Game Backends: What and Why

Alexander Bergendahl, May 12, 2020

Did you know game backends are not just for big budget free-to-play games, or mobile games with millions of dollars of VC money? That’s right - a game backend can be an important part of every game regardless of scope, budget, or team size. A game backend could make your next game even better.

So what is a game backend, and what do they do? Simply put, a game backend is a server that your game communicates with at different points throughout your game in order to save or retrieve information. For example, your game might call upon your backend whenever a player starts the game in order to collect information you have stored on the player, like their XP and level, or current game progression. Saving information in the cloud (as they say) is helpful for several reasons:

  • Players can access their data from any device or any platform making your game more accessible.
  • Eliminate security risks when saving any key information on the device as some players might attempt to access the information. This will let players bypass parts of your game or give themselves unfair advantages that you didn’t intend.
  • Features connected to data saved on the backend can be modified at any time, eliminating the need to release game updates. Impactful changes can be made to your game in real time.

Once your game is hooked up to a backend, you can take advantage of all the features that are now available to you at your fingertips. For example, one of the most useful features of a backend is managing an inventory or catalog of assets - like cosmetics and currencies. This lets you set up microtransactions in your game, either for real money or for in-game currencies players earn during gameplay. Offloading this work to the backend can save you precious development time while also limiting risks around self designed features breaking or failing to perform correctly.

‘Live ops’ is a term that many indie developers are scared of. It suggests having community managers, 24/7 support, and a comprehensive plan for future game updates. But it doesn’t have to be all that, and live ops can mean different things for different games. A backend can help lighten your load by providing tools for planning updates, managing player accounts, and tie directly into the platforms you publish to making it easier to release new content. At the end of the day, any amount of live ops can result in more active and engaged players, and ultimately a more successful game.

Gamers these days expect games - big and small - to be a service. They want their games to live forever and constantly evolve. While this might sound daunting to a small indie studio developing their passion project, it shouldn’t. With the right backend tools it’s possible to do everything you’ve read so far, even if you’re a small indie studio or solo developer.

All of this is exactly what we built LootLocker to do. We believe that all game developers should have access to the same tools as the biggest studios. Every game should have the opportunity to become a service, have user accounts, and live ops, all without killing the developer. These tools should be accessible and intuitive, and most importantly, easy to integrate into any game, on any platform.

If you’re ready to integrate a backend into your game, or curious to learn more, create a free LootLocker account right now!