Data modeling is usually thought about in more rigid applications of business management like engineering, finance, and retail. That said, the video game industry is a huge market that sees developers making regular use of data models.
The concept and its tools may be revitalized in new ways for modern titles, but data modeling has been around since the dawn of the oldest games you can find in many old and contemporary new games. Whether you are playing a retro point-and-click game or the latest AAA game stocking the digital shelves, it’s interesting to see how data modeling works in game development.
Establishing Entities and Object-Oriented Programming
Video game worlds are entirely compromised of different entities and how they react or respond to the established environment. Every asset has an identifiable value and should have its relationship to the world established. This goes beyond the narrative sense when it comes to data models.
A comprehensive guide to data modeling on MongoDB notes that data models are built to help developers understand how data entities will interact with each other. Developers then use the model to identify the overall data structure and apply design patterns as needed.
Consider how every aspect of a game has its own behavior, with logical systems in place to ensure that a door opens when you click it and a wall remains static. This also applies to things that need to change reactively, like player health and how this data affects other utilities in-game.
Scaling and Managing Game Data
You’ll most often see the scaling side of data modeling applied to multiplayer games, but it can find use even in small single-player adventures. Databases are responsible for server data that tracks player progress and ensures that the game stays balanced. After all, you don’t want high-ranking players mixed in with newbies unless you want a ton of negative reviews because of scaling.
In the same vein, this helps manage lobbies and open-world setups where multiple players must constantly interact with the same entities despite triggering their own results. Data models can not only work for data storage but also to identify any kinks in the system that may affect balance.
This refers to both in-game progression and development after the game has gone live. For in-game operations, you can often see this affect save states. Data modeling helps to see how each player’s progress is, retaining information on anything that has already been triggered and what is yet to be triggered. For gamers, this means cutscenes, quests, inventory, player level, and the like.
The biggest thing is bug fixes. Even after quality assessment, you’d be hard-pressed to find a big release today that is completely bug-free. With the chokehold of digital marketplaces, timely deployment of fixes is a must. For example, Steam notoriously has a lot of issues despite its convenience because of the release structure of its huge library.
With data modeling, developers can reproduce bugs experienced by players and identify recurring patterns. It will also help them anticipate the potential repercussions of any new fixes or changes they will implement.
Analyzing Metrics and Player Data
Last but definitely not least, data modeling works to provide developers with valuable insights into their player base and the performance of their video game releases. The recently released hit Baldur’s Gate 3 has amassed a huge player base, hitting more than 800,000 concurrent players already just days after it was released.
Developer Larian Studios released a lot of data about player choices as a treat to its fans, and they managed to do so thanks to some keen data modeling. This enables them to glean huge demographic and player-specific data like how many hours players spend in character creation, the most common causes of in-game deaths, the most popular classes chosen, and more.
Insights like this are not just fun facts for players, though. Developers can use this to make informed business decisions and improvements to their development framework. Even in multiplayer games, this helps root out cheaters, smurfs, and griefers.
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