Sky Force 2014 Reimagined for Android TV

By Jamil Moledina, Games Strategic Partnerships Lead, Google Play

In the coming months, we’ll be seeing more media players, like the recently released Nexus Player, and TVs from partners with Android TV built-in hit the market. While there’s plenty of information available about the technical aspects of adapting your app or game to Android TV, it’s also useful to consider design changes to optimize for the living room. That way you can provide lasting engagement for existing fans as well as new players discovering your game in this new setting. Here are three things one developer did, and how you can do them too.

Infinite Dreams is an indie studio out of Poland, co-founded by hardcore game fans Tomasz Kostrzewski and Marek Wyszyński. With Sky Force 2014 TV, they brought their hit arcade style game to Android TV in a particularly clever way. The mobile-based version of Sky Force 2014 reimaged the 2004 classic by introducing stunning 3D visuals, and a free-to-download business model using in-app purchasing and competitive tournaments to increase engagement. In bringing Sky Force 2014 to TV, they found ways to factor in the play style, play sessions, and real-world social context of the living room, while paying homage to the title’s classic arcade heritage. As Wyszyński puts it, “We decided not to take any shortcuts, we wanted to make the game feel like it was designed to be played on TV.”

Orientation

For starters, Sky Force 2014 is played vertically on a smartphone or tablet, also known as portrait mode. In the game, you’re piloting a powerful fighter plane flying up the screen over a scrolling landscape, targeting waves of steampunk enemies coming down at you. You can see far enough up the screen, enabling you to plan your attacks and dodge enemies in advance.
Vertical play on the mobile version
When bringing the game to TV, the quickest approach would have been to preserve that vertical orientation of the gameplay, by pillarboxing the field of play.

With Sky Force 2014, Infinite Dreams considered their options, and decided to scale the gameplay horizontally, in landscape mode, and recompose the view and combat elements. You’re still aiming up the screen, but the world below and the enemies coming at you are filling out a much wider field of view. They also completely reworked the UI to be comfortably operated with a gamepad or simple remote. From Wyszyński’s point of view, “We really didn't want to just add support for remote and gamepad on top of what we had because we felt it would not work very well.” This approach gives the play experience a much more immersive field of view, putting you right there in the middle of the action. More information on designing for landscape orientation can be found here.

Multiplayer

Like all mobile game developers building for the TV, Infinite Dreams had to figure out how to adapt touch input onto a controller. Sky Force 2014 TV accepts both remote control and gamepad controller input. Both are well-tuned, and fighter handling is natural and responsive, but Infinite Dreams didn’t stop there. They took the opportunity to add cooperative multiplayer functionality to take advantage of the wider field of view from a TV. In this way, they not only scaled the visuals of the game to the living room, but also factored in that it’s a living room where people play together. Given the extended lateral patterns of advancing enemies, multiplayer strategies emerge, like “divide and conquer,” or “I got your back” for players of different skill levels. More information about adding controller support to your Android game can be found here, handling controller actions here, and mapping each player’s paired controllers here.
Players battle side by side in the Android TV version

Business Model

Infinite Dreams is also experimenting with monetization and extending play session length. The TV version replaces several $1.99 in-app purchases and timers with a try-before-you-buy model which charges $4.99 after playing the first 2 levels for free. We’ve seen this single purchase model prove successful with other arcade action games like Mediocre’s Smash Hit for smartphones and tablets, in which the purchase unlocks checkpoint saves. We’re also seeing strong arcade action games like Vector Unit’s Beach Buggy Racing and Ubisoft’s Hungry Shark Evolution retain their existing in-app purchase models for Android TV. More information on setting up your games for these varied business models can be found here. We’ll be tracking and sharing these variations in business models on Android TV, including variations in premium, as the Android TV platform grows.

Reflecting on the work involved in making these changes, Wyszyński says, “From a technical point of view the process was not really so difficult – it took us about a month of work to incorporate all of the features and we are very happy with the results.” Take a moment to check out Sky Force 2014 TV on a Nexus Player and the other games in the Android TV collection on Google Play, most of which made no design changes and still play well on a TV. Consider your own starting point, take a look at the Android TV starting point on our developer blog, and build the version of your game that would be most satisfying to players on the couch.

Localization of Street Addresses in the Google Maps APIs

The Google Maps APIs have been making maps universally accessible to developers and users for over 10 years. With over 50 supported languages, almost everyone can view the map in their own language.


But sometimes an address translated to your language isn’t the most useful result. Whether your map says London, Londres, Лондон or 伦敦, only the first of these will match local street signs or help you communicate the address to locals.


If you view geocoded addresses in locations with different local languages, today we launched a change that will make life easier for you. Street-level addresses returned by the Google Maps Geocoding API now favor the local language, while keeping the address understandable as much as possible for both a user who only reads the requested language as well as locals.


sf.png


If the local language and user language both use the same alphabet, the Geocoding API will now return the local names for the streets and localities. For example, searching for an address in Brazil with user language set to English now returns “Avenida Paulista” rather than “Paulista Avenue”.


If the local language and user language use different alphabets, the Geocoding API will return the local name, transliterated into the Latin alphabet. In some cases, an English translation may be returned, for example if no transliteration is available. For example, searching for El Tahrir Square with user language set to Japanese now returns “El-Tahrir Square, Ismailia, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate, エジプト” rather than “エジプト カイロ県 Qasr an Nile, タハリール広場” (the old result) or “ميدان التحرير، قصر النيل، محافظة القاهرة‬، مصر” (the local name). The Latin result is more likely to be readable by both a Japanese traveler and an Egyptian local, whereas the Japanese traveler is unlikely to be able to read the Arabic address, and Egyptian locals are unlikely to be able to read the Japanese characters.


Queries where the requested language is the same as the local language are unaffected. Note that the requested language can be specified either using the language= parameter, or the browser’s Accept-Language header. If neither of these is provided, the native language of the Google domain is used as a default (for example, English for maps.googleapis.com).


This change also applies to addresses returned by the Directions API and Distance Matrix API, as well as services in the Google Maps JavaScript API v3. The Places API is not included at this time.


To learn more about localization in the Google Maps APIs, see the Google Maps JavaScript API v3 documentation. To learn more about the Geocoding API, see the Geocoding API documentation.

Posted by Elena Kelareva, Product Manager, Google Maps APIs

Admin control of link sharing for Hangouts video calls

Last month, we launched the ability for Google Apps customers to share links to Hangouts video calls so that external guests may request to join if not explicitly invited. This helps guests avoid errors when joining with alternate Google accounts.

We’re now giving admins greater control over this feature with an option in the Admin console to start all video calls in a state where external participants may request access to join. This feature is especially useful for customers who do not rely on Google Calendar to schedule meetings or those using the Microsoft Outlook Hangouts plugin.

To adjust the setting, click on Google Apps -> Talk/Hangouts -> General Settings:


Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

For more information:
Help Center

Note: all launches are applicable to all Google Apps editions unless otherwise noted

whatsnew.googleapps.com
Get these product update alerts by email
Subscribe to the RSS feed of these updates

Note to small businesses this holiday season: shopping never sleeps!

But don’t let restless shoppers keep you up.


One group of people who will be working extra hard this holiday season are small business owners. And our data shows that consumers will be even more restless, with one third of all shopping-related searches now happening between the hours of 10pm and 4am.

Small businesses that sell their products or services online need to know that the buying experience is no longer confined to daytime or normal business hours. You can make simple tweaks to your online advertising strategy to accommodate sleepless shoppers, and further capitalize on this exciting buying period. To do this, we’ve compiled a list of 5 AdWords tips to help your small business navigate the holiday season.

  1. Stay in the know. Every year, shoppers gravitate towards specific products, toys, foods, films, and more, to shape the season’s holiday trends. Google Trends can help you get a sense of the most popular searches by region, or help you identify searches that are just beginning to take off. Understanding search trends and where they’re coming from can help you focus your campaigns on the most meaningful terms for your audience.

  2. Show up in your audience’s searches. Peloton Cycle sells stationery bicycles and streams live cycling classes into customers’ homes. They know that many shoppers will be looking for health and fitness solutions this holiday, so they’re using broad match modifier keywords, which allows your ad to show up in searches that include a keyword and controlled variations. Peloton added keywords like “+buy” and “+holiday” to reach users most likely to make a purchase. This, along with other targeting refinements, allowed them to lower their cost-per-click by 30% and increase their clicks by 474%.

  3. Let AdWords work when you can’t. After a successful appearance on Shark Tank, the owners of Tower Paddle Boards have been hard at work creating unique and custom boards for first-time paddle-boarders. They’re serious about providing a quality customer experience, so they use website call conversions to track AdWords leads that kick off the consultation process for new customers, around the clock. Other tools in this vein are flexible bid strategies, which automate the bidding process and help you reach goals across specific campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. Some of these strategies are perfect for capturing night shoppers because they adjust bids using real-time details like device, browser, location, and time of day.

  4. Mobilize your advertising. The owner of Novica, an online artisan gift and jewelry company, became discouraged when he noticed low conversion rates on mobile, and eventually eliminated his mobile ad presence altogether. But Google Analytics insights showed him that mobile traffic was still profitable; it just had to be set at the right cost per click. Now, they’re adjusting their mobile bids to find that happy medium and get the most out of their AdWords investment this holiday season.

  5. Stand out in the crowd. Holiday shoppers visit up to 12 websites before deciding on a holiday purchase - so don’t get lost in the buy cycle! Make your ad extensions stand out by using information that will draw more people to your website, or use ad customizers to show highly strong promotional offers to your customers, in real-time, even when you have lots of products, services, and promotions—all changing by the day.

We hope these tips can help your small business connect with more holiday shoppers, as they hunt for deals around the clock from Black Friday to New Year’s Day. If you’d like some additional guidance, including free online courses, you can also visit our AdWords Help Center.

Start laying out your end-of-year strategy now, if you haven’t already - and best of luck meeting your goals this holiday season!

Google Analytics Demos & Tools

As a member of the Google Analytics Developer Relations team, I often hear from our community that they want to do more with GA but don't always know how. They know the basics but want to see full examples and demos that show how things should be built.

Well, we've been listening, and today I'm proud to announce the launch Google Analytics Demos & Tools, a new website geared toward helping Google Analytics developers tackle the challenges they face most often.


The site aims to make experienced developers more productive (we use it internally all the time) and to show new users what's possible and inspire them to leverage the platform to improve their business through advanced measurement and analysis.

Some highlights of the site include a full-featured Enhanced Ecommerce demo with code samples for both Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, a new Account Explorer tool to help you quickly find the IDs you need for various Google Analytics services and 3rd party integrations, several examples of easy-to-build custom dashboards, and some old favorites like the Query Explorer.

Google Analytics Demos & Tools not only shows off Google Analytics technologies, it also uses them under the hood. All pages that require authorization use the Embed API to log users in, and usage statistics, including outbound link clicks, authorization status, client-side exceptions, and numerous other user interaction events are measured using analytics.js.

Every page that makes use of a Google Analytics technology lists that information in the footer, making it easy for developers to see how all the pieces fit together. In addition, the entire site is open sourced and available on Github, so you can dive in and see exactly how everything works.

Feedback is welcome and appreciated!

By: Philip Walton, Developer Programs Engineer

musiXmatch drives user engagement through innovation

Posted by Leticia Lago, Google Play team

musiXmatch is an app that offers Android users the unique and powerful feature FloatingLyrics. FloatingLyrics pops up a floating window showing synched lyrics as users listen to tracks on their favorite player and music services. It’s achieved through a seamless integration with intents on the platform, something that’s technically possible only on Android.

As a result musiXmatch has seen “a dramatic increase in terms of engagement’, says founder Max Ciociola, “which has been two times more active users and even two times more the average time they spend in the app.”

The ability to deliver lyrics to a range of different devices — such as Chromecast, Android TV, and Android Wear — is creating opportunities for musiXmatch. It’s helping them turn their app into a smart companion for their users and getting them closer to their goal of reaching 100 million people.

In the following video, Max and Android engineer Sebastiano Gottardo talk about the unique capabilities that Android offers to musiXmatch:

To learn about achieving great user engagement and retention and reaching more users through different form factors, be sure to check out these resources:

  • Convert installs to active users — Watch this video to hear from Matteo Vallone, Partner Development Manager for Google Play, about the best practices in engaging and retaining app users using intents, identity, context, and rich notifications as well as delivering a cross-platform user experience.
  • Expanding to new form factors: Tablet, Wear & TV — Watch this panel discussion with Google experts talking about cross-platform opportunities and answering developer questions.

Chinese Developers Can Now Offer Paid Applications to Google Play Users in More Than 130 countries

By Ellie Powers, product manager for Google Play

Google Play is the largest digital store for Android users to discover and purchase their favorite mobile app and games, and the ecosystem is continuing to grow globally. Over the past year, we’ve expanded the list of countries where app developers can sign up to be merchants on Google Play, totaling 60 countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Qatar and Venezuela most recently.

As part of that continued effort, we’re excited to announce merchant support in China, enabling local developers to export and sell their apps to Google Play users in more than 130 countries. Chinese developers can now offer both free and paid applications through various monetization models, including in-app purchasing and subscriptions. For revenue generated on Google Play, developers will receive payment to their Chinese bank accounts via USD wire transfers.

If you develop Android apps in China and want to start distributing your apps to a global audience through Google Play, visit play.google.com/apps/publish and register as a developer. If you want to sell apps and in-app products, you'll need to also sign up for a Google Wallet merchant account, which is available on the “Revenue” page in the Google Play Developer Console. After you’ve uploaded your apps, you can set prices in the Developer Console and later receive reports on your revenue. You’ll receive your developer payouts via wire transfer. For more details, please visit our developer help center.

We look forward to continuing to roll out Google Play support to developers in many more countries around the world.

中国开发者可以向全球130个国家的Google Play用户提供付费应用啦

发表者:Ellie Powers, Google Play产品经理

Google Play是一个可让Android用户发现和购买他们喜爱的移动应用程序和游戏的全球最大的应用商店,这个生态系统在全球迅速成长。过去一年中,我们已经扩展到60个国家,让应用程序开发人员可以注册成为 Google Play的商家,其中新近支持的国家包括黎巴嫩、约旦、阿曼、巴基斯坦、波多黎各、卡塔尔和委内瑞拉。

作为持续改进 Google Play努力的一部分,我们很高兴地宣布在中国增加了对商家的支持,让中国的开发者能售卖应用程序到130个国家的 Google Play 用户。中国的开发者现在可以提供通过各种盈利模式的免费和付费应用,包括应用内购买和订阅。在 Google Play 产生的营收将通过美元电汇的方式支付给开发者的中国的银行账户。

如果你在中国开发Android应用程序,并希望通过 Google Play 把应用程序推广到全球,请登录play.google.com/apps/publish 并建立你的 Google Play 开发者账户。如果你想售卖付费的应用程序和应用程序内的产品,则需要再注册一个Google 电子钱包商家帐户,通过Google Play开发者控制台里的”营收”页面进行设置。上传应用程序后,你可以通过开发者控制台设定价格,之后就可以收到营收报告,你将会通过电汇的方式获得收入。

我们将继续增加更多 Google Play 商家支持的国家,敬请关注。

更多详情,请访问我们的开发者帮助中心

Introducing Street View and Photo Spheres in the Maps Embed API

Several months back we released a new Google Maps Embed API which enables developers to generate HTML snippets that embed Google Maps within their own website. At that time, the astute reader may have noticed that Street View and Photospheres were missing. Until now!

Today, we added the ability to easily embed the Street View and Photo Sphere images you find in Google Maps and we’re also enabling the same capabilities programmatically in the Google Maps Embed API. These embeds use the new imagery viewer technology that powers Street View in the new Google Maps.

Embedding a Street View or Photo Sphere works similarly to the Street View Service in Google Maps JavaScript API v3 - specify a lat/lng or panorama ID to pick your location, plus heading and pitch to determine direction of the scene and angle of the camera.

Lastly, since this feature is part of the Google Maps Embed API, embedded Street View panoramas are also free of usage limits. So go forth and embed!

Better collaboration in Hangouts video calls

To make it easier to collaborate during Hangouts video calls, we’ve enabled the sharing of links to any Drive file directly from the chat window. Shared links will show a preview of the file right in the chat message, even when other participants don’t have their chat window open. Clicking on the link will open the file in a different browser tab so you can conveniently work on it in full view.

To share a link from Drive during a Hangouts video call, click on the Chat icon and then click the Google Drive picker icon from within the chat window.

Chat window.png

Note: this feature will replace the Google Drive Hangouts app, which will no longer be available as of December 15th, 2014.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

For more information:
Google for Work G+ Post
Help Center

Note: all launches are applicable to all Google Apps editions unless otherwise noted

whatsnew.googleapps.com
Get these product update alerts by email
Subscribe to the RSS feed of these updates

Coding Android TV games is easy as pie

Posted by Alex Ames, Fun Propulsion Labs at Google*

We’re pleased to announce Pie Noon, a simple game created to demonstrate multi-player support on the Nexus Player, an Android TV device. Pie Noon is an open source, cross-platform game written in C++ which supports:

  • Up to 4 players using Bluetooth controllers.
  • Touch controls.
  • Google Play Games Services sign-in and leaderboards.
  • Other Android devices (you can play on your phone or tablet in single-player mode, or against human adversaries using Bluetooth controllers).

Pie Noon serves as a demonstration of how to use the SDL library in Android games as well as Google technologies like Flatbuffers, Mathfu, fplutil, and WebP.

  • Flatbuffers provides efficient serialization of the data loaded at run time for quick loading times. (Examples: schema files and loading compiled Flatbuffers)
  • Mathfu drives the rendering code, particle effects, scene layout, and more, allowing for efficient mathematical operations optimized with SIMD. (Example: particle system)
  • fplutil streamlines the build process for Android, making iteration faster and easier. Our Android build script makes use of it to easily compile and run on on Android devices.
  • WebP compresses image assets more efficiently than jpg or png file formats, allowing for smaller APK sizes.

You can download the game in the Play Store and the latest open source release from our GitHub page. We invite you to learn from the code to see how you can implement these libraries and utilities in your own Android games. Take advantage of our discussion list if you have any questions, and don’t forget to throw a few pies while you’re at it!

* Fun Propulsion Labs is a team within Google that's dedicated to advancing gaming on Android and other platforms.