The gaming industry has one less thing to worry about these days, and that is the choice of a game engine – there’s literally more than a dozen of them out there that have licenses, can be implemented and used even by relatively inexperienced developers, and some are free for personal use. When it comes to planning your game and working out implementations of things before you put down some serious cash for a proper license, there’s a lot of choice for the budding developer. Amazon, the global shopping and web services giant, has seen fit to jump into the fray and add in its own engine for building games. Called Lumberyard, Amazon hopes that it will attract game developers looking to make games cheaper, and to create a new audience of fans that can watch games being developed in real-time. It’s an odd proposition, but it may just pay off.
Lumberyard is a fork of Crytek’s CryEngine, which was already ridiculously capable, intelligent, and somewhat easy to pick up for new projects. Lumberyard ties in the custom engine with Amazon’s web services, which developers can use to host multiplayer and matchmaking services, giving them the same kind of scaling that currently benefits Microsoft and Sony, who have similar network implementations for their games and services. The service that provides this is called GameLift, and it can only be used with projects that are designed using Lumberyard. It’s not likely that this will be available to games developed using other engines, and Amazon’s Web Services product already gives developers a lot of control over what they want to do with that hardware.
Interestingly, Lumberyard incorporates Twitch streaming, which Amazon says, “will allow new interactions between streamer and audience, like allowing a streamer to issue invites for an audience member to join the current game or in-chat voting that impacts gameplay.” The idea isn’t new, as there are indie developers who stream to services like Youtube and Twitch while building their games, allowing people to see how it all comes together. Perhaps if this takes off, we might see reality TV shows by Amazon in which twelve developers are shoved into a house together for three months to work on a game (or not, it could end up in total disaster).
Lumberyard is free to use and download for your personal projects and learning how to make games, and the source code is available to anyone wanting to tinker with it. Should you want to publish your games, Amazon charges a service fee for integrating Lumberyard services, and GameLift will cost $1.50 per thousand daily active users, excluding other fees relating to Amazon Web Services that may apply. Lumberyard can be used for PC or console development, and support for mobile and virtual reality platforms is planned.
Amazon also seems to be still run by nerds with a sense of humour. Hidden in the terms and conditions of Lumberyard’s use, which you must accept, is this gem:
57.10 Acceptable Use; Safety-Critical Systems.Your use of the Lumberyard Materials must comply with the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.