Many kids grow up dreaming of making video games. For Luis Sempé, those dreams became a reality at an early age. After he had scaled the industry ladder and helped make some of the world’s most popular games, Luis wanted a new challenge. He found it by shifting from game development to the formation – and recreation – of a groundbreaking game engine. We spoke with Luis, software development manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and chair of O3DE SIG Content, to learn more about his love of games, his work with Open 3D Engine (O3DE), and his collaboration with the open source community.
It’s nice to meet you, Luis. Can you tell us when and how you got into game development?
Yes, of course. I actually started making games when I was 14 years old.
I loved video games as a kid and had played around with coding a bit. One day I realized games are just code and thought to myself, “I can do this!”
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of my career. I went on to work for some big companies, like Electronic Arts (EA) and Eidos, and have been lucky enough to help create some really cool games.
I worked on Medal of Honor: Airborne and Army of Two, which were big ‘AAA’ titles. I’m probably proudest of the two Deus Ex games I helped develop: Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. Those were great experiences, and the games turned out really well.
Do you still play games in your free time, and if so, which are your favorites?
Oh yeah, I still play. I don’t really have a favorite game or genre, but I lean toward titles with heavy storytelling.
I like Skyrim and The Witcher, and Fallout: Vegas is lots of fun. I recently played Red Dead Redemption 2, which was fantastic. And there are some really cool indie games.
How did you make the transition from developing ‘AAA’ games to building a 3D game engine?
After working on the second Deus Ex title, I wanted a new challenge and reached out to some friends and former colleagues. I heard about a secret project, which turned out to be Lumberyard, and I was one of the first to join the team. It gave me a chance to move back to California and work on something new.
What was your reaction when you heard the engine would be completely rebuilt and open sourced?
I was excited by the news! I hadn’t done much in open source, but I immediately thought of Blender, which started small, grew over time, and turned into something special. I think O3DE has the same potential. Open source creates opportunities for more innovation and participation. In the past, if you wanted to work on a game or be involved in the industry, you had to work for a game developer or publisher, and there are only so many of them. With open source, anyone can get involved.
How are things progressing with O3DE?
Really well. I’ll be honest, the migration was challenging. It was a big transition, there was a steep learning curve, and it’s a completely new way of operating.
There used to be a lot of hurdles and constraints – complicated workflows, drawn-out processes, too much red tape. But now I feel free. It’s so easy to submit, review, and deploy new code. There’s greater velocity, and it’s been super fun.
What are some of the things you’ve been working on?
I’ve been working with my colleague Gavin Monroe – need to give him credit because he’s been doing a ton – to assemble and manage the special interest group (SIG) focused on content, aptly named SIG Content.
We’re creating tools and workflows that simplify and accelerate content creation. A key piece of that is a visual scripting tool that makes it easy to prototype different elements within O3DE. It’s very intuitive and there’s no coding, so you get to focus on the fun aspects of game development instead of the tedious, technical stuff. And it can be used across disciplines – from writing to animation to audio design – which boosts collaboration and speed.
Have you enjoyed working with the open source community?
Yes, it’s been fantastic. It’s wonderful getting perspectives and help from the larger community. And the number of corporate partners and individual contributors working on O3DE is growing quickly. We’re seeing more code reviews and getting lots of ideas and feedback. And the community has been great about finding small things that need to be fixed or addressed, and then taking the initiative to go fix them.
When we deployed the Atom Viewport for the Animation Editor, we needed to take down the code for the old viewport. Someone saw that task in our roadmap and proactively pulled out the code themselves. It was great because it saved us time and crossed another item off the to-do list.
Where do you see O3DE going in the future? What are the possibilities?
It’s endless, really. O3DE is so extensible, and any company can submit a gem or SDK [software development kit]. I think it will become an entire ecosystem for leveraging 3D in countless ways.
How can others get involved?
O3DE is really big, and there are so many elements. Things like physics, rendering, networking, and gameplay. Anyone can jump into any of these areas and help out. It’s just a matter of aligning with your interests.
I would suggest downloading the engine and playing with it a bit. Chat with people on Discord. Learn the process of submitting and reviewing code. And then jump in, perhaps by finding a small issue to fix and submitting a solution.
Once you learn the lay of the land, it’s super easy. And it’s a lot of fun.
Thanks for your time and insight, Luis.
You’re very welcome. I’m always happy to chat about O3DE!