Microsoft is in the midst of its annual Build conference. This is sort of like Google I/O or WWDC, but with fewer online viewers. Wednesday's keynote presentation was filled with announcements about Windows 10, the Microsoft Edge browser, an augmented reality headset, and quite a bit more. One product failed to earn stage time: the Visual Studio Emulator for Android, but developers may find renewed interest since the latest version is showing maturity as it expands through the addition of Device Profiles and a number of other recent enhancements.
In his review of the original SHIELD a year and a half ago, Jeremiah Rice noted that NVIDIA's gaming gadget was amazingly well-suited to game emulators. Combined with a robust emulation scene on Android, especially for older game consoles, it's possible to play a ton of great games on the SHIELD without ever stopping by the Play Store. This morning NVIDIA issued a software update specifically to improve performance for game emulator apps.
There's a huge emulator community on Android, helped in no small part by the fact that modern smartphones can handle older game console software without breaking a sweat. But 3D consoles and newer portable machines are harder to emulate - they require more power and more complex software to get bigger, more demanding games to run well. The PPSSPP emulator (for PlayStation Portable games) has been in development for a variety of platforms for several years, but now the 1.0 release is available for Android via an easy Play Store download.
When it comes to software development, there are two very distinct camps on the subject of tools: those who prefer to keep it simple with just a text editor and a compiler, and then those who go straight for a fully-featured IDE with all the bells and whistles. For more than a decade, the undisputed champion of IDEs is Microsoft with its assorted versions of Visual Studio. Having come from years of work on Visual Studio, nothing pained me more than the first (several) times I started up Eclipse.
You've got to respect the classics. And since the developers (or rights owners) of games like Civilization, Starcraft, and Age of Empires aren't releasing their classics on Android, or they're turning them into twisted versions of the originals, strategy fans need an alternative. Enter ExaGear, an emulator designed to let those fans play at least some of the classic PC strategy games on Android, complete with controls adapted for precision.
If you couldn't make it to Google I/O, and thus couldn't get one of the first Android TV units as part of the developer swag, you can still start developing your apps for the platform's retail debut later in 2014. Google has included Android TV modules in the official Android SDK, underneath the Android L (API 20) package. That includes an emulator specifically for TV, so you should be able to build and test apps without any extra hardware.
Intel's progress into the Android ecosystem hasn't exactly been earth-shattering. The number of high-end and mid-range smartphones equipped with an ATOM CPU still number in the single digits, making the x86 architecture a fairly low priority for app developers. In addition, Intel's emulator images have always lacked support for the Google APIs, leaving developers without the ability to test common staples like Google Maps or push messaging. Fortunately, that issue was recently rectified with KitKat as Google and Intel have finally shipped an x86 system image with Google API support.
Just about a year ago we reported that the popular multi-platform retro gaming emulator RetroArch had been published to the Play Store. Apparently Google took exception to this, as they've done with a seemingly random assortment of game emulators - some have been viciously torn out of the Play Store, some have been left alone, and Google isn't talking about why it picks one over the other. In any case, RetroArch is back, at least for the moment.
We featured the DraStic Nintendo DS emulator way back when it launched and came away impressed. Version 2.2 of the app is probably the biggest update yet, adding a host of forward-looking features that should improve both performance and overall gaming satisfaction. Android 4.4 users in particular will be happy to hear that DraStic now supports Android Runtime (ART).
Those of you with a MOGA controller can now use it natively with DraStic, no root or workaround required.