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GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity and Amazon Lumberyard

| JANUARY 2017


In This Issue:

  • Unity - In this interview, Unity’s Clive Downie catches us up on what’s new for the engine-maker in 2017, and what’s next in VR development at GDC 2017.
  • Amazon Lumberyard - In this interview, Amazon's Hao Chen lends some insight on what to expect from Lumberyard in 2017 and lessons learned from 2016.
  • Amazon Lumberyard - In this interview, Amazon catches us up on almost a year of developers working with Lumberyard, and shares tips on integrating Twitch broadcasting and functionality in their games.

Clive DownieClive Downie
Chief Marketing Officer

In this interview, Unity’s Clive Downie catches us up on what’s new for the engine-maker in 2017, and what’s next in VR development at GDC 2017.


Q: Can you introduce yourself and your role and Unity?

My name is Clive Downie, I’m currently Chief Marketing Officer at Unity. Every day I’m listening to the community and working with teams from across the company to make sure we align and deliver towards the community’s needs through our products, services, and events. I also spend a lot of time meeting, connecting, and collaborating with Unity creators and partners, learning about the newest titles, their experiences and brainstorming how we can continue to make Unity the best possible platform for game and VR/AR development.

Q: What do you see as Unity’s next steps for defining itself as a go-to engine for game developers? Last year, we saw multiple engines get into the “Free engine” game, and I’m curious to how Unity sees itself continuing to differentiate itself down the line.

Simply, we won’t stop working. Graphics and stability continue to be a core area of focus, as you saw at Unite in November. Native support for Vulkan, Metal and DirectX is integral to maintaining the best tools for our mobile developers. Partnerships with companies like Otoy to accelerate the improvement of cinematics, is again, critical. But graphics are only one part of what it takes to make a successful game. We think Unity’s great advantage is, and will continue to be, the ecosystem. Unity’s highly extensible, and we provide the means to optimize revenue through ads, understand your players and better optimize design through analytics, and paths for global distribution. The size of our user base cannot be understated, another key benefit to users and the industry at large. The vibrant community provides support through forums, collaborates on docs, training tutorials -- there’s no shortage of answers and inspiration. And there’s much more to our services, from Unity Connect to Unity Certification. Bottom line, only Unity supports creators at every point in the development lifecycle.

Q: Have you begun any research at all into tools that allow Unity to work well for developers without strong programming skills? (I’ve been intrigued by some tool offerings from other developers)

Absolutely. A 2017 priority is ongoing research and work to make the engine and pipeline more friendly to artists and audiences beyond programmers. Programming skills should not be a barrier to creation. And while we’re not there yet, we’re taking steps. For example Timeline is a track-based sequencing tool that applies a “drag and drop” approach to choreograph animations, sounds, events, videos, and more, for creation of beautiful cut-scenes, procedural content, and in-game scripted moments. Unity’s also seen more adoption with filmmakers, and new tools, like the native 360 video support makes it easy to capture, import and render 360 video. Expect to see more from us here for in the months and years ahead.

Q: What impact do you feel Unity’s new kind of “job board” (where devs can post that they’re looking for devs with specific skillsets) will have on the overall game development industry?

You’re referring to Unity Connect, the first-of-its kind talent marketplace dedicated to Unity creators, game developers, and VR/AR developers. On Unity Connect, users can post and seek jobs, but they can also host a portfolio and increase discovery of their work, whether it be a game or object found on the Asset Store. Unity Connect sprang from natural behavior we saw in the forums and at events, and it’s clear there was a need, and in fact since beta opened in November we’ve seen thousands of developers and creators get involved. We think Unity Connect can serve as the linchpin between a booming industry and talented individuals. The recent inclusion of social validation through credit helps not only validate one's’ skillset but fosters natural connections that could be the first step toward matching with the perfect project. We’re already hearing about early successes, like students who leveragedclass projects to secure freelancing gigs and earn extra income while in school. This kind of democratizing of development and discovery has huge implications on the long term success of the industry, not only for today’s creators but for up and comers, the future of our industry.

Hao Chen
Technical Director

In this interview, Amazon's Hao Chen lends some insight on what to expect from Lumberyard in 2017 and lessons learned from 2016.


Q: Can you introduce yourself and your role at Amazon?

I am a technical director on Amazon Lumberyard, leading our graphics and VR technologies. I also drive research and development of disruptive ideas that combine world-class engine technology with the vast on-demand power of the AWS Cloud. I’m passionate about helping game developers create experiences of higher fidelity and scale than they could achieve today.

Q: It’s been almost a year since Amazon Lumberyard’s announcement---how’s that year gone for you all, and what have you learned from working with developers?

It was a great year, and we’ve come a long way since we launched in February 2016. We’ve been able to onboard and support lots of new developers, and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the incredibly ambitious projects they are building with Lumberyard. We’ve been relentlessly improving the engine, especially in key areas around performance, modularity, and its ability to quickly create world-class content. It’s rewarding to work closely with our customers and making meaningful differences to their games. At the same time, we are just getting started, and we have much still to do. We constantly hear that game developers can’t succeed by making fun, beautiful games alone -- they also need to reach new fans and connect them together. We constantly hear developers’ aspirations for greater scale, higher fidelity, and more connected multiplayer experiences. We love engaging with the community to ask how we can help, whether it’s building a new forward-looking feature, improving workflows, or helping them use AWS to scale their game across the globe.

Q: What are some of the major changes to Lumberyard we can expect at 2017?

Our team has grown a lot over the last year, and we continue to grow.  In 2017, you’ll see a steady stream of new features and refinements, including a new component entity system so you can build complex gameplay faster than ever, a new asset pipeline that lets you import and do live updates of game assets across target platforms in seconds, a new multi-threaded rendering architecture that takes full advantage of the latest technologies, an improved editor UX, new cloud integrations to help you dynamically change game data on the fly to better engage your players, and, of course, new integrations with Twitch to help you reach and engage that audience of 100+ million hardcore gamers.

Q: If devs want to swing by the Lumberyard booth on the show floor, what can they expect to find, and what kind of questions do you think they should ask?

We’d love developers to come by and ask how Lumberyard can help them bring their most ambitious creative projects to life. We’ve worked hard to deliver a highly-performant, AAA engine that delivers incredible visual fidelity, and pushes the envelope in client and cloud technology, while focusing intensely on developers’ needs. And we’re just getting started. We’re proud of our new demos, classroom sessions, and workstations set up for people to learn about Lumberyard, AWS, and Twitch, and can’t wait to share them with show attendees.

Jason BayJason Bay
Technical Manager

In this interview, Amazon catches us up on almost a year of developers working with Lumberyard, and shares tips on integrating Twitch broadcasting and functionality in their games.


Q: Could you please introduce yourself, your role at Amazon, and what developers can expect from Amazon’s dev day?

As a technical manager for Amazon Lumberyard, my most important job is to guide our overall product vision that puts the needs of the game developers first, regardless of whether they are a AAA developer with years of experience, or a small indie about to launch their first Kickstarter. Dev Day is an exciting event for us, because it's an opportunity to reach new developers who may be curious about Lumberyard, AWS, or Twitch, and also help existing customers become experts and discover new techniques for building high-quality games using the vast storage and compute of the cloud. We look to learn just as much from the community at Dev Day as they learn from us.

Q: Since Lumberyard was announced right before last year’s GDC, how can developers who are new to the engine expect to learn from developers already on it?

When you first pick up a new engine, your initial learning is all about the mechanical details – the interface, tool set, and so on. But once you master the basics, the real power for new and experienced developers alike is in understanding the higher-level aspirations that drive Lumberyard: How can I connect my fans with the cloud without hiring a big backend team? How can I build a great multiplayer experience that can scale to virtually any number of players? How can I design my game to be as fun to watch and stream as it is to play? How can I use the latest graphics features to create real-time visuals that approach the quality of modern cinema? Those are some of the questions we'll answer in the talks. Our goal is to build technology that helps you create experiences that would otherwise be impossible, or very difficult, for you to build today.

Q: Will developers be able to gain any advanced knowledge on integrating Twitch broadcasting into their games?

Absolutely. There are 1.7 million streamers on Twitch, and these fans are incredibly influential on the success of modern games. Streamers are megaphones that can reach tens of thousands of new players. One of our Dev Day talks will teach developers how to use Lumberyard’s new Metastream feature to empower streamers to deeply customize their broadcasts, with options like building graphical overlays that can react in real-time to game events. We’ll show you a case study of how our Breakaway game team leveraged Metastream when they launched last year. Lumberyard is deeply integrated with Twitch, and there are several additional integrations that developers can use to create innovative moments that engage fans. While we think our integrations are already powerful and flexible enough for developers to invent audience-building features that we haven't even imagined yet, we’re just getting started -- so bring some new ideas for us to brainstorm together.

Q: What advice would you give to developers to help prepare themselves for Amazon’s dev day at GDC?

Our Dev Day presenters are industry veterans with years of secrets to share, so we think our talks will be compelling even if you haven't tried Lumberyard yet. But to get the most out of the sessions, I'd recommend downloading Lumberyard and spending some time exploring the editor and tools, maybe going through a few of our new tutorials. Other than that, bring an open-minded sense of curiosity and exploration. We hope some of what you'll learn will challenge you to think bigger about the future of game development. We’re excited to find ways we can help you achieve some of those big ideas.


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