We have heard Project Sansar is being built first and primarily for content creators. For some of us that sounds like it is going to be for professional game designers. But, we are told the idea is to make 3D Virtual Reality available for the masses. That tells me professionals to amateurs should be able to use the Sansar platform for their creative work.
On the high end of game design we have Cry Engine, Unity, Unreal, and others. Those platforms are for professionals. Hobbyists can use them, but they have to be pretty tech savvy about game design. From what we have heard, it sounds like Linden Lab is not planning to compete with those platforms. At least not head to head.
Amazon has just announced they are releasing their own game platform. They are calling it Lumberyard. I wonder how much they paid their marketing people to come up with that name? However much, the name does convey the nature of the product, which they describe as:
Lumberyard – A game engine and development environment designed for professional developers. A blend of new and proven technologies from CryEngine, Double Helix, and AWS, Lumberyard simplifies and streamlines game development. As a game engine, it supports development of cloud-connected and standalone 3D games, with support for asset management, character creation, AI, physics, audio, and more. On the development side, the Lumberyard IDE allows you to design indoor and outdoor environments, starting from a blank canvas. You (I just promoted you to professional game developer) can take advantage of built-in content workflows and an asset pipeline, editing game assets in Photoshop, Maya, or 3ds Max for editing and bringing them in to the IDE afterward. You can program your game in the traditional way using C++ and Visual Studio (including access to theAWS SDK for C++) or you can use our Flow Graph tool and the cool new Cloud Canvas to create cloud-connected gameplay features using visual scripting.
Obviously they are targeting a market that will use Amazon cloud services. Plus they rely on other services provided by Amazon; Amazon GameLift, Twitch (recently purchased by Amazon for US$970 million), and Support Services.
It is interesting that Google was looking at purchasing Twitch. Mostly rumor. Word is the deal fell apart. Obviously. But, does this suggest Google is building a Virtual Reality world? Probably.
How much competition will Lumberyard be for Linden Lab’s Project Sansar? I suspect those that could most knowledgably say have an NDA sealing their mouths. So, I’ll go with speculation.
I think initially for professionals Lumberyard will be a viable choice. Lumberyard will allow programming in C++ and Visual Studio. So, far we have only heard the C# will be available in Sansar. There is a Visual Studio from Microsoft for C#, so on this level the differences are esoteric.
Maya and 3DS Max, Photoshop are mentioned as tools that will allow creation of importable content. Similar to Sansar. So, there are some similarities.
That Amazon points to a ‘visual scripting’ for making game play features, I think they are trying for a larger group than JUST professionals. Also, they have their IDE (Integrated Development Environment).
I think Sansar and Lumberyard will initially compete. As more of the simplified user interface comes online with Sansar I expect them to gather a wide collection of non-professional users.
If your game needs an economy, I don’t see much in Lumberyard that can help. They do have GameLift, a hosting service for your game. The cost is based in user minutes and in Amazon’s cloud they will handle scaling. So, if yours is a hit, your set. In Sansar we are promised lower land costs than in Second Life and we will have an economy we can tap into.
Of course a BIG question is: Does Lumberyard support VR?
Quoting from Lumberyard FAQ: Yes. We have been actively working on VR within Lumberyard for some time now, and it looks great. We are currently upgrading our Oculus VR support to Rift SDK 1.0, which was released by Oculus in late December. We wanted to finish upgrading to Rift SDK 1.0 before releasing the first public version of VR support within Lumberyard, which will be included in a future release soon.
It looks like 2016 will be the year of the VR race, at the least where users see the most of it. We will see competition for Sansar. How much competition these companies will be depends. Linden Lab has a lot of experience. So, while others are making mistakes and annoying users, the Lab will hopefully have foreseen, based on past experience, the problems and handled them. Meaning those users leaving other platforms will find a nicer environment and stay.
I can hope.