Design and build a SaaS game engine platform
Rolling out the dice with Cocos Creator
Gaming is a huge market in IT, and gambling games take up a massive part in the industry. This is a sector that is still rapidly growing. According to Statista, the current size of the market is almost 59 billion USD and is expected to hit 93 billion next year. These numbers are crazy, and it’s all going on in the mostly unreported corners of the Internet.
Casino games are mostly small scale, available on several platforms, especially mobile. Many of them are free to play or cost a few USD. But developing such games come with their own set of challenges.
One developer of such games is Black Wolf, a Hong Kong-based company. Hoang N.V., a Vietnamese member of the RollOut developer pool oversees a small group of fellow Vietnamese developers with the help and control of a Hungarian project manager, and they perform tasks for BlackWolf Ltd. remotely.
Now, for sure, our world is global, remote culture is universal, yadda-yadda, but still you might be wondering how a Central European IT talent hub ends up sourcing a Vietnamese expert for a Hong Kong project.
Well, in early 2019, we started to develop this special framework for Black Wolf, using Cocos Creator (CC) with two Hungarian game developers. It turned out that although it’s a great tool for developing app games, it’s largely unknown in Europe, probably because the documentation and forums about it is mostly in Chinese. Obviously, we looked around our HQ in Hungary, and found a few developers with considerable experience in CC, but they were not available for the project, and they have been more interested in growing their career in Unity, rather than CC.
Finding the Creator for the Coco
So, we decided to get to grips with CC as fast as we can, and get the project rolling, while looking for more senior manpower on the international markets.
In the first year, we hired developers from India, Japan and Armenia, and then we found Hoang, Than and Danh from Vietnam. Hoang completed our 2h long CC homework assignment with a 105% score in under 40 minutes, so it was obvious that we chanced upon a rare gem of a developer.
Since then, we’ve built several games together and Hoang became our lead client-facing developer as well as providing tech management for fellow developers.
Hoang is the most experienced in the team. He has 12 years of experience in the video game industry. In the last 2–3 years, he has been focusing on developing online & multiplayer games using TypeScript, Cocos Creator and PixiJS. The rest of the team has very similar expertise, and with Hoang, they have a ‘mentor’ and tech-lead who they can rely on in any situation. So onboarding Balint as a project manager and Kade as a senior Spine animator turned the group into a killer game development team!
When he started to work on his first Black Wolf game, Hoang received reference games from the client, with a desirable feature list, and the design assets. He creates the specifications together with the project managers, then they turn them into tickets and schedule the development. This gives a clear vision to the client about the high level roadmap.
- His main project is a fishing game. The feature list Hoang received contained requests like:
- Having a way to control the moving path of the fish in Spine by Bezier Curves (so they can easily edit it later on just by the Spine file)
- Supporting different formation (standalone or group) of fish flexibly.
- synching fish moving paths, their positions and game objects between players.
- Defining communication processes between game client & game server.
- Cooperate with the Spine animator (also from the Rollout IT team) to create animations from the graphic assets.
This is what we meant by Hoang developing mostly everything in the game.
Multiplatform apps with a flexible framework
The work is mostly done in Cocos Creator and the animations are managed with Spine. Cocos Creator is where all the design elements are put together and meshed with the complex game logic. The team is focusing on the front end, networking, multiplayer experience, and performance.
Cocos Creator is a powerful platform for creating web app games. The games in this project can be played in a web browser, as a desktop version, or mobile. The challenge is to make them run smoothly on low end devices, while also being pleasing and interesting even on a powerful computer in full screen.
Spine is dedicated to 2D skeletal animation, providing an efficient workflow both for creating amazing animation and for integrating it with Cocos Creator.
Optimizing for modularity
We are also doing optimization work on several other projects at once, because making mobile games fast, responsive and stable is an ongoing challenge.
Our team contributed to the development of a highly flexible framework. This enables Black Wolf to simply clone that framework and quickstart the development of new games by replacing graphics and tuning the json configuration.
The assets, the visuals change, some minor gameplay elements are added or removed, but in the end, many new games will use the same framework.
This also means that we have to develop everything in a way that enables reusability. They need to make sure everything still works with different assets and configurations.
Smooth project management is key in every IT environment, especially in IT. Earlier, the client simply sent the requests in an instant messaging software, but lately they switched to Asana for having a clearer overview.
Hoang highlights the excitement of working with multiplayer games, and the fact that he can learn a lot about doing animation in Spine, because he always receives very high quality Spine assets from the Spine expert working at Black Wolf.
Hoang’s game — a fun fishing simulator where some of the fish you catch earn you real money — will be live in days, and his team’s work will form a strong base for lots of new Black Wolf games in the near future.