Previously only discussed near the end of last year, Google’s ‘control overlays’ for Android games on Chromebooks were said to be coming first to a select few titles in alpha. The developer flag to enable it was added to ChromeOS this December, but I wanted to cover it today because it forces the overlay to appear for all installed games upon runtime.
Once launched, the floating controller icon will appear on the right side of the window. The idea is that Google’s V2 alpha for this tool hopes to let you manually add control and axis mappings to any game you’re playing. Using your mouse and keyboard to move around and interact with a title will greatly improve its playability on laptops and desktops. You must keep in mind that these games were initially built for mobile, and most developers have not taken to adding gamepad or mkb support though Google has been begging them to for years.
Enable ARC Input Overlay Beta
Enable full editor feature for Gaming Input Overlay including features in Alpha V2, so users can add and remove actions. – ChromeOS#arc-input-overlay-beta
Anyway, I opened tens of games on my Chromebook and the overlay does, in fact, appear for them all. Tapping the controller icon opens a small pop-up window (see image) that lets you edit, show or hide the mappings. If you do choose to modify them, additional pop-ups appear to let you add an action or axis mapping as previously discussed.
Sadly, being that this is still under heavy development, choosing either one of these options does crash ChromeOS and restart it. The fact that Google is working on an editor that works in all Android games though is where I want to draw your attention. If the company can offer a viable solution to surpass developers and their need to manually implement these controls for anyone hoping to play games on bigger screens – instead putting the power in the player’s hands – then this will be how it does so.
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’d think that with Google Play Games for PC being a thing Google would have worked faster on this before the release of that software for Windows PCs, but it is what it is. At this point, the editor’s UI isn’t even fully fleshed out, but I digress. From what we know, game developers will be responsible for implementing the proper or recommended controls for their titles, and the editor will then be accessible to players to modify or completely change those based on their preferences.