GSE: a dedicated game server hosting service for multiplayer gaming experiences

2020-08-07

From League of Legends to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, tightly contested multiplayer games have become massively successful in recent years, giving players the ultimate adrenaline rush. However, this game genre often demands low latency, high availability and network connectivity – especially as unpredictable player activities during peak times may lead to server overloads. The optimization of the underlying infrastructure puts heavy pressure on game developers, while incurring exorbitant R&D and OPS costs.

However, developers can level up in the cloud to tackle these challenges. For instance, Tencent Game Server Engine (GSE) can help them build stable and low-latency deployment environments for stateful games, while supporting nearby scheduling, auto scaling, service discovery and more.

Increasing efficiency and reducing costs through nearby scheduling and flexible server scaling

GSE provides elastic scaling and nearby scheduling to manage the ever-changing levels of gaming activity throughout the day, week, and year.

Gaming activity usually peaks at noon and in the evening and reaches its lowest after midnight. With elastic scaling, GSE allows developers to configure instance types and scaling ranges so that game servers can automatically scale up and down based on player traffic. To protect client connections, however, GSE will not forcibly remove instances with running processes unless an end command is initiated. This allows developers to meet peak demands with zero downtime while avoiding paying for idle servers.

Another inherent issue resolved by GSE is latency. For global players, latency can cause noticeable lag and frustration. GSE’s nearby scheduling allows resources in different regions of Tencent Cloud to be scheduled at any time, eliminating the need to reserve any resources in a region in advance. GSE adopts an automated testing tool to evaluate the latency between the client and the server in multiple regions. It then uses an algorithm to find the nearest server address for the client to access, thus realizing the double objectives of scalable high performance and low-latency interconnection.

Implementing cross-region disaster recovery at minimal costs

GSE can leverage its elastic scaling and nearby scheduling capabilities to implement cross-region disaster recovery, where server fleets are built in multiple regions to make up game server queues. When the business requests a game server queue, the optimal one will be prioritized based on the fleet’s health status and network latency. If a region fails, the service will be quickly switched to a server fleet in another region. GSE can also automatically scale up fleets in regions with high demands, achieving disaster recovery at minimal costs and eliminating the hassle to deploy the same number of servers in multiple regions in advance.

This feature is especially critical for stateful games where message push is a core module. In commonly used game frameworks, a client needs to sustain a persistent connection with a server so that the server can push messages to the client instantly. Yet, a high number of messages may fail to be pushed due to network failures. In addition, because most messages are pushed by few servers with high specifications, a faulty server can cause severe service impacts. In this scenario, the cross-region disaster recovery mechanism of GSE ensures that the message push service can be distributed among multiple servers so that even when a sever fails, the affected scope will be small.

GSE can be used to deploy and run Unreal and Unity game engines, as well as server frameworks written in C#, C++, and any languages that support gRPC. Its use cases range from FPS and MOBA to turn-based strategy games and table games, where playability and user experience can be consistently maintained. Take Apex Legends and Fortnite as examples – once a game is launched, developers no longer worry about server outages, and players worldwide can expect the game to be always on to deliver the lightning-fast speed and fiery competition they look for.

GSE was released on the international console on June 30th and is now available to whitelisted users.

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