Launching Stormgate’s Open Demo during Steam’s Next Fest

Learn about the successful release of the Stormgate open beta demo during Steam Next Fest. See how Hathora's servers, in collaboration with Pragma's backend engine provided an "iron man" suit for Stormgate's backend.

Launching Stormgate’s Open Demo during Steam’s Next Fest

In early February, Frost Giant Studios set out to launch a global open beta of Stormgate, dubbed by many as the spiritual successor to StarCraft II, during Steam’s Next Fest. As an independent studio with a stated goal to build community and get feedback from players before their public launch, they had a massive task for this event: release a working live game that would enable this feedback. By all accounts the launch was a success, and we’re proud to power an important piece of their game-tech stack.

What goes into a successful multiplayer beta launch and how do teams make sure that the backend system can achieve their gameplay research goals? We thought Stormgate’s Next Fest open beta launch was a useful case-study because it highlighted three things:

  1. Gameplay Responsiveness: Stormgate players experienced SnowPlay first-hand , Frost Giant’s in-house gameplay engine that includes rollback netcode, a first for the RTS genre. Paired with Hathora, latency was much improved during gameplay for many players all over the world. 
  2. Stormgate’s Iron Man Suit: Stormgate’s team decided to augment and extend their team by blending Hathora’s servers and Pragma’s powerful backend game engine (matchmaking, live ops, etc) to complete this beta test.
  3. The Journey to a Successful Public Playtest - In large part due to load testing in advance and weekly playtesting by the Stormgate team, the full-week of game-play during Next Fest delivered–Stormgate was the #2 most-played game overall of Steam Next Fest. 

Game Play Responsiveness

Zippy play in an RTS can quickly move a game from awesome to unplayable. Shortly after the game went live, u/bluegoon pointed out “The netcode is INSANE” 

Click the image to see the full thread,

Since its inception in 2020, Frost Giant Studio’s goal has always been to revitalize the RTS genre. To make that happen they created their powerful SnowPlay engine. SnowPlay enables the game to be played at a higher latency and still feel responsive. However, the netcode they rolled out couldn’t remove the lag entirely, and that is where Hathora’s regional availability played an essential role. With global reach at launch, Stormgate became playable across the world with Hathora’s zippy servers.

In a talk at DreamHack Atlanta last year, Frost Giant’s lead server engineer Austin Hudelson explained how Stormgate’s matchmaking leverages Hathora’s global regions, and they did that throughout Next Fest. The graphic below shows the actual global distribution of Stormgate matches during that period. This global availability is accessible to all developers using Hathora, no matter how big or small.

London was the most concentrated region during Stormgate's Steam Next Fest play week.

For players who still have access to the beta, you can actually find the region you’re playing on by hitting Ctrl + Alt + Shift + F. We’ve attached our ping from playing during Next Fest in New York City. 

What was your ping on Stormgate?

Stormgate’s Iron Man Suit

Frost Giant Studios made an early strategic decision to partner with Hathora and Pragma to handle their backend stack. In order to build the game with confidence it would work, the teams spent time using the connected suite of tech to build trust and confidence that the stack would be rock-solid for launch. We like to think of this collaboration as an Iron Man Suit, making expert engineers in a creative studio at least 10x more effective in building their game. 

If you haven’t heard of Pragma, they have built an extensible “Backend Engine” that helps teams power matchmaking, cross-platform accounts, social, meta game systems, live operations, monetization, telemetry, and analytics. They were adopted by Stormgate early in development, and Hathora has worked closely with them to make a seamless integration from their matchmaker to our servers. For Stormgate in particular, Pragma’s tech provided matchmaking and a ranking system that players saw in Next Fest, and Hathora waited for Pragma’s signal to spin up servers just in time for each match in the region that optimized each player’s ping. 

Hathora’s role was similarly specialized. Our tech enabled Stormgate to launch the games globally on our network and automatically turn off servers that weren’t being utilized. This made all of the server provisioning and orchestration one less thing that the Stormgate team needed to worry about in advance of the launch. 

As you can see from the next section, Pragma and Hathora leverage their already developed integration that works across a number of different customers. When the game went live during Next Fest, there were team members from Hathora, Pragma, and Frost Giant all together in the war room to ensure that Stormgate had all it needed in the event of an unforeseen hiccup.

The Journey to a Successful Public Playtest

In advance of Stormgate’s successful live game week there were two main milestones on the journey: (1) load testing and (2) playtesting. 

For load testing, we believe that launch days are prepped months in advance. In the weeks prior to a launch, we help studios to run comprehensive tests to build confidence that their launch day will scale to targeted loads smoothly. In case you missed our scaling to 1 million CCU write up, you can see the steps we took to help Frost Giant build confidence for their launch.

Secondly, we recommend teams playtest their games directly on Hathora, where the game will go live. The chart below shows the history of matches of Stormgate played on Hathora servers. Of course seeing the spikes for each playtest/beta is awesome to see - what’s even cooler is that in between those spikes are countless daily matches played by Frost Giant’s QA team to ensure the Open Beta went as smoothly as possible. 


The Stormgate open beta playtest during Steam's Next Fest, hosted on Hathora's dedicated servers, showcased an exemplary model of how cutting-edge game dev tech, global reach, and meticulous preparation can come together to elevate a game in the RTS genre. Hathora's role as the backbone for server hosting and orchestration was crucial, enabling seamless global accessibility and robust gameplay experiences through the SnowPlay engine and connected with Pragma’s matchmaker systems. We believe this collaboration can help reinvigorate the RTS genre, and multiplayer game-building at large.