Mobile Games Startup Saves Hundreds of Hours with Helix Remote Admin
Startup Nifty Games creates fun, intuitive, and innovative mobile sports games. It’s what they do best. From 2018 to October 2021, their small team was hard at work on their first title, NFL Clash. It’s a mobile game for action junkies who want to play something different from the typical sports simulation, and Nifty recently released it internationally.
The work they do takes focus. But small studios like them can find it hard to focus when key team members wear multiple hats and are constantly being pulled in different directions.
So, when the pilot program for Helix Remote Administration (HRA) launched, Nifty jumped on board. With HRA, Perforce experts set up, maintain, and optimize their Helix Core server. This saves them a ton of time – they estimate that it has saved them close to one working month since starting HRA in January of 2021. Now, they can focus on feature development, keeping their releases timely and their audience hooked.
Focus on Development
Get Optimal Configuration
Save Big on Admin Costs
And Helix Remote Admin gives us the peace of mind that our Perforce [Helix Core] server is being monitored and backed up properly.”
HRA Lets Nifty Focus on the Game
Nifty doesn’t have to worry about distracting their dev team with back-end server maintenance. Now, they offload administrative work like deployment, server configuration, and ongoing maintenance to their Helix Remote Admin team. The HRA team sets their workflows up according to best practices. They keep them up-to-date with the latest product releases and security updates. And they do it all for much less than it would cost to hire an admin.
Helix Core: Version Control for Mobile Game Developers
According to Ibs Rageh, VP of Engineering at Nifty Games, more Unity developers (like Nifty) are moving to Perforce Helix Core version control than ever before. A primary reason for that is Helix Core makes it easier to manage large binary files, like art assets. Managing huge digital assets and ongoing iterations is just easier and faster with Helix Core. (In fact, 19/20 AAA game development companies use Helix Core for this and many other reasons.)
While Helix Core lets teams move faster and do more than other version control tools, the server needs to be maintained properly to maximize its performance. Unfortunately, server maintenance is often the last thing on a development team’s mind. Many teams, especially smaller ones, don’t mess with the server until something breaks.
Top Talent Was Serving as IT
Before Nifty got HRA, Rageh was the dedicated admin of their Perforce setup. He was the only one who had prior system admin experience with Helix Core. But as a VP and the head of the engineering team, his time is always better spent elsewhere. Being the studio’s sole source control admin on top of his job was extremely stressful, as well as inefficient.
Now, the HRA team handles all of Nifty’s server admin work before issues cause any downtime. Rageh does not have to drop what he is doing to investigate and resolve things like CPU spikes, failed backups, or security updates — the HRA team does it for him.
No Time for Improvements
“Rule number one for us in Live-ops is, if it ain’t broke, don’t touch it,” says Rageh. It’s an idiom many developers live by. The issue in Nifty Games’ case was that before they had HRA, they were not routinely optimizing their server configuration for worldwide, remote workflows. The day-to-day was mostly smooth sailing. But could they have gone faster or done more? Most small teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to find out.
And what happened when they needed to make improvements? Rageh would have to take time away from game development to see these upgrades through. In the beginning of 2021, for example, they had some security-related upgrades to complete. It was the perfect opportunity to have HRA build up a new stack from scratch. The HRA team used their expertise to help Nifty set everything up correctly with the latest best practices and configurations.
If they didn’t have help from Perforce, Rageh and his team would have spent a couple of days on this update. But being an HRA customer, they handed it off to the experts at Perforce. The HRA team logged in over the weekend and got it running again. “It all wrapped up within an hour,” says Rageh.
“Thanks to Perforce, the setup and upgrade process was nice and smooth, something I didn’t have confidence would go as well if we had to tackle the work ourselves.”
Smart Setups Let Nifty Be Nimble
“Game development is messy; things break when and where you least expect it,” says Rageh.
Trying to predict and prevent where things will break is typically a waste of time. For that reason, Rageh says, Nifty Games prioritizes implementing tools in a way that “allows us to be very nimble and quick to react.” They set up workflows, tools, and teams in such a way so they react when necessary, “but only when necessary, so that it doesn't put feature releases in jeopardy.” How?
One example: Rageh says his team “quickly gravitated towards a release stream strategy where anybody can jump on a live issue without losing their in-progress development work.” They used Perforce Streams within Helix Core to tailor their branching strategy according to how their team works best.
No Hardware, No Problem
Another example: setting up their Perforce server in AWS — because “there's nothing like the stress of trying to run and get some new hard drives to unblock the team at a monumental time, right in the middle of the night.” Nifty now has an entirely cloud-based infrastructure that Perforce was able to help set up with best practices. If anything goes wrong, there's no need to rush to the office to fix it.
Tools for Indies, Deployed Your Way
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Get Peace of Mind When Maintenance is Under Control
There is no shortage of distractions in game development, especially as a team approaches a launch. In the months leading up to the worldwide launch of NFL Clash, says Rageh, “any downtime would have been a disaster. HRA gave us one less thing to worry about.”
By ensuring Nifty’s developers have what they need and admin tasks are checked off, the HRA team makes the Perforce server one less distraction.
Continuous Optimization for the Team’s Current Needs
If there are any issues with compute power in the cloud, the HRA team can help you make the right adjustments to quickly scale according to the given project’s needs.
Admin Tasks Never Snowball
The HRA team handles the kind of tedious tasks that distract from development, such as updating licenses. “We just tell the HRA team we got a new license that needs to be updated on the two servers,” says Rageh. "They reply within an hour to say it’s all done. And we can focus on other things.”
Time = Money. Spend it Wisely
“HRA has saved us close to one working month on infrastructure setup, DevOps, system admin support, and so on,” says Rageh.
That’s one month in less than a year that Nifty Games has had HRA. What could your team do with an extra month?
Rageh’s Advice for Small Game Studios
“One size doesn't fit all when it comes to workflow and tools. You need to be very aware of the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to take on new work, tailoring your approach to leverage your strengths.”
What’s Next for Nifty?
Their next release, NBA Clash, is in soft launch in six countries right now. It’s coming worldwide in 2022. And with the HRA team handling server administration, they are able to keep their heads down on development.
Innovate More, Pencil Push Less with HRA
Helix Core is mission-critical software. But most teams don’t have time to configure and maintain their server. Helix Remote Administration lets you offload admin tasks to the pros at Perforce so your team can focus on development.
- Get back to the game — we’ll maintain and fine-tune your server.
- Work faster — we’ll optimize your environment.
- Get peace of mind — with an insurance policy that costs less than $4/hour for a team of five users.