Meet the Sponsors: wooga Mar 2011
wooga is one of the main sponsors for the conference this year, and to introduce the company, Tim Lossen (one of the organizers of the conference and a lead engineer at wooga) sat down to talk about the working atmosphere in wooga’s Berlin HQ and his experiences with using Ruby with social games.
First of all, Tim specifically works on one of wooga’s games, “Happy Hospital”. He is part of a cross-functional team that consists of product managers, designers, flash developers, and backend developers — twelve people in total. He is responsible not only for developing new game features, but also keeping everything running smoothly 24/7 — in short, you could say he’s responsible for devops.
The setup is as follows: the backend is a rails app, running on a small cluster with a fairly standard configuration: haproxy as the load balancer, nginx as the web server and unicorn for the app server. The interesting part is that the team decided early on to ditch MySQL and use Redis as the main database. According to Tim, “that decision was awesome for performance, but brings some unique challenges as well.” One of the primary languages in use is of course Ruby, because “game development is always moving pretty quickly. We do weekly iterations, so we need a language that doesn’t stand in our way. When you’re working with a small team and a short time frame, you want your language to work with you, not against you”. Some people might say that Ruby is too slow for this setup — but while Ruby is indeed slow, that has never proven to be a problem for the team.
He even has a window, with twice the legal minimum space required by German law for a
But what is really awesome about working at wooga isn’t necessarily the setup the team gets to work with — but rather that they got to choose exactly how they wanted to set everything up. No one on the Happy Hospital team has ever felt like they were being micro-managed and forced down a specific path — which is great, because the last thing any programmer wants is to have a non-technical person breathing down their necks, telling them what to do. But with this kind of freedom comes a great deal of responsibility. The Happy Hospital team knows that they are responsible for making sure their decisions actually work, and that they can carry out the choices they have made.
Each game at wooga is started off as a greenfield development. This means that the people who best know what they’re doing have the freedom to make a lot of the technical decisions — from selecting the programming language, framework and database, to choosing the hosting provider — and as long as they can reasonably justify their choices, there is no pressure to conform to a preset path.
The last thing Tim talked about, is that the most challenging part of building social games is the sheer size of everything. Everyone involved in creating a game needs to keep in mind that you need hundreds of thousands of daily active users in order to produce a successful game on Facebook, and this leads to some very interesting scaling issues on the technical side. What works in the office is radically different from what works in the wild, and Tim says that this is definitely one of the most interesting parts of his job.
Super secret game concepts, in our creative room — please do not distribute …
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Based in Berlin, wooga (world of gaming) is Europe’s largest social game developer. Founded in 2009, the company has quickly grown to over 70 employees from 20 different countries. With more than 18 million active users per month, wooga is the fifth largest social gaming company in the world. Wooga focuses on producing high quality games for Facebook, with an emphasis on compelling characters, ease of use and professional localization in seven languages. Diamond Dash is wooga’s fifth game, preceded by Brain Buddies, Bubble Island, Monster World and Happy Hospital.