EiG Launchpad profile: Black Cow Technology
EiG Launchpad profile: Black Cow Technology
To get to the root of the problem with innovation in online gaming and games, you have to go back to the source – or more precisely, for Black Cow Technology, the platform start-up formed by ex-OpenBet luminary Max Francis, back to open source.
Black Cow has produced OGA – which stands for Open Gaming Architecture – a game server built on open-source principles where the game engine logic is completely self-contained and separate from the server mechanics inside OGA.
“This is the key to innovation,” says Francis, the founder and chief executive, talking to TotallyGaming.com. “When I started Black Cow I saw the opportunity to design a game server from the ground up, using open source and making the product modular,” he tells TotallyGaming.com. “Everything in the industry has become hugely monolithic, with legacy code base that is very hard to change. We think OGA changes that.”
Francis started with OpenBet (when it was called Orbis) back at the turn of the Millennium when the company was a less than two dozen people, working first on the sports-betting product before moving through the ranks, first as a quality manager and then in the later years as the manager of all OpenBet’s partnerships.
“I’d been looking to start a software company for some time, and in my spare time had kept up my programming skills and kept up with technology,” he says. “So, one of the things that allowed Black Cow to start was the enterprise-standard open source tools that you could get for free. Whereas before you had to invent things yourself, you get everything for free.”
From this point, with his experience as a partnership manager at OpenBet, his product knowledge and his technical understanding of the issues brought about by integrations, Francis started to think he could build a game server “from the ground up”. Initially built for GECO Gaming (subsequently bought up by Playtech), Black Cow Technology now has a game server construction kit ad games development kit (GDK) that, as Francis says, “is really nice and actually works”.
Francis explains the OGA difference from the developers’ point of view. “OGA engines return a game state in their own format – that’s the crucial bit,” he says. “The game developer can develop whatever feature they like. They don’t have to conform to a particular way of doing things; modelling free spins, or wilds or whatever. Then OGA asks the engine to render that data back to the client.
He continues: “The engine is in charge of how it communicates with the client; usually with an RGS system, there is a standard way of communicating with the game client, with certain things not possible because of the way it communicates. But with OGA it’s up to the engine builder how that communication with the client is designed.”
This is the truly revolutionary bit – it means that integrations needn’t take up the months of development time and cost and new game ideas can be enacted with relative ease. It means suppliers can, to use a current phrase, “take control of their own game server”. But OGA can also provide a mini-remote game server (RGS), which can be installed within the customer’s data centre.
“Say an operator that wants a bunch of games, you can put a server in their rack,” Francis explains. “That’s a possibility now, because it is a much smaller technical footprint without extra software costs. It’s much more manageable software that you could in theory install in customer data centres.”
Francis sums up Black Cow’s appeal to developers, suppliers and potentially operators. “The message we are trying to get across is that there is a genuine GDK here that allows you to do anything and allows you to be in control yourself,” he says. “You are in control of your production and crucially you don’t have to share any of your features with other users of OGA.”
Totally Gaming says: OGA has the potential to be truly ground-breaking. The simplicity of Black Cow Technology’s proposition – taking control of the game server – belies the complexity of the technology that underpins it. What OGA promises is nothing less than a revolution in game development; freeing up designers to bring true innovation to games, and ultimately helping to provide a more engaging and profitable product.