Thanks to the ever increasing detail in Google Earth it has now become feasible to write high quality applications and games for the Google Earth API. PlanetInAction.com hosts such virtual environments where the world is your playground. Their first installment is "Ships" - a 3D ship simulator which will take you past the World's incredible scenery at a leisurely pace. All you need to play Ships is a browser and the Google Earth plugin. Many more exciting applications will be added soon.
"Ships" is a case study / Technology show piece that demonstrates what can be achieved with Google Earth. While map data has a tremendous value for practical purposes, it can also be used as a backdrop for a range of games. Google Earth proves extremely capable to handle many overlays with alpha transparencies which enables developers to create intricate and graphically rich instruments. Proof of that can be seen in the Compass/rudder instrument which consists of 5 layers of bitmaps.
When you start "Ships" you will be looking at this screen. By default you are in control of a closed river barge located at "Waal haven Noord" in the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This location is chosen because Rotterdam is one of worlds largest ports and is shown in great detail in Google Earth. You are looking out across the "Nieuwe Maas" river towards the city of Rotterdam. On the horizon you can see the "Euro mast" tower. From this vantage point you can see some of the other ships you can sail on in "Ships" and yes, the Airship Hindenburg is also part of your fleet.
Check out the gallery for more screenshots or click here to play ships now.
Ships was developed by Dinther Product Design. They have other innovative project such as Virtual Windows. It will turn your monitor into a true window onto a 3D world. Head tracking and special screen management will one day make for the next generation of simulator equipment. Have a look at this video on YouTube.