Google announces a new trick for Android 12 and the Google Play Store: a play-as-you-download feature for games. If you’re downloading a big game, you can start playing soon before the entire download is complete, so you can jump into the game as quickly as possible.
Play-as-you-download is a feature of several major online game stores. The idea is that you don’t have to download the entire game to get get started play, only the data for the game engine, UI, first level, and initial boot order. The largest files in any game are the resources for pictures, sounds, and pre-rendered videos, and if you can split those into “needed immediately” and “needed later” (like by level, for example), you can save a lot of time in the first download. .
Google’s sample GIF shows that a 127 MB game becomes playable after a user downloads just 20 percent of the game, and the company says, “We see that games can be opened at least 2 times faster.” The feature is exclusive to Android 12 as it relies on a new “Incremental FS” file system in the upcoming update. Google describes Incremental FS as a “special purpose Linux virtual file system that allows a program to run while still lazily downloading the binary and source files over the network, USB, etc.”
Google has previously attempted to reduce app installation time with “Google Play Instant Apps,” which adds a “try now” button to compatible apps in the Play Store. The feature works great and instantly launches a game by streaming it in chunks of 10MB, but it is only used for demos and is not a replacement for installation. Instant apps are still there, but a big problem with the feature is discovery. Which apps are compatible? How do you find them?
Instant Apps was powered by Android Studio, the official Android SDK, which required developer support and guided game developers by breaking down an app into 10MB streamable chunks. An instant demo is great for getting curious users on board, but designing a game in the 10MB chunk limit can be too restrictive for entire games.
Developers can sign up for the beta feature on this signup page. The main news from the presentation is that Google will eventually enable play-as-you-download for games automatically, without developers having to support the feature. During the presentation, the company said: “We crowdsource the typical first-play experiences, including memory access patterns, to automatically deliver the optimal assets to load… Play-as-you-download doesn’t require you to change your game. If you’re using the app bundle format, just upload your game and we’ll do the rest on Android 12.”
As of August, the new app bundle format will be mandatory for all new games.
This is Google’s third attempt at fast-loading Android games — the first was Streaming Apps in 2015, then Instant Apps came in 2018. Neither attempt failed, but it sounds like Google isn’t worried about its adoption. developers of the new system. The company itself will eventually only enable the feature for all new games.