Google has just released a game for Android devices called “Verne: The Himalayas” that makes use of Google Maps’ 3D imagery. The post about it on Google’s Lat Long blog seems to imply that they have used Google’s self-gathered and generated 3D imagery meshes, but this is not the case. The game, as the name suggests, is set in the Himalayas where Google has not released any of its new 3D imagery. The Himalayas are in 3D, but the altitude data, as far as we know, comes from 3rd parties and is not particularly high resolution. The imagery of the region is also entirely from third party sources.
Of course, this is not the first time someone has thought of creating a game with Google Earth’s 3D imagery. Google Earth itself has a built-in flight simulator. There also used to be an excellent flight simulator based on the Google Earth API called “GEFS Online”, but it has since been converted to use CesiumJS due to the deprecation of the Google Earth API. When the Google Earth API was first released, Google included a game called ‘Monster Milktruck’, which can still be played using this post in the Firefox browser. The Google Earth API doesn’t allow game code to detect the new type of 3D imagery, so games like Monster Milktruck have the truck driving through the 3D imagery rather than bumping in to it.
We often get emails from readers wanting access to Google’s 3D data, either the altitude data or the new 3D meshes. They usually want to use it in GIS applications, but some would like to create games with it. However, as far as we know, Google does not allow the data to be extracted from Google Earth or Google Maps and doesn’t have any option to licence the data for other uses.
If Google was to either update the Google Earth API or allow 3D in the Google Maps API we would soon see many games based on it.
The altitude data for the Himalayas has improved over time and is quite impressive, but it is nowhere near as good as Google’s 3D meshes. Compare Mt Everest with some 3D mesh imagery of Muizenberg Peak, Cape Town.
Mt Everest in the Himalayas
The slopes of Muizenberg Peak, Cape Town.