March 2016 (Back to archive)
Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists
As Amazon continues its efforts to provide a fully vertically integrated game development solution, we spoke to Nate Wiger, Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists at Amazon, to find out what's new with Amazon Web Services, just in time for their developer day at GDC.
Give us a top-line overview of AWS products and services used by most game developers?
Nate Wiger, Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists: AWS offers a comprehensive suite of services used by game studios both large and small, including mobile companies such as Supercell and Glu Mobile, to console companies such as Naughty Dog and Nintendo.
Game developers are using EC2 to host low-latency, multiplayer game servers from dev/test up through production. For game assets, the combination of S3 plus our CloudFront CDN is hugely popular for distributing game downloads and patches, and S3 integrates with Amazon Glacier for long-term game archival storage. For asynchronous or turn-based games, Amazon Lambda lets you run code in the cloud without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume at millisecond resolution.
From a database perspective, we offer Relational Database Services such as MySQL and SQL Server, but increasingly game companies are selecting DynamoDB, our managed NoSQL database, due to its scalability and flexibility. For mobile games, Amazon Cognito makes it easy to save mobile user data, such as app preferences or game state, in the AWS Cloud without writing any backend code. Finally, we just released the Amazon Lumberyard game engine, and the AWS game server scaling service, GameLift, aimed specifically at the games industry. We go into deeper architectural descriptions of all our products and services and how they work together in our Developer Day sessions and at our booth on the expo hall floor at GDC.
Say I'm a smaller developer looking to integrate server tech into my first eSports title. How easy is it for me to get up and running quickly?
Wiger: Getting started with AWS is pretty easy. New AWS accounts receive 12 months of AWS Free Tier access. The AWS Free Tier is designed to enable you to get hands-on experience with AWS at no charge, and covers most all of the services we just mentioned. Launching a game backend is as easy as choosing an EC2 instance and then uploading your code, or, using Amazon Lambda to run serverless code snippets for you. With eSports, you can upload video replays to S3, index them in DynamoDB, and then distribute them to your audience worldwide using CloudFront.
AWS highlights its analytics software – how can developers start with Analytics and AWS?
Wiger: When it comes to game analytics, we offer Kinesis, which is a managed real-time streaming service that game companies are using to collect metrics from their games. Once analytics data is in Kinesis, it can be routed to Amazon Redshift, our fully-managed data warehouse, which makes it simple and cost-effective to run deep analysis on your players. We recently released Amazon QuickSight, a cloud-powered business intelligence service, which integrates with Redshift to enable you to build quick visualizations and graphs of your data. For mobile games, Amazon Mobile Analytics is a free service which can measure app usage and revenue, and can export this data into Redshift as well.
How can AWS help studios with game monetization?
Wiger: There are a variety of offerings we’re covering in our Developer Day sessions. Attendees will be hearing about Amazon Underground from the Appstore, where you can monetize 100% of your player base. Appstore also offers Amazon Coins for in-app purchases, that reward your game power users, and Amazon Merch, where you can set-up online retail for fan t-shirts with no up-front costs. Amazon handles making the product and fulfillment of the order. So fans go online, get their shirts, and the studio just collects the money and never deals with inventory and such. As mentioned, AWS offers a full suite of analytics services that enable you to gather real-time analytics from your game. You can then use these analytics to power data-driven game design, that allows you to tune your game and make the most of in-app purchases.
What do you want attendees to take away from your Developer Day at GDC?
Wiger: Amazon Game Studios, Lumberyard, Amazon Appstore and AWS all continue to innovate and deliver products and services meant to empower game developers. We are passionate about game developers and dedicated to enabling you to be successful. My hope is that when you come to our sessions and booth, you can see the ecosystem we’ve put together, and you’ll leave with some new ideas of how to leverage these services in your game. We’re a customer obsessed company, and hopefully you’ll see how embedded gaming is at Amazon.
Now that Amazon's Lumberyard engine has been revealed to the public, we decided to dig a little deeper into the integration of Amazon's other products, like AWS and Twitch, ahead of the company's developer day.
First, tell us why developers should shift their projects over to Lumberyard (or begin new ones there)? What makes it different?
J.C. Connors – Head of Product, Amazon Lumberyard: Choosing game technology is one of the most important choices a developer makes. Lumberyard is for developer customers who want to create games that inspire and engage with large communities of fans.
When we’ve talked to game developers over the years, they've consistently asked for tools that not only help them create amazing games, but also help their games connect players and fans. The Lumberyard team aspires to help game developers create the highest quality games, engage massive communities of fans, and connect their games to the vast compute and storage of the cloud.
Lumberyard has all of the components developers expect from a AAA game engine, such as a full-featured editor, native code performance, and stunning visuals. It also provides native integration to the AWS Cloud to make it easier to create live and multiplayer games, and native integration of Twitch features that can help developers connect their games to the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers.
Tell us about your business model, and how it differs from the rest.Conners: Lumberyard is free, including full source code. There are no seat fees, subscription fees, or requirements to share revenue when developers use Lumberyard to build their games. We make money when developers use AWS services, and many of today’s game developers are already using AWS to host games or features that rely on the vast compute and storage of the cloud. Using AWS is not required, so if a developer wants to build a free-standing single-player game, they could use Lumberyard entirely free.
Big question – how does Lumberyard integrate with Twitch and Amazon Web Services?Conners: Lumberyard provides three integrations into AWS. The first is integration with Amazon GameLift, so developers can easily deploy and operate session-based multiplayer games (e.g. FPS deathmatches, MOBAs, racing games, etc.) and scale server infrastructure based on player demand. Amazon GameLift dramatically reduces the time required to build a multiplayer backend from thousands of hours to just minutes by eliminating the need to write server backend infrastructure and client side code to coordinate with a game backend. All this comes out of the box with Lumberyard.
The second integration with AWS is Cloud Canvas, which enables engineers and technical designers with little to no backend experience to build live online game features, such as community news feeds, score sharing, and server-side combat resolution. With Cloud Canvas’ visual scripting interface, a game team can build connected game features that access AWS services, such as DynamoDB, Lambda, S3, Cognito, SNS, and SQS. In minutes, game designers can create features such as granting a daily gift or sending in-game notifications without having to write a single line of code.
Finally, Lumberyard is integrated with the AWS SDK for C++, so engineers can take advantage of the AWS Cloud, both to connect large communities of fans in online multiplayer experiences, as well as to go beyond a single device’s capabilities to create new game experiences. The AWS SDK for C++ helps reduce the complexity of backend coding by providing C++ APIs for dozens of AWS services.
Lumberyard also provides two Twitch integrations. Twitch ChatPlay helps developers build gameplay that interacts in real-time with Twitch viewers. For example, a developer could build a game where spectators can vote on game outcomes, gift power-ups to their favorite players, or change the level based on the number of viewers watching the broadcaster. Using Lumberyard’s Flow Graph visual scripting tool, non-technical game designers can easily create chat channel commands for their game. This means developers could build a multiplayer shooter where viewers can vote to destroy pieces of the arena by typing #earthquake in the Twitch chat channel, or build an entire game that is played by a live community, similar to the games seen on Twitch Plays. Additionally, the Twitch JoinIn feature within Lumberyard lets developers build multiplayer games that allow Twitch broadcasters to instantly invite fans to join them side-by-side in the game. Once invited, a fan can jump into the broadcaster’s game with a single click in the Twitch chat channel.
We’re just getting started with Lumberyard, and we’re working with our customers to continue to add new AWS, Twitch, and engine features.
What delivery platforms can Lumberyard currently push to, and what's in the works?
Conners: Lumberyard already supports PC and console games. We have mobile support for iOS and Android devices coming soon, along with VR support for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
For those who want to learn more about Lumberyard under the hood, what can we expect from your developer day?
Conners: Our GDC developer day on March 15 is going to dive into the Lumberyard technology in a number of areas. We will be providing a mix of practical deep dives into the tech, and a preview into our longer-term thinking. For those who want to learn more about our cloud connected features we are going to go into detail on both Cloud Canvas and Amazon GameLift. Our Cloud Canvas talk will provide an overview of Cloud Canvas visual scripting, and discuss in depth how to set up a game team to more easily build cloud-connected features with Cloud Canvas. In our Amazon GameLift talk, we will walk through the complete process of deploying a game into service, and demonstrate rapid scaling to meet demand. On the Twitch side, we are going to dive into building games for Twitch, covering what ChatPlay and JoinIn offers today, and where we think it could go in the future.
We are also going to show some of the other advances we are making in Lumberyard. We will be unveiling new graphics features that we are pretty excited about. You’ll have to wait to get the details on that. We’re also going to discuss the architectural direction we are taking the core of the Lumberyard engine runtime and how we are think about workflows with the new component entity system. We will also talk about improvements we are working toward.
ELEX is one of the newest exhibitors at GDC, but has been around in China for 8 years now, as one of the largest social game network operators in the country. We spoke with ELEX title Clash of Kings' game producer Peng Yue about ELEX, and its plants for the future.
Give us a quick overview of ELEX for attendees who may not be familiar.
Peng Yue, game producer of Clash of Kings: Beijing ELEX Technology Co., Ltd. was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Beijing, with branch offices, R&D, and customer service centers in St.Paul, Nanjing, and Hefei. ELEX is an influential game provider in the non-English speaking game and software markets of the world, having established a strategic partnership with leading internet companies such as Tencent. ELEX’s business covers more than 30 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin-America.
ELEX’s gaming business covers the field of social games, browser games and wireless games, primarily. As a leader in the Chinese gaming industry, ELEX not only focuses on providing high-quality services, but also commits itself to the continued development of gaming industry. In 2010, ELEX cooperated with Tencent and Innovation Works, and established a cloud computing research platform for games, called “Xing Cloud.”
To develop the highest quality products, provide the most localized service, and the world’s top games and internet content for players all over the world is the dream of ELEX. Everyone in ELEX upholds our “simple, practical, and efficient” vision to fight for this dream!
If developers are interested in distributing their games in China, what advice would you have for them?
Yue: You should cooperate with experienced large local publishers. Chinese players conume a lot of game content, so you really need to pay close attention to what they're doing.
Browser games are slowing in popularity in the US – how are they doing in China?
Yue: The fever of browser-based games in China is reducing as well.
Is there a future for Social Network Gaming? How do you see it?
Yue: Social still has a great future, which we feel has vast undeveloped potential. As the NO.1 social game developer in Asia, ELEX holds nearly 20 million users. The social games of ELEX such as “Happy Harvest,” “Happy Harvest 3,” and “City Life” not only have excellent performance on global platforms such as Facebook and Google, but also cover over 20 leading localized platforms in Latin America, Europe, and theAsian Pacific market.
What's the next big market after China? Where are you going next?
Yue: ELEX would like to be bigger louder, and more active in the American market. The American market is our next focus.