Amazon Web Services is handing PC and console game developers new tools to encourage them to use its cloud services for their back-end server infrastructure.
It also hopes the game engine, Lumberyard, will boost use of the video streaming service Twitch, which it bought for almost US$1 billion in 2014.
Lumberyard is a cross-platform 3D game engine that developers can modify for use in their projects, with full access to the source code, for free.
There are some hidden bonuses in Lumberyard. Like Crytek's CryEngine, from which parts of it are derived, it runs on PCs, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with support for mobile platforms and VR systems "coming soon," according to AWS. The platform includes hooks for game developers to incorporate the Twitch video streaming platform in their games so that players can, with a few keystrokes, invite spectators to vote on their next course of action or even to take over the game's controls for a while.
The system also, AWS said, makes it easier for developers to use its cloud infrastructure to power functions like server-side combat resolution, useful in massively multiplayer games. Developers can draw on the full range of existing AWS services, including old classics such as Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
While AWS has already won over gaming giants like Rovio and Ubisoft to its cloud infrastructure, it's now adding a new cloud service, GameLift, to make it easier for smaller companies to rapidly scale up back-end infrastructure for session-based multiplayer games to match demand.
Lumberyard is free to use: AWS charges nothing for the code and takes no cut of revenue.
However, it's not what the Free Software Foundation would call free. Developers can modify the source code for their own use, and release the compiled code resulting from those changes as part of their games, but AWS won't let them redistribute the source code for their modifications.
There are plenty of other restrictions too, including one that says Lumberyard may only be used with either in-house server infrastructure, or AWS cloud services. No other third-party infrastructure may be used. AWS services consumed by Lumberyard projects are subject to the usual fees plus, for GameLift, a charge of $1.50 per 1,000 daily active players.
A beta version of Lumberyard is ready for download now, and GameLift services are accessible in AWS's US East and US West availability regions.