Gaming on Google Earth


Mars Sucks article Gamasutra has this interesting article on building a simple interactive game in Google Earth. The authors of the article make creative use of the few interactive features that Google’s KML markup language provides to create a basic, yet functional client/server application.

Probably the most interesting information in the article is the authors’ concise summary of what’s not (yet) possible in Google Earth:

  • It’s not possible to insert text as a screen overlay. (IMO that’s probably a minor shortcoming for now. The authors have worked around it by generating images on the fly at the game server.)

  • There is currently no way to track mouse actions on the user interface. This means that it is also not possible to listen to mouse clicks and resolve the longitude/latitude of the click. It is, however, possible to extract the longitude/latitude of the point the camera is currently looking at, as well as the range of the camera to that point and the heading and tilt of the camera.

  • It is not possible to track keystroke events.

Hm. The current lack of a possibility to track mouse clicks and get the corresponding geo-coordinate (as it is easily possible with Google Maps) hurts. I think if such a feature existed, we’d probably see loads and loads of ‘Google Earth minigames’ out there already (just like those browser-based Flash games people play during their lunchbreaks). On the final page of the article the authors remark that Google is in fact working on a Google Earth API – so this topic is definitely something to keep an eye on!

BTW, the authors of the article are giving the source code for this game away for free. So go there and check it out.

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