Octopus is an Android app that lets you tie physical input devices like gamepad face buttons, and triggers, keyboard keys, and mouse clicks to tap or swipe hotspots on your touchscreen. It’s long since been an application that I’ve hoped would make many of my favorite Google Play Games more enjoyable on the go, but to date, I’ve yet to get it working on my Pixel phones.
In an effort to take give gamers a better experience, Google is building its own octopus-style feature so that more titles can be played with a keyboard! We’ve heard about the company’s game control overlay before, but today, it’s announced and shown off this incredibly neat tool.
Starting with an alpha release for select games (below), Google has revealed that this “game controls feature” is meant to quickly get you into the action, especially on ChromeOS devices (like those without touchscreens). To clarify, the tech giant’s “workaround” is not meant to be seen as a replacement for devs doing the work to implement support for peripherals. The focus is instead on the end user who often has to wait many years for developers to add something that most have no intention of taking the time to support. Because there’s historically been little need or want for peripheral support on games created for touchscreen phones, who could blame them?
However, with the release of Google Play Games for PC, along with many handheld gaming accessories like the Backbone One and the GameSir X3 taking the market by storm, the idea of using a powerful mini-PC that’s always on your person for more tangible gaming experiences is no longer so far fetched or undesirable.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at this new game control overlay for Android games, shall we? Below, you’ll notice that there is a new game controller icon on the right side of the screen. Similar to the Play Games floating action button, tapping this will open well, an overlay, that can be used to access several options.
When first opening a game with game controls support, there will be an overlay showing the keys you can use to simulate various touches on screen via the keyboard. Currently, game controls can send keyboard input as tap actions and simulate touch-and-drag interactions commonly used for on-screen virtual joysticks/dpads. You can customize the key bindings via the game controls menu, which you can access by clicking the white square hovering on the right center portion of the game’s window.ChromeOS.dev
You can map specific keyboard keys to the screen to simulate tap or tap and drag actions like joystick movement. Let’s say for example that you want to tie the commonly used W,A,S, and D keys to the movement of your character in games where you use a virtual joypad on the screen to do just that. Well, you can! This alone is so significant for games like Order & Chaos and other titles that don’t have keyboard support naturally built-in that it can’t be understated.
The first batch of games to support the control overlay are limited, but Google hopes to appeal to a wide range of ChromeOS gamers in the future. Let me know in the comments which games you hope they add next. Google says it’s adding an editor to make adding game controls support possible for just about any game from the Play Store that Chromebooks run, so mouse, gamepad support and even addition types of touch interactions should all be a snap in the future!