Google details Android 12’s new game dashboard tool and gaming mode APIs
At its annual Google for Games Developer Summit, Google unveiled several new features for mobile gamers and game developers. Select devices running the latest version of the Android OS — Android 12 — will have access to a new game dashboard utility. Through this dashboard, users will have access to key utilities and can select a performance profile for games, which games can support by integrating Android’s new Game Mode APIs. We’ve caught glimpses of Google’s work on new gaming features in pre-release Android 12 builds, but today Google is finally announcing these features.
Game Dashboard in Android 12
Since the first Developer Preview of Android 12, we’ve been tracking progress on a new gaming toolbar that floats onscreen. When the second Developer Preview rolled out, we discovered that this floating gaming toolbar is part of a new game dashboard feature. In the third Developer Preview, Google added a new game optimization menu to the game dashboard, and while it didn’t work, it became clear that Google planned to let users set performance profiles on a per-game basis. The press release for the Google for Games Developer Summit didn’t provide much information or even a screenshot of the game dashboard feature, but thanks to prior digging, we basically know what it offers for gamers on Android 12.
The game dashboard can be accessed by tapping the floating gaming toolbar that appears onscreen. This gaming toolbar only appears when the user launches an app that has declared itself to be a game by setting the category of the app to CATEGORY_GAME in the Manifest, a feature added in Android 8.0 Oreo.
Android 12’s game dashboard provides access to useful tools like a screen recorder, a screen capture shortcut, an FPS monitor, and a Do Not Disturb toggle. These tools can also be accessed through a button that floats onscreen — the aforementioned gaming toolbar — which is only shown near the bottom when the user exits fullscreen mode by swiping to show the status or navigation bars. This floating toolbar lets gamers take a screen recording, capture a screenshot, see the current framerate, or toggle Do Not Disturb mode without interrupting gameplay by opening the game dashboard, which is a fullscreen overlay.
The Do Not Disturb toggle doesn’t toggle DND globally but rather toggles the schedule that turns on Do Not Disturb mode when a game is in the foreground. What this means is that Do Not Disturb mode is only turned on so long as you’re in a game and it’s turned off otherwise, unless you have another Do Not Disturb trigger or schedule that forces it back on. You can manually toggle this gaming mode DND schedule in Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb > Schedules.
The game dashboard also provides three additional options: a game optimization menu with performance profiles, a shortcut to livestream your gameplay on YouTube, and a widget with data integrated from Google Play Games. Users can choose from three performance profiles: Performance, Standard, and Battery Saver. Performance maximizes the frame rate but uses more battery, Standard uses the game’s default settings, and Battery Saver lowers the frame rate to save battery life. The performance profile can also be changed from a game’s App Info page as well, and the profile is sticky, meaning it does not change once the user has set it.
When the user launches a game, a toast message at the bottom will inform them if Do Not Disturb mode has been automatically turned on and if the “Performance” or “Battery Saver” profile has been applied.
Google says that this game dashboard feature will be available on “select devices” running Android 12 later this year. The dashboard won’t be available in beta releases. We expect to see Google’s Pixel 6 series launch with support for the feature, but it’s likely the feature will be available on other Pixel phones running Android 12.
Android Game Mode APIs
In its press release, Google says Android’s new Game Mode APIs will let developers “react to players selecting a performance profile for their game — like better battery life for a long commute, or performance mode to get peak frame rates.” Android’s new GameManager API lets system apps modify the game mode for any given package, defined by the four game mode constants: GAME_MODE_BATTERY, GAME_MODE_PERFORMANCE, GAME_MODE_STANDARD, and GAME_MODE_UNSUPPORTED. The API also lets developers query the user selected game mode but only for their own game; developers are advised to call this API each time their app is resumed.
Game developers have to opt-in to support Performance or Battery Saver mode by including metadata in their app manifest. Opting into supporting Battery Saver mode allows the system to enable WindowManager backbuffer resizing, which can significantly reduce the GPU load and even battery consumption if the game is paced at a target frame rate. It’s important to note that OEMs can choose to implement Game Mode interventions with or without developer feedback, so it’s advised you either submit your requested interventions to OEMs or opt out from interventions entirely. Google’s form is already open for submissions.
Developers can test the behavior of Android’s new Game Mode APIs through the “
cmd game” shell command and device config interface. For more information on the Game Mode APIs in Android 12, check out the documentation on the Android Developers site or watch the full keynote from the Google for Games Developer Summit.