Amazon Providing Free Game Development Tools to Designers

Amazon has just added GameLift and Lumberyard to their Amazon Web Services platform. These, alongside Twitch integration, combine to form a surprisingly robust toolset for aspiring independent game developers.

Lumberyard leverages the known power of CryEngine, but evades the game engine’s notorious lack of usability and documentation through an expansive set of editing tools that even inexperienced programmers should be able to handle. It has built-in editors for everything from textures to audio and animation. In the introductory video, indie developer Gunfire Games praises the “amazing toolset” and credits it with allowing them to develop a “pretty sophisticated protoype, in three months, with a relatively small team.”

Even individual features of the overall Lumberyard package are impressive. Gepetto “combines animation, attachments, and physics simulations with blendshape, blendspace, and animation layering” with Mannequin‘s ability to set all of those assets in motion. Each tool, on its own, would represent a pretty major content offering. That they are merely two limbs of a much larger project is no less than stunning.

What’s more, all of these tools are free. Amazon seems to have realized that the indie scene is primarily populated by the financially challenged, so everything in Lumberyard is provided without dropping a single penny into the online megacorp’s pockets. Unless you’re using their servers or cloud integration, the budget for your game will be no more than your time and a supply of microwave burritos. In fact, unlike both Unity and Unreal, you won’t pay any royalties on products created with it. It’s unprecedented, to say the least.

Have an idea that you want to quickly demo? The Modular Gems system has a bunch of pre-built features that you can build from to demonstrate your concept on that very probable Kickstarter. Not sure how a tweak to your game will work out when it goes live? You can wait for a new build to compile, or you can just turn to the built-in real-time gameplay editor. And if something isn’t just the way you want it, Lumberyard’s entire source code is available for you to modify to your heart’s content.

So what’s the catch? Well, as far as we can tell, there isn’t one. While Amazon Web Services’ multiplayer GameLift and its other array of supportive features do have associated costs, developing on Lumberyard seems to genuinely function as the revolution it purports itself to be. Yet aside from Gunfire’s glowing endorsement, we’ve yet to see whether other developers will take to the new platform. Be sure that we’ll be looking further into this and reaching out to both Lumberyard’s creators and the teams that shift development onto the platform.

Amazon wants the future Shigeru Miyamotos of the world to understand that the platform is intended for games. In the terms of service, they specify that Lumberyard is “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.” Sorry, North Korea. You’ll have to stick to Photoshop.

There’s one key exception, however:

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.

So in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, knock yourself out. If you need to make sure your game is completed while humanity consumes itself, all bets are off.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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