On Monday, Google announced that its Maps Platform gaming solution is now available to anyone who wants to use it. The platform is akin to the one underpinning Niantic’s Pokémon Go and Ingress games and has already been used in 10 games based in digital simulacra of the real world. The solution was initially rolled out to a handful of studios a couple of years ago, but interest from smaller studios and developers has since pushed Google to scale it up while also opening it up.
What is this platform? — The gaming solution allows developers to start off with millions of building models across the world, and the Google Maps data ports seamlessly into mobile developing tool Unity. Within minutes, developers can start building on a massive map that uses less processing power to render mixed zoom views while still providing more detail for objects closer to the player.
"With access to hundreds of millions of 3D building geometries and urban settings like parks and roads as objects in Unity, you can create immersive gameplay personalized for each player. And our coverage of more than 220 countries and territories means you’re able to do this at a global scale," Samuel Cheung, technical program manager for Google Maps Platform, and Mark Burslem, the services engineering manager, explain.
Easily customized — Developers can also customize buildings or other objects as they see fit. Cities are brought to life with flora and props like beach umbrellas. Want to change Big Ben into a pagoda or stick a dragon on top of the Arc de Triomphe? No problem.
Early adopters — Some of the games already using this infrastructure include Dragon Quest Walk, Jurassic World Alive, Monster Strike, The Walking Dead: Our World, and Yo-Kai Watch World. The 10 games already using the technology boast more than 11 million monthly users between them.
It works for AR, too — While making real-world-based gameplay easier, the platform can also be modified to work for augmented reality use cases, which are growing in popularity as more gamers find themselves stuck at home.
The platform isn't free to use, but developers who are interested in trying it out can get $200 of Google Maps Platform credit each month. To get started, all they need to do is create a billing account for the service, set up a Google Cloud Project, and download the Maps SDK for Unity.
Thereafter, the Semantic Tile API and Playable Locations API will be automatically enabled for them, and a look at the quickstart documentation Google supplies should be enough to get them tinkering.