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I don't know how well this will work out in the long run or how much support Amazon will give it over the next couple of years, but they just launched a free game engine called Lumberyard. It's a fully featured engine with native C++ support, a built-in character creator, a built-in animator, and built-in network support so you can build just about any kind of game for nearly any kind of platform.

If this sounds too big and too great to be true, well... it is big, it is great and it is true. Shacknews spotted the news on Amazon's new Lumberyard website where they detail exactly what features the engine supports and how much control gamers will have working with assets, animating characters and objects, and integrating their experience seamlessly into new-wave media platforms such as Twitch. Amazon already has tool support for the Xbox One and PS4, and mobile support is coming soon. There's also GameLift integration for those who want to operate server-based games.

Now if you're thinking this is some kind of half-way put together game engine, think again. The tools in Lumberyard are extremely detailed. It has many of the necessary toolkits to build a full fledged game without requiring too many outside tools or resources. Animations, sounds, graphics, effects, and networking are all contained within the Lumberyard kit, which clocks in at a hefty 10GB.

Amazon even preemptively provided documentation for just about every aspect of their new game engine, so if you need help with any aspect of the design phase, they have a very impressive guide over on the Amazon web services page.

Lumberyard uses a number of its own propriety design tools, including a character rigging tool called Geppetto. If you're used to using 3DS Max or Blender, you should be right at home with the design tools in Lumberyard. In fact, it's possible to use plugins to import and export actors in and out of Geppetto. They don't mention if there is support for Mixamo, which has become a popular choice tool for making and rigging characters for use in the Unity 3D game engine.

One of the engine's promoted features is a Modular Gems system that is supposed to make sharing code and art assets easy within Lumberyard. Gems are accessed through a project configurator and are basically a code-equivalent rendition of the Unreal Engine 4's Blueprint system. To be completely honest, though, Gems are a lot more complex to use for first-time designers compared to the very user-friendly and easy-to-access Blueprint system in Epic's latest game engine rendition.

You can utilize the Gem system in Lumberyard to affect things like input management and control, lighting, multiplayer, and even a cloud canvas for maintaining assets and data management through the cloud such as Amazon's DynamoDB and Lambda systems.

The cloud canvas can also be used as a platform to build cloud-reliant call functions such as server-side combat and character data storage. These are essential features for building an MMO, a MOBA or a PvP focused online game such as Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex First Assault or other MOFPS and MOTPS titles.

I have no idea how well the Lumberyard will be adopted by the game design community at large, but there are a lot of tools and features present that budding or advanced designers might find interesting. Right now I haven't seen anything offered that you can't get done in the Unreal Engine 4 or Unity 5 with the same level of effectiveness or with a few plugins from the asset store. But we'll see how well Amazon adapts to the game design climate and whether or not they will support Lumberyard in the long run. You can learn more by visiting the official Amazon Lumberyard website.
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