Amazon Lumberyard 1.15 Impressions

I wrote some notes down of my experience with getting Lumberyard Up and running. A game engine from Amazon.
William Teh Design
Picture from Amazon AWS Lumberyard 1.15
Picture from Amazon AWS Lumberyard 1.15

TL;DR below

  • Game engine is Beta.
  • Large install and download.
  • No Asset Store to start with
  • Has lots of promising tech from Cloud integrations.
  • UI is fairly easy to navigate.
  • Getting started video guide is good.
  • Not a beginner friendly like Unity3D.
  • Needs Professional DCC tools like maya and photoshop if you want to make high quality assets.
  • Overall I feel it has a lot of potential.

Lately I was thinking about getting into game development, so I downloaded Lumberyard 1.14 and just upgraded to version 1.15 (released on 27 July). A rather strange choice, instead of going with popular Unity or Unreal.

I remembered it announced in 2016 but I did not think much about it as I felt it was better to learn Unreal or Unity. I was not that into Twitch Streaming.

My interest regain this year after hearing about Breakaway being cancelled and I was trying to stream on twitch and was having aspirations to make a game like Ghost of a tale someday.

So I began again to re-look at my options for game engines and I heard about Lumberyard in another game engines reviews.

So far my experience with Lumberyard is from the perspective of an animator and hobbyist wanting to bring my animation characters and put them into a real time game engine.

What is Lumberyard?

One interesting aspect of Lumberyard is they want to tie their engine to cloud services like twitch and AWS. This is a platform ecosystem strategy amazon is pursuing. Based on some recent reviews I read that you do not need to pay for royalties or license fees using the game engine, just for the Web services. And based off all the popular games on Twitch now which are Fortnite (Which are powered by AWS servers) and Overwatch. Amazon wants more developers to uses these services.

Check out these 2 slides about the project Amazon is undertaking.

Nope (Negatives)

I am going to start off with some of the negatives I encountered with getting Lumberyard started.

Amazon Lumberyard Install

There were many complaints online about the installation is not as streamline this I agree. It is quite a huge download though Unreal is large as well about 20GB, Unity is much smaller 2GB. So with a slow internet connection it might deter some.

This video shows the install process for 2016 Version

Setup Assistant

Setup assistant could be better in facilitating the upgrade for the software similar to Unreal Engine, instead of using a separate installer download. It is mostly use to install software and get Lumberyard Configured.

Which can be confusion if you do not read the documentation or a first time user. But I do like that the setup assistant guide changes the install on the options one chooses. There is an express installation option to get you up and running but I did not try it.

DCC Tools Needed:

You need a DCC tool like Maya and Photoshop and Plugins for Asset Creation/Export. The Maya plugin was not working well and Photoshop plugin were not available (But these methods were based off the old cryengine workflow, is changing as Lumberyard not supports FBX Export so you can use Blender or Opensource Tools to make your 3d Models to export).

No Asset store

While not a big deal for me I feel others who may not have art tools or art knowledge feel this engine might hamper them to make anything. Of course there is some starter content included. This is already brought up in the forums. But I am not sure when it will be implemented. For now you will need to get assets from an online CG store or make them yourself for your levels.

Not enough Tutorials. (This is being corrected already with the new getting started video guide.) I do hope more can be done for tutorials like how to build an iOS game or multiplayer game level walkthroughs. Maybe I might do some once I am further along.

Not for beginners

I feel this is not a game engine for beginners. It has a steep learning curve. You are better starting off with Unity and learning general game making workflow concepts. It is not something you can quickly prototype and build a level. I feel you have to build lots of assets yourself or purchase models or work with Maya before you can get them into the engine. The build process (Where you publish the level) at the moment needs to be run through command line execution and visual studio.

Old Cryengine Systems

Some of the Legacy Cryengine systems may be taken out in the future, which is already happening in this release of 1.15. As they did mention they are going to replace a lot of the Cryengine components. This was a point of confusions for me (for version 1.14) to know whether to keep using it or wait for new features.

Converting the old Cryengine systems

No 2D Games option or template. Since it is based off Cryengine its much suited for a full 3D Project. There were attempts to hack a 2.5D type game but I feel Lumberyard is suited for 3D Game projects and Multiplayer.

You need quite good hardware to run. This game engine is based off CryEngine 3 which is a graphic powerhouse but I was running the software below spec and was still surprised that it still ran the starter demo pretty decently on the Low Graphic Settings.

Community is not as big as Unity or Unreal.

This might deter some from trying as there is not much exposure of the engine unlike Unity or Unreal. So finding someone working on a similar problem would be harder. You do need to know how to search in the documentation. For now its the forums.

Good Whoo Hoo!

Ok now on to the Good Stuff.

via GIPHY

A Good Getting  Started Guide

I love the getting started videos this gave a good tour of the features in the game and how a polished level is created. The series of tutorials were well done and well paced giving enough information on how to run the systems.

Good Free Demos and Characters Included

High Quality Rigs and characters available for download from their various demos, although this is for Maya only. I am an animator so I love to work with rigs and characters.

The demo levels included are very well made to show off features of the engine for you to study.

Good level Editor and Water shaders included. Not much setup needed. You can start building terrains and water quickly.

Animation Editor

Setting up a character looked easy with the new Animation Editor. Animation Graph looks interesting and it does help to streamline some of the work of animators getting your animations into the game

AWS and Cloud Gems

Amazon also wants you to move into using their cloud services (If you have a project that requires networking). Which is not a bad thing as they do plan to make this engine integrated into the cloud and Twitch. Cloud Gems is an interesting concept where you can enable certain AWS Services for your project.

Twitch Integrations

This has potential or not. It’s hard to get an app noticed what more a game? I am not sure how the twitch integrations will pan out but Twitch is already a big audience for esports and gaming (multiplayer). I think Lumberyard is uniquely position to harness these new community building tools and build new game experience around it.

While VR / AR requires a head display and I am not sure when it will take off, Twitch works right out of the mobile and desktop and tv defies meaning it’s widely available and accessible. So hopefully you can find an audience for the game on Twitch.

Speedtree for Lumberyard (Free for now)

SpeedTree 8 for Amazon Lumberyard

Speedtree 8 for free. If you need trees in Lumberyard SpeedTree has you covered. Amazon has provided a license for you to try and export trees directly to Lumberyard. And its for free.

Not CryEngine (besides graphics)

It’s not really cryengine but a fork of it. The older Cryengine were harder to use. Lots of the older systems are being changed with each release and with the new component systems it helps ease those from a Unity workflow easier into this engine.

UI of the Editor Seems Easy to use.

The UI of the Lumberyard Editor seems rather easy to navigate and is understandable. I was able to follow through along the tutorials and find the tools to make a level. There are some minor changes between 1.14 to 1.15 but I feel mostly its for tidying up. Some of the older features that have been removed are properly hidden.

Conclusion

Lumberyard Pirates
Lumberyard Pirates

Overall Lumberyard is a good engine, one good draw for indie is since there are no royalties or fees for single player games. You start paying for their web services used in your game as that is their core business and twitch integrations. Cost may vary for project to project.

However I feel that the lack of an Asset store may deter some. But lumberyard does expose you to a much longer and larger workflows, content pipeline used in studios and based off reading the documentation, you can see how the nuts and bolts of a larger game could be made.

Amazon may be looking for the next big multiplayer hit or MMO which is why they are putting a lot of their web services into the engine. Developers can leverage cloud computing for tasks and it’s going have more features. This is one area of my own interest to leverage Cloud Computing for computer graphics. Either way it’s a win for them even if you do not use Lumberyard you may need their AWS services which are integrated with other engines like Unity.

You may need to learn Maya and Photoshop / Substance Painter to build, animate and texture your assets and characters. But with FBX now integrated you can use blender or other tools as long as you can export to FBX.

This software is still BETA so it is going through various upgrades cycles and changes are ahead it does not feel like the old CryEngine.

If you are a novice I would recommend learning Unity workflows to make a project and bring those core concepts of making a game in Lumberyard. I wish Lumberyard made it easier to build something simple and publish quickly similar to Unity right now it’s a little difficult to understand how that works without reading the documentation, there is no 1-Click deploy options.

Forums are so far the best option to give feedback and get help for now. I do hope more learning resources will come from the community or amazon themselves but the basics are pretty much covered to understand how to work with the editor. Maybe more tutorials on building and delivering a full game project.

There is going to be more MacOS Support with the porting of the editor as mentions in their 2017 Blog Post (The Road Ahead). I am already seeing some of the changes in this release.

Other thoughts:

I do have a multiplayer game in mind but that will take time to develop. Currently I am  learning about Game Development in general and the engine. and the graphics 1st to make I have been trying to get into game development and understand how it works and have been searching a game engine to work with besides unity. of course there is the marketing and distribution aspects but having a game engine tied to the cloud may help automate and move stuff more quickly for an indie developer.

So far I have spent quite a bit of time in this engine and may want to continue on despite some of the hassles of setting it up.

Overall Lumberyard looks promising.

Links and Resources:

https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/IrinaZamogilnaya/20180709/321609/Amazon_Lumberyard_A_Scream_of_Anguish.php

http://www.stubayleyart.com/amazon-lumberyard/

https://techcrunch.com/2016/02/09/aws-announces-new-set-of-integrated-services-aimed-at-game-developers/

https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/30/amazon-shows-its-first-games-integrated-with-twitch/

https://venturebeat.com/2017/08/19/john-smedley-interview-amazon-wants-games-with-ridiculous-computation/

https://80.lv/articles/opinion-how-to-make-lumberyard-better/

https://gamedev.amazon.com/forums/articles/71168/lumberyard-beta-115-is-now-available-1.html

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