Amazon has recently launched two new game services, designed to be used by professional developers to create cloud-based, cross-platform games. The services include a Game Development Engine called Lumberyard, and scalable server back end called Amazon GameLift. Also, the new Twitch integration will allow such games to take advantage of Twitch Chatplay and Twitch Joinin.
The new game engine is free to download, and is currently available in Beta for the PC and consoles, with mobile and Virtual Reality platforms coming soon. The Amazon GameLift service has a small fee payable per player ($1.50 per 1,000 Daily Active Users) plus standard Amazon Web Services, or AWS, fees.
Mike Frazzini, Vice President of Amazon Games, commented:
Many of the world's most popular games are powered by AWS's technology infrastructure platform.
When we’ve talked to game developers, they've asked for a game engine with the power and capability of leading commercial engines, but that's significantly less expensive, and deeply integrated with AWS for the back-end and Twitch for the gamer community. We're excited to deliver that for our game developers today with the launch of Amazon Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift.
The game engine, Lumberyard, is a fully functional AAA game engine based on technologies from CryEngine, Double Helix, and AWS. The aim of Lumberyard is to streamline game development, with full support for asset management, character creation, AI, physics, audio among other things.
Regarding development, the Lumberyard IDE allows the creation of environments from a blank canvas. You can utilize third-party tools such as Photoshop, Maya or 3ds Max for editing, and then import them into IDE after. For programming, you can use C++ and Visual Studio, or you can use a new Flow Graph and Cloud Canvas to create features using visual scripting.
AWS have produced a great introductory video on the new service, which you can view below:
One of the most notable points in the video is how easy the game engine is to work with, and how quick development can happen. Ben Gabbard, development director at Gunfire Games, described the initial reactions they received:
When we're looking at the prototype and we started showing that to people [ ...] the comments were wow, we never thought you'd be so far ahead. We were able to build a pretty sophisticated multiplayer prototype in three months on the relatively small team. It was an amazing toolset that allowed us to do that.
In case you do not have time to view the video above, the screenshot of the prototype game they developed to showcase the new game engine is below:
As you can see from the following screenshot, the Lumberyard Editor visualizes clearly the game being developed, and shows some of the tools that can be used to create your game:
Not to be used for Safety-Critical Systems, except in the case of a Zombie Apocalypse
AWS have added some humor to the launch. If you check out Clause 57.10 of their Service Terms, you see that the software must not be used with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as air traffic, nuclear facilities, or military use. They do make one exception, though, and that is in the case of a Zombie Apocalypse:
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.
One of the major issues developers face when launching a cloud-based game is having the infrastructure in place that scales seamlessly. Previously, developers used to have to launch multiple dedicated servers that are time-consuming and expensive to set up and maintain. Furthermore, the difficulty in predicting traffic, when new servers could take a day or two to configure, can be difficult.
Amazon GameLift takes all the guesswork and worries out of managing infrastructure. Amazon GameLift is designed to scale based on the number of active sessions. You can upload a server image to one EC2 instance, and then spin up more instances when required. Instead of large dedicated server costs, you pay a small fee per user ($1.50 per 1000), and the usual EC2 On-Demand rates for the compute capacity, EBS storage and bandwidth.
Developers can also identify and monitor the instances for any issues using Amazon GameLift’s real-time reporting (see screenshot above). With Amazon GameLift and Amazon Lumberyard, developers can create multiplayer back-ends with less effort, technical risk, and time delays that often cause developers to cut multiplayer features from their games.
Josh Atkins, Vice President of Creative Development of 2K Games, commented:
Amazon has been a great partner and we are deeply excited about both Amazon Lumberyard and Amazon GameLift. The integration of a fantastic game engine with amazing cloud services presents a wonderful opportunity for both independent developers and established publishers.
Chris Jones, Chief Technology Officer, Obsidian Entertainment.
Developing and maintaining a back-end infrastructure for multiplayer games requires a lot of time, resources, and expertise that are beyond the reach of many developers. Amazon GameLift removes much of that burden from the developer, allowing them to focus their energy on bringing their great game ideas to life.
Amazon Lumberyard is integrated with Twitch (which Amazon purchased in August 2014 for $970 million) to enable developers to build gameplay features that engage directly with the more than 100 million monthly Twitch viewers.
There are two main features:
- ChatPlay — Developers can use a drag-and-drop interface to create gameplay features that allow Twitch viewers to use Twitch chat to impact the game directly. Such actions include controlling characters or vote on game outcomes.
- Joinin — This allows developers to invite Twitch viewers directly into the game via the chat.