I’ve been a programmer and IT enthusiast for 30 years (since the zx spectrum) and concentrated on AI (neural nets & genetic algorithms) at University. My principle skills are concentrated on Enterprise and Solution Architecture and managing effective developer teams.
I enjoy the mix between technical and business aspects; how technology enables and how that (hopefully) improves profit/EBITDA & reduces cost-per-transaction, the impact upon staff and how to remediate go-live and handover, and risk identification and mitigation. My guiding principle is “Occams Razor” that simplicity is almost always the best option by reducing complexity, time to build, organisational stress and longer term costs.
Playfab and Gamesparks with Unity
One of the easiest ways to create a game server is to use server-in-a-box / off-the-shelf technologies like AWS’s GameSparks or Microsoft’s PlayFab.
It’s often assumed that plugging these tools into Unity is difficult; i’m going to show you that it isn’t!
“Off-The-Shelf” Game Servers Overview
Both Playfab and Gamesparks are excellent and equally as easy to integrate into Unity. But there are a few key differences in there implementations and ability that gives producers & developers pause to think about which one they should implement.
Because the two services are similar in what they do, the main differences between the two are the features, and how simple they are to set up and use.
The limitations of each platform can vary, and Playfab makes it very easy to see just what you can do with each payment tier (including free), and what capability you get for your money.
For example, when it comes to virtual goods, Playfab allows up to 250 unique items in your game’s virtual catalog, that can include up to 10 different currencies. You also get information on the limits of your game servers, Data storage, Matchmaking and much more. All this information is found in your game’s limits section, within the settings tab.
Gamesparks, however, either do not have such built-in limits, or I cant find them.
Both have a few features that the other does not, for example Gamesparks provides the ability to store various achievements, and have them logged against a player out of the box, where playfab does not, however, playfab offers the ability to break down your virtual currencies into catalogues, and even individual shops, which for certain games can be useful.
When it comes to integrating your game with other services like Google, Facebook etc., they both have a list of the major services you’d probably like to hook into. However, yet again they both have something the other is lacking, for example, Playfab has access to integration with PayPal, which is obviously helpful for games with any internal transactions, but Gamesparks has access to communication services that Payfab does not, including Wechat and Viber. So it comes down to what type of game you have and what integrations you’d prioritise easy access too.
When it comes to learning how to use the two services they both have a decent chunk of documentation about how things work, and what you can do with each of the pieces of the kit. Although you’ll probably still have to go to there various forums or other channels of help because chances are you’ll want to do something unique, and they both have communities for that.
Using PlayFab or GameSparks with Unity
On Gamesparks side, to hook it into unity you’ve got to (assuming you’ve already set up a new game in gamesparks):
- Download their .unitypackage.
- Import it into your project.
- After this, you’ve just got to so into the gamesparks settings within unity and set your credentials so that Unity knows what gamesparks game you’re using.
- Once all that’s done, you should be good to go, and gamesparks provides an easy to use testing scene to check that it’s all set up correctly and debug if it’s not.
On the Playfab side you’d:
- Download there .unitypackage.
- Import it into your project.
- If you’d already registered with Playfab then you’d log into the game Playfab game manager within unity and install the Playfab SDK from there. If you’d not registered already, you can do it within unity or go to their website, after which you’d install the SDK.
- In the Playfab Shared Settings within unity, you’d set the TitleId to be that of your game, or you can use the game manager once again and it’ll do all the configuration for you.
- Once that’s all done it’s probably a good idea to make a quick API call to Playfab to make sure you’re all set up correctly.
Although both services are separate entities, it is possible to create a project that includes both and they will play together nicely. You’ll be doing most things in parallel where you can, to make sure that any data is synced between the two, but even doing this you’ll run into all sorts of problems, because one will happily accept the type of data you’re sending, whereas you’ll have to find a workaround for the other, which is always fun.
This is a comparison of the two system’s Leaderboard representations in there in browser studios:
All in all both gamesparks and playfab are great options for back end game systems, and I’d happily recomenend either, it just depends on what game your making and what you need most out of the system as to which one I’d say was a better fit. But there is also something to be said to personal preffernence and the best advice I could give is to give both of them a go, and see how they work and which one you personally preffer using.
Using both of them together does work, as I’ve said, but it does also come with it’s own issues, and i’d suggest only sticking to one unless you really either like the challenge or you cant find a clean way of making it work with one.
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