Magical moments: What the Everyplay acquisition means for developers

July 14, 2014 in Services

As a veteran of online, mobile and console games services I’ve become used to the idea of change; mostly from sitting on the sometimes uncomfortable bleeding edge.  My latest experience of change was when Applifier was acquired by Unity Technologies in March this year. It may sound like a simple acquisition but for me it heralds a profound change to the business of making games; and I’m genuinely excited about it!

Why so excited? Well, we all know about the revolution which has already arisen since the arrival of the AppStore and in particular the concept of FreeToPlay. There has been an explosion of games and different approaches to generating revenue. This wasn’t just about the changing market but the combination of that plus the availability of tools like Unity; and the idea of democratizing game development.

Of course this opened the creative gates for a new breed of indie developers to bring to market their own vision of what games could be. Games which could create magical moments for the player. If you love games then you know the moments I mean and they are not always planned.  I remember the joy when I managed to get more than 7 of those creatures through one of the levels of the beautiful Badland. I remember how it felt to pick-up all the letters for the first time in Skyline Skaters and the rush that followed. I remember when I fell through the ‘world’ in Fat Cat Rush (it was a glitch but I found it funny).

Everyplay Image1

These are the moment we crave and knowing they are possible keeps our attention.  But there is latent power in those experiences; a power which can only be truly released by sharing them. Sharing is part of the very fabric of what it means to be playful. Having some rules or experience which we share with people who understand; who share our interests. It’s part of how we define ourselves as human and even how we separate ourselves from others – who don’t play the games we do.

Everyplay came out of the idea that when a friend shows us a game they love, we are much more likely to want to play it ourselves.  Gameplay recording lets us unlock the power of the Internet to allow players to share their magical moments with the widest audience. It becomes a kind of user generated content experience for any game.  Look what I did! Watch me play. Players get to show off their associations with the games they love. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t have to be profound or even particularly spectacular; indeed they are often the opposite. The important thing is that they are our personal moments.

Of course the last thing most developers want is to put in another SDK, we have tried to make this as easy as possible. All it takes is to get the plugin from the Asset Store and decide where to start and stop recording. We have focused hard to make sure that there is virtually no performance loss: no impact on GPU and nearly zero impact on CPU. To do this the video is streamed directly to the file storage to avoid memory issues. In addition, we are using the H.264 codec which means that videos only take around 4mb per minute; we even have a continuous recording system allowing you to keep just the last few minutes of play if you prefer to keep the videos short.

However, the point of this blog post isn’t just to tell you about the SDK.  I want to share some of the things we have learnt that mean that developers can make the most of the experience.

1. Always Record: Whilst we don’t mandate this, we strongly recommend you always record play.  Otherwise players will miss those crazy times which just ‘happen’.

2. Use a Thumbnail:  We capture a screengrab as part of the video recording and have found a big increase in use (and hence effectiveness) when this is used to create a personal thumbnail of what you just did.

3. Metadata: Everyplay has the ability to embed metadata into the video file to reflect both Private and Public data.  This information can be used in all kinds of ways to pull the most relevant videos back into your game. Why not use it to add videos to your high-score table. That way players can prove how they beat their friends. Alternatively, why not add a ‘Fame score’ showing a player how popular they are based on Everyplay shares and Likes for their videos.

4. Community: Its worth taking the time out to create an identity for your game on the Everyplay platform and use that to create a conversation with your audience. We have a rich a diverse community of games players who explore new games as well as share their moments together. Join in with the experience and see how you can share, like and comment on posted videos as well as follow other players or games.

5. Incentives: It can be useful to offer incentives to players for sharing however, you need to be careful about how you do it.  Its sometimes better to make more of the intrinsic social benefits rather than to use extrinsic game levers, for example if you trigger the sharing process when meaningful gameplay moments happen like gaining achievements or defeating boss levels. However, some games have seen value from using ‘Opt-in’ incentives to upload videos.

6. Capture Players Faces: It can be powerful to record the faces of your players using the front facing camera (currently only on iOS devices); especially where your games trigger real emotions such as fear or frustration. However, of course it’s very important to be careful (especially if your game is targeted to young children) so you will want to clearly communicate that this is happening. We show the live-feed from the camera input in a box on the screen – which can be turned off by the player both during and post recording. We must of course remember that the video is only uploaded by the player’s choice (and they can remove it off before uploading).  We also moderate these videos at Everyplay to avoid the most problematic risks such as profanity or abusive imagery, but this can mean some delays to when those videos will be available.

There are around 600 games at the time of writing, but that number keeps rising so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep track. As we learn more about the best practice we will bring that to the blog and please feel free to ask us any questions.

Oscar

Comments (18)

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  1. charles pook

    September 4, 2014 at 8:57 am / 

    oh, the team will be created again by new company, hope it become the best.

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  3. Alexander Pavlovsky

    July 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm / 

    While this particular bit of news is of no interest to me at the moment I must say I very excited about Unity’s future. You guys are doing what no one has done before.

    Every time I read some news about Unity it’s nothing short of inspirational. I’m proud to be a Unity fanatic!

    <3 <3 <3
    Fanboy #2423554

  4. Oscar Clark

    July 18, 2014 at 10:44 am / 

    @Christian The team work on a continuous release approach so we are updating all the time but we do try to let people know what major items get fixed. I don’t know the specifics of course but our guys pay a lot of attention the requests that come via support in particular. We really appreciate teams like yours who tell us when you have issues – hey it makes it easier to get the best product for everyone of course.

    @TJ Tony is right they are different things. Twitch was initially PC live streaming of course. We started out as mobile sharing of recorded plays. I think for mobile our approach of asynchronous (non-live) sharing works better most of the time; if only because of the ways we tend to use our mobile devices (i.e. when out and about and not plugged in). Of course you don’t know where things may go but I feel that they don’t have to be necessarily directly competitive. We have a different community and priorities than they do.
    @Scott sorry to hear you had problems with video quality. The recording is supposed to record at exactly the quality of the display (in fact thats what we are storing). We also have some very high performing 3D titles like DeadTrigger 2 which look amazing on the replays. Did you reach out to support@everyplay.com?
    @Alan, I know and agree getting the service on other platforms is important. Of course there are complexities with PC in particular as you don’t nececcarily know whats in the box (and we have to be fairly low level to avoid a performance hit). However, its definitely on our list as is WP8 and Mac. I just can’t say when yet Sorry!
    @Soner – sorry you haven’t had a reply – I can ask the team to come back to you if you want; just email me on oscarc@unity3d.com with the details.

  5. Alan Stagner

    July 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm / 

    Like others, I honestly cannot wait for other platforms like PC and Mac to be supported.
    I’m not targeting mobile, but the ability to share the last, say, 5 minutes of gameplay instantly would be an amazing addition to the game!

  6. Scott

    July 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm / 

    I installed Everyplay in my android flight sim/ combat game. on my device i run 55+fps all day, while recording with everyplay, my fps dropped to mid 20s. i was willing to “go with it” but the video recorded at the low frame rate which was unacceptable to me. there is no way i would “promote” my game with videos that make it look that choppy. I know many games use Everyplay but most seem to be 2d or extremely simple 3d. I really wanted to use Everyplay and i hope the performance issues are addressed soon.

  7. Tony

    July 15, 2014 at 5:04 am / 

    @TJ, its fundamentally not a same product like twitch ;)

  8. soner

    July 15, 2014 at 2:40 am / 

    I have been using Everyplay for almost a year without a problem. Recently, I tried to switch to Unity 4.5.x and Everyplay started to cause some problems related to audio. I have mailed to support@everyplay.com a week ago, but still no answer!! When we start the game, it prints “An invalid object handle was used” to the console and the app become silent.

  9. TJ

    July 15, 2014 at 1:49 am / 

    That looks like a pretty good copy of Twitch.tv. So who ripped who?

  10. Baby Hazel Game

    July 14, 2014 at 11:20 pm / 

    I love your team dudes. Life is more beautiful with your team

  11. Christian Oeing

    July 14, 2014 at 7:15 pm / 

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the article, although we already use Everyplay in our upcoming mobile game FreudBot (http://www.freudbot.net) :)

    Any information when the next update will come for the SDK? I had some mail exchange with the support about some issues that occurred during the integration of the SDK (e.g. Facebook native login,…).

    All in all it’s already a really good base for easy video sharing, I’m curious how it will develop!

    Cheers
    Christian

  12. Cayl

    July 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm / 

    Bad acquisition unity why don’t you acquire Esoteric software for instance.

  13. Sathyaraj

    July 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm / 

    Cool. Does this support WP8 as well.Really waiting for this feature.

  14. Victoria

    July 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm / 

    It’s really wonderful news! Usually games today let you share your achivements, but just in teh form of badges, that tell nothing about your experience, or figules and facts, like your new level. Wish a new sharing will become an option in my favourite game – think it will make these moments even greater

  15. Oscar Clark

    July 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm / 

    @Samuel – I know we want to support other platforms and personally I would love to see the webplayer there too. It’s going to be about priorities of course. We use OpenGL a lot in our approach to capture so we will have to adjust to DirectX too. All solvable in time – I just can’t say when yet and there are other improvements planned not least some deeper integration with the Unity platform.

    @Eduardo – I know – I know ha!ha! ;0)

    @Tanaka – I think there might be a way to do something like you have already mentioned in some games already. It will depend on whether the game knows in advance when an achievement is likely to happen or not. For example you could trigger a series or record/pause events which I think (remember I’m not technical) would create a single video with each event. Worth checking with the Everyplay support team to be sure if that would work though.
    The system can of course also do continuous recording a bit like a PVR recorder allowing you to keep just the last n minutes of play. However, I’m not sure that’s really right for what you want. We have had a few related ideas, but none of them have yet made it onto the list.
    I will tell the team about if however – but of course as usual no promises. ;0)

  16. Tanaka

    July 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm / 

    What would really blow my mind (and make Everyplay something that I’d put in all my games) is if it had an abstracted version of Mario Kart 8′s “highlight reel” built in. In that game, the player can upload just the highlights of the race, but he gets to choose which highlights to focus on (e.g. drifting, action, passing, etc.).

    I think it would be amazing if the Everyplay API could have an array of generic “highlight” events. While recording, I could send these events to the Everyplay SDK as they happen in the game. The final recorded video would then be a “highlight reel” of all the events that happened (showing a few seconds before and after each event).

    The cherry on top would be if the player could choose which events he wanted his “highlight reel” to focus on before uploading it.

  17. Eduardo Lamhut

    July 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm / 

    Hey Oscar, Samuel has a good point!

    When it’s going to be available on the WebPlayer Plugin? hahahahahah

    Just kidding ;) XOXO from BitCake @ GameFounders

  18. Samuel

    July 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm / 

    Good acquisition, Unity.
    Does Unity have any plans of supporting WebPlayer / WebGL version of the Everyplay plugin?
    Thank you.

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