Digging deep: Google may be building an online gaming platform

May 8, 2013
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 Google-I-O-13-1

Something game-y is coming to Google I/O this year, that much is certain. The sessions schedule has a gaming twinge, top to bottom. Nobody is really sure exactly what it on the horizon, but we’re all pretty excited.

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If the above and below images are accurate, we could be seeing something much bigger than anticipated. Here at Android Authority, our initial reaction was that Google simply wanted more games developed for Android. Then again, we couldn’t figure out why Google, a pretty hands-off company who lets developers do their thing, would really care either way.

The leaked pics included in this article suggest something much larger than anticipated. If they’re real, and actually from Google, we’ve got more ideas as to what the gaming angle is, and why Google cares.

It would seem that Google may be preparing what is called a massive multiplayer online role playing game, or MMORPG. Think World of Warcraft, or something similar.. If that sounds crazy to you, hold that thought.

Clues begin to emerge

If we examine the sessions at I/O, we start to see the bigger picture. On Day one, there is an Android session at 3:50pm with the headline “Mobile Multiplayer Made Manageable”. The description is pretty vague, but the speakers are focussed game developers, with two having social media experience. Another session immediately following it, also for Android, has the title “Advanced Game Development Topics”. Sounds benign, but the description invites developers to Learn about new ways to integrate with Google+.

In that session, there is talk of “creating cool gaming experiences” via select Google REST APIs. REST stands for Representational State Transfer, and has some interesting use cases. It’s a web API design model, and operates by clients (you and me) making requests from the server (Google’s mother brain). Now, this type of API probably has a lot to do with Cloud storage, leading us to our next little clue.

On Day two, the Cloud Storage track has a session first thing in the morning called “Intense Gaming”. Interesting enough title, and the description invites developers to “learn how cutting edge developers are building next generation experiences on the Google Cloud Platform.” Two of the speakers in this session worked on the popular Song Pop trivia game for Android, which was a Draw Something/Name That Tune hybrid. That game was developed by a small team, and takes full advantage of the Google Cloud Platform.

Google IO 2013

Things start coming together

If you’re not yet convinced, we’ve got one more thing for you to think about. On day three, the Google Cloud Platform track has a session on “Building Social Gaming Infrastructure on the Google Cloud Platform.” The description reads as follows:

We’ll look at how the Gamesys social MMORPG “Here Be Monsters” utliizes the Google Cloud Platform as a production data warehouse for managing user engagement and automating retention activities using App Engine. We’ll demo the game’s integration with Google Spreadsheets and BigQuery via Google Apps Script and dive into the code that enables automated reporting dashboards and ad hoc game optimization.

You may be wondering what BigQuery is. It’s a Google service that allows database searches. From the Google BigQuery page, the description is noted as:

Google BigQuery allows you to run SQL-like queries against very large datasets, with potentially billions of rows. This can be your own data, or data that someone else has shared for you. BigQuery works best for interactive analysis of very large datasets, typically using a small number of very large, append-only tables. For more traditional relational database scenarios, you might consider using Google Cloud SQL instead. You can use BigQuery through a web UI called the BigQuery browser tool, the bq command-line tool, or by making calls to the REST API using various client libraries in multiple languages, such as Java, Python, etc.

Make queries to the REST API, you say? Interesting, considering the Day 2 session for Android which encourages developers to create cool gaming experiences using a REST API. In another interesting twist, REST APIs utilize HTTP for those calls to the server, meaning anything that utilizes HTML5 can use it. That suggests any app or web interface written in HTML5 can be involved in this gaming community.

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That also means that this community would be cross platform. We could literally play anywhere, at any time, on any device. If we take a look at the picture directly above, it makes mention of several things we’ve covered today. Social aspects as they tie into Google+ are the most glaring example of an MMORPG for Google, and perhaps the best way to tie it all into a nice, neat bow. It also wishes to receive information about your in-app activity, which could then be accessed by BigQuery. That would be our real-time layer to all of this.

The future is now

If this sounds like a big undertaking, it is. We also suspect it’s been done before. Google is understandably reluctant to give a comment about this so close to I/O, but it sounds a lot like Ingress: Cross platform, communal, and highly social. Google may be looking to build on that success.

While we can’t confirm the validity of these pics, the sessions speak for themselves. Even if the pics weren’t legitimate (though we believe they are), the gaming tone I/O 2013 has sets enough of a precedent. Google I/O is meant for developers to take away useful information for the focus Google has for the next year and beyond.

With gaming, social integration, and mobile multiplayer sessions at I/O this year, that direction Google wants developers to be aware of becomes clear. There is no necessary hardware, or new OS to learn. We have everything we need in the palm of our hand, and perhaps just above our eye.

Next week should be fun. Game on, Google.

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