There should be no doubt that Amazon is serious about the game business. The company is unveiling three new PC games today that offer a lot of support for Twitch livestreaming.
The headliner game is Breakaway, where four players can challenge four others in an esports brawler that resembles a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). You control mythological creatures and legendary warriors — including the gladiator Spartacus, the sorceress Morgan Le Fay, and the warlord Vlad the Impaler — who fight for control of a ball and try to move it into a goal amid hand-to-hand combat.
“We call it a mythological sport brawler,” said Patrick Gilmore, the head of the Amazon Orange County studio, in an interview with GamesBeat. “The team set out to capture the hair-on-fire intensity of a brawler and the strategic depth of a brawler.”
The Seattle company unveiled the community-oriented games at an event at the TwitchCon livestreaming conference in San Diego, Calif. Breakaway is a showcase game for integrating Twitch livestreaming and spectating, and it’s also a showcase for Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine.
“Amazon is very much all-in on games,” Gilmore said. “It’s not a toe-in-the-water kind of company. We are investing deeply.”
In the game, your team tries to move a ball into a goal while the other team tries to move it into the opposing goal. At the start of each round, warriors can summon persistent “buildables” onto the playing field that dynamically alter the game. You can, for instance, place a bunch of spikes on the battleground. The game requires a lot of quick reaction time by players.
Buildables can besiege foes, shield teammates, or create new pathways through the arena. Players fight for dominance across fabled locations such as El Dorado, Atlantis, and Styx. They battle to control an object called the Relic, the center of Breakaway’s action — passing it to teammates, defending it from attackers, and smashing it into an opponent’s base to score.
“The buildables are one of the things that makes [Breakaway] watchable,” Gilmore said. “Those changes persist, and you can build up a fortress that really lasts throughout the game.”
Breakaway comes from Amazon Game Studios Orange County, which has 120 developers in Irvine, Calif. That team came from Amazon’s 2014 acquisition of Double Helix Games, the maker of the Killer Instinct titles, as well as another Orange County studio, Reflexive Entertainment. It’s worked on Breakaway for about two years so far. The team is using Amazon Lumberyard, the Crytek-based game engine that is used to create high-end games. The developers were inspired to build Breakaway after they spent a lot of time watching what was popular on Twitch, Gilmore said.
“We wanted it to be accessible to the largest community of players possible,” Gilmore said.
Breakaway also has four deep integrations with Twitch that make it easier to broadcast and spectate. That’s no surprise since Amazon bought Twitch for $970 million a couple years ago.
“Every game is about community,” said Gilmore. “Every game we make will be connected in some way.”
The gameplay is from a third-person perspective, so you can always see the contestants. And the focus on the single object, the Relic, makes it easier to follow as a spectator. It’s punch, intense, burst-action, sort of like a football game, Gilmore said.
“You’re never missing out on the action,” he said.
Breakaway is playable at TwitchCon. The company is showing off small parts of two other PC games, New World and Crucible.
Crucible is being built by Amazon’s Seattle studio. In the game, players battle to the last survivor on a hostile, alien world. Players choose and customize heroes, making alliances and betraying allies on their path to victory. An additional player heightens the drama by triggering events, livestreaming the battles, and interacting with viewers.
And New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that enables you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, cursed land. Players decide how to play, what to do, and whom they work with — or against– in an evolving world that transforms with seasons, weather, and time of day, Amazon said.
Players can band together to reclaim monster-haunted wilds and build thriving civilizations, or they can strike out alone, surviving in the face of supernatural terrors and murderous player bandits. New World has emergent gameplay and rich social features, including deep Twitch integration with broadcaster-led events, achievements, and rewards.
All three of the games use Lumberyard. Amazon has also been making mobile games, but it doesn’t have any to show at TwitchCon.
“There are a lot of synergies you get with Twitch on the PC,” Gilmore said. “It made sense for us to lead on the PC. That doesn’t mean we are stopping there. We think of ourselves as platform-agnostic. For the games we are focusing on now, it made sense to do them on the PC.”
Gilmore said many of the influencers on Twitch helped shape the Breakaway game in early consulting sessions. Amazon and Twitch plan to promote the games through the popular Twitch broadcasters. While Breakaway is esports-friendly, the company isn’t saying if it will be an esport just yet. That depends on whether it’s a hit or not.