Amazon.com, Inc. has launched a new game engine, dubbed Lumberyard, which is completely free for download and can be used to create PC and console games. The new software, which the firm claims allows developers to build triple-A games for PCs, consoles, mobile devices and even VR platforms, is ‘deeply integrated’ with Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure (for online play), as well as with Twitch, the video-game focused streaming service acquired by Amazon in 2014.
According to Amazon, no royalty or subscription fee is involved with Lumberyard, which can be downloaded for free here. The firm will reportedly make money exclusively from the usage of AWS cloud computing. Also, if you use the engine for your game, you are allowed to roll your own server tech. However, if you plans to use a third-party provider, it has to be Amazon.
Beta version based on Crytek’s CryEngine
Lumberyard, currently in its beta version, is based on Crytek’s CryEngine, which allows you to build majestic worlds, realistic characters and ‘stunning real-time effects’. Mike Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games, states that the company got ‘ full, unencumbered access to the technology’ after it licensed the German studio’s engine. Future versions of Lumberyard are expected to be different as Amazon is already in the process of replacing or upgrading several of CryEngine’s systems.
Gamasutra reports that Amazon.Com, Inc.’s developers at the company’s game studios in Seattle and Irvine, California are working to improve the gaming engine, while another central Amazon tech team comprised of people with backgrounds in both AWS and game engine development are supervising the engine’s progress.
‘ We’re going our own direction here, and over time that will increase substantially,’ says Eric Schenk, general manager for Lumberyard.
Schenk added that ‘an entirely new asset pipeline and processor’ have already been added to the engine, along with the new Double Helix networking code, and a new component system and a particle editor are planned next. Further additions may also include CloudCanvas, which would enable developers to create server-based in-game events in AWS through visual scripting.
What AWS and Twitch Integration will mean
Amazon.Com, Inc. has stated that the new engine is aimed at making games social and wants developers to build innovative games that will have huge community support from the start. This is intended to avoid complications involved in building a custom engine or firefighting server issues later on. According to Frazzini, Lumberyard is targeted at ‘developers that are really interested in garnering large and vibrant communities of fans’ and who make successful games based on broadcasting, online and eSports scenes, and user-generated content.
To achieve this, the firm’s decision to include native AWS and Twitch integration is really the key thing that sets Lumberyard apart from competing engines.
Studios signing up on the engine will gain access to features that let them experiment around with character animation, camera frameworks, animation and particle editors, audio tools, weather effects and AI elements. They will be able to include Twitch features such as ChatPlay, in which style chat commands are supported at an engine level, and enable mod support directly from their editor. Through ChatPlay, developers will be able to implement real-time features that will allow viewers to vote on an in-game outcome, send gifts to their favorite streamers or raise a game’s difficulty based on a player’s viewer count. There is also JoinIn, which enables viewers to directly jump into online games alongside Twitch broadcasters as they stream.
The goal is ‘creating experiences that embrace the notion of a player, broadcaster, and viewer all joining together,’ says Frazzini, noting that ‘it’ll be some uncharted waters for sure, and there will be a lot of experimentation.’
Frazzini further reveals that Lumberyard is a result of several conversations that Amazon.com Inc. has had with game developers using its AWS services for years. Developers ‘wanted a powerful game engine that was inexpensive and deeply connected with AWS, and helped them build reach and audience. That’s what we tried to do: a free triple-A game engine that’s deeply integrated with AWS and Twitch, and offers full source,’ stated Frazzini.
Future for Lumberyard?
Currently, the beta version of Lumberyard does not have VR support such as the Oculus’ SDK. However, future versions are expected to include such a feature. Mobile support is also coming soon.
‘We just need a little time,. The engine is ready to rip for making high-production, commercially viable games,’ says Frazzini.
Quick improvements are expected in the engine, since it is being used by the firm to develop all of its internally created projects. Amazon.com Inc. said that it will make requests from external game developers its top priority, as well as improvements by its own game dev teams.
’ We hope to leverage customer requirements as well. We expect to get feedback from customers,’ opines Frazzini, adding that ‘we want to make sure we’re able to address them, and ultimately we look at this as Day One.’
Amazon has not had quite a smooth journey in building up its gaming resources for the recent past years. Its decision to provide resources needed to create games instead of being in direct competition with other developers marks a practical move that may propel it to the forefront of the gaming market in the coming years.