Game developers use Microsoft Azure as ‘secret sauce’ for scale and growth

September 14, 2016

What's more fun than drawing a stickperson and battling purple monster blobs? Sharing your stickperson with other people, whether it's a cartoon hamburger on legs or a sketch of Michael Jackson as "Thriller" zombie.

Communal creativity is a big part of "Draw a Stickman: EPIC 2," a popular adventure and puzzle game that lets users draw and share inventive characters, tools and weapons. Launched last year, the game — part of a beloved franchise — has spawned colorful galleries, YouTube videos and millions of downloads.

Enabling the growth and imaginative fun is a hidden powerhouse on the backend: Microsoft Azure. The cloud computing platform is a key component of the game's functionality, mobility, scalability and performance.

"Being a game developer and publisher is such an exciting opportunity to entertain people daily," says Chris Mills, president of Hitcents, the Kentucky-based developer of "Draw a Stickman: EPIC 2," "Battlepillars" and other successful titles. Mills and his brother started the company in 1999 while in high school.

"It's such a creative space and full of trial and error to find out what people enjoy. Azure helps us focus on quality expandable games without wasting resources on building out complex and reliable backend infrastructures."

For Hitcents and other game developers around the world, Azure is the backend cloud solution of choice, helping them launch and grow their games with a reliable, open platform and easy-to-use services for scaling and managing user spikes. Azure is also the behind-the-scenes magic for some of the most popular games on the market, enabling solid performance, cross-platform mobility and other in-demand features on everything from cute, social games to dark, edgy thrillers.

"It's fantastic that we're increasingly seeing ISVs [independent software vendors] investing in Azure," says Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president for Microsoft Developer Experience & Evangelism and chief evangelist. "From publishers like InnoSpark, with their ‘Dragon Friends' game, as well as game publishers like Game Troopers with Azure usage in over 20 games, there is increasing energy and focus on gaming with Azure."


Hitcents uses Azure Web Apps and Azure Storage, which it finds helpful for scaling quickly and storing sketches of funky pickaxes from "Stickman" users. The company also likes the ability to use familiar tools in Azure, and uses Xamarin tools for mobile app development. (Microsoft recently announced it will acquire Xamarin).

For an upcoming large-scale, multi-player game, Hitcents is using Couchbase on Linux Virtual Machines, which Azure efficiently accommodates. The game will be tied to real-world events that will likely trigger large user spikes, which Hitcents will manage with Azure Service Fabric, a new technology for building cloud services with high scalability and customization.

"It's very reliable, and it helps you scale and handle more users at once," says Jon Peppers, Hitcents' senior developer.


Source: Microsoft News

Author: Vanessa Ho, Microsoft News Center Staff