The Cloud-Native Game Design Handbook
How Hadean enables cloud-native game design and paves the way for the next generation of gaming.
The Cloud-Native Game Design Handbook
Today, game engines are all too often constrained by the processing power of a single machine or server, limiting the aspirations of designers, and denying players a truly immersive experience.
The inability to efficiently maximise resources and harness cloud computing has prevented games from reaching their full potential. Instead, developers have been left searching for a way to improve the speed, scalability and reliability of distributed systems.
It has forced us to experience games within a seemingly immutable set of confines, including finite artificial intelligence, overly simplified physics and limited player counts, and limited the extent to which games can becomingliving and breathing worlds that are truly immersive and constantly evolving.
The Hadean Platform and its extended libraries are designed to invert these traditional constraints and open up new possibilities.
This handbook will begin with an introduction to Hadean, and then proceed with examples of the kinds of cutting-edge gameplay systems that can be implemented using its technology.
An Intuitive Approach to Cloud Gaming
The Next Generation Platform for Gaming
Performance at Scale
Sophisticated artificial intelligence, high-fidelity and complex physics are computationally intensive and, therefore, traditionally limited in their use. Through dynamic, distributed scalability it becomes possible to introduce complexity, realism and scale previously considered impossible.
By eliminating excessive middleware, orchestration and overengineering, developers can build, ship and scale their applications quickly and effectively. Costs are lowered around infrastructural development, hosting, and maintenance, enabling studios to focus on game design.
Unlimited Player Counts
Current engines cannot support vast numbers of players and often struggle to cope with more than a hundred at any given time. Hadean Connect's distributed network layer, however, invites unlimited players from across the world to join together, enabling truly massively multiplayer experiences and for games to truly become a social platform.
Multiplayer games without adequate authentication and security protocols can quickly become overrun with bots, hackers and toxicity, ruining the average user's gameplay experience. Hadean Authenticate allows developers to build trusted and fun-focused player communities through privacy-maximal proof-of-humanity.
The Hadean Platform is a novel, simpler alternative to traditionally complex layers of middleware bloat. It enables designers to release huge scale games that work as intended on launch, with more time and resources to focus on developing a better and more engaging game.
The platform transforms the reliability and scalability of distributed computing. It rewrites two basic functions of the Linux kernel, allowing a computational task to be efficiently split and allocated to any CPUs of a given cloud system, rather than that of a single server or cluster.
This paradigm shift removes all bottlenecks during the runtime and allows full-scalability of an infrastructure, eliminating the need for HCI, containerisation and other middleware and DevOps. Instead, it offers developers a unified interface to install, run and scale applications on a cloud-based architecture out of the box.
Hadean Simulate is a simulation library built on the Hadean Platform. The distributed octree data structure dynamically partitions the game environment, automatically providing additional computing power to compute-intensive regions – enabling unprecedented levels of fidelity and complexity to be achieved.
Performance drops at computate-intensive moments are a common barrier to immersion and playability. Furthermore, many multiplayer games limit the number of players who can swarm a region artificially to avoid server crashes. Hadean Simulate inverts these weakness, eradicating performance issues and letting players swarm together spontaneously.
Computing resources are designated according to the need of the simulation, allocating more power when players, actions and events accumulate in the same area.
Game developers can build large complex multiplayer worlds without the dependencies or associated costs that DevOps teams are typically subject to. These games will sit outside the confines of player counts, entity counts, physics limits and AI limits.
Hadean Simulate can run complex simulations, quickly and at massive scale, drastically improving the speed, scalability and reliability of cloud and distributed computing systems.
Hadean Connect is a networking solution that connects vast numbers of disparate clients across a distributed cloud and edge network. As more connections join the network, new nodes are automatically created, scaling to enable real-time data streaming and processing, regardless of computational intensity.
When used in combination with Hadean Simulate, Hadean Connect ensures low-latency, globally distributed game instances are made available to hundreds of thousands of connected players to monitor, view and interact with in real-time. Hadean Connect also enables client authentication and other protections against hacking attempts such as failing to accept updates or sending too much event data back to the simulation.
Being comprised of multiple locally-clustered nodes, Hadean Connect enables bidirectional data flow between clients from a single rendezvous point, ensuring that the most important information is processed between servers and players as soon as possible. This dramatically reduces the “last mile” performance hit typically experienced by geographically-dispersed clients connecting to a given server, not only drastically improving ping for cross-regional multiplayer sessions but also, crucially, enabling real-time streaming of updates, gameplay scenarios and other new content from developers straight into an active game world.
Open the door to a responsive, interactive world of extraordinary scale
Game worlds underpinned by simulated systems remain fresh for longer and keep players on their toes without requiring new content to be created manually. The capital expenditure required to keep the game interesting is lowered, helping studios with both adoption and retention as players don't grow tired of linear gameplay.
Building Vibrant Simulated Environments
The game environment is the area in which most of a game’s action will take place, and is comprised both of visual elements as well as the objects and characters that undergird a game world’s gameplay systems and economies.
Simulated environment and resource systems that mirror real-world analogues and eliminate pure randomness are intuitive and present an interesting challenge for gamers to overcome through strategic gameplay.
Their introduction undermines players camping or grinding to mine resources and rewards in incremental pieces. Instead, resources spawn and behave logically, but not entirely predictably. It allows for greater variability and erodes the hegemony early starters often have over controlling resources.
Creating large-scale, richly simulated interactive environments ensures replayability and emergent gameplay. Simulated systems enable dynamic landscapes and facilitate the interactions of fauna, flora, geological forces and their ecosystems.
Developers can therefore design rich game environments that evolve over time; a region of the map a player revisits weeks later will have transformed, offering new surprises and challenges.
It provides more realism for in-game economies and resources, as well as player built structures or systems. Dynamically handling chaotic, unpredictable variations in behaviour which can emerge from such systems, Hadean Simulate effortlessly scales and flexes to compute these complex behaviours.
Hadean Simulate can simulate potentially billions of units – whether raw materials, processed materials or end-products –and the interactions between them. With this in mind, game designers can plan for player to player (or player to smart AI) interactions that create dynamic,emergent gameplay loops and economies.
Introduce new levels of strategic artificial intelligence
AI agents require pathfinding ability to move around the world competently. Oftentimes, this entails very simple pre-scripted paths and behaviour.However, when certain triggers occur, the AI must be able to navigate more freely - consider an NPC that has been hit with a surprise attack and must figure out the best way to deal with, or get away from, the unexpected threat to its life.
An AI NPC making uncannily sound strategic decisions thanks to techniques such as GOAP (Goal Oriented Action Planning), NEAT (Neuro-Evolution of Augmenting Topologies), or DNN (Deep Neural Networks) can serve to make the game world more engaging for longer. However, increasingly advanced strategic AI techniques tend to be prohibitively expensive and scale poorly -limiting their use.
By leveraging large distributed systems this ceases to be a problem, and in shared-world experiences the amortisation of cost means the judicious use of sophisticated AI techniques can be extremely effective. A game’s non-player characters are ultimately kept fresher and more life-like for longer.
A city-building, simulated economy, or real-time strategy game in persistent or long-running multiplayer environments heavily penalises players if they log out.
Techniques such as invulnerability time windows are artificial, prescriptive and restrictive, diminishing depth of player interaction and stickiness. The middle-ground is to develop AI that takes over and manages a player’s economy effectively during times spent away. It can be self-learning and adaptive to player behaviour or even fully-driven operationally with the player making higher-level, strategic decisions.
Pathfinding approaches used today fall into two broad categories. The first, low-fidelity, large scale pathfinding, tends to use techniques such as tile-based maps with A* pathfinding. Typically, it is used in games where large agent counts are key and lower fidelity may not be as problematic. Strategy games often fall into this category.
By contrast, high-fidelity, smaller scale pathfinding uses a navigation mesh (navmesh), which is based on the meadow map concept from robotics. Navmeshes are widely used in games such as third-person and first-person shooter games where lower fidelity pathfinding approaches are more jarring, and have a direct impact on the enjoyability of the game.
A dynamically scaling cloud-native engine allows games to be designed with both massive scale and fidelity by distributing pathfinding systems across CPUs on the cloud. It enables hundreds of thousands of pathfinding agents, which move at very high fidelity, even across dynamically destructible and variable landscapes.
Explore different levels of granularity within the same world
Increasing the scope of gameplay
What if a variety of complex gameplay systems could be combined into one all-encompassing game world?
Games that run at multiple different scales could create new opportunities for developers to design scenarios that currently sit outside the scope of what’s possible.
Worlds and events can contain radically different experiences for different players simultaneously. One set of players could control entire navies within a war, while others work within those fleets at the level of piloting individual ships. This same crew might then have regular interactions that are third- or first-person in a stationary setting, independent of, and yet immersed in, the broader strategic piece.
All the while, these fleet battles may exist in a solar system where each of the planets has built cities, economies and political structures, on the surface of which ground wars are also being waged. Ultimately, multi-scale games can go into any level of granularity, or grandiosity, the developer chooses.
Cloud-native game development lets the creative challenges of game design, and not technical limitations, be the hurdle to unlocking the potential of multi-scale gameplay.
Enable fidelity and realism that directly impacts gameplay
Enabling physical complexity
Distributed physics, particularly for fully dynamic destructible environments, provides an opportunity for game designers to create newfound levels of interactivity and realism for their worlds.
Some types of physics have no gameplay significance, such as hair and cloth, and therefore may be easily processed on a local client. However, physics with gameplay impact has to be carefully designed in scenarios where it affects multiple players - any inaccuracies in the experience can cause an inconsistent simulation. Furthermore, if the number of physics bodies isn’t controlled, it can lead to pathologically bad cases where too many are interacting at once and causing the game to slow or crash.
In a real-time strategy game where every building is fully destructible, the steady case – where nothing is being destroyed – is easy enough for hardware to handle. Similarly, in a situation where a building being destroyed is a rarity, managing it is straightforward. However, in the thick of a battle when vast numbers of buildings are being damaged and destroyed simultaneously, the simulation typically begins to falter due to a lack of processing power.
Such a problem is easily solved in cloud-native gaming by spiking the required CPU and memory resources on-demand as and when the physics computation becomes burdensome. This ensures a smooth and consistent tick rate despite having a world that is very dynamic and malleable.
Let game worlds live and breathe indefinitely
Choosing your level of persistance
Cloud-native gaming offers varying levels of persistence. For example, it enables the concept of multiplayer sessions in instanced game worlds that are alive for weeks or months, sitting somewhere between traditional multiplayer and MMO games.
Completely persistent worlds are also possible. Unlike traditional MMOs, the limitless storage available through cloud computing ensures that everything that is part of a single world instance that can exist ad infinitum.
It allows for highly interactive worlds where players and AI agents can interact with many objects with permanent consequences, shaping the gameplay and its narrative, ranging from picking an apple off a table all the way to players collectively building an entire city where there once stood barren land.
Democratising gameworlds in this way enables the social act of sharing and experiencing other players' works, including player created artwork, buildings, cities and terrain. At the same time, developers can exercise greater fluidity and control over their game worlds, rolling out updates, gameplay scenarios, and other new content seamlessly during runtime, as opposed to relying on pre-launch client-side downloads.
Whatever the case may be, cloud-native game development allows designers to take persistence for granted and focus on building the things in their world that are fun and interesting. The game world’s permanence and fluidity is then simply a feature to leverage as and when needed.
Player and Network Effects
Enjoy games with unlimited players across the globe
Bringing players together
Hadean enables multiplayer sessions to run on a single global shard, allowing anyone and everyone to play together, at unrestricted scale.
Players who know each other can easily migrate from one environment to another, taking existing assets with them, circumventing the current paradigm wherein player characters are tied to a siloed server and must be moved manually. This naturally increases the scope and scale of interactivity between players, including pre-planned or player-led events and gatherings.
The impulse towards greater sociability and interactivity within immersive gameplay experiences is also the central driver of conceptions of the metaverse and web 3.0. The current trend is for games to operate as social platforms, replacing the function of, and ultimately becoming, the social networks of the future. Taking this to the next step, cloud-native development facilitates player-run game worlds and economies, allowing the broader promise of the metaverse to be fulfilled. Whether you aspire to develop a section of the metaverse or a standalone,
narrative-driven game, these technologies unlock opportunities for engaging large communities of players with scale, complexity and interactivity that were not previously possible.
The technology is also able to drive the increasing trend of passive gamer participation, particularly in the areas of eSports and streaming. In addition to being playable, cloud-native games can act as stadiums for a far larger community of gamers who might not want to take part directly, but are able to move around the world as viewers and focus on points of interest. Similarly, such a game design could allow for innovative forms of observer participation, such as granting buffs to a raid party they are following.
Costs and Operations
Save time, money and effort
The Hadean Platform democratises cloud computing, providing simplified means of achieving scale, fidelity and complexity in games to indie devs and AAA studios alike.
Resources are provisioned and released by the platform and its libraries on demand, enabling developers to design and implement gameplay systems freely, while side-stepping the significant technical complexity of dynamic scaling. This also ensures that the implementation of complex physics and AI systems is achievable, economically viable and, ultimately, profitable for a studios of all sizes.
Scenarios that are rare and fun but costly to operate, such as mass gatherings of players for special events, are offset by a lower cost of the steady-state. Indeed, the lowered unit cost is a general undercurrent of cloud-native games.
By scaling back requisite resources, capital expenditure is lowered throughout launching, maintaining and operating a game. Small, agile teams of game developers can build very sophisticated worlds with a high degree of efficiency.
Hadean Simulate allows for significant operational efficiencies, saving time, money and effort on capacity planning, pre-provisioning, over-provisioning and seasonality. It simply scales as a function of player demand. Automatic cost control mechanisms can then serve as a further safety net if required.
MMO Gaming with 14k concurrent global clients
"Hadean's technology has the potential to unlock huge creative and design-orientated freedom within virtual worlds such as EVE."
Hilmar V. Pètursson, CEO of CCP Games
Hadean Simulate provided a dynamically scalable simulation on the cloud
Optimised network solution with 8x client servers (Hadean Connect) on the Azure backbone
Autoclients (bots) for production-like stress testing (30K player-like connections)
Integration into game engine (UE4), analytics software (PlayFab), and storefront (Steam)
High performance at-scale gameplay (30hz) in a single global shard
Rapid prototyping in 8 weeks by a 7 person team (3 developers)
5x bandwidth reduction // 3x cost efficiency
14K connected clients at GDC ‘19 // 5K human players at Gamescom ’19
Global reach with players from 120 countries
Hyperscaling play lobbies to explore new game modes
“Hadean opens up a range of new design possibilities — not just for games like Minecraft, but for streaming platforms, developer communities, and even enterprise applications.”
Michael Weilbacher, CTO, Mojang Studios
Restricted player counts in server lobbies (around 99)
High costs incurred when providing the engineering support needed to scale worlds
Stagnation in creativity due to the number of game modes being restricted by architectural limitations
Simulation created on Hadean Simulate using their custom client, porting over their existing game code, player movement and interaction logic into a scalable game world
Hadean Simulate’s octree data structure dynamically allocated computing resource
The simulation was then sent through Hadean Connect, using the existing Minecraft client and our C++ Hadean Simulate plugin
10x increase in player capacity using just one full-time Minecraft developer
Delivery of planned backend and networking upgrade in 50% of time (just 3 days)
Integration with key toolsets: Visual Studio, PlayFab, Azure Service
New revenue opportunities available through exploration of new gameplay possibilities
Massive Scale 'Play 2 Own' Metaverse Hub
"We are very excited with this partnership to enable a truly large scale gaming hub where players can play, create and own their gaming experiences in an open and scalable metaverse: the Universe Game.”
GamesCoin CEO, Alex Suárez
- GamesCoin’s metaverse ecosystem made up of separate games and worlds connected with their cryptocurrency
- Fidelity complexity of interaction limited while player counts capped to around 100
- Worlds remained siloed from each other, creating a distinct lack of persistence
- Hadean Metaverse Hub as underlying architecture
- Cell handover to create single-space persistent users' experience across worlds
- Hub computing resources are dynamically scaling up/down as needed
- Dynamically provisioned resources to enable more concurrently connected players
- Siloed worlds brought together into one seamless experience
- Vast increase in number of connected clients supported
- World’s first ‘Play 2 Earn’ metaverse hub, a truly original ‘one world’ solution in which other platforms can take part in
- Open and interoperable to other 3rd party hubs
Scaling the music metaverse
"Hadean’s cutting-edge cloud technology will provide us with the speed and capability necessary to facilitate this virtual travel between custom artist sections of the game and the main music hub, where fans can gather, socialize, play games, create music, and discover new music."
PIXELYNX CEO, Inder Phull
Music metaverse artist ecosystem made up of separate worlds
Fidelity complexity of interaction limited while player counts capped to around 100
Worlds remained siloed from each other, creating a distinct lack of persistence
Hadean Metaverse Hub provides underlying framework or ‘hub’
Cell handover handled by to create persistent experience across different worlds
Hub provisions compute resources as needed
New nodes provisioned dynamically to enable more connected clients
Siloed worlds brought together into one seamless experience
Vast increase in number of connected clients supported for concerts and events
‘Musicverse’ hub connecting different artists’ worlds together
Xsolla is using Hadean’s technology to provide a framework for easily deploying virtual worlds with a greater degree of scale and immersion.
Virtual Worlds | Event Hosting
Xsolla were building a virtual carnival in which attendees could chat, network and play games together
The number of attendees was limited to around 100
Providing the server support for the carnival was inefficient and costly
Hadean Simulate was used to break up the carnival into cells, with cells assigned to individual machines
As complexity of events increases in a cell, it is broken into smaller cells and thus assigned more machines as needed
Hadean Connect provisions new nodes dynamically, with dynamic scale and interest management ensuring low latency connections even with more attendees
It took just 6 weeks to integrate Hadean’s technology and transform the capabilities
The conference was capable of supporting 500 connected users, smashing through the previous limit of 100
Compute was used as needed reducing the cost and developer support needed to maintain the world
High fidelity, massively connected metaverse worlds and digital twins
“..we’re unlocking the wealth of opportunity that is available with more complex online interaction. From immersive workspaces, digital community creation and virtual events, to… data visualisation, the infrastructure being created by our two companies will give the ultimate foundation for any virtual system you want.”
Andy Sands, co-founder of PixelMax
Number of connected users in simulations restricted (around 1000 connected players on a single Unreal instance)
Lack of unique market offering due to architectural limitations on capacity
High cost associated with running large virtual events, offices and digital twins
Hadean Connect deployed into AWS at data centers near customers
Hadean Connect placed between unreal server and server side unreal clients
Implemented custom interest management in the Hadean Connect netcode to reduce load on clients
Hadean Connect handled the connections from client to reduce load on the main simulation
7500 connected players to a single Unreal instance (7.5x increase)
Significantly lower costs incurred with running larger simulations
Greater creative freedom achieved with simulation design and activity
Cloud gaming is on the precipice of a revolution. Developers and designers will be capable of creating games that were previously considered impractical or even fanciful.
Hadean provides the power and scalability to create new games of immeasurable complexity and detail. Vast immersive worlds will be brought to life by high-fidelity landscapes, characters and cities, and underpinned by true to life physics that directly impacts gameplay. In terms of scope, player numbers, and increasingly sophisticated AI, the scale of these games is boundless.
Hadean Simulate is fast, easy-to-use and scales dynamically, mitigating the impact of CPU spikes, and eliminating the costs and complexity of sprawling DevOps environments. Hadean Connect, meanwhile, ensures low-latency bi-drectional data flows between near limitless numbers of players and developers. Studios can iterate quickly and get to market faster using a simple, straightforward cost-efficient process.
Ultimately, as technical and financial restrictions are lifted, the focus of studios will shift almost entirely to the creative process of games design.
Find out more about how the Hadean can be used to create games of unprecedented scale and complexity at Hadean.com