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Home / Technology / Where is Waldo? In Google Maps – And here's how he got there

Where is Waldo? In Google Maps – And here's how he got there

As soon as you hear about it, it's the most obvious thing in the world. Of course Google would manage to install Where is Waldo in Google Maps, and would probably do it for April Fools' Day.

After all, the firm's practice of bringing iconic fictional characters with a yen for travel into their mapping app is well established, with the well-known labyrinth researcher Pac-Man in Google Maps for April Fools & # 39; 2015 and his equally peripatetic wife turned up two years later. Just three weeks ago, Nintendo's Mario always drove his go-cart into the app to mark his own vacation, Mar1

0 Day.

Waldo, British illustrator Martin Handford's stripped, bespectacled globetrotter, is the most natural possible candidate that mixes this side of Carmen Sandiego. And for the next few days he is in the desktop, Android and iOS versions of Maps. He's so in the app – that's not likely to come as a complete shock – you can find him in a game with scenes from Handford's book art. Waldo's friends Wenda, Woof and Wizard Whitebeard are also on the trek with his doppelganger / Odesis Odlaw.

[Animation: courtesy of Google]

All of this is part of a Google April Fool's Jaw legacy from 2000, when a new "feature" called MentalPlex claimed to allow the search engine to read your mind (which probably was less scary then). Last year, at least 10 different products from Google Cloud to Chromebooks were in use, including Google Maps Ms. Pac-Man Integration. Obviously, this company is serious about being stupid, in a way that – in good or bad – has infected the entire Internet.

But it turns out that there is no secret Google brain trust staging this annual corporate flood of gimmicks. In fact, Waldo is making its Google Maps debut because a couple of 23-year-old Google Maps product managers, Max Greenwald and Shreena Thakore, thought it was cool and had enough resources to put it into action quickly. Although the game itself is nothing very complex – it is Where is Waldo? as we have always known, with multiple levels and a pinch of interactivity – there were many complications along the way.

Staying Dumb

The Waldo game is not just Greenwald's and Thakore's first contribution to Google's April Fool's Day tradition; It is one of her first Google projects. Both are fresh from school and in their first year in the company. But they already loved his April Foolery and hardly remember life without them since they were both five years old when it started. "When we grew up, we'd find out what Google intended for April Fools," says Greenwald. "Now that we're working here, we were like, 'Sweet! We should try it for ourselves."

Hey, where's Waldo? [Screenshot: courtesy of Google]

In January, the two co-workers began to work with other Google Maps colleagues to develop ideas for April Fools. Some of the first ideas they spit out included a mode that would calculate how long a snail would take to travel to a specific destination, and that Morgan Freeman would be giving instructions instead of the default voice of the app. In the end, however, they came to the conclusion that anything that interferes with basic functionality may be undesirable. (Some past Google tricks have messed up users in ways that not everyone found so funny.) Plus, even if they contacted Morgan Freeman, who gave his divine notes to Google's Waze app in 2016 impractical.

When they came up with the idea of ​​building a game on Google Maps – more like an act of gentle mood than a joke – they knew they had something. If you just wanted to use the app from point A to point B, you could simply ignore the game. And Waldo was thematically perfect in several ways. Along with his tendency to lose himself in scenes around the world – a habit that makes sense in a mapping application – he appeals to almost anyone and does it in a visual, non-verbal way. "We have to think about people all over the world," says Greenwald. "The grandmother in Argentina who speaks Spanish, the boy in Russia who speaks Russian."

Seventy million Waldo books are printed in 31 different languages; He has also starred in video games, TV cartoons and comics and is a perennial favorite of trick-or-treaters, cosplayers and anyone else who wants to wear an instantly recognizable costume. For an app with more than a billion users, this universality was crucial. Embedding a game inspired by, say, BoJack Horseman would have been a non-starter [194559003]

Waldo, Woof, Wenda, Wizard Whitebeard and Odlaw. [Image: courtesy of Google]

The deal to place Waldo on Google Maps required the blessing of the two companies that jointly manage the property: Candlewick Press (the US arm of Walker Books, who has been publishing Handford's picture books in the UK since the beginning). and NBCUniversal (which came into the picture when it acquired DreamWorks Animation, which itself had bought Classic Media, the owner of rights to a set of familiar characters from Mr. Magoo to Lassie). They were enthusiastic – Candlewick immediately scanned a box containing Handford's original tome to be inspired – as well as protectors of Waldo and his world, and picky about details such as the text of explanatory texts. "You do not see Waldo, you think Waldo," Thakore explains. "I think we had a good sense of who Waldo is."

"We made sure the look and feel were on the mark," adds Mary McCagg, Candlewick's principal partnership manager and license director for 12 years, responsible for quarreling with Waldo. "It really makes it accessible to everyone – it's one of those great objects that you hold for all ages, and in that case, it's true."

Waldo's international popularity led to a complication: not everyone knows him as Waldo, a nickname he originally got when his books came to the US, first published by Little Brown. He was always Wally in the United Kingdom and some other places; in France he is Charlie; in India he is Hetti; He is a lawyer in Croatia. In addition to the standard text in-game translations – which were supported by Google employees in multiple countries – the app had to individually designate the character's name based on a Candlewick master list for each country. (Even members of the ramified Google Maps team could not agree on the name of their game protagonist: "People in Australia called him Wally," says Thakore.)

Localization of Waldo a lot Translation – and reminding that a large part of the world does not know him as Waldo. [Images: courtesy of Google]

Greenwald's and Thakore's plan was to send Waldo and his cohorts on a world tour planned on Google Maps, giving players the opportunity to win badges if they found characters. The scenes in question would reuse existing art, but the two Googlers wanted to make sure they were culturally relevant to as many users as possible. They also needed a game of patting a screen without being too light or too hard.

Some fascinating possibilities – the Louvre, the Mariana Trench – fell for one reason or another. Among those who made it into the game are Surfer's Paradise Beach in Australia; the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in South Korea; and Buñol, Spain's La Tomatina, an annual festival where everyone hurls tomatoes at each other.

These are just examples. Google wants to keep some of the levels as surprises and has distributed Easter eggs as a reward for avid gamers. This too is part of the endeavor to make the game as comprehensive as possible. So it speaks for both "a casual user who wants five seconds of fast enjoyment, and power users who really get involved," says Thakore.

. 1 April or Bust

How Many Tech Companies April Fools Stunts, Google Maps Where's Waldo Game turns up before it's April 1 in Silicon Valley, a development I've always got the thought of their creators, who just wanted to jump into the funniest 24 hours of the year. Not so, at least in this case. Google planned its launch so that Waldo would show up when the earliest time zones clicked on April Fool's joke and did not think it would make sense to hold him back regionally. "They would get news from Australia saying Google does this funny thing, but people in the States would not be able to play it," says Greenwald.

] Ask the Google Assistant where to look for Waldo and you will find. [Screenshot: courtesy of Google]

Even without this twist, every April Fool's joke project has the toughest hard deadlines; You can not delay your launch by 2 April. And as much as Google is interested in April Fool's joke, this is not the daily job or the most important job of everyone. In the end, the Google Maps team completed most of its heavy work on the Waldo game in about six weeks. "This is something we do in our free time," says Greenwald, who was still working on the iOS version of the game one night at 3am and had just crashed in the office instead of going home. [19659003] Driving the game to completion, Greenwald and Thakore gave an insight into their company's work and reached the top map managers who had to struggle. (Ask the Google Assistant "Where's Waldo?" And it will not only help you to search for it in Google Maps, but also remind you to update your app.) It's probably the least useful conventionally, what these two Google newcomers do all year round. but that does not mean that they will not look back on a significant moment in their careers, and a crash course to do things on Google.

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