In the Spotlight: Google Mobile Game Development Tools for Android

The rise of mobile gaming has pushed not just phone manufacturers with hardware but also developers on the software side. To support the fast-expanding mobile gaming industry, Google released several tools for mobile app development that can help in building game applications.

These tools were announced back at the Google for Games Developer Summit in 2020, ahead of the Game Developers Conference of the same year. Google stated that these tools will help developers increase their reach and optimize performance for the Android platform. However, they will have to apply for developer preview programs.


Android GPU Inspector  

One of Google’s most potent tools for game development is the Android GPU Inspector (AGI). Created in partnership with chip giant Qualcomm, it is a graphics profiler tool that enables developers to view crucial GPU performance data while running applications.  

AGI is currently in open beta as of January 2021 and available for developers to play around with. It can let users analyze GPU workloads and gain valuable insights they can use to optimize their games using Qualcomm Adreno, Arm Mali, and Imagination PowerVR GPUs. AGI also supports Vulkan and OpenGL ES APIs. 

Two major things to note are 1) limited pool of compatible devices and 2) only supports Android 11 or later versions. AGI can only run on Google Pixel 4 and 5 series, and Samsung Galaxy S10, S20 series as well as Note 10 and 20 series. Users will also need Android Debug Bridge (ADB) to act as a mediator between the mobile device and desktop system running AGI. 


Android Game Development Extension 

Google has also released the Android Game Development Extension for C/C++ games and engines. The tool allows developers to use their cross-development workflows in Visual Studio to build for Android (especially users of Android Studio).  

With this extension, users can add Android as a target platform and configure projects to generate an APK. It works with IncrediBuild and other existing build tools as well as features a debugging system based on LLDB. The extension gives great advantages for workflows with complex setups or games that need multi-platform support. 

As of writing, the Game Development Extension is still in Developer Preview and interested users must apply for access to it, as is the next tool in the list. 


Automatic Integrity Protection by Google Play 

The Automatic Integrity Protection (AIP) program works best for games without a back-end server. It adds license checks to the game, and offers client-based protection against possible intrusion into the code such as modification or tampering, and unauthorized distribution.  

Games enrolled under AIP and uploaded to the Google Play console can enjoy this anti-tampering shield that Google will improve over time, without need for developers to work on their side. This reduces the need for repackaging which can sometimes plague independent developers.  

The only downside, depending on the developer’s views – is that Google requires publishing of the game using the Android App Bundle. Google is still looking for interested partners and publishers to gain feedback.