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9. February 2016

 

Not every day that there is a new player in the AAA game space, but that’s exactly what just happened with the release of Lumberyard by Amazon.  Amazon has been getting more and more involved with gaming with the launch of their own game studio coupled with their purchased of Double Helix games back in 2014.  Their cloud computing solution, AWS (and more specifically EC2 and S3) have both proven incredibly popular with game developers, providing the networking back end for companies such as Rovio and Ubisoft.  Today however they just made a much bigger splash with the release of a complete game engine, Lumberyard.

Now Lumberyard isn’t actually a brand new engine, in fact it appears to be a mashup of a number of technologies including CryEngine, in house tools created by Double Helix Games and cloud services from AWS, specifically the new Amazon Gamelift service, which is described as:

Amazon GameLift, a managed service for deploying, operating, and scaling session-based multiplayer games, reduces the time required to build a multiplayer backend from thousands of hours to just minutes. Available for developers using Amazon Lumberyard, Amazon GameLift is built on AWS’s highly available cloud infrastructure and allows you to quickly scale high-performance game servers up and down to meet player demand – without any additional engineering effort or upfront costs.

Lumberyard will also feature Twitch integration, and perhaps most interestingly, launch with support, both in forum and tutorial form but also in a paid form, something that is often lacking.  Lumberyard tools only run on Windows 7,8 and 10, while the supported targets at launch are Windows, PS4 and Xbox One.  Of course a developer license is required to target either console.  About the technical bits of Lumberyard:

The Lumberyard development environment runs on your Windows PC or laptop. You’ll need a fast, quad-core processor, at least 8 GB of memory, 200 GB of free disk space, and a high-end video card with 2 GB or more of memory and Direct X 11 compatibility. You will also need Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 (or newer) and the Visual C++ Redistributables package for Visual Studio 2013.

The Lumberyard Zip file contains the binaries, templates, assets, and configuration files for the Lumberyard Editor. It also includes binaries and source code for the Lumberyard game engine. You can use the engine as-is, you can dig in to the source code for reference purposes, or you can customize it in order to further differentiate your game. The Zip file also contains the Lumberyard Launcher. This program makes sure that you have properly installed and configured Lumberyard and the third party runtimes, SDKs, tools, and plugins.

The Lumberyard Editor encapsulates the game under development and a suite of tools that you can use to edit the game’s assets.

The Lumberyard Editor includes a suite of editing tools (each of which could be the subject of an entire blog post) including an Asset Browser, a Layer Editor, a LOD Generator, a Texture Browser, a Material Editor, Geppetto (character and animation tools), a Mannequin Editor, Flow Graph (visual programming), an AI Debugger, a Track View Editor, an Audio Controls Editor, a Terrain Editor, a Terrain Texture Layers Editor, a Particle Editor, a Time of Day Editor, a Sun Trajectory Tool, a Composition Editor, a Database View, and a UI Editor. All of the editors (and much more) are accessible from one of the toolbars at the top.

In order to allow you to add functionality to your game in a selective, modular form, Lumberyard uses a code packaging system that we call Gems. You simply enable the desired Gems and they’ll be built and included in your finished game binary automatically. Lumberyard includes Gems for AWS access, Boids (for flocking behavior), clouds, game effects, access to GameLift, lightning, physics, rain, snow, tornadoes, user interfaces, multiplayer functions, and a collection of woodlands assets (for detailed, realistic forests).

Coding with Flow Graph and Cloud Canvas
Traditionally, logic for games was built by dedicated developers, often in C++ and with the usual turnaround time for an edit/compile/run cycle. While this option is still open to you if you use Lumberyard, you also have two other options: Lua and Flow Graph.

Flow Graph is a modern and approachable visual scripting system that allows you to implement complex game logic without writing or or modifying any code. You can use an extensive library of pre-built nodes to set up gameplay, control sounds, and manage effects.

Flow graphs are made from nodes and links; a single level can contain multiple graphs and they can all be active at the same time. Nodes represent game entities or actions. Links connect the output of one node to the input of another one. Inputs have a type (Boolean, Float, Int, String, Vector, and so forth). Output ports can be connected to an input port of any type; an automatic type conversion is performed (if possible).

There are over 30 distinct types of nodes, including a set (known as Cloud Canvas) that provide access to various AWS services. These include two nodes that provide access to Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS),  four nodes that provide access to Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), seven nodes that provide read/write access to Amazon DynamoDB, one to invoke an AWS Lambda function, and another to manage player credentials using Amazon Cognito. All of the games calls to AWS are made via an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user that you configure in to Cloud Canvas.

Finally we come to price.  Lumberyard is free*.  I say free* instead of free because of course there is a catch, but an incredibly fair one in my opinion.  If  you use Lumberyard you either have to host it on Amazon servers or on your own.  Basically you can’t use Lumberyard then host it on a competitor such as Azure or Rackspace.  Pricing is always a bit tricky when it comes to Amazon services, but unlike Google, they have never once screwed their user base (Google once jacked up prices by an order of magnitude, over night, forever souring me on their technology), so you are pretty safe in this regard.  More details on pricing:

Amazon GameLift is launching in the US East (Northern Virginia) and US West (Oregon) regions, and will be coming to other AWS regions as well. As part of AWS Free Usage tier, you can run a fleet comprised of one c3.large instance for up to 125 hours per month for a period of one year. After that, you pay the usual On-Demand rates for the EC2 instances that you use, plus a charge for 50 GB / month of EBS storage per instance, and $1.50 per month for every 1000 daily active users.

I intend to look closer at the Lumberyard game engine as soon as possible, so expect a preview, review or tutorial shortly.

GameDev News ,

19. January 2016

 

Crytek, makers of the CRYENGINE game engine, have just announced a new VR focused education initiative.  They will be partnering with select educational institutions giving full source code access as well as free hardware to encourage virtual reality development.

image

From the CryEngine blog:

The creators of CRYENGINE will provide full source code access for free and equip a new generation of talent to explore the power and potential of VR

Frankfurt am Main (Germany) January 19, 2016 – Seeking to nurture grassroots virtual reality development worldwide, Crytek today announced the launch of its new VR First program.

Under the initiative, Crytek will partner with academic institutions to provide state-of-the-art technology and facilities for students and researchers looking to explore the power and potential of VR.

Beneficiaries of the VR First program will not only enjoy full source code access to Crytek’s CRYENGINE development suite, but also free use of hardware from VR First affiliates.

VR First seeks to empower the development talent of tomorrow by ensuring academic institutions around the world are equipped to support their ambitions in this exciting new field. The initial VR First Lab opens its doors today at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University and will act as a pilot destination for the scheme. Crytek and the program’s affiliate hope to ensure every VR First lab facilitates users to play a key part in shaping the future of VR.

For more information on VR First, and details of how to become an affiliate or academic partner, please visit http://vrfirst.cryengine.com.

GameDev News

4. August 2013

 

I just received the following email:

Dear You,


We recently became aware of suspicious activity relating to some of Crytek’s websites, and acted quickly to take those websites offline for security reasons.
The sites listed below are currently offline:

  • Crytek.com
  • Mycryengine.com
  • Crydev.net
  • MyCrysis.com

 

The following Crytek sites remain online and are not affected by these issues:

  • GFACE.com
  • Crysis.com
  • Warface.com

 

If you have an account at crydev.net or mycrysis.com, you will be asked to change your password next time you log in. If you use your current password anywhere else online, we would also suggest that you reset it at those sites.
We are working on getting all websites fully operational again as soon as possible. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience.

The Crytek Team

 

If you visit any of those sites, you see:

image

 

Considering that you had to register to evaluate CryEngine, if you’ve looked at it, you are compromised.  You need to authenticate to use CryEngine, so I wonder if all the devs are now dead in the water?  What really annoys me about this announcement is they don’t tell you if the passwords were encrypted.  At this point in time, any website that compromises user information without encrypting it, should be liable for any damages that occur!  This is getting far too common.

News ,

14. November 2012

 

Ok… is it engine release day? 

 

Anyway, again the title says it all, CryEngine 3.4.3 was released today.  If you are un-aware, CryEngine is a 3D game engine like UDK or Unity, which is available for free to get started ( 20% royalty on shipped titles ).  In addition to the FarCry series of games, Mechwarrior Online is powered by CryEngine.  If nothing else, this engine is capable of creating extremely pretty games!

 

Top Features:

  • Dedicated Server
  • Revamped Launcher menu
  • Sandbox Welcome screen, link to docs & smart open
  • Terrain precision/smoothing improved
  • Many tweaks/fixes/cleanups to the Sandbox UI
  • SSAO improvements
  • Improved SSR
  • Terrain shadow casting support
  • Box projected cubemaps
  • Improved DX9 support for Environment Probes

 

Other than the briefest look, I haven’t looked all that closely at the CryEngine SDK.  Therefore I have no idea if this is a big release or not…  dedicated server sounds like a handy addition…

 

 

Anyway, you can read full details here.

 

You can download it here.

News ,

8. August 2012

I just finished publishing the GameFromScratch 3D Engine round-up.  This is a guide to the top game engines in use by game developers today, that are available to be licensed. There are a total of 20 engines on the list, and for each one it includes the platforms it runs on, the platforms it can target, the price, sample games, the books available if any, key websites ( generally the forum and wiki or documentation pages if available ), programming language supported and example games published with the engine.

 

I have a similar round-up in the works for 2D game engines, which I hope to publish shortly.  Additionally, I have already published a similar document for HTML5 game engines.  I made the horrific mistake of authoring the guide in Word ( what was I thinking!??! ), and as a result the fonts are a little wonky in Chrome.  Hopefully I can find and kill this annoying trait.

 

If I made any mistakes, or I missed a key engine, please let me know.  Hopefully you find the 3D engine round-up useful!

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