Google has a set of APIs called Nearby which allows devices in close proximity to find each other without having to be on the same Wi-Fi network and then communicate. Although this has a lot of potential, it hasn’t been exposed by a lot of developers yet. When I first found this game, Quiz with Friends, I was excited because it was an early example of the great experiences you can build with it using second screen gaming.
The game, Quiz with Friends, was just recently published on Google Play. It supports both phones and TVs, but you need a TV to play it. The TV app lets you pick categories and displays questions. The phones act as a remote, letting you choose the correct answer. It’s a nifty example of a simple second screen game, and I wanted to learn more about the developer’s thoughts behind the game.
On the Quiz with Friends’s Origin
How did you come up with the game idea?
In my spare time I’m a trainer in a local community focused on growing the IT industry in my city called ITst. I mostly teach Android. The last session I taught was focused on making a really simple app with the students; I wanted them to have a functional app at the end and feel that gratification you get from seeing something done. Anyway, since I wanted something with a simple design that incorporates common layouts, I choose to create a quiz game and entitled the training “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. By the end of the training, some nice ideas popped out and I decided to make a quiz game for TV.
Why did you decide to use the phone as a second screen?
My first idea was to make the game multiplayer only. I also decided to make the remote control one of the players. I later dropped this idea because you could see the “remote control” player’s choices. Instead, I felt that single-player was necessary and implemented that (although I didn’t plan for it).
Now, that I read your question I get the feeling I totally ignored users that have controllers – I’ll see what I can do about that 🙂
The reason I choose to use the phone as a multiplayer controller was so that you could have many guests play it. I always imagine a scene where 5-6 friends get together and one of them remembers there’s a nice quiz game for Android TV. Some of those 5 people have an iPhone, so I also need to do something about that also.
Are you using standard methods to connect like Nearby or a more proprietary method?
I’m using Nearby Connections. I plan to make the phone app independent and will probably move to Play Game Services, so you can invite people to play, have leaderboards, etc.
On Playing the Game
How does using a TV as a central screen affect the game’s experience, especially around multiplayer?
Well, I’m always frustrated if I can’t give the user a simple and easy experience. Especially with games. Games should be “pick-up and play”. This is why I’m not happy with the whole QR-code + Wi-Fi + explaining to the user what to do. The fact that I choose to use phones as controllers is the real problem – but I’m sure I’ll find a way to make it easy for the user.
You’ve gotten a chance to play this with your friends. How does this differ from other mobile games you’ve played?
First of all, this one is made by me, so it differs in the fact that I don’t care if I win – I care if people have feedback to give me 🙂
The thing I like about it is that because players need to be in front of the TV while playing, it makes people connect and have fun; not because of the game, but because friends get together and give each other a hard time. It’s like a pretext to have some fun.
On the Evolution of Gaming
Gaming has gone from a group experience on consoles to a solitary experience on phones (and online experience). How do you think gaming will continue to evolve?
There are still plenty of people playing games in front of the TV. Sure, as market-share, phone games have way more participants and this is normal – this industry didn’t even exist a few years ago. Phone games will not replace console games.
Regarding getting together vs playing online, it depends solely on the people. The industry will move everything it can online for fear of missing out or becoming obsolete, but there will always be games for people that want to have fun in the same room – even if it means that everyone brings their console from home.
What would you say that you’ve learned the most about through developing this game?
I never used the Nearby API prior to this. I like it a lot. I also never developed an app for the TV before, so I got to learn a lot of things about Leanback; I also like this a lot.
On Android TV
What is your favorite part about Android TV?
As a consumer Android TV really responds to a lot of my needs. I also appreciate their focus on quality this time around. I was developing apps when they released Google TV – also bought a Logitech Revue back then. The quality is totally different, especially since now Google is making sure that apps declared good for Android TV are actually up to some simple standards before they reach users. I hate it when I have to compare Google to Apple in any way, but having a good review process makes everything better for the user.
What is your least favorite part?
I get that having a browser on Android TV means having a bad browser, since there is no pointing device – but maybe they should come up with a solution to this. I trust that if anyone can find a solution to this, Google can.
Also, I’m from Romania, so Android TV tends to be less useful – most of the streaming services are unavailable here. I know it’s not Android TV’s fault, but what is a platform without content?
In the next update to Android TV, what would you like to see the most?
More connectivity with the phone. Anything that could make a game like mine less of a hassle to connect to. Other than that, I think Google needs to concentrate on content a lot more, especially for countries like mine.
You’ve made a neat game. What’s next? Do you plan on more second screen games?
Since I have the whole networking thing figured out, my next game is going to be a simple tanks game. You connect, a tank pops on the screen and you can shoot other tanks. No menus, no nothing – just instructions that appear on screen when no-one is connected.
The game has a lot of potential, as does the entire premise of using your phone as a controller. The game is free to download on Google Play and is a lot of fun with friends or family. If you’re hosting a holiday party, you may want to consider this one of the games you play.