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Google today announced a bunch of new tools for game developers: Google Play Asset Delivery, Android Performance Tuner, Android GPU Inspector, and Cloud Firestore, among others. Google’s partners also had news to share. Crytek announced Android support — Cryengine will get a full Android pipeline this summer. Qualcomm detailed its GPU updateable drivers for its latest Snapdragon chipsets.
The announcements were made at Google for Games Developer Summit, which is where Google shares its gaming announcements for GDC. With GDC postponed to August, Google this year brought its announcements online. Unlike Google Cloud Next and Google I/O, which the company canceled, Google for Games Developer Summit was likely further along in terms of planning, and so the news is going live just a week later than scheduled.
With over 2.5 billion monthly active devices, Android is easily the biggest platform for game developers to target. Google says these new tools and services are aimed at helping developers “increase the reach of your games and manage the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.” But there’s a catch. For almost all the new tools, you’ll have to apply for the developer preview before you can try them.
Profilers, Android GPU Inspector, and Visual Studio
Google has unveiled a handful of new tools to build and optimize games for Android. Here are the top three:
- Android Studio Profilers: Google has overhauled the Android Studio System Trace profiler to let you inspect and visualize how your code is being executed. Native memory profiling capabilities let you see how your game is allocating memory and discover memory leaks. You’ll need Android Studio 4.1 Canary to use these.
- Android GPU Inspector: The new inspector lets you see detailed information about your game’s render stages and GPU counters. Graphics engineers can optimize their game for better frame rates and more battery life.
- Android Game Development Extension for Visual Studio: This extension makes it easier to add Android support for your cross-platform games. It can generate APKs, deploy to Android devices or an emulator, and debug your Android game.
The Android GPU Inspector is worth expanding on. It was built in partnership with Qualcomm and falls under Snapdragon Elite Gaming experiences. Select game developers will be able to suggest enhancements to the Adreno Graphics Development Driver, which will be available on Google Play. You’ll thus be able to update your Adreno GPU driver just like an app. Updateable GPU drivers will first become available for the Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Galaxy Note 10, and Galaxy S10. Qualcomm shared that Google used the Android GPU Inspector on a Pixel 4 XL to discovered an optimization opportunity for an unnamed game partner. It saved the game 40% in GPU utilization, which translated to faster frame rates and longer battery life.
If you build with Unity, check out the Game Package Registry for Unity by Google. The new package registry consolidates various Google APIs, starting with Google Play Billing, Android App Bundles, Play Asset Delivery, Play Instant, and Firebase for Games.
Google Play Asset Delivery and Android Performance Tuner
Google has also made improvements to Google Play to scale reach and provide greater insights into your game’s performance. Here are the top three:
- Google Play Asset Delivery: A new set of delivery features for games services that give you free, dynamic delivery of the right game assets to the right devices at the right time. The new way to dynamically deliver games should help players get into sessions more quickly while assets load. Meanwhile, you cut the costs of hosting and delivering game resources.
- Android vitals native crash symbolication: Debug your native crashes with support for native symbols in Play Console. Upload your native debug symbols to get the benefits in Android vitals.
- Android vitals performance insights with Android Performance Tuner: Optimize your frame rate and fidelity across many devices at scale with new performance insights in Android vitals. You will need to integrate the new Android Performance Tuner into your game.
If you build with Unity, you’ll want to know about the Play Billing Library 2 for Unity developers. You can now access all of its features, such as allowing users to pay with cash and surfacing IAPs outside of the game.
Cloud Firestore and Google Analytics reports
Lastly, Google’s Firebase has introduced Cloud Firestore for game developers in open alpha. Cloud Firestore is the company’s next-generation, scalable NoSQL database in the cloud. (Google says its Realtime Database is not going away.) It offers multi-region reliability (for five nines [99.999%] of uptime), atomic transactions, robust offline support, and real-time listeners. Alpha versions of the SDKs are now available for C++ and Unity developers.
It’s an open alpha, meaning anyone can try it, but it’s still rough around the edges. The Unity version of the SDK, for example, is missing some of the more advanced querying features. Also, the API can still change in the coming months, so don’t make any production bets (method names aren’t final).
Cloud Firestore can be used to save your users’ game state to the cloud, save a shared game state to be viewed by several different clients in a multiplayer game, and post daily challenges or user-generated content that can be viewed by millions of clients. You can even use it to build a caching layer on top of your existing game server for sharing your gameplay data with millions of clients without hitting your server directly.
The Google Analytics team has built new reports for game developers and business analysts. You can expect new dashboards centered around user acquisition, retention, user engagement, and monetization. New reports and visualizations like First-time Buyers, Revenue Heartbeat, User Engagement (in game days), and trending DAU/MAU are also available. All you have to do is link your Firebase project to a Google Analytics account.
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