One of Google’s most valuable technologies is Google Maps, their famous web mapping service which displays a birds-eye view of many of the roads, buildings, and landscapes on the planet. Google has poured an enormous amount of time and resources into it, and the service is being worked on by thousands of people.
Now, Google has figured out how to use the service to help developers make video games too:
There’s been a wave of location-based mobile games announced recently, based on everything from The Walking Dead to Jurassic World. It turns out these games have more in common than just timing: they’re all powered by Google Maps. Today Google is announcing that it’s opening up its ubiquitous mapping platform to allow game developers to more easily create real-world games. The next Pokémon Go might finally be on the way.
Google says that its new Maps platform for games is divided into three main parts. First, and most obvious, is that developers who sign up will have access to real-time Google Maps data. As part of this, Google is also launching a new software development kit for Unity, one of the most popular game engines in the world, to make it easy to incorporate this mapping data into a game. “Our new Unity SDK does all of the heavy lifting,” says product manager Clementine Jacoby. “No Google Maps expertise needed.”
Lastly, Google is introducing a new API so that developers can create gameplay experiences around real-world locations. Jacoby says that Google will be working with developers on this aspect, helping them find “places that are appropriate, unique, and fun to play anywhere on Earth.”
The Unity integration will also allow developers to customize maps with what appears to be a great deal of flexibility and control. Things like buildings and roads are turned into objects, which developers can then tweak in the game engine. During a demonstration, Google showed off real-world maps that were transformed into sci-fi landscapes and fantasy realms, complete with dragons and treasure chests.
This difficulty in creating accurate mapping data is one of the main reasons there wasn’t a surge of location-based games that followed the wake of Pokémon Go’s widespread success. But with Google opening up Maps, it seems that’s finally about to change. Google says it will be talking more about the initiative next week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.