Funny thing about Big Data: Making it is the easy part. Capturing it is the difficult part. Analyzing it is the ultimate goal. With the right approach and processes in place, however, Big Data can provide a path toward attaching actual metrics to activities and events that otherwise might be immeasurable. And that’s exactly what’s being done at Wargaming.net.
Craig Fryar, head of global business intelligence at Wargaming.net, has been in the games industry for 23 years. He cut his teeth building Spectre, one of the first 3D multiplayer games. Later, he found work at EA Bioware, helping the developers there make sense of the data generated by the massively multiplayer online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
But when he came on board at Wargaming.net in April 2013, the numbers and data involved got a lot bigger. With more than 70 million registered players in World of Tanks alone, and two other games based on warplanes and battleships also out there, the company generates huge quantities of data every minute.
Just how does Fryar turn 70 million players (with 3 million daily games) into actionable business intelligence that can be translated into subtle changes in gameplay? For him and his team, Hadoop, Oracle, R and Tableau form a large part of that solution.
“The strategy I’ve put into place is a stack that embodies Gartner’s logical data warehouse,” he said. “We’re collecting a great amount of data into the data lake of Hadoop. We’re studying and having the data science team mine that, but we’re also taking components and putting it into our operational data store in Oracle.”
Outside of the Hadoop cluster, other tools help to make sense of all those tank battles. “We’re using visual analytics with Excel and Tableau,” Fryar said. “We also use the Cloudera distribution of Hadoop, and we’re working with Oracle in that regard, with a Big Data appliance, NoSQL, Oracle, R, and the Cloudera distribution. We’re connecting that into Oracle Enterprise Data Edition, and presenting data from that out to analysts.”
But before Wargaming.net could even begin to analyze all of this data, Fryar and his team had to get the most difficult part of this work out of the way first: They had to agree on terms.
“The most challenging part is the data definition layer,” he said. “We have a number of products from tanks to planes to ships for PC, iOS and Xbox, and creating a definitional layer that provides a basis for info on telemetry and other key performance indicators is a big task, and one we started on early.
“We’re just coming to the point of finishing that definitional layer. We started with the Xbox product. We used that to create a standard set of telemetry. What does it mean by ‘active player’? What’s the calculation of ‘lifetime of player’? We’ve been normalizing our meanings. That’s a challenging thing, but we’re almost done.”
Wargaming.net uses all this data for one primary purpose: improving the player experience. That means a lot of the data is used to answer balance and design questions. Building a video game is somewhat unlike enterprise software because the fundamental goal of all games boils down to one very simple, but extremely subjective concept: fun.