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Gardens plans to use Coherence for its upcoming action role-playing game (ARPG). Gardens is working on a high-profile project and it is creating a multiplayer experience that emphasizes tactile interactions between players as they collaborate to solve puzzles and awaken dormant magic.
The no-code Coherence network engine has been an integral part of Gardens’ development process from the start, enabling the team to create a multiplayer experience that impressed investors such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and Krafton, said Dino Patti, CEO of Coherence, in an interview with GamesBeat.
That endorsement helps Coherence in its ambition of convincing more indie game studios to painlessly add multiplayer to their single-player games, Patti said. And while indie devs are much more comfortable with single-player games, players keep asking for multiplayer.
Cofounded by Patti and Tadej Gregoric, Coherence (which they spell with a small “c”) is a network engine that designers can use without any coding experience, offering a powerful set of tools that allows developers to have working multiplayer prototypes running in minutes.
Developers are often scared of multiplayer games.
“Most developers don’t have a John Carmack in their company to build networking in one month,” Gregoric said. “And they’re really scared about the scale of servers and what it’s going to cost them when they run. So we also found a solution for that, with client hosting. We make it possible to launch a game with Coherence for free. Then they can upgrade to something more.”
So Coherence is taking away that fear a little bit at a time. The company partnered with the Global Game Jam recently and were amazed at the creativity of multiplayer games that came from that.
“Giving developers the tools they need to innovate with multiplayer design was the key goal with coherence from the very start, so seeing what Gardens are doing with our technology has been absolutely amazing,” said Patti. “They are creating something truly original and their work makes me extremely excited about the future of multiplayer gaming”.
It is an open, easy-to-use, and highly scalable offering that any studio can take advantage of, while remaining a highly-intuitive and streamlined way of creating, testing and deploying networked games.
“We started coherence partly because we wanted to see enable more creativity in the space,” Gregoric said. “That’s why Gardens is an ideal customer. They’re making very creative choices in building their game, and we would like to think that our technology is part of what enables that.”
Gardens CEO Chris Bell praised Coherence as a partner that can quickly answer questions and prioritize any features that the team requested. He added that the game’s development is further along due to Coherence’s multiplayer technology and support.
“Coherence empowers small teams to create ambitious online worlds like the one we’re growing here at Gardens,” said Bell, in a statement. “And they have been incredible partners, quick to answer questions and prioritize any features that we request. We’re further along in our game’s development because of Coherence’s multiplayer technology and support.”
Gardens has an all-star team of developers who have worked on titles like Journey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Ultima Online, Outer Wilds and more. Set in a fantasy wilderness, Gardens has multiplayer co-op elements that emphasize tactile interactions between players.
Bigger games, bigger problems
Gregoric said that Coherence can enable games to have thousands of players in the same space, or shard. But most game designers don’t want to jam that many players into a small space. Gregoric said Coherence isn’t really going after things like concerts where 10,000 players can be in the same space.
“It’s not what the game designers get excited about,” he said. “Until you’ve figured out how to make it fun, it’s not worth it.”
Patti said that, given the perspective of a single player, you probably wouldn’t be able to see more than 200 players in the same space at once. Gregoric said Coherence can do things like dynamic clustering, which is like changing the borders of shards, or individual server spaces, so that the servers are more balanced with it comes to the number of multiplayer characters they’re accommodating at any given time.
For the developers that know how to do multiplayer, they will often build their own networking stack. Triple-A studios often take this approach. But if they don’t plan in a coordinated way, they can have trouble with things like mobile versions of a game. Mobile often isn’t as reliable when it comes to networking, and it means the underlying engine has to be prepared for that.
Electronic Arts recently canceled its award-winning Apex Legends game on mobile and killed off a Battlefield mobile title. That speaks to the pains that multiplayer development can cause, and why Coherence wants to take that off developers’ hands.
Launching 1.0 release
Coherence recently hit its 1.0 release, delivering a host of features and innovations to the multiplayer space.
“We have some really exciting customers. And as they’re coming out now. They’re so high profile and they also are very careful about announcing anything. We thought this one was big enough news to go out and make a bit more noise,” Patti said.
“It’s really good timing because we also just made our 1.0 public recently and that also spiked interest about us,” Gregoric said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s very useful for everybody who discovers Coherence independently. With Gardens and other studios of similar magnitude, we’ve been working closely together for a while. We have to give them credit that they have had a positive impact on our technology as well with their creative ideas.”
Gregoric added, “The game is fantastic. We played it at GDC. The team were also very, very happy that e the game uses a lot of the advanced features of Coherence, not just the surface level stuff. We have the most accessible and easy to use solution out there. That’s what our customers are constantly telling us.”
He said that the multiplayer engine allows developers to course correct and iterate with prototypes before they commit to a particular solution.
Patti said that many game indie developers focus on a smaller single-player game and don’t attempt to do a multiplayer version. If they do, they add it late in the process. They just don’t have the time to do it right. But Coherence can give them back that time, he said.
“What we bring to the table is a whole stack,” Gregoric said. “It’s the server infrastructure, the automatic scaling, not having to think about servers at all. You just deploy with one button, deploying your game into Coherence. And it just runs the way you wanted. You can build virtual worlds. You can build metaverses. You can build session-based fighting games. And we’re very proud of the ease of use.”
He added, “No other engine allows you to take a single player game and make it multiplayer in less than five minutes. It’s a serious triple-A level engine to build any kind of game.”
Solving tech problems
Coherence is agnostic when it comes to cloud infrastructure like AWS or Azure. Coherence handles the exchange of data between a game and its servers. When something happens in the game, the data flows between the computers and Coherence synchronizes it in an environment of limited bandwidth.
Coherence uses a variety of compression techniques to speed transfer. And it prioritizes what is near or detectable to a given player. All of this happens in a way that game developers like, as Coherence’s team is full of game developers, Gregoric said.
“We push the boundaries of scale and we put boundaries of how big a world you can create,” he said.
Coherence uses a proprietary transport protocol with highly optimized bitstreams with type and delta compression, quantization and various other optimization techniques that save bandwidth costs, reduce lag and ensure the responsiveness of a game.
One result is that you can have much bigger worlds, with the precision of having things placed accurately or detected in the world with extreme accuracy.
“At the same time, we made the technology so accessible that the game designer who is not a coder can build the game alone,” Gregoric said.
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