We have a good one for you today. A teardown of MyGlass, yes it’s true, the Google Glass companion app, gave us what the full feature list of the Google Play Service looks like. You just can’t make this stuff up.
The gaming service probably has nothing to do with Google Glass; Glass cannot run complex applications. The Glass team accidentally shipped the full suite Google Play services with their new app, which is not normal. This included a never-before-seen backend for an expansive multiplayer game service, with just about every game feature you could imagine.
To understand exactly what happened and why it has nothing to do with Glass, we need to talk about “GMS”. GMS originally stood for “Google Mobile Services”; they changed the name to “Google Play Services”, but never changed the acronym.
GMS, as the name suggests, is a collection of Google-powered components that certain applications depend on to function. It handles account credentials, purchases, map tiles, Google+ integration, and a bunch of other Googley stuff. Any developer using in-app purchases ships a GMS component, same goes for Google+ sign-in.
When Google ships an app update, they grab all the necessary parts from GMS that their app needs, package it with the app, and ship it. The important point to remember here is that GMS is a share group of components provided by Google. You are supposed to choose the coins you need from a large pool and leave the rest behind.
Let’s take a look at the GMS folders of a few apps, including MyGlass:
Google+ is a good example of what’s going on here. It needs an “auth” folder to connect to your Google account, a “Maps” folder to display Maps tiles for links and events, a “Panorama” folder to display photospheres, a “more” folder for G+ connection, etc. Now look at the “MyGlass” folder. MyGlass is a fairly simple application; he doesn’t do 25% of the things listed in his GMS file.
They shipped everything.
Most of these are pretty standard, and you could probably piece them together from the various other Google apps. But look, buried in that big list of things: a “games” folder. This has never seen the light of day before.
My point here is that, despite shipping with MyGlass, I don’t believe this games folder has anything to do with Glass – just like Wallet, Panorama, and App Search have nothing to do with Glass. The Glass team probably accidentally pressed the “ship all” button instead of selectively choosing what they needed. Thanks guys!
What can this gaming service do?
Inside that shiny new “games” folder is proof that this new service will do just about anything you could want. Here are the interesting files I managed to find, which give a pretty clear idea of what Google is building.
This would be for FPS, racing games, fighting games, etc. – you and your friends playing at the same time. This suggests that Google is going to start dealing with all that creepy net code and matchmaking stuff on its servers. It would be a dream come true for developers.
Board games and drawing games. For these you need to open the app, take your turn and close the app. You will receive notifications (for which there are also files) when it is your turn again.
Trash talk your friend in the middle of a game. Note that the filenames seem to suggest this is limited to real-time multiplayer. Guess you wouldn’t need it for turn-based anyway – you have Google Talk for that.
“Achievement unlocked: Spoil surprises for at least 5 different Google products.”
See exactly how badly you are doing in relation to the world.
This would send an invite to a friend and attract them to your game.
Discuss before the game starts, plan strategies, choose rules and choose teams.
I can’t get too much detail out of it, as all the heavy lifting would be done on a server somewhere. It is only the intermediary that passes the data between the application and the server. What it looks like is also off limits – there’s no interface to speak of. Presumably, the design would belong to the game developer, or perhaps be included in a new version of the Google Play Services app.
I’m not sure of the name either. Google Games is just a wild guess.
Yet it gives us a a lot clearer picture of what is happening. It looks like Google is going to tackle multiplayer gaming in a big way. They are developing a plug-in game service that handles all the common multiplayer features gamers have come to expect. Life for developers should be much easier and multiplayer games on Android should be much better.
The really the good news is that it seems almost finished! The fact that it’s included in a shipping product suggests that it’s finished and floating freely around Google’s headquarters. I would expect to hear a lot more at Google I/O.
Remember: when a Googler comes on stage and announces all this, try to look surprised. I’ll see you on the next update!