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Amazon rolls out Lumberyard, an entirely free game development engine

Amazon will make its money off multiplayer features and web services supporting games

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Amazon is getting into the games engine business with a free-to-download 3D engine called Lumberyard.

Lumberyard can be used to develop for PC and consoles, Amazon said in a news release. It's rolling out alongside a multiplayer service called GameLift.

Lumberyard is entirely free, Amazon says, including no requirement to share revenue. Amazon will make money off Amazon Web Services that developers use to build or support their games. GameLift has a $1.50 per 1,000 daily active user fee, in addition to standard fees for any other Amazon Web Services used.

Lumberyard is currently in beta. GameLift servers are on in two U.S. regions, Oregon and Northern Virginia, with more regions coming online soon.

Amazon is touting GameLift as a convenient means of including and deploying multiplayer features, noting that costs to support such components are often out of range for smaller developers. "With Amazon GameLift and Amazon Lumberyard, developers can create multiplayer back-ends with less effort, technical risk, and time delays that often cause developers to cut multiplayer features from their games," the company said in a statement.

Lumberyard also will be integrated with Twitch so that developers can take advantage of streaming features and a wide audiences they attract through that network. One such tool in Lumberyard, Twitch ChatPlay, allows developers to add a feature that allows viewers to use Twitch's chat to control the game, similar to the "Twitch Plays" craze that hit in early 2014.

Lumberyard also includes a Twitch JoinIn feature that allows broadcasters to invite audience members into their games, either cooperatively or competitively.

While other engines such as Unity 5 or Unreal Engine 4 are free to use, they have royalties or licensing fees if the project launches. Gamasutra has a long interview with Lumberyard's general manager, Eric Schenk, on the origins of this venture and Amazon's vision for it.