Google’s I/O Adventure was almost as good as being there | GeekComparison

Google I/O was last week, and while there were still the usual announcements and information dump, the pandemic only made the show online. Typically, people from all over the world come to the Shoreline Amphitheater to learn about Google’s new products and developer initiatives, exchange stories, and network. But none of that could really happen this year, at least not personally.

Google often tries to “gamify” these tech exchanges (I’ve been known to get addicted to them at times), but this year Google I/O was a actually game called Google I/O Adventure† This is Google I/O, with all the booths and information you’d expect, but rendered in a 2D, top-down, MMO game where you and everyone else virtually in attendance can run around. The game has a rolling chat window for nearby players and tables in the game world initiate a private chat for everyone who is sitting on them. It looked a bit like a Google I/O version of Second Life or an MMO Animal Crossing that runs in your desktop browser. I/O only lasted three days, so most of the rush of I/O adventure is over, but the world will still be online for the next month.

When you start the game you first go through character creation and you can only choose basic elements like hair, skin color and a few options for arms and legs, including wheelchairs and some robot parts. However, the game is a collect-a-thon and scattered throughout the virtual Google I/O during the convention were a variety of accessories that fit into various cosmetic item boxes. You could stop at the Android booth and buy a cool Android hat or get an offline dinosaur doll from the Chrome booth. There are NPCs to talk to and mini games like golf, fishing and a few music games. The controls are dead simple: WASD and that’s it. If you want to interact with something, walk into it.

The booths are set up like a real trade show and advertise new features and APIs that developers may be interested in. You could walk around and get links to YouTube videos and blog posts, and some items were handed out through quizzes that tested your knowledge of the new announcements. Part of the way Google gamifies real trade shows is with collectibles that guide people through a trade show and get them to visit booths they wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. The same process works in the virtual world: users want all items, so they end up in boxes they wouldn’t otherwise step foot in. could look at a web page full of links and get all the same information, but I/O adventure is more of an information discovery system that takes place while you are playing.

Real Googlers hang out at the booths, much like a real Google I/O (or at least they were during the three days of the convention), and you can send them questions or get help with things via chat. Googlers are all labeled with a colorful “G” above their heads, indicating that they really knew what they were talking about. (I got a scarlet letter that read “Press” so everyone didn’t know too much to talk when I started asking questions.) You can even fill in a lanyard so people can click on your character and see your job title, company, and even links to your Twitter or Github.

We’re all stuck at home because of COVID, but this game/chat system has really come a long way in replicating the social aspect of a trade show. I regularly ran into friends and talked to people about different parts of the show. I even virtually met the game’s creator, Google Developer Advocate Tom Greenaway† Hi Tom!

I/O adventure has a really interesting way of dealing with location: it doesn’t matter. You’re free to quickly travel anywhere via a menu that teleports you to any stance and area of ​​interest. Your location is saved in the URL, so any bookmarks you create in the browser are game and location bookmarks. This also made meetups easy: just share a URL and it will launch the game and paste you in the correct location.

Since this was a developer event, it really feels like Google wanted you to hack your location through the URL. The URL in the address bar changes suspiciously with every step you take, yelling at the user “HEY! I bet your location is here!” It turns out that the URL is base64 encoded, and the decoding reveals an x/y coordinate system. Knowing that, you can create your own URLs and suddenly you can go anywhere! Feel free to walk through walls or get stuck in stuff. There is even an inaccessible island that you can only get to via a URL. If you ever run into trouble, the fast travel system can teleport you back to safety.

Even though the I/O adventure world will still be online for the next month, the big downside is that Google shut down the chat system once I/O was over. The company said it would not be able to moderate the chat. However, you can still have a lot of fun hopping around the world if you want to try it yourself. Make sure to wave at me if you see me running past trying to do it one hundred percent.

List image by Google I/O Adventure

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