With new Android hardware being released from the likes of Sony, Sharp, and Philips amongst others, Android TV and Google Play can help you bring your game to users right in their living rooms through a big screen experience.
The recent Marshmallow update for Android TV means makes it easier than ever to extend your new or existing games and apps for TV. It’s important to understand how your game is presented in the user interface and how it can help users get to the content they want quickly.
Telltale Games is a US-founded game developer and publisher, based in San Francisco, California. They’re well known for the popular series ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Game of Thrones‘ which was created in partnership with HBO.
Zac Litton, VP of Technology at Telltale Games, shares his tips for creating and launching your games with Android TV.
Tips for launching successful games on Android TV
- Determine the Device for Android TV: Determine what device your game is running on by using the UiModeManager.getCurrentModeType() method. If the device is running in television mode, you can declare what to display as the launch point of the game on the Android TV itself (Configuration). Add the LEANBACK_LAUNCHER filter category to one of your intent-filters to identify your game as being enabled for TV. This is required for your game to be considered a TV app in Google Play.
- Touchscreen vs TV: TVs don’t have touch screens so make sure you set the touchscreen required flag to false in the manifest as touch is implicitly true by default on Android. This will help avoid your game getting filtered from the TV Play store right out of the gate. Also, check your permissions, as some imply hardware requirements which you may need to override explicitly.
- Use Hardware APIs: Use the package manager which has System Feature API to enable your game to reason about what capabilities it can and should expose. For example, whether to show the user touch screen controls or game controller controls. You can also make your app location aware using the location APIs available in Google Play services to add location awareness with automated location tracking, geofencing, and activity recognition.
- Use appropriate controllers: To reach the most users, your app should support a simplified input scheme that doesn’t require a directional pad (D-pad controller). The player needs to be able to use a D-Pad in all aspects of the game—not just controlling core gameplay, but also navigating menus and ads, therefore your Android TV game shouldn’t refer to a touch interface specifically. For example, an Android TV game should not tell a player to “Tap here to continue.”
- Appear in the right place: Make sure you add an android:isGame attribute to the application element of the manifest and set it to true in order to enable the installed game to show up on the correct launcher row, games.
- Provide home screen banners: Provide a home screen banner for each localization supported, especially if you are an international developer. The banner (320 x 180) is the game launch point that appears on the TV home screen on the games row.
- Use a TV image for your Store Listing: Be sure you provide at least one TV screen shot on your Store Listing page. Then include a high res icon, feature graphic, promo graphic and TV banner.
- Improve visibility through ‘search’ and ‘recommendations’: Android TV uses the Android search interface to retrieve content data from installed apps and games, and deliver search results to the user. Implement a ContentProvider to show instant suggestions to the user, and a SearchManager to deep link your game’s content.
- Set appropriate pricing and distribution: Check “Distribute to Android TV” in the relevant section in the Developer Console. This will trigger a review by Google to ensure your game meets the minimum requirements for TV.
- Guide the user: Use a tutorial to guide the player into the game mechanics and provide an input reference to the user based on the input control they are using.
With the recently released Android TV codelab and online class from Udacity, you can learn how to convert your existing mobile game into Android TV in just four hours. Find out more about how to build games for Android TV and how you to publish them using familiar tools and processes in Google Play.