Game Skills Overview

With the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), you can enhance an existing voice-only game by adding visuals or you can create a new game with an integrated voice and on-screen experience. Design your game skill for any Alexa-enabled devices with a screen, such as Amazon Echo Show, Fire TV, and devices from other manufacturers. These multimodal devices allow you to add graphics, images, video, and animations to create a visual experience.

Alexa game skill design

Design your multimodal Alexa game for voice and follow best practices to make your game accessible and fun to play. Here are a few best practices for game skill design; for more details, see the Alexa Design Guide:

  • Make sure voice interactions drive the essential game play even if your game requires looking at the screen to play. Each tap (or TV remote) target on screen should have a voice command analog. Don't force your player to interact by tap/remote input to enjoy the game. Voice should be the primary input method.
  • Consider adding optional tap interactions that correspond to voice interactions for core game controls. Players might prefer to use their voice for some interactions and touch for others.
  • Design for optimal viewing distances. Customers frequently view TV and Echo Show screens from distances of three feet to 10 feet.
  • Choose an accessible color palette. Use a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 or better for your foreground and background colors.
  • Design the layout to help the player. The most important information, controls, and action should take up the most space on the screen. Make sure that similar functions look the same to the player throughout the game.
  • Make your game accessible to all players. Support an intent for telling the customer what's on the screen, if possible.
  • Support some game features on devices without a screen. For example, when a user says, "Alexa, ask Quick Trivia who has the top score?" Quick Trivia on a speaker-only device has an answer.
  • Tell your user what the game can support. If a player tries to access your game on a speaker-only device, tell them what the game can do on the device and what the game can do on an Alexa-enabled device with a screen. For example, "You can play Quick Trivia on any Echo Show or Fire TV. Want to hear the rules of the game?"
  • Design fallback scenarios for remote devices that don't have wake word detection. For example, on a Fire TV stick, show an overlay telling the player to "press the microphone button now."

Frameworks to build game skills

ASK comes with two frameworks for game development: Alexa Presentation Language (APL) and Web API for Games. These frameworks use the custom voice interaction model for game skills. Users can interact with these game skills using voice, tap on devices with touchscreens, and the remote on TVs.

Alexa Presentation Language

With APL, you can design custom games that combine voice, audio, and visual elements with a combination of ASK directives and APL documents. APL is a rich design language that enables you to define UI elements, the styles associated with these elements, and the visual hierarchy of the elements in an APL document. Your skill sends the APL document to the device to render. APL supports built-in voice navigation so that customers can ask for an item on screen instead of relying on tap interactions only.

To create a game skill with APL, you build the APL document and the custom skill logic using ASK SDK v2. The SDK includes packages with pre-built sample templates, responsive components, and styles. The Alexa developer console includes an authoring tool to create and preview visuals outside of your skill logic, and then export as an APL document to use in your skill.

Choose APL if you want to build a game that runs on a wide range of Alexa-enabled devices. With APL documents, the device evaluates what it can support, and then imports images and other data as needed to render the correct experience. For example, third-party devices render your visuals the same way as an Echo Show 8.

Web API for Games

With Alexa Web API for Games, you can build rich and immersive voice-enabled games by using a combination of ASK directives and familiar web technologies; for example, JavaScript, HTML5, CSS, Web Audio, and Web Graphics Library (WebGL). With these technologies, you can build Alexa games with custom animations or turn existing HTML games into multimodal gaming experiences that run on Alexa-enabled devices with a screen.

To create a game with the Alexa Web API for Games, you build two parts:

  • An Alexa custom skill that starts the web app, handles voice requests, and communicates with the app during game play.
  • A web app that can display in a browser and interact with users. Use the Alexa JavaScript API to communicate with the skill during game play.

Choose Web API for Games if you are an experienced web app developer, or you want to take advantage of existing web technologies that give you dynamic control over animation and sound.

Next steps to create game skills

For details about Alexa game technology, see the following blogs and white papers:

After you choose the development framework for your game skill, go directly to the details of the selected API:

For more advanced gaming features, consider selling premium content in your game or making the device shake in response to a game action: