Posted on 10.3.2015

Customer Showcase: Digital Hammer’s Zeta Fighters

Editorial note: This post is part of a series of posts called Customer Showcase. In these posts, we talk about business in the cloud with our customers.

Digital Hammer – a bunch of “fearless mobile game developers from the North” – is a Finnish indie mobile games company set up in late 2013. Their main product is Zeta Fighters, a free-to-play mobile multiplayer game where you get to fight your friends with spaceships.

Zeta Fighters is currently hosted on UpCloud and we wanted to hear Digital Hammer’s story from Samir Hani, co-founder and developer at Digital Hammer.

The Story Of Zeta Fighters

Digital Hammer Samir
The development of our main title Zeta Fighters (ZF) started as a single player project. After a couple of company-wide test sessions Timo Korhonen, the main developer/designer of the game developed multiplayer functionality. Soon we realised it was way more fun to play the game with your friends. At the same time, we took a direction that emphasised player progression and social aspects of gaming. We decided to drop the single player and to focus on multiplayer. That’s when we fired up our first server instance (an AWS EC2 micro instance at the time) and dived into the world of mobile multiplayer gaming.

We ran with AWS EC2 for about 6 months

Around that time we began to move to the next phase of development. It required proper production and staging servers, deployment processes, load balancing and self-hosted Unity Master Server components. The AWS EC2 micro instance took us surprisingly far and by then it was definitely time to upgrade. The first upgrade path we thought of was Amazon. It had served us well, offered everything we required and the price was manageable. Still, as a cash tight company, we took our time and explored the market for more competitive alternatives. We found out about UpCloud and got accepted into their startup program. They had everything we required with the best price. The choice was obvious.

Move to UpCloud

We had developed our back-end tech anticipating an upgrade such as this. The actual move to UpCloud was fast and simple. The biggest difference compared to AWS EC2, without taking into account AWS only services such as RDS or Route 53, is customer service. UpCloud offers very personal customer service. It’s awesome to be able to call them and get a real person answer and help you regarding either UpCloud or server tech questions.

With regards to other technical decisions, we chose Python as the primary backend language as we can do everything we want to with it and it’s the language we were most experienced with. For example, my own background is in back-end web development and building Zeta Fighters is actually applying the same concepts to a slightly different domain; the client is now an iOS or Android application instead of a web browser. In time we also dropped the Unity Master Server components and moved to the Photon Unity Networking platform — a welcome change that let us focus on what matters to Zeta Fighters. Cost isn’t always good enough reason to develop and support things by yourself because it will eventually cost you more in developer hours.

Developing a real-time multiplayer game for mobile has been challenging yet rewarding. The vision we started with has been evolving rapidly and so has our technology. We’ve grown professionally and taken ZF far beyond what anybody imagined possible. Any of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the existing ecosystem, especially Unity, UpCloud and too many others to name. You know who you are.

Find more information on Zeta Fighters here: http://www.zetafighters.com/

Janne Ruostemaa

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