By now we’ve all heard about Amazon Lumberyard, the free 3D game engine Amazon created based off CryEngine. Is it really as free as it insists? Do you want to use it? Is it hard for a beginner to grasp?
Lumberyard is in fact free and even includes the source code if you need a custom version of it. However, there’s a catch. If you use any of Amazon’s web services like their integration with twitch or any of their cloud-connected features, you have to pay for those. You can’t use other alternate web services either, at least not unless you own them. So, while a lot of the new stuff Amazon came out with for Lumberyard are great, you’ll likely have to pay for it when you publish unless you want to hard-code it yourself or make a single-player game. It also costs something else, a whole 10 gigs just to download the zip it comes in. Compare that to the Unity download assistant with its measly 654 kilobytes. It takes up a decent chunk of space for a zip file and takes forever to finish downloading.
Amazon also offers some free resources, including a woodland pack, beach city pack with a sample level, and a legacy game sample that shows you how you should be coding using Lumberyard’s legacy internal systems. The question is, will they have more resources? Will they ever match up to the resources and communities that Unity and Unreal have? Unity has the entire Asset Store and Unreal has the Marketplace, while Lumberyard has, well, nothing just yet. I imagine the community will be relatively small for the next couple of months at the least while people try out the engine and see what they can make with it. This means the resources will likely be sparse for awhile as well, which will making prototyping for your game a little bit harder or even making the game in general if you plan to use ready-made assets. You can make your own assets inside of the engine, however it lacks lightmapping (a feature often used for mobile game graphics) and is generally less mobile-dev friendly than Unity. However, it uses C++ (the language used in a majority of AAA titles) and Lua scripting, unlike Unity that uses C# and UnityScript.
So, my first conclusion is if you’re going to make a single-player game for PC and don’t mind making the assets yourself, Lumberyard might be good for you. However, if you want to make a mobile game, use Unity. If you want a multiplayer game, you’ll either have to code the networking yourself or pay for Amazon’s easy to use web services which don’t seem to have a solid price and could fluctuate greatly down the road should they decide to hike prices. However, the combination of C++ and Lua makes for some real complex coding potential.
Do you want to use it, though? Without a solid community and with it being so new, is it something you should be planning a game on? I wouldn’t recommend it at this point. I would wait for at least the first few updates to come out. There have already been a few complaints of bugs in the forums and the Amazon Game Studios team is bound to find more soon since they’re using the engine to make some games themselves. Don’t be afraid to try it out, though. Trying new engines is never a bad thing and maybe there’s something in Lumberyard that makes it better for your game than Unity or Unreal. Since it’s based off CryEngine, which is arguably one of the best-looking engines, you could create a majority of your game in Lumberyard, barring perhaps only music, story-boarding, and general planning. It has a host of visual editing features you could take advantage of.
Is it going to be hard for a beginning designer? I’m going to say yes. No matter how easy it may or may not be, without a decent community it’ll be hard. Unity is still the easiest 3D engine for beginners. Lumberyard is new and full of bugs and complicated code, making it not so beginner-friendly. I suggest learning C# with Unity and working in that first as a beginner before moving on to C++ and a heavy engine like Lumberyard. Your first few games shouldn’t require the amount of complexity that Lumberyard offers and beginners are much more vulnerable to feature creep, which you may have to pay with Lumberyard if you decide to publish your game.