as, say, a cloud-based game server host) get attacked? We’ll let Avida Michaud, Director of Engineering, at Proletariat, Inc., share her nightmare scenario during the release of the company’s game, Spellbreak:  

What’s the takeaway?  

A couple of things. First, having a war room set up (that’s always staffed) is critical when you’re launching a new game – especially a live service game. Proletariat was able to catch the issue early enough that the disruption to its player base hadn’t become a major catastrophe.  

Second, having a clear fallback plan is a must. The Proletariat team was able to make the switch to their secondary servers, even if they had to do it manually. This is one of the big advantages of building games on the cloud. But the result was that the game itself had relatively little down-time at a critical time and was able to recover from what could have been a disaster. The team managed to mitigate the issue in under an hour, better than some major titles.  

When launches and pandemics collide  

Sometimes nightmares aren’t all about the dev process. Even the smoothest game launches can face issues that no one could have predicted. Maybe your game about an elderly lady making her way through the underworld after her death launches just before the start of a global pandemic and your marketing efforts are left in the lurch. Here’s Arrogant Pixel Co-Founder Jay Shin sharing how that worked out for her studio:  

What’s the takeaway?  

Sometimes, there’s not much you can do about the situation. A global pandemic will impact every game developer out there, whether by making the actual dev process harder or impacting the marketing in completely unexpected ways. Unfortunately, there is not always a solution to the problem but to roll with the punches and try to plan for what comes next. The real trick is understanding what you can absorb, how to deal with it, and how to survive to make the next project.  

Surviving the worst game dev nightmares 

It’s easy to panic when the chips are down and there’s little time to pivot or react. Still, it pays to play it cool and focus on how to ride the wave. Want to learn more about how some of the biggest names in game development deal with last-minute game release nightmares? Watch our newest webinar now to see Jay, Avida, and more industry insiders break down their own experiences now.  

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