Lumberyard: What Happened to Amazon’s Gaming Dreams?

In the beginning (that is, early 2016), Amazon Lumberyard offered a lot of promise to game developers at all skill levels: By combining a lot of cross-platform game-development tooling with the storage and computation of AWS cloud, it seemed like an unbeatable proposition for game developers who didn’t want to stick with Unity or Unreal, the leading players in the game-development space. 

On top of everything else, Lumberyard was free, and offered a high degree of interoperability with Twitch, the popular website where audiences can watch people play through games. 

But a funny thing happened on Lumberyard’s pathway to dominance: It didn’t make that much of a market-share dent against Unreal or Unity, which have continued to build out their respective feature-sets (while behaving aggressively on the pricing front). In addition, Amazon Game Studios, Amazon’s game-development arm, has suffered from layoffs and a muddled production schedule.  

“Amazon Game Studios is reorganizing some of our teams to allow us to prioritize development of New WorldCrucible, and new unannounced projects we’re excited to reveal in the future,” read an Amazon announcement in June, soon after rumors of layoffs emerged. The company then tried to frame the reorganization as “the result of regular business planning cycles where we align resources to match evolving, long-range priorities.”

Undeterred by these issues, Amazon recently updated Lumberyard with even more features, including refactored (re: improved) cross-platform architecture, which seems like a hard stab at better adoption numbers. “We removed heavy reliance on cascading platform #ifdefs by reorganizing platform-specific code into a parallel directory hierarchy,” read the release notes. “This makes cross-platform feature development and maintenance easier and also significantly reduces the effort required to add new platforms to Lumberyard. (Note that public APIs were not changed as part of this refactor.)”

Other improvements include tweaks to Script Canvas visual scripting, the Emotion FX Animation Editor (“dynamically simulate physically-based secondary animation for your actors,” such as long hair or a backpack shifting whenever a character moves), and support for NVIDIA’s PhysX 4.1

Those improvements might speak to those who use Lumberyard, but whether they can sway game developers already committed to Unreal and Unity is an open question, especially given the low barriers to entry for both of those platforms. Despite the marketing muscle of Amazon and integration with AWS, Lumberyard has failed to become a major disruptor of the current game-development paradigm. What would it actually take to get game developers to give it a try? 

3 Responses to “Lumberyard: What Happened to Amazon’s Gaming Dreams?”

  1. Having used all three. I loved the concept of lumberyard, but the implementation and usage didn’t compare to the Unity or Unreal. Not to mention the availability of documentation, examples, or other learning material.

    If you have a development shop that is already invested with Unity or Unreal, there needs to be a significant benefit to make the switch. Personally, I didn’t see it.

    I’ll continue to follow the development though.

  2. they made a mistake buying an obsolete & notoriously hard to use & learn engine as their base code & to waste time & money to just overhaul that engine into something completely new & expect developers to hobble along with their projects while using it for their sake. Unreal & Unity have been developed in such a smart way that makes it easy to use & learn especially for artists compared to the hard headed & ego driven crytek in the last 20 or so years, so for amazon to think they can compete & produce an engine with that junk that would be much more preferable to use is delusional. All devs would rather pay for an engine that has a measure of guaranty that it will serve their project really well & support the success of their games rather than one that would jeopardize it even if it is free. I use the engine just because it is free & to test it out but that is all i can do with it because it is very time consuming & wasteful to use. You can’t develop a new engine in just 3 years & expect it be better than the 20 year old developed & battle tested Unreal & Unity game engines. Its just delusional on their part.

    • my2cents

      I entirely disagree. i have invested a Lot of time in unreal engine, and minimal time in unity. i found unity to fail on simple things such as adding something from its market. i have found unreal engine to be a hodgepodge of powerful tools with not rhyme or reason to their layout. unreal engines editor Ui is a drain on the eyes do to its monochrome nature. I have tried cryengine in the past, but it left much to be desired at that point. I have now invested a bit of time in Lumberyard and have found it to be exceptionally easy to learn as well as being exceptionally powerful. the only complaint i have is the initial setup can be non-intuitive. but the solution is the place a check mark next to allowing it to compile engine as well as game. if you do not do this, you are stuck with a log file that has essentially meaningless error messages. once you have jumped this initial hurdle, the engine opens up, and you see what a pleasent experience game development can be. you may run into issues if you are trying to do a bunch of custom things and are not a lua programmer. but i have found lua to be more logical than ue4 blueprints. the whole experience, to me, has seemed more open. instead of wondering why things are hidden 5 layers deep in ue4, or simply not an option in unity, lumberyard just works, and is intuitive. unless you have the type of mind that happens to work with the mess that is ue4, or the very peculiar way that unity does things (poor landscape preformance included) i highly suggest you at least sit through the getting started series for lumberyard. you will see how different it is when the dev environment is laid out properly, and not trying to keep people out through obfuscation.