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Amazon shifts Lumberyard to open source 3D game engine supported by 20 companies

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Amazon is contributing its Lumberyard game engine to open source, and it will be known as the Open 3D Engine.

The Linux Foundation will oversee the project and form the Open 3D Foundation to accelerate collaboration with game developers to enhance the triple-A game engine. This shift could bode well for future projects like an open metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, such as in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

Prominent game developers such as Denis Dyack and his Apocalypse Studios are participating in the project, which has more than 20 founding members including Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Huawei, Niantic, and Red Hat. The open source engine will enable developers to build royalty-free 3D games and simulations, giving the game and application companies some leverage against the commercial game engines from Unity Technologies and Epic Games.

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“This is the evolution of where engines need to be going as we’re getting into the meta space and into the cloud space,” Dyack said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It is a completely open source engine, where your goal is to have many people contribute to it and be a resource for the entire industry to use. They want to use it completely open and completely free. And it’s a watershed mark in the industry because nothing like this has ever happened before, at least in the video game industry.”

The Open 3D Foundation will support open source projects that advance capabilities related to 3D graphics, rendering, authoring, and development. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is contributing an updated version of the Amazon Lumberyard game engine as the Open 3D Engine (O3DE), under the permissive Apache 2.0 license.

“It means that they are allowed to do anything,” Dyack said. “You can download the code, look at the code, you can change it in any way you want, and use it in any way. Taking parts that you want, ignoring other parts, contributing back if you want to. The Open 3D Engine offers an alternative to what’s out there. You can have thousands of people contributing to this engine to make it better over time.”

Dyack himself had a dispute with Epic Games in 2007 over the use of the Unreal Engine, and it ended up in a lawsuit. Dyack’s then-firm Silicon Knights lost that case. But he noted this wasn’t a reason for backing the foundation. Dyack directed Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Too Human, and X-Men Destiny. He is director and chief creative officer on Deadhaus Sonata.

One of the big values of the open source engine is that it will have high-end rendering quality, as you can see from the images here. It can take imagery created with tools like Maya and combine them with everything else in a game and enable it to run on a variety of game machines. And it could probably be used for non-game applications too.

“We’ve seen that open source is probably one of the major engines for innovation,” said Chris Aniszczyk, the chief technology officer of the Linux Foundation. “Look at the Linux case. It started with one purpose. And people said, ‘I want to put it in a car. I want to put it in a phone, I want to be without any encumbrance around intellectual property concerns, no gatekeeping.’ When it comes to source code, it is freely available.”

Beyond Lumberyard

Above: N’Gaztak from Deadhaus Sonata in the Open 3D Engine.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

While Amazon originally licensed Lumberyard from Crytek, the maker of the CryEngine, the company has rewritten the code from scratch. Director of AWS game tech Eric Morales said in an interview with GamesBeat that it is unencumbered by any intellectual property rights. Aniszczyk also confirmed that the Open 3D Engine is clear of such encumbrances. It has built-in patent protection, Aniszczyk said.

Morales said it has a new front-end interface that makes it much easier to use for developers.

“The renderer is incredible,” Dyack said. “We’ve been contributing to the code. We’ve written some things as we developed in house and are working with the engineers at Lumberyard and now other groups coming on board with all the partners.”

Amazon will support Lumberyard and past customers who have deployed on it, Morales said.

“But Open 3D Engine is the new engine. That is the new direction. And that’s where all of our energy and focus is,” Morales said. “And that’s where our new features are coming. In addition to the new licensing scheme, we’re launching a new renderer, called the Atom Render photorealistic renderer, which is actually a cool and integral part of the engine that we spent a significant amount of time on.”

Amazon’s full support

Above: Archers in Amazon’s New World

Image Credit: Amazon

Asked if Amazon is sacrificing opportunities with the end of Lumberyard, Morales challenged that idea.

“AWS and Amazon have benefited from open source for a long time. That’s why we’ve contributed so aggressively to it over the years. It’s a savings account that pays interest. Our goal from the beginning was to give developers the ability to do whatever they wanted with it from a technical perspective. I think this next phase of Open 3D Engine is really just cleaning the slate from a licensing perspective and saying, ‘Just go build.'”

Morales said the game industry really needed a boost for open source.

“One of the key parts is that there weren’t a lot of open source options,” Morales said. “Amazon and AWS have been big supporters of open source philosophy. We’ve made a ton of contributions to kind of Linux.”

He noted that Amazon’s AWS has launched six open source projects on GitHub this year.

“It’s definitely ingrained in our culture,” he said. “This is part of our DNA. When we were looking at what we wanted to do next for our game tech strategy over the long term, it became increasingly obvious that this could result in exponential benefits to the community. It could help us create a community around a really powerful, triple-A quality open source 3D engine.”

And that could help Amazon attract more customers to its AWS service, which can host games in the cloud. The engine will launch first with a developer preview version.

“It’s a massive engineering effort,” Morales said. “The next phase over the next 12 to 18 months is to capture the imagination of our non-gaming industry.”

Cross-platform gaming

Above: Deadhaus Sonata uses the Open 3D Engine.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

Apocalypse Studios was using the Lumberyard engine, and Dyack’s team decided that the Open 3D Engine would be a really good direction to go, he said. It supports high graphical fidelity in the company’s Deadhaus Sonata, and it enables the company to build customizations on top of the engine that can enhance what the game can do.

“We’re still fairly small. It allows us to punch above our weight class,” Dyack said. “We’re doing things now with an extremely small team that I think is very competitive. If we can do it, I think any developer can do it, whether they be big or small. And whether they want to take parts of the Open 3D engine and incorporate it into their engines, or just use the engine wholesale. And I think that is something that’s never been possible before. And I think that is something that is a change for the industry.”

The game engine enables a game to run on whatever platform it is designed for. It takes all of the content and brings it together to run in real time so that players can experience it as intended. Tools like Maya can sit on top of the engine and enable better quality art. Apocalypse Studios is using the Open 3D Engine to render its game and take advantage of cloud computing.

“It’s best described as the pencil. You’re the artist. The easiest description is an engine is a very complicated pencil that you need to draw a picture and without that pencil, you can’t do it,” Dyack said. “The artistry is all in the creation.”

Dyack said the engine will be platform agnostic and run on mobile, PC, and consoles.

“Out of the gate, we’re supporting PC, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android,” Morales said. “It’s also going to be with some proprietary extensions. You’ll be able to deploy out to Xbox to PlayStation, to Oculus, and even some of the AR platforms like Magic Leap.”

The Nintendo Switch will be supported, too. Over time, it can add more platforms.

What open source means

Above: The throne room in Deadhaus Sonata.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Games

The Open 3D Engine will provide the support and infrastructure of an open source community through forums, code repositories, and developer events. A developer preview of O3DE is available on GitHub today. The advantage of open source is that many developers beyond those game engine programmers can work simultaneously on improving it. The challenge is that sometimes it can be complicated, hard to use, and difficult for innovations to be quickly incorporated into an open source project.

3D engines are used to create a range of virtual experiences, including games and simulations, by providing capabilities such as 3D rendering, content authoring tools, animation, physics systems, and asset processing. Many developers are seeking ways to build their intellectual property on top of an open source engine where the roadmap is highly visible, openly governed, and collaborative to the community as a whole.

More developers look to be able to create or augment their current technological foundations with highly collaborative solutions that can be used in any development environment. O3DE introduces a new ecosystem for developers and content creators to innovate, build, share, and distribute immersive 3D worlds that will inspire their users with rich experiences that bring the imaginations of their creators to life.

Open 3D Foundation support

Above: Denis Dyack is CEO of Apocalypse Studios.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

Major features of the Open 3D Engine include a new multi-threaded photorealistic renderer, an extensible 3D content editor, a data-driven character animation system, and a node-based visual scripting tool. Developers can build games and new engine features on top of O3DE’s component-based architecture, which enables components of the engine to be used together or independently. Developers will have the flexibility of authoring code with C++, LUA, and Python, while animators, technical artists, level designers, and other content creators can work directly with O3DE’s built-in authoring tools to create 3D experiences.

The Open 3D Foundation and Open 3D Engine Project will enable developers to collaborate on building games and simulations as well as the underlying engine. It includes a Governing Board focused on business and budget decisions and a Technical Steering Committee dedicated to technical strategy and community management.

The Project is organized into Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that include: Build/Dev Pipeline; Simulation Engine; Content Creation; Network & Cloud; Presentation; Documentation/Demo; Release; Security; and Testing. The O3DE community welcomes contributions from all cloud providers, gaming companies, and industries to advance the project.

Linux was not built in a day

Above: Deadhaus Sonata is an example of a game made with the Open 3D Engine.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

Morales said that Amazon believes that creating a first-class, community-driven, open source option will revolutionize real-time 3D development, as Linux did for operating systems and Apache did for the web.

“Linux started out as a very simple hobbyist operating system. And eventually, people just showed up and started to make improvements,” Aniszczyk said. “People came together to work on this basic infrastructure that we all depend on. I see this becoming like the Linux of 3D engines. It will serve the purpose where anyone could really improve it and use it without any worries.”

Aniszczyk at the Linux Foundation said it’s important for game and engine developers to influence the direction of a triple-A 3D engine for the long term with support from an open source community.

Founding members of the Open 3D Foundation include AccelByte, Adobe, Apocalypse Studios, Audiokinetic, AWS, Backtrace.io, Carbonated, Futurewei, Gamepoch, Genvid Technologies, Hadean, Here Technologies, Huawei, Intel, International Game Developers Association, KitBash3D, Kythera AI, Niantic, Open Robotics, PopcornFX, Red Hat, Rochester Institute of Technology, SideFX, Tafi, TLM Partners, and Wargaming.

These members are contributing funding and resources to the foundation as the initial governing members.

“This has been an intentional process for more than a year and we have made significant and specific decisions toward moving the engine to open source,” Morales said. “We are paying really close attention to the impact on users and developers and customers, the licensing terms, and that’s part of the reason why we went with Linux Foundation and Apache 2.0. Developers are in the clear. We’re really confident about this. We aren’t the only tech company coming out of the gate supporting this.”

The O3DE community, including the Linux Foundation, is hosting O3DECon on October 12th and invites the wider open source engine community to attend, contribute and learn more about the future of the foundation. Additionally, there will be an O3DE panel at the Game Developers Conference on July 22. All 20 companies offered supporting comments about the significance of the engine.

Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is support by more than 1,000 members and is the leader in collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware.

“It’s going to take some time to get there. Linux was not built in a day,” Aniszczyk said. “Microsoft Windows has been around for a long time as a great operating system. Eventually Linux took over the server market, and it’s just basically everywhere. Anyone can make contributions and partake in this kind of democracy model that exists in open source projects. Even Microsoft participates.”

Controlling your destiny

Above: The Legionnaire in Deadhaus Sonata.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

Dyack said it creates peace of mind for developers to control their own destiny.

“It’s completely royalty free,” Dyack said. “One of the key aspects is actually ownership of the code yourself. So you’re allowed to own it, it’s yours. You can do with it as you please. Being a developer for now over 30 years, if you using a engine, there was always in the background that concern of, ‘What if this company gets bought out by someone and they go in a different direction?’ As a developer, you’re kind of held hostage by that. This alleviates that problem.”

The engine is in its early-access stage now, but as others contribute to it, Dyack believed it will have many more features come in and it will become more stable as more parties can fix any bugs.

“You’ll see a very fast acceleration,” Dyack said.

The goal is to get to general availability by the end of the year, Morales said.

“We really genuinely want to build a community around us,” Morales said. “And that’s so much easier to do in open source. We want people to be emotionally involved in the future. We want it to be a creative first software product that people can use to make something beautiful, not just build an engine with a higher level of complexity. That’s our vision. And we’ve got a plan to get there. We’re looking at making these major updates on a frequent basis; we’re going to be very active and loud contributors to the project. And our hope is that some of the other partners that we’ve announced, like Niantic and Adobe, and some of the other folks are going to have who already had their hands on the software are going to contribute as well.”

The open metaverse?

Above: NGaztak in Deadhaus Sonata.

Image Credit: Apocalypse Studios

As for the open metaverse, it will likely require code from a lot of different companies.

“For the longest time in the video game industry, there has been a lot of emphasis on the value of source code and assets,” Dyack said. “And I think what this new shift is saying is it’s not about that. It’s not about the code. It’s less about the assets. It’s about the meta space of the community. All the source code that was so precious 30 years ago, where you would write your own every engine from scratch, or you would license an engine and pay royalties — I think the message is that has fundamentally shifted to this new paradigm.”

Amazon hasn’t come out and said it supports an open metaverse. But Morales was willing to interpret what this could mean for such an enterprise.

“Imagine a world where now I’m staring at the ceiling and thinking about hypotheticals right,” Morales said. “But wouldn’t it be really cool if we had two factor authentication? With our own kind of metaverse, avatars that existed? They could jump between metaverse, right? What if you could extend the concept of representation in the metaverse outside of just a single game experience? What if that could follow you into your work at an architecture studio or do rendering for a video that you’re creating? There are a bunch of different possibilities here.”

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