We've got a good one for you today. A teardown of MyGlass, yes that's right, the Google Glass companion app, has given us what looks like the entire Google Games Service feature list. You just can't make this stuff up.
The games service probably has nothing to do with Google Glass; Glass can't run complex apps. The Glass team accidentally shipped the full suite of Google Play Services with their new app, which is not normal. This included a never-before-seen backend for an extensive multiplayer gaming service, with just about every gaming feature you could possibly imagine.
To understand just what has happened, and why this is not related to Glass at all, we've got 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(s) would suggest, is a collection of Google-powered components that some apps depend on to work. It handles account credentials, purchases, map tiles, Google+ integration, and a bunch of other Googley stuff. Any developer using in-app purchasing is shipping a GMS component, the same goes for Google+ sign-in.
When Google ships an app update, they grab all the necessary parts of GMS that their app needs, package it with the app, and ship it out the door. The important takeaway here is that GMS is a shared group of components provided by Google. You're supposed to pick the parts you need from a big pool and leave the rest behind.
Let's take a look at the GMS folders for a few apps, including MyGlass:
Google+ makes for a good example of just what is going on here. It needs an "auth" folder to login to your Google Account, a "Maps" folder to display Maps tiles for links and events, a "Panorama" folder to display Photospheres, a "plus" folder for G+ sign-in, etc. Now look at the "MyGlass" folder. MyGlass is a fairly simple app; it doesn't do 25% of the stuff listed in its GMS folder.
They shipped everything.
Most of this is pretty standard stuff, and you could probably piece it together from the various other Google apps. But look, buried in that big list of stuff: a "games" folder. That's 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 don't have anything to do with Glass. The Glass Team probably just accidentally pressed the "ship everything" button instead of selectively picking what they needed. Thanks guys!
What Can This Games Service Do?
Inside this shiny new "games" folder is evidence that this new service will do just about everything you could ever want. Here are the interesting files I've managed to come across, which give a pretty clear idea of what Google is building.
This would be for FPSes, racing games, fighting games, and stuff like that - you and your friends playing at the same time. This suggests Google is going to start handling all that scary net code and matchmaking stuff on their servers. That would be a dream come true for developers.
Board games and drawing games. For these you would open the app, play your turn, and close the app. You'll get notifications (which there are also files for) when it's your turn again.
In Game Chat
Trash talk your friend in the middle of a game. Note that the filenames seem to suggest this is limited to real-time multiplayer. I guess you wouldn't need it for turn-based anyway - you've got Google Talk for that.
"Achievement Unlocked: Spoil surprises for at least 5 different Google products."
See exactly how poorly you're doing vs. the world.
This would send an invitation to a friend and pull them into your game.
Chat before the game starts, plan strategies, pick rules, and choose teams.
I can't squeeze too many more details out of this, because all of the heavy lifting would be done on a server somewhere. This is just the middle man that passes data between the app and the server. What it looks like is also off limits - there's no interface to speak of. Presumably the design would be up to the game developer, or maybe included in a new version of the Google Play Services app.
I'm also not sure about the name. Google Games is just a wild guess.
Still though, this gives us a much clearer picture of what's going on. It sounds like Google is going to take on multiplayer gaming in a big way. They're developing a plug-in gaming service that handles every common multiplayer feature gamers have come to expect. Developers' lives should get a whole lot easier, and multiplayer gaming on Android should get a whole lot better.
The really good news is that this seems nearly finished! It being including in a shipping product suggests that it's finished and freely floating around Google HQ. I would expect to hear a lot more about it at Google I/O.
Just remember: when a Googler jumps on stage and announces all of this, try to act surprised. I'll see you next update!