Lumberyard in 2016 – Looking Back, Looking Ahead
December is a busy month for teams at Amazon, and the Lumberyard group is no exception. There’s lots of bustle in our four offices as we wrap up features for the next release, look deep into the data from our last user test to see areas we can improve, review animatics for the GDC surprises we have in store, and leap into action when one of our customers gives us a call with an idea or an issue to solve. While our team will get some time off to relax and get caught up on the latest video game releases (Titanfall 2 and Planet Coaster are on my list), we’ve much to do before that happens.
As important as it is to look forward, it’s also important to look back. Lumberyard was launched into Beta on February 9 this year, and a lot has happened since:
February – Lumberyard 1.0 launched as a free, AAA game engine deeply integrated with AWS and Twitch… and the world got another tool to battle zombie outbreaks, thanks to our diligent (and creative) legal team.
March – Lumberyard 1.1 launched with 208 new improvements, new features, and fixes, including a preview of our new Component Entity system, designed to make it easier for engineers and content creators alike to create gameplay in Lumberyard. Mobile support for iOS and Android launched, along with integration with Allegorithmic’s Substance, and a new FBX importer. March was also the first time many of you got to meet our team in person, at the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Thousands of people traversed our booth, and we introduced you to Rin, in beautiful high-dynamic range:
April – Lumberyard 1.2 launched with over 218 improvements, new features, and fixes. We called this release a “kaizen” release – Japanese for “continuous improvement” – as we believe it’s important at times for our team to relentlessly improve what is already in the engine, based on our customer feedback. We’ve learned in our experience making games that many times it isn’t the big new feature that accelerates teams, but the nuts and bolts quality of life improvements – interface tweaks, performance increases, cutting a task down from five steps to three steps, etc.
June – Lumberyard 1.3 launched with over 130 improvements, and became one of the first game engines with support for HDR displays. This release also included modular VR support, so you can more easily build games for any of the dozens of VR devices that are launching in the next year. Our own artists were especially excited for the other features in this release, including volumetric fog, improved motion blur, height mapped ambient occlusion to bring out subtle details and depth cues in terrain, and more performant depth of field effects. We also improved iOS performance by 15% in this release.
July – Several of our team’s veterans stormed Siggraph, broadcasted live on Twitch, and talked about the future of Lumberyard. Hao Chen, who leads our graphics vision and has many, many Halo games on his resume, talked about the explosion of display complexity happening today and tomorrow. Eric Schenk talked about leading technology teams, from his days at Radical and EA-Frostbite and, now, here at Amazon. And Pat Wyatt, who was one of the leaders of Blizzard’s Battle.net and ArenaNet, talked about the importance of connectivity and community in today’s games.
August – Lumberyard 1.4 launched, with 230 improvements, new features, and fixes. Whereas the previous release made artists smile, this one was for gameplay engineers, with a new Lua editor and profiling tools to help them iterate more quickly on complex gameplay. This release also let you build more cost-efficient multiplayer games, as GameLift announced support for hosting more than one instance of your game’s server code, or one or more instances of multiple game servers, on a single EC2 instance.
September – Lumberyard 1.5 launched with 210 improvements and a brand new feature — the Lumberyard Asset Builder SDK, which lets you add custom asset types to Lumberyard’s Asset Processor, which itself automatically processes game assets behind the scenes as you work. This release also included support for OSVR and dozens of improvements to the Component Entity system based on the feedback we’ve been hearing from our customers.
TwitchCon 2016 blasted off this month, with over 41,000 attendees, and Amazon Game Studios revealed three new games, built on Lumberyard, including an in-depth look at Breakaway, a 4v4 team battle sport. Our networking and GameLift teams were excited to finally be able to talk about Breakaway, since it so heavily utilized GridMate, Lumberyard’s robust, flexible, and low-latency networking subsystem, as well as GameLift to automatically scale its multiplayer sessions on AWS. Breakaway also demonstrated Twitch Metastream, a new Lumberyard feature that lets Twitch streamers look like the pros, letting them deeply customize broadcasts of your game. Streamers can use any HTML tool to create and display dynamic real-time graphics based on the data you provide.
October – This month, the Lumberyard team opened a new location in Austin, Texas, one of the long-standing centers of gravity for great game development talent and innovation in community-driven games. Although it’s only been a handful of weeks since they joined, our Austin team is already moving fast. We have new staff members joining us not only in Austin before the end of the year, but at all of our locations (and if you’re interested in joining us, we’re still rapidly hiring for next year).
November – Lumberyard 1.6 launches, with 337 improvements, new features, and fixes, a new record for our team’s velocity. This release included Twitch Metastream, support for Linux dedicated servers, a suite of new components, new Cloud Canvas functionality that helps you choose between multiple deployments (e.g. test or release) of AWS resources when launching your game and to protect your live deployments against inadvertent modifications, and an 8.4GB reduction in our initial installation size.
Our team also spent several days game jamming with Lumberyard, to put the engine and new systems through their paces. Like most game jams, the end results were often hilarious, but full of learnings for the team, which will result in many quality-of-life improvements in the upcoming releases, especially around component entity, scripting, and slice workflows.
Now we’re well in December, and putting a bow on the features coming in Lumberyard Beta 1.7, which you will see early next year. This new release is our biggest one yet. We’re currently tracking over 400 improvements, new features, and fixes, which we believe reflects our growing team, the culmination of many months of development, and more and more customers like you giving us feedback. Beta 1.7 includes Visual Studio 2015 support, the ability to deploy Android builds directly from the Editor, dozens of improvements to Component Entity workflows, Cloud Canvas support for consoles, and lots more that we’ll tell you about next month.
When we started Lumberyard, we had tremendous conviction that a free AAA game engine, deeply integrated with the cloud and a massive community would help developers move faster and better engage players in the types of experiences fans are demanding today. Our vision is not to settle with the premise of creating a world-class engine alone – we aspire to help you create experiences that would otherwise be impossible to build today. While we’ve worked hard this year and had a lot of fun in the process, it is still day one for us, and we’re looking forward to delivering more improvements, more “cloud and crowd” features, and more big ideas next year.
If you have some great big ideas, or feedback for us, we’d love to hear from you. Happy holidays from the Lumberyard team.