Amazon launches Lumberyard, a free ‘triple-A’ cross-platform game engine
Amazon has announced its very own game engine called Lumberyard, and it’s going to make it available for free. The online retail giant has dabbled in gaming for a few years now – it even has its own internal gaming team in Amazon Game Studios – but Lumberyard marks the first time it is moving away from development and marketing and into the game engine market.
But while Lumberyard will cost nothing to download and use, Amazon will make money off the software’s integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Twitch, the video streaming platform it bought for close to US$1 billion in 2014. Developers can build their games for free, but will need to pay if they wish to add support for multiplayer or other connected services on Amazon’s servers.
Amazon also announced something called GameLift, a new service for deploying, operating, and scaling session-based multiplayer games through AWS. The company says that GameLift will allow developers to adapt their games according to server load by dynamically scaling servers up and down to meet player demand, all without any extra engineering effort or costs. GameLift will impose a small per-player fee to the tune of US$1.50 for every 1,000 daily active users, in addition to the standard AWS fees.
Furthermore, Lumberyard’s direct integration with Twitch allows developers to easily add features to make live streaming easier for gamers. This includes Twitch ChatPlay, which enables viewers to interact with the broadcaster through actions like the control of NPCs, and JoinIn, which lets broadcasters to invite their audience to join them in playing the game.
However, developers are still free to use their own private servers – the only catch is that they’re not allowed to use competing cloud services from rivals like Google or Microsoft. That isn’t too bad a deal, assuming that what Amazon is charging is reasonable. However, if Lumberyard churns out a big hit like League of Legends, which has 67 million monthly players, that would give Amazon a lot of leverage and control over the game’s success.
And even though Lumberyard is free to use, that doesn’t mean that it lacks the tools to create games that rival triple-A titles on the market today. The graphics engine is based on German developer Crytek’s CryEngine – the same engine that powers the notoriously graphics intensive Crysis series of games – and has all the advanced features needed to create the lush and detailed game environments that we’ve come to expect.
In Amazon’s words, Lumberyard will enable “near-photorealistic environments and stunning real-time effects” with support for physically-based shaders, dynamic global illumination, vegetation tools, and other features. Lumberyard also includes an exclusive, free version of Wwise LTX, Audiokinetic’s sound engine that has been used in many popular titles to date.
Lumberyard also has cross-platform support, which means that developers can use it to create games for Windows, Xbox One and PS4, with support for Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and even the Oculus Rift coming soon.
The software is already available for download in beta here for PC and console game developers.