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10. August 2016

 

Amazon just released Lumberyard 1.4 Beta.  Lumberyard is Amazon’s fork of the CryEngine game engine, which is free to use, as long as you use Amazon’s cloud services (or host your own) for your game server.  I did a Hands On With Lumberyard video shortly after it was released if you want more details on Lumberyard.

 

The Lumberyard 1.4 Beta release focuses on making multiplayer games more cost effective and to improve team workflow when developing with the engine.decal_screenshot_01  All told there were over 230 improvements or fixes in this release, including:

 

  • News messages now shown in Lumberyard editor
  • New gem samples for environment special effects (rain, clouds, etc )
  • New Decal sample
  • New API enabling mannequin controller using Lua script
  • Automatically live reload skin files in Editor
  • Define Cloud Canvas resource manager resource groups using gems
  • New sample level illustration motion controller setup/scripting for VR
  • New preview mode in editor for previewing canvas at different resolutions
  • UI Canvas now support keyboard and gamepad operation
  • GridMate now supports encrypted connections
  • Amazon GameLift now tracks health of each server process.
  • Various Improvements
  • Various Fixes

 

More details are available in the release notes as well as on the Amazon GameDev blog .

GameDev News


29. June 2016

 

Lumberyard is Amazon’s new game engine based on a forked version of CryEngine.  I did a short hands-on video of Lumberyard shortly after it was released if you want more information.  Earlier this month Amazon announced the upcoming release of Lumberyard 1.3, announcing that it would have VR support among other features.  Well that release date is now here, at least in Beta form.  This release brings with it over 130 features, improvements and fixes including some serious graphicalvolumetric_fog enhancements.  The two major features of this release are HDR support and the aforementioned VR support (currently Oculus Rift and HTC Vive).  There were several other graphical updates to the engine, including:

  • Volumetric Fog: We increased the temporal stability of volumetric fog, reduced the presence of flickering artifacts, and improved fog’s overall performance.
  • Motion Blur: To give a higher degree of control over the motion blur effect, we added a weighting algorithm to improve the visual quality of silhouettes and added a shutter speed control like those you find in a real-world camera.
  • Height Mapped Ambient Occlusion: This new feature generates ambient occlusion per pixel from a terrain height map, which brings out subtle details and depth cues in terrain that would have been previously unseen.
  • Depth of Field: We implemented a new depth of field technique that reduces edge-bleeding artifacts and utilizes fewer GPU resources.
  • Emittance: We have replaced glow with a physical-based model of emittance. This allows you to model glowing objects as proper citizens of a physically accurate world of lighting and materials. We have changed lighting calculations to properly account for emittance, and we provided a way to automatically convert older content to use the new emittance property.

On the mobile graphics side, we have improved iOS rendering performance by an average of 15%, which is a significant jump considering our mobile renderer is already leveraging Metal and GMEM to maximize performance. We also added adaptive and scalable texture compression (ATSC), which is useful for managing bandwidth, memory footprint, and power, all of which are important for low-power, mobile devices.

Finally, if you are a graphics programmer like me, then you are just as concerned about profiling and performance as pretty pixels. So one last thing I want to highlight is the integrated graphics profiler. You can now display all sorts of mission-critical performance stats in real-time, including detailed CPU and GPU timings per frame, per pipeline stage, per sub-system. You will also find many useful graphics counters like to draw call counts, shader counts, triangle, and vertices count. These run-time stats nicely complement capture-based analysis tools like RenderDoc and Lumberyard’s Driller logging system.

You can read the announcement blog here while the more detailed release notes are available here.

GameDev News


6. June 2016

 

In a recent blog post the Amazon developer team discussed the upcoming support for VR devices in Lumberyard 1.3.  This support comes in two forms, supporting actual VR devices in your game and using VR to develop your game.  Both are being provided in the form of “Gems”, which is basically Amazon’s way of saying plugin.  To add support for a new VR device, you create a gem that implements the IHMDDevice interface, acting as a bridge between Lumberyard and the device’s SDK.

Utilizing Gems, small chunks of code can be created that interact with the engine but don’t require editing the engine code itself. This means that developers can add support for any VR device without having to delve into the engine source. As long as a new VR device conforms to the public interfaces that Lumberyard has defined, the engine will automatically use it. Developers can create their own integrations for additional devices without having to wait for an official Lumberyard update, as they would in other engines. With so many new VR devices coming out soon, we wanted to provide a way for customers to make their own support decisions. Additionally, developers can easily override existing device support to add any experimental features that may be important for their gameplay. Below is a high-level diagram of the way this works inside the engine.

The HMDManager contains an IHMDDevice, which is then implemented by a device-specific Gem. The manager takes care of device initialization and device-abstracted head-mounted display (HMDs) interaction with the rest of the system. On the rendering side, Lumberyard’s stereo renderer makes use of the D3DHMDRender object, which takes care of creating graphics-API-specific render targets, social screen rendering, and frame submission to the VR device. To add support for any new VR devices, you simply wrap the vendor-specific SDK in a Gem as defined by IHMDDevice. That’s it! There’s no need to edit Lumberyard’s underlying HMD code, which is represented by the Lumberyard Engine section of the diagram.

On engine startup, the selected HMDs are scanned for connectivity and selected for use. If you want to support both the Rift and the Vive, for example, simply go into the Project Configurator, enable both Gems, and the engine will pick which one to use at runtime based on which device is plugged in.

 

They also go on to describe the new VR developer functionality that will be part of Lumberyard 1.3:

Developing in VR

Game developers need to be able to see what they’re doing in the editor at all times. Without a way to see VR in the editor, developers would have to export a level, load it into the launcher, enable VR, and take a look around. This is obviously inefficient. The Lumberyard Beta 1.3 editor will have full VR Preview support built in. VR Preview utilizes the same Gems system as the engine runtime, and it works in a similar fashion. We’ve added the “VR Preview” button to the editor, which you can click to see in VR right away. This allows developers to make VR-specific adjustments to their level designs right in the editor, which reduces iteration time. Flow Graph nodes are an important part of developing in Lumberyard, but they can only be debugged in the editor. With VR Preview, users can debug their VR Flow Graph nodes and see what they’re doing.

The cool part of their implementation is there is no performance penalty for enabling VR if VR functionality isn’t used, making this functionality “free” from a processing perspective.

 

So, what devices are supported?  Well until 1.3 ships the answer is unknown.  They address it with this comment:

Rift and HTC Vive support were top requests (our demo was presented on the Rift), but many developers were just as interested in other devices, like the Samsung GearVR, PSVR, and OSVR.

But never actually state what gems will ship with the 1.3 release, meaning it might be left to developers to implement the various VR headset SDKs. 

GameDev News


24. May 2016

 

CryEngine recently moved to a pay what you want price structure with the release of CryEngine 5.  Then with the release of CryEngine 5.1 a few weeks back, they had this to say:

Git is a very widely used version control system that allows users to instantaneously access any revision of a file that has ever existed in their repository. This makes comparing revisions of a file and tracking changes over time very convenient, particularly as each time a set of changes is committed to the repository, a description of the change can be added. EDIT: We are finishing up the last details and users will get access to Git very soon.

 

Well that “very soon” is today.  The CryEngine source code is now available on Github.  The console (Xbox1/PS4) specific bits still require a proof of appropriate license to access, but otherwise everything is here.

image

 

Keep in mind though, this isn’t a typical open source release and is governed by a proprietary license.  Read well before using!

GameDev News


13. May 2016

 

Amazon just added Substance Integration to their Lumberyard game engine in the form of an extension.  Lumberyard is Amazon’s fork of CryEngine released several months ago.  You can see Lumberyard in action in this video.  Substance is a pair of products from Allegrothimic composed of Substance Designer and Substance Painter.  They enable you to recreate real world materials for physically based rendering (PBR) and is proving extremely popular among texture artists.  Substance Painter was featured in our GameDev Toolbox series earlier if you want more details.

 

Amazon announced the new extension on their blog:

To enable the Lumberyard Substance Editor tool, go to your Project Settings inside the Project Configurator and select “Enable Packages” on the top right. This will let you enable the Substance extension for your project.

Working with .sbsar files within the Lumberyard Substance Editor grants many advantages over standard workflows. Ceramic tile textures, for example, could have sliders for adjusting the size of tiles, how they’re arranged together, and how they’re lined up. In the editor, you can make changes to these variables and see the results update in real time. To do this, use the editor to import your .sbsar file, which will then generate a .smtl (our file format for Lumberyard Substance materials) and .sub files (Substance textures). When selecting your .sbsar file, you’ll see your Substance file’s exposed settings as well as all the textures that can be generated from it.

From the Lumberyard Substance Editor, you can also change parameters at run-time using Lumberyard’s Flow Graph. As you configure a texture applied to an object in your game world, Lumberyard will show you real-time previews of the end result, both from the editor window and on the actual object. Substance works within Lumberyard as a project extension, which includes the ability to use the Substance API, the Lumberyard Substance Editor plugin, and Flow Graph nodes.

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