For decades, game studios have spent big bucks attempting to digitize our real cities for their games. Grand Theft Auto captured the sprawl of NYC and L.A. Watch Dogs paid homage to the El, lift bridges, and streets of Chicago. All these projects took tremendous effort–and as a result, most game developers don’t even try to create realistic versions of real cities for their games.
Google wants to make bringing our real world into video games easier. And it wants to make putting video games into our real world easier, too. So it’s integrating the Google Maps API–currently used by all sorts of apps with maps on your phone–with the popular Unity video game engine. That means the service’s 100 million 3D buildings, roads, and landmarks from 200 countries around the globe have been translated into so-called “GameObjects” in Unity.
That means a designer can turn almost any location on the globe into a world-scale game that’s very easy to customize in look and feel. From Google:
Game studios can easily reimagine our world as a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city. With Google Maps’ real-time updates and rich location data, developers can find the best places for playing games, no matter where their players are.
The API is fully compatible with Google’s new augmented reality system ARCore, and it’s sure to engender an endless parade of Pokémon Go clones. But it will be just as interesting to see what the indie game industry does with classic PC and console gaming, now that they have the entire Earth at their fingertips.
A globetrotting Mario game that features your real block? A SimCity of your real city? All we know is that the lines between the real world and our digital one aren’t just being blurred; they’re disintegrating altogether.