Google Glass Getting Video Game Attention

A developer of mobile video games unveils his first Google Glass space action game and says he's working on more innovations.

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Google Glass is a difficult platform for which to build a video game, but the extra challenge of the small screen and lack of traditional game controls doesn't discourage mobile games designer Sean McCracken.

Instead, for McCracken, building his first video game for the diminutive Glass devices has been a journey into a realm of the unknown that has stretched his imagination to its limits, he said. In fact, when he applied in February to be one of the first Explorer users of Glass through Google's #ifihadglass program, his proposal wasn't even to build a video game for Glass.

"My idea was a game whisper system," McCracken told eWEEK. "While you play games on your Android device, Glass would send you hint messages about your games and other information" to improve your game play, said McCracken. "With phones and tablets, even though the tablet screens are getting bigger, we still have limited landscape to use as game designers."

Other developers are busy building video games for Glass as well, including Jon Lawhead and Daniel Estrada, but McCracken's idea is certainly thinking outside the established game design environment.

So what was the inspiration for his "Glass Whisperer" concept?

"I was just thinking that more information could be received by users," he said. But that original direction was put aside for a bit once he paid his $1,500 for Glass and picked them up in New York City July 31. "I'm a hacker, so I immediately started playing with stuff using Glass. Google had just released the ability to put APKs [Android application package files, which are used to create and launch applications on Android devices] on the device, so I just tried a little game that was a demo, hooked it up to my computer and it worked."

That spurred McCracken's imagination to create his first original game for Glass, which he wasn't sure would work. So he began to explore and found that while he couldn't access all the components of Glass (a Glass Software Developers Kit, or SDK, is not yet released) through code, he realized that what he could access were three key Glass components –its gyroscope, its accelerometer and its compass.

"And when I saw that I would have access to the gyro controls, that was it; that was all I needed," said McCracken, who has long specialized in creating gyroscope games for others.

Because no code is available yet as part of an SDK to integrate Glass capabilities for voice, tapping or swiping, the early version of McCracken's first Glass game, PSYCLOPS—which he describes as a "very beta" cross between "3D Space Invaders mixed with Missile Command"—has none of those game inputs. Instead, the lack of those controls forced him to create a gyro control that uses head gestures to play the game.

"When you look at various game parts in space, you can look at and access buttons using head gestures," he said. "It's a hard work-around, but it works really well. It feels like being in Ironman or something."