Lumberyard is the name of Amazon’s new game engine, released on Tuesday, February 9th. Based on Crytek’s CryEngine, which Amazon licensed in 2015, Lumberyard will apparently be developed in its own direction, independently of CryEngine and is being provided as a free-to-download tool (with optional asset packs) which can be used to develop games for PCs and consoles on a “no seat fees, subscription fees, or requirements to share revenue” basis.
Instead, Amazon will monetise Lumberyard through the use of AWS cloud computing. If you use the game engine for your own game and opt to run it on your own server, then that’s it: no fees. But if you want to distribute through a third-party provider, you can only use Amazon’s services, via either GameLift, a managed service for deploying, operating, and scaling server-based on-line games using AWS at a cost of $1.50 per 1,000 daily active users.Or, if you prefer you can use AWS directly, at normal AWS service rates.
Lumberyard includes a customisable drag-and-drop UI (image: Amazon)
As well as AWS integration and the development of new low-latency networking code to support it, and native C++ access to its service, Lumberyard has deep, built-in support for Twitch (purchased by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million), including “Twitch play”-style chat commands and a function called JoinIn, which allows viewers to leap directly into on-line games alongside Twitch broadcasters as they stream. The aim here, according to Mike Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games, when talking to Gamasutra, is “creating experiences that embrace the notion of a player, broadcaster, and viewer all joining together.”
Described as a triple-A games development engine, Lumberyard has already seen many of the CryEngine systems upgraded or replaced, including the implementation of an entirely new asset pipeline and processor and low-latency networking code – hence why Lumberyard will diverge from CryEngine’s core development. And Amazon is promising more to come, including a new component system and particle editor and CloudCanvas, which will allow developers to set up server-based in-game events in AWS using visual scripting.
“Alien Abode” a game scene rendered in Lumberyard (:image: Amazon)
All of which adds-up to a very powerful games development environment – although Amazon are clear that right now, it is only in beta. This means that things are liable to undergo tweaking, etc., and that some capabilities – such as Oculus Rift support – haven’t been enabled for the current version of the engine.However, VR support is there, with Amazon noting:
We have been actively working on VR within Lumberyard for some time now, and it looks great. We are currently upgrading our Oculus VR support to Rift SDK 1.0, which was released by Oculus in late December. We wanted to finish upgrading to Rift SDK 1.0 before releasing the first public version of VR support within Lumberyard, which will be included in a future release soon.
Further, Amazon has already signed official tools deals with Microsoft and Sony, which means game developers licensed to develop games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can immediately start using Lumberyard to develop games for those platforms.
There are – for some – a few initial downsides to Lumberyard where independent game developers are concerned. At launch, the engine only supports models created in Maya and 3D Max, although this may change – Blender support is promised for the future, for example. There is also no support for Mac or Linux, although Amazon have indicated that these will be come, along with iOS and Android support.
Use of the engine includes the right to redistribute it and pieces of the development environment within games, and allows game developers to any companion products developed for a game using Lumberyard with allow end users to modify and create derivative works of that game.
The CryEngine SDK is one of the Asset Packs available for download for use with Lumberyard (image: Amazon)
As noted above, the company has already started supplying asset packs developers can include in their games, Three packs are available at launch, including the CryEngine GameSDK, which contains everything required for a first-person shooter game, including complex animated characters, vehicles and game AI, and which includes a sample level.
Amazon clearly have major plans for Lumberyard, and some in the gaming media are already wondering what it might do to the current development environment, which is largely dominated by the likes of Unity, Unreal Engine, or even CryEngine itself, but which all require either a license fee or a royalty fee.
Is Lumberyard competition for the Lab’s Project Sansar? The engine certainly has the ability to create immersive environments, and Lumberyard will support VR HMDs as it moves forward, as noted.
However, everything about Lumberyard points to it being pitched as a professional games development environment with a dedicated distribution service through Amazon’s cloud services available for use with it. Hence, again, why Twitch is deeply integrated into Lumberyard – Amazon appear to be a lot more interested in building an entire gaming ecosystem. Amazon’s marketing is also geared towards gaming, as their promotional video (below) shows.
Which is not to say that it couldn’t be attractive to markets outside of gaming. As such, it will be interesting to see over time just who does take an interest in it – and how Amazon might support them.
With thanks to John for the pointer to Amazon.