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Google Maps data shared with developers as basis for AR games

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Google is to go public with its Google Maps API, allowing game developers to easily create location-based games based on this data.

“The mobile gaming landscape is changing as more and more studios develop augmented reality [AR] games. In order to mix realities, developers first need to understand the real world – the physical environment around their players,” said a Google blog post announcing the move.

“Game studios can easily reimagine our world as a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city.”

Google will be offering up all of its mapping data such that game developers – including independent developers – can build location-based games based on Google Maps’ model of the world, making use of its real-time updates and location data from over 200 countries.

 “This means [developers] can focus on building rich, immersive gameplay without the overhead of scaffolding a global-scale game world,” Google wrote. The company reports that using Google Maps’ infrastructure could allow for faster response times and greater scalability. The API is compatible with Google’s new AR system, ARCore.

It will also be adding Google Maps data to Unity – a popular cross-platform game engine – with roads, buildings and landmarks transformed into ‘GameObjects’, which can be functionalised and stylised to a suit any game.

The first games to make use of this data will be Ghostbusters World, Jurassic World Alive and The Walking Dead: Our World, all of which bear resemblance to the location-based AR game, Pokémon Go. The simple game – which allowed users to wander around and discover Pokémon pasted over their surroundings in the app – was downloaded over half a billion times by the end of 2016 and remains one of the most popular and profitable apps ever.

Its use became so widespread that some governments passed regulations to limit its use in response to concerns about players putting themselves in danger while playing, such as by walking on train tracks or playing while driving.

“We are excited to partner with Google to provide the most up-to-date and rich location data to enable us to create an immerseive experience tied to your location,” said Teemu Huuhtanen, CEO of Next Games, which is developing the upcoming Walking Dead AR game.

“When new buildings or roads are built, we’ll have access to them in our game. Google Maps’ unrivalled location data, covering world-famous landmarks, businesses and buildings […] makes exploring your surroundings a breath-taking experience.”

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