RAM and Room Engagement
Read up on how we've been tackling memory issues and how it affects your room engagement.
When you're making a normal game, it doesn't matter if you're 1KB or 100MB under your memory budget. Once you’re within budget, you can stop optimizing. The game will run smoothly, and it won't run any better if there are a few extra MB lying around.That’s not exactly true for Rec Room, however.Every MB of RAM we free up on the dev side can be used by UGC rooms. The appetite for RAM varies widely between UGC rooms - some need a little, and some need a lot. Like, a LOT, a lot. We've noticed that, on average, the rooms you create are consistently using more RAM over time - and as your ambitions grow, so do your RAM requirements! As we add more tools for you to use, room complexity goes up (which is great), but so does RAM usage.A year ago, it was rare for a Rec Room Creator to use so much RAM that it could cause Rec Room to crash - largely because limiting systems like Ink and Heat put hard caps on how much stuff you could do. As we've unshackled Creators from those limits with more advanced tools like Rec Room Studio, it has become much more possible to build a room that's a "RAM hog"!
Q: What happens if my room is a RAM hog? Well… in short, your room’s performance will probably suck on some devices. In some instances, it could even crash the Rec Room app entirely. If your room causes crashes, players won’t be as engaged, and your room’s ranking will slip as a result.
Q: How big of an impact will a few crashes have? Let’s take a look at Make It To Midnight. This RRO was built with the same tools our creators use (Rec Room Studio, Circuits, etc.), and it was a pretty big RAM hog at launch! It’s actually the most RAM-hungry RRO we’ve ever built.When we looked at engagement in Make It To Midnight we noted a huge gap in playtime based solely on the device’s available memory (Note: Available memory is a bit different than physical memory). Even on devices where the game is identical, devices with more available RAM were seeing twice as much playtime.This is because the crash rate climbed on devices with less available memory. Crashes are very bad for your engagement and retention! Even a small increase in crash rate can have a big effect on your room’s performance.
Q: So what are you doing about all the crashes?There are two ways to solve this. The easy(-ish) way is to reduce Make it to Midnight’s RAM usage by reducing texture fidelity, reducing object count, etc. This would mean that Make it to Midnight could engage better on devices with less RAM, but…Fixing it this way confers no gains to the UGC ecosystem.So instead, we’re going to do it (and have been doing it!) the hard way: by clawing back memory from the core Rec Room app. As we do that, this not only fixes the crash rate of Make it to Midnight, but it also gives all UGC rooms more RAM to play with. We’ve been spending a lot of time doing this and are slowly reducing the memory usage and average crash rate across all devices.
Q: I still crash sometimes, are you making any progress?Yes. We have a lot of people working on this. Optimization is hard work that gets harder over time. It’s easy to find the first bits of memory optimization, but as time goes on, it’s harder to find easy wins, and each win is incrementally smaller.Since the summer, we’ve been pouring more and more developer effort into driving these numbers down on all platforms. In that time we’ve cut our crash rate in half on iOS devices as seen in the chart below. That doesn’t just improve the experience on iOS, it means any device with lower RAM now runs better and more stable.
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Q: Why are you spending so much time on this?  The biggest reason is that we want creators to be more successful. We want you to be able to create to your heart’s content and have people be able to play your creations without obstruction. In our data, we see that the cost of a crash is monumental to your room’s engagement. If we can help you reduce crashes, you’ll generate more minutes of play in your rooms and net yourself more revenue, which is a win-win for you and for us. From what we see, this is by far the highest ROI work we can do.Also in our data, we see that our top creators can get more engagement with each incremental MB they get. That’s not to say rooms using more memory automatically outperform rooms that use less - some “RAM hog” rooms use a lot of memory because the creator did something wacky, and some low-memory rooms still perform well. However, we do see that skilled hands are able to weave engagement gold out of memory straw.When we project the wins that come from fewer crashes and more memory overhead, they look enormous for Creators. That’s why we’re spending so much time here. This won’t help you only 1-2% - it could lead to 100% or even more gains for many of you.