Recently I was asked why I had selected Amazon Lumberyard over Unity, Unreal or other 3D game engines.
There are several reasons I chose to go with Lumberyard.
I had been using/teaching Unity for years (I was one of the recipients of the Unity Education Grant in 2010). It is fairly easy to use and teach. However, it was expensive to use in the classroom (I realize that this isn’t an issue now that Unity is free for education). However, if one of my students (or I) am successful in making a popular game, there is a cost going forward. I’m okay with paying a little bit and supporting the makers of the engine that I use, so this was not a big issue but was still a consideration.
Yes, Unreal has been/is free for education. However, their royalty structure for a semi-successful game is a little frustrating and expensive. Again, I do not have a problem paying a little if my game is successful, but I generally avoid royalty structures (unless I’m the recipient :-).
Lumberyard is completely free. They make their money off of web services, which you have to pay for with any game engine. I was already using AWS, so when AWS was built into Lumberyard, this was an easy decision. I know, AWS plugins are now available for other engines as well, so this wasn’t the tipping point but it did contribute. Amazon has deeper pockets than other game engine makers. Amazon is making and publishing their own games with Lumberyard. Of course, if your game doesn’t use web services (i.e., it’s single player) it’s completely free.
Note: I expect a certain level of professionalism. I run a game design degree that is ranked in the top 20% internationally. I realize that I’m not at a big name university, but a cordial, polite response to my questions is expected no mater how big the organization.
Unity: As I said, I used Unity for over 7 years. The responsiveness of the company to my questions and attempts at interaction was.. let’s just leave it at disappointing. The only time I would get a response was on selling more licenses.
Unreal: I never received more than a form letter response from Unreal.
Lumberyard: This was the big difference. One of the big influences to shift to Lumberyard was how I was treated by the people at Amazon Lumberyard compared to other game engine companies. Amazon has built its reputation on being customer-centric. This philosophy was immediately apparent the first time I reached out to the support staff.
Soon after that initial email, I was speaking with engineers, developers, and even the head of one of the divisions at Amazon. Amazon even sent one of their people to spend the day at the University I teach to give a series of tech talks and game dev talks to my students. When compared to how other companies treat education, this was the deciding factor. I love Amazon’s customer-centric focus.
Access to Engine code
For most indie developers this isn’t a big factor. But if you have a HUGE project that you plan to span the next 20 years of your life (yes, I have project that I am working on that meets this criteria) then the availability of the engine code could be critical. What if the company goes out of business? What if they go left when you need to go right? While I do not have any interest in being in the ‘making game engines’ business, it could be an issue long term.
Unity: Can be purchased.
Unreal: Available for download with a very friendly EULA.
Lumberyard: Default scripting is Lua. Yep, Lua, the same language that we use for mobile game development with Corona SDK. Learning Curve: 0
All three engines also include a visual scripting tool to simplify it even more for the non-programmers.
Unity: This has been a weakness of Unity for years. While it has become significantly easier in the latest version, if I were to stay with Unity, I would still use the AWS Cloud plugin.
Unreal: This was the Unreal engines strength. They got networking right early on. You still need the background servers to host the game.
Lumberyard: Lumberyard includes Gems that make creating multiplayer/Internet games easy to integrate. In the latest version, it is advertised that one engineer can have the entire backend up and running in 30 minutes. Less experienced developers might take a little longer.
Learning & Resources:
Unity: This is where Unity shines. They have created some really great resources for helping people to learn Unity. Part of that was the early investment in education (the Unity Education Grant). The learning curve on Unity is about as easy as you can get with 3D game creation. Add in the Asset store, and Unity has done a great job that all engines should aspire.
Unreal: Unreal’s learning curve is pretty steep. The asset store now exists but isn’t as developed as Unity. Learning resources exist but again, not as developed as Unity.
Lumberyard: This is where Lumberyard has to play catch-up (and one of the reasons I’m writing a textbook). There are plans for asset stores (come on, it’s Amazon.. there will be asset stores) and the basic documentation is there, but the easy to follow for people new to 3D game dev is lacking.
Be sure to check out our new books on learning Amazon Lumberyard to make this a little less painful
This area is a toss up between the big three engines. Each implements VR slightly differently, but all have made it easy to do.
Unity: Is there a platform that Unity can’t publish to? This is an area of strength for Unity 3D. Publishing is easy and straight forward.
Unreal: Like Unity, Unreal can publish to just about everything.
Lumberyard is only short on being able to publish to HTML5. As long as you aren’t targeting a browser, this shouldn’t be an issue.
For the University game development program and my personal use, we are going 100% in on Lumberyard. The engine is better (IMHO) for game dev, the cost is perfect, and the company is large enough that I don’t have to worry about if it exists in the future. With the added bonus that I get the engine source code so that I can continue to tweak it if they do decide to stop development, I have a path forward.
Hope that helps! Please, let me know if you have any other questions or thoughts on the matter!
Dr. Brian Burton