Google Earth is a free virtual globe. A combination of satellite mapping, aerial photography and geographic information has resulted in a 3D map of the entire planet. A versatile tool, Google Earth has a wide variety of applications. Whether it be for education, commercial use, or simply to peer into your neighbor’s yard, there is no denying its appeal.
While it certainly is fun to putter around the globe, some enterprising individuals have taken its functionality a step further. Thanks to them, when you grow tired of reveling in the beautiful nature of the world, you can apply mods to make Google Earth a bit more entertaining. Getting started is fairly straightforward – simply download Google Earth and install one of the following plugins.
1. Flight Simulator
Built by Google themselves, a flight simulator was included in Google Earth from version 4.2 onward. You can access the flight simulator in two ways. In the Google Earth menu, click Tools, then enter “Flight Simulator.” Alternatively, if you have a Windows PC, press and hold “Ctrl + Alt + A.” If you have a Mac, press and hold “Command + Option + A.” A box will open to select which aircraft you want to fly and where you would like to start. You can begin your flight from your current location or from one of the available airports.
Piloting your aircraft can be done via a keyboard and mouse or a joystick and features two different planes. For those with experience with flight sims, check out the F-16 as it has the ability to reach Mach 2. Beginners will probably want to start with the Cirrus SR-22, as it is much easier to handle.
Those of you who just want to get a birds-eye view might want to stick with the Cirrus, regardless of skill, as it is much slower than the F-16 and perfect for sightseeing.
GEMMO is a massive multiplayer online game, similar to World of Warcraft built on top of Google Earth. In the game players explore the real world, all while collecting treasure and fighting monstrous creatures. Raid capital cities across the world in order to retrieve powerful crystals that will aid you in your quest. While fairly simplistic when compared to commercial MMOs, you’ll still find a surprising amount of depth.
In order to get started with GEMMO, you’ll need Google Earth v4.2, and it is only compatible with Windows-based PCs.
3. GE Football
More of a coaching simulator than an actual football game, GE Football allows users to play a game of football on a real NFL field within Google Earth. The user calls the plays (e.g. QB sneak, blitz, etc.) and GE Football gives you the results. The mod places a virtual ball to be on the field in addition to a real time scoreboard. Of course it’s not Madden, but over 13,000 games have been played.
Flying at Mach 2 a little too fast for you? Would you like to bask in the beauty of the natural world at a more leisurely pace? PlanetInAction’s Ships plug-in for Google Earth has you covered. Placing you at the helm of large seafaring vessels, Ships is yet another simulator that uses Google Earth as a backdrop. With Ships you can live out your dream of being the captain of a luxury liner or a massive cargo ship.
PlanetInAction also has a simulation of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This mod utilizes Google Earth’s Moon map to recreate the first manned mission to the moon. The goal is to land the moon lander manually, just like Neil Armstrong did in 1969.
Google Earth War is another massively multiplayer online game that pits players against each other in battles that span the globe. In this game Google Earth is the battlefield. The gameplay is reminiscent of a real-time strategy game, allowing you to manage resources, build an army, attack. Nothing is off limits in this game; you can attack any city you want and maintain alliances with other players. You can even develop nuclear weapons and use them to decimate your opponents.
As you can see, it’s amazing what a little ingenuity and a lot of creativity can accomplish. Have you tried any of these Google Earth mods? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.