AWS for Games Blog

Now Available – New Particle Editor Features

Whether it’s adding atmosphere to environments or imbuing characters with special powers, particle effects help set the tone of your game. With the release of Lumberyard Beta 1.9, we’re excited to announce a slew of updates to the particle editor, introducing dozens of new features, a host of usability improvements, and new platform support — all intended to make creating visual effects quicker and easier. Let’s take a closer look.

Creativity meets efficiency
It takes time to bring a scene to life in a compelling and realistic way. Creating visual effects like fire, water, or smoke (or even using a particle system for motion graphics), can be a drawn out process. To help you work quicker, the particle editor includes a strength over lifetime curve on most attributes — both for emitter and particle lifetime. This feature helps you manipulate position, color, size, and other attributes in a simple, efficient way directly on the attribute itself. By combining animation over the particles lifetime with a curve also set on the emitter lifetime, you can achieve complex effects with a few simple steps.

Here’s an example of curves affecting particle size:

Another way Lumberyard 1.9 makes it easier to create complex effects is by integrating the particle system with the new component entity framework and EBus system. This integration provides a solution for adding per-entity-variety to particle effects at run-time, allowing you to set or script several attribute modifications to be event, time, or trigger based. The dynamic component attributes also provide the ability to set the influence of the strength curves shown above on a per entity basis.

We’ve also added a host of improvements to our GPU particles, bringing their feature support closer to that of CPU particles. One of these new GPU features is depth-based cubemap collision, which allows you to define an area around the emitter for particles to test against and achieve accurate view-independent collisions. Like CPU particle physics properties, these features can be tuned to interact with all or parts of your scene geometry. Lighting, wind, gravity and other rendering and physics systems are able to influence particles either globally or by local volumes, making your effects more believable and realistic.

New Emitters
We’re also excited to add five new emitter types to the particle effects system. When using these emitters on their own, or in combination with multiple emitter types, you can achieve very complex effects.

The new Point Emitter, for example, provides a spherical distribution emitter that you may be familiar with from other effects software. Whereas the Sphere and Circle Emitters provide less common features, letting you animate particles over relative axial coordinates.

You can animate streams of particles on standard XYZ coordinates with the Box Emitter, or confine them to a specified bounds on each axis. Additionally, the Beam Emitter can be used for more motion graphics type effects, as well as more organic beam results.

Create fast in a customizable environment
We’re always looking for new and creative ways to help artists move fast. To improve efficiency and iteration time, Lumberyard includes a dynamic library system that lets you work on several effects within the same environment — all without needing to reload particle effects or switch to another editor instance when working on a separate effect. Effect Libraries can contain many different particle systems categorized according to an artists needs. For example, a team might want to have all of the forest effects in a library named “Nature_Forest,” or libraries tailored to specific characters. In the library pane, you can interact with particle emitters by dynamically moving, parenting, grouping, and creating folders for organization in a hierarchy. In addition to displaying the attributes of selected emitters, this makes modifying any piece of an effect quick and efficient.

To maximize workflow efficiency, you can customize the Library, Attribute, and Preview panes in the particle editor. Attribute sections (such as movement, lighting, size, etc.) can each be docked and tabbed in the user interface and saved as a custom layout. In addition to customizing the interface, you can drag and drop a set of commonly used attributes into a unique custom attribute section and save for quick access. I always keep particle count, particle lifetime, color, size, and, speed in my custom attribute list. Since I’m constantly iterating on these five attributes, this helps me finish an effect and achieve the desired look with a base effect that’s fully optimized. Each layout or custom attribute pane can be shared across the team.

Samples and Testing Grounds
The Particle Technical Samples level is a great place to dive in and learn about these particle editor features. You can find it in the Lumberyard Samples project, which is the default project for any new install of Lumberyard. You can also check out our online tutorials to learn how to create a wide variety of stunning effects.

Here are a few samples you will find in this level:

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” – Albert Einstein
The particle editor is a great example of how customer feedback has shaped feature development at Lumberyard. To learn more about using these new features, you can read our online documentation and visit our tutorials. As you familiarize yourself with the particle editor, we’d love to see the effects you’ve created. Be sure to show off your creativity in our particle editor forums. If you have questions or issues, we always appreciate hearing from you on the forums as well.


Trent Campbell has been directing art and animation in PC and console games for nearly fifteen years, including franchises like Star Wars, Aliens, and Dungeon Siege. Having joined Amazon in 2012, he now is Product Manager for graphics in Lumberyard. Aside from being an animation and visual effects nut, he enjoys telling stories through fiction writing and filmmaking.