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Facebook Mafiosi Go To the Mattresses vs. Zynga 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the concrete-galoshes dept.
sympleko writes "Zynga has the lion's share of traffic in Facebook applications, and Mafia Wars is one of their most popular social games. Collapsing under the weight of over 26 million users, Zynga has been scrambling to thwart hard-core gamers who reverse-engineer URLs or script the game to optimize their enjoyment. Many of the workarounds have annoyed users who were accustomed to various game features, and even worse, the hastily-deployed changes have resulted in many players losing access to the game, in-game prizes, or statistics. Fed up with a software company seemingly bent on discouraging people from enjoying their product, a number of tagged players have organized a boycott of all Zynga games. The first 24-hour boycott on Sunday 12/13 resulted in an 11% decline in Daily Active Users, and an emergency thread on Zynga's forums (from which most of the flames were deleted). The current boycott, extending Wednesday through Sunday is being supported by a 428K strong Facebook group. At issue is the social contract between software companies and their devoted user base, as well as the nefarious tactics Zynga has used to raise cash."
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Facebook Mafiosi Go To the Mattresses vs. Zynga

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  • by seebs (15766) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:19AM (#30469398) Homepage

    When you've got the CEO bragging about how sleazy they've been, I think that's enough to explain the boycotts.

    Me? Never played any of them, don't plan to. Company's evil, and the wisest thing to do would be for everyone to stay away until they disintegrate.

    • I too will be technically participating in the boycott, by never playing these games.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Honestly, it couldn't happen to a more deserving company.

    • by rockNme2349 (1414329) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @02:16AM (#30469824)

      Me? Never played any of them, don't plan to. Company's evil, and the wisest thing to do would be for everyone to stay away until they disintegrate.

      Keep up the good work. It won't be long before they listen to our demands!

    • I think the fellow was just being a bit tongue-in-cheek... he didn't mean he had done anything illegal. The boycotts can be explained by the exact same reason that people play those games in the first place: BOREDOM... mankind's worst enemy.
  • See no evil... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    " Collapsing under the weight of over 26 million users, Zynga has been scrambling to thwart hard-core gamers who reverse-engineer URLs or script the game to optimize their enjoyment. Many of the workarounds have annoyed users who were accustomed to various game features, and even worse, the hastily-deployed changes have resulted in many players losing access to the game, in-game prizes, or statistics. Fed up with a software company seemingly bent on discouraging people from enjoying their product, a number

    • I'd rather say it has more to do with the sleazy tactics of the parent company (which is what the comment about discouragement is alluding to)... and that the company isn't doing its part to make sure the patches aren't fucking legitimate (this is Mafia Wars, so I use that term loosely) users in the ass with a big rubber dick. Ironically, the game itself is actually designed to do just that. :)
    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      "scrambling to thwart hard-core gamers who reverse-engineer URLs"

      Personally, my favorite are the games which take you to a high score page with a URL something like this: facebook.com/silly_game/score.php?score=1364

      Replace that with facebook.com/silly_game/score.php?score=999999999 and instantly top the leaderboards. Hooray! I don't see why that would be part of the game if they didn't intend for me to do that...

  • They should (Score:5, Funny)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:25AM (#30469448)
    Make them an offer they can't refuse.
  • I'm sorry, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nikkos (544004) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:27AM (#30469464) Homepage
    Did someone mistake Mafia Wars as something other than a business practice? They make money off of those who think it's worth spending money to have an imaginary gun better than the other free imaginary guns. The "hardcore gamers" run scripts, bots, and generally try to cheat the system at every turn while not spending any money.

    If the anti-bot/script stuff bothers your enjoyment of a free online game, go find another?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      So they're trying to get the unethical types to stop playing a game where you play a gangster? Brilliant! It's like trying to get fishermen to stop using radar, or NASA engineers to stop playing with rockets even after they get home.

      • by brkello (642429)
        Uh, no. Just like someone would be annoyed that someone in World of Warcraft got all the best gear by REing the game and using bots and exploits...same with this. It doesn't matter if you are playing a game about being a gangster of it is a game about magical ponies, if it has a multiplayer element to it, people want a level playing field.
        • Uh, no. Just like someone would be annoyed that someone in World of Warcraft got all the best gear by REing the game and using bots and exploits...same with this. It doesn't matter if you are playing a game about being a gangster of it is a game about magical ponies, if it has a multiplayer element to it, people want a level playing field.

          A level playing field? In an MMO? Yeah, you're dreaming-- if you want to compete with other people on a 'level playing field', play a game that's actually designed to do [crispygamer.com]

  • Games? (Score:3, Funny)

    by bmo (77928) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:34AM (#30469526)

    What, people play games on Facebook?

    I thought those were bots designed to annoy you with "gifts" and spam your friends' pages with garbage.

    --
    BMO

  • It's "going to the mat." As in the wrestling mat.
    Not "going to the mattress" which is something I generally associate with getting screwed.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:44AM (#30469588) Homepage
      No. Going to the matresses is an old mafia term when one Family would get into a fight with another family or was worried about the possibility of a fight. The term comes because when it occurred important people or people who they didn't want to get hurt would find an apartment far away and they'd rent it and sleep on matresses with not much other than their bodyguards. I don't know if this is actually a genuine term, but it is quite old. It is used in the original Godfather. So whether or not it is a real term, it makes sense given that we are talking about a Facebook game that revolves around a glorified fantasy version of the Mafia.
      • by dave562 (969951)

        I think your intepretation of the saying is wrong. Going to the mattress was slang for going to get the guns. People would keep their long guns under the mattress.

        • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
          Possibly, but a quick google search shows that most of the websites quoting the phrase in the Godfather have the full quote as "That Sonny's runnin' wild. He's thinkin'a going to the mattresses already. We gotta find a spot over on the West Side" which certainly sounds like it is talking about finding a hidden location.
          • This is getting offtopic but if "Sonny" is "going to the mattresses" he could be getting his guns. So everybody not on his side should hide. You both are just looking at it from the opposite angles.
            • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
              The people talking are Clemenza and one of the other Corleones. So they are on Sonny's side. In any event, there is agreement that the OP's remark is incorrect.
              • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Mario Puzo explained it along the lines of JoshuaZ in the book version of "The Godfather."

              • by meerling (1487879)
                Doesn't matter if they are on his side or not, when the whacked out monkey starts slinging poo everywhere, it's best to take cover.
      • I don't know if this is actually a genuine term, but it is quite old. It is used in the original Godfather. So whether or not it is a real term, it makes sense given that we are talking about a Facebook game that revolves around a glorified fantasy version of the Mafia.

        Seems like I've heard the phrase wrong all of my life, and some Googling seems to confirm what you are saying.

        I bow to your superior knowledge.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jayhawk88 (160512)

          Going to the mat is also a legitimate phrase, and does indeed have the meaning you bring up, It just isn't applicable in this case.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by nauseum_dot (1291664)
        The actual history of "going to the mattresses" comes from the Joey Gallo and the war between him and the Profaci family. The term appeared in the headlines in the early 60's in the headlines in New York newspapers.

        Info:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Gallo#Gallo-Profaci_war [wikipedia.org]
        http://tomfolsom.com/blog/ [tomfolsom.com]

        • by MrHops (712514)

          The actual history of "going to the mattresses" comes from the Joey Gallo and the war between him and the Profaci family. The term appeared in the headlines in the early 60's in the headlines in New York newspapers.

          Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Gallo#Gallo-Profaci_war [wikipedia.org] http://tomfolsom.com/blog/ [tomfolsom.com]

          Also, this term appeared in the book "The Valachi Papers". From what I recall, it is supposed to mean getting serious about a mob war, where the various mob soldiers would live in rented houses/apartments, sleeping on mattresses, for the duration of the war.

  • Figures (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:51AM (#30469638)
    Business folk have been shooting around Pincus interviews for months now. "What is it that makes him so great?" "How can I invent a simple Facebook game and be rich?" "It's so easy, right?" etc.

    It's bad enough that a trusted associate is trying to get me to drop everything and develop "apps," because everybody knows they're the next big thing.

    But the fact is, Pincus and his people (with great encouragement from his mentor, who *only* cares about money) looked up every sleazy trick in the book and put them all out there. Now they get Sleazy results, and the media suddenly have occasion to finish up the Pincus Story by presenting a dark side. They'll be all over that.
  • I can't stand needy people, and I can't stand needy programs that NEED to be on my wall and whore for attention.

    The only "App" I still use on Facebook is the movie app, yeah, I right a few movie reviews, find out what the movies are about and rate them. I don't want addicting Mafia, Farm, Navel Gazing crap.

  • A boycott can only be effective if the entity being boycotted has a real risk of losing customers. It would be much better if that 11% decline were permanent. What message are they really sending by returning to the game the following day?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by louisadkins (963165)
      If they are serious enough to boycott for a day, they might well be serious enough to drop it completely. If nothing else, they show that some (in this case, at least 11%) of the user base would likely jump ship for a different app that could meet the community standards/requirements.
  • As we all know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lordfly (590616) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:57AM (#30469676) Homepage Journal

    ...protests about Facebook on Facebook tend to work out very well. It's just like those "don't buy gas on day X" chain letters that get bounced around whenever gas prices take a hike upwards.

    • Well, gas isn't $4 a gallon any more is it?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Well, gas isn't $4 a gallon any more is it?

        You absolutely right! On an unrelated note, I've recently come into possession of an amazing tiger-repellant rock that I'd be willing to sell you...

  • by TxRv (1662461) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:57AM (#30469680)

    To make FB usable for its original purpose you have to block and hide metric f*cktonnes of spam from friends who wanted to find out what Harry Potter character they are or who think some picture of an egg (with free spam subscription!) is a nice gift to send a friend. Add to that the significant loss of privacy that comes with actually posting anything; I'd cancel my account right away if FB weren't the only way I can keep up with some of my friends and family.

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Gee, the telephone, email, or snail mail isn't working for you? (...even if you originally GOT their contact information from FB)

      • by TxRv (1662461)

        No, they aren't working for me. These people never check their emails, and I hate talking on the phone.

        There's also the fact that sometimes I want to keep in touch without giving away my real email adddress or my mobile #.

  • by tjcrowley (1702258) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @02:01AM (#30469716)
    I used to work for Mark Pincus at his "failed" social networking site, Tribe.net. It didn't fail, he ran it into the ground because it wasn't making the money he wanted - meaning it wasn't providing him with three mansions and two private aircraft the way Zynga has. It's kind of interesting though, Mark was starting Zynga exactly when Tribe.net users asked us to start a subscription program to raise money to buy needed hardware for the site. Surprise - we made $30,000 the first month, and any time I asked for money for new database servers or to pay contractors, they claimed there was no money. It's pretty obvious to me where the money went. This is NOTHING. This story has been picked up by large media and is only going to get bigger - I was interviewed last week by Details Magazine about what a scumbag Mark is. Sadly you can't read that until March - but that's justr a measure of how fucked this company is. Up until this scandal, they were claiming Zynga would IPO in a month or two. That talk has all vanished. THESE are the types of scumbags that need to be ridden out of Silicon Valley on a rail.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mr Pleco (1160587)

      I remember hearing about tribe.net, it was hilarious to see the video on techcrunch with the interview where they mentioned that Pincus started two other internet startups, only mentioned tribe.net by name and didn't mention the tragic end of that company. Let's not even get into how EVERY SINGLE GAME that zynga has made is a rip-off of another previously successful game. They've not got a single original title to their name. God bless techcrunch for blowing this company wide open.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Zynga is basically the EA of Facebook...

  • Social Contract (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duradin (1261418) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @02:09AM (#30469778)

    So would be this be the social contract where it is A-OK for power gamers to abuse and exploit the game because if they can do it they are supposed to be doing because otherwise they wouldn't be able to do it and then the game company gets to try to crack down on the power gamers which doesn't work except for pissing off the normal players, correct? And then the power gamers get all indignant when anyone tells them they shouldn't be doing something because it is the power gamer's responsibility to not be responsible for anything but doing what is most advantageous for them no matter the cost to everyone else?

    I've seen this statement popping up a lot recently but this is exactly why we can't have nice things.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      A lot of the games are not really prone to abuse or exploits AFAIK... Mafia Wars, for instance. To do anything - PvE, PvP, etc. - requires some sort of resource such as Energy or Stamina. It takes time for it to replenish, typically. I can't see how a powergamer would stress the resources other than using them as soon as they come into play.

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        You completely missed the point of his post.

        In the summary, it states

        At issue is the social contract between software companies and their devoted user base.

        Well, that social contract goes both ways. The player side of the social contract is that they will play the game by the rules and as intended. So, now you have players who are breaking the social contract complaining that the company who made the game is breaking the social contract by trying to prevent players from breaking the social contract by usin

    • I don't think facebook games fall into the category of "nice things."

      In fact, if I could somehow ensure that I can't have what you define as "nice things," I feel that I would take every necessary step to do so. Facebook (and MySpace!) would be much less retarded, in my opinion.

  • by Mr Pleco (1160587) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @02:26AM (#30469890)

    The problem at hand here is that zynga has created two games that encourage cheating.

    MafiaWars is the worst because of the combat system. If you don't have at least 500 friends who play and are added to your "mafia" then you're shafted from the outset. This encourages the dangerous practice of adding people you don't know to your personal facebook account OR breaking facebook ToS by creating a second account for yourself.

    Then you have the weight in the combat formula of the equipment being much higher than the weight of your stats. A person with lousy combat stats but maxed equipment will beat somebody with twice their stats but lousy equipment. They also have free trading of items between players with items that require (at my last calculation) over a year of play to be able to get the best equipment available.

    To top things off their game isn't in flash or something that's not easily machine readable, their entire game is presented in an iframe, so it's relatively simple to create scripts that interact with the game directly using greasemonkey or bookmarklets with javascript. The best examples of these is the Mafia Wars AutoPlayer (http://www.mafiawarsplayer.org/) or Spockholm's bookmarklets (http://www.spockholm.com/mafia/bookmarklets.php)

    Combine that with a game that's designed to appeal to highly competitive players and you have the perfect recipe for disaster for rampant cheating. Whether it's people who buy their combat items or people who run multiple accounts to "farm" items for their own use, it's all against the rules. The hilarity for me is watching zynga "combat" the cheaters and the bots when they could fix the game mechanics to make the cheating and bots unnecessary. Even if it was something as simple as offering the loot for sale in their ingame store, they would put the cheaters and under-the-table loot sellers out of business, and actually be honest about their microtransaction business model. People would complain that the richest player would be the one to win, but that's the way it is right now, so why not own up to it?

    FarmVille is a different beast, in that they've got just about the worst leveling system I've seen in a game yet. A plant crop that grows in four hours will give you the same experience to grow, and more money per hour, than a crop that grows in 24 hours. That's just a broken game.

    The clicks required for farmville are what is most astonishing. The average person will click 1200+ times per DAY playing that stupid game. The best thing they have to minimize that is the farm equipment, which naturally require gas to run that you have to buy, but even with that you're forced to click 300+ times in the best case scenario. I'm trying to make easy to use tools with autohotkey that I'm hosting on my site (http://www.kort-pleco.com/) but it's a challenge finding the time to do that. There's other people who sell full fledged farmville autoplayers, but the point is that it's still the game that is broken and should be changed to fix these problems.

    A great example of a fun game that's NOT click intensive is happy aquarium by crowdstar or zynga's rollercoaster kingdom. They've both struck a great balance how much use you get per click, and I think it's a step in the right direction for facebook games in general.

    Zynga is a game maker yes, but it doesn't mean that their popularity corresponds to the quality of their games. It just means they're able to out advertise everybody else using money they scammed from their players.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by johnlcallaway (165670)
      You obviously have spent any time playing Farmville, or just don't understand how to select crops. Sure, a crop that takes 1 day has much XP as one that takes 4 hours. But .. a crop that takes 1 day only earns 2 xp/day/square (one to plow, one to plant). A crop that takes 4 hours gets 12 xp/day/square because you can plant it 6 times. So it takes a lot of effort to level up at first. Spending effort at first to gain rapid xp gets one into higher return crops. Everytime you make 100,000 coins, you can buy
    • by omglolbah (731566) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @06:19AM (#30471356)
      It makes sense that the XP gain from a rapidly-growing crop is higher.

      A 4-hour growing crop would bring you back to the game (and the ads!) more often than a 24-hour one :-p

      Cheap, but it -does- make sense if you look at it from their view ;)
    • by RKThoadan (89437)

      It is completely possible to play Mafia Wars and totally ignore the PvP aspects of it. You'll lose a negligible amount of money from people beating you up, but money really isn't that big a deal and is completely safe if you put it in the bank. I decided quite early that I didn't care for the PvP aspects and mostly ignore them. I'm almost done with the New York missions and will not be playing it any further once I complete those.

    • by Tim C (15259)

      MafiaWars is the worst because of the combat system. If you don't have at least 500 friends who play and are added to your "mafia" then you're shafted from the outset.

      There are a number of *Wars games, of which MafiaWars is only one (albeit probably the most well-known). The same applies to others, such as Vampire Wars.

  • If you count copying as innovation. Zyngas two most popular games (Mafia Wars and FarmVille) are both copies of other games (Mob Wars [wikipedia.org] and Farm Town [wikipedia.org].)

    • You seem to be assuming that mob wars is original...maybe to face book, but their a browser based game called Torn city or now even just torn.com that's been around a lot longer than facebook.
  • No longer a player (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sobrique (543255) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @04:56AM (#30470832) Homepage
    As of the latest stunt, I've stopped playing MW. The problem for me, is that ... well, you have the CEO bragging about how nefarious they've been. That raised alarm bells. But ... mostly I just detest the quantity of noise they seem intent on generating. I mean, for a facebook integrated game, I know full well that most of my friends list already know I play mafia wars. They either already play themselves, or they don't give a toss about what the spam is. If they play themselves, then ... one notification a day is really all that's necessary. OK, maybe two. But ... certainly they don't need a 'feed' page filled with mafia wars spam.
    And that's why I've stopped, removed the account, and blocked everything. Simply because I no longer believe that Zynga have any ethics to them whatsoever. 'Secret Stash' was the final straw - previous 'spams' have been 'giving free stuff' and as such optional. I did spam a couple a day, but no more. When they've changed a gameplay mechanic to stop working _unless_ you spam a friend, and they click on the link you send... too much.
    But that was enough to make me realise that the game is actually not all that interesting anyway - it has very little depth, and is just about 'acquisition of more stuff'. And frankly, Progress Quest is better at it.
  • Mafia (Score:1, Troll)

    by mwvdlee (775178)

    So a game called "Mafia wars", which is about mafia, stops players from using mafia tactics (cheating) to win?

  • The author refers to botting as "script the game to optimize enjoyment". While i personally am not opposed to botting this is true of all botting. Most people refer to this as cheating because you're not playing the game but the reality is you are merely automating mundane tasks that we consider "below our pay grade".
  • Do they actually care? From what I understand, the mere act of installing the app has given Zynga everything valuable you have. They have your demographic data, and the data of all your friends. If you play the game every day, they earn nothing new from you (aside from demo data of new friends). They've already gotten the milk, leather and meat from the cow. Right now they're just gnawing your bones hoping for some overlooked marrow. Otherwise, you can go away and they won't care. What good is the boycott
  • Zynga has been scrambling to thwart hard-core gamers who reverse-engineer URLs or script the game to optimize their enjoyment.

    What about the player side of the social contract? You know, the side that says players will not try to garner an unfair advantage and will play the game as intended.

    Or, is this just another case of mass hypocrisy?

  • If you want to complain about the game because it's stupid, I'm with you. (But in that case, I'd suggest forgetting about the temporary boycot; easier to just not play stupid games.)

    If you want to complain about the company because it manipulates the game in ways that abuse the players to extract cash from them (which the company's executives brag about doing), I'm with you. (Again, the solution is not a temporary boycot; if you don't want to be taken advantage of, don't.)

    But if you want to complain that

  • As an addicted MW player, I've noticed that Zynga has strategically scheduled at least 2 long outages to occur during these 'boycotts'. I find that an interesting coincidence.
  • the hastily-deployed changes

    You never hyphenate with an adverb ending in -ly. This is one hard and fast rule of the English language.

    The purpose of the hyphen in this construct is to remove ambiguity over which words are paired. Since "The hastily changes" makes no sense semantically, there's no purpose served by the hyphen (that isn't served by the -ly suffix itself, i.e. "The haste changes" or more clearly "The haste deployed changes," vs. "The haste-deployed changes...").

    "Family-owned restaurant" is correct because "Family" is not

  • Correction (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by MWoody (222806)

    You misspelled "cheater" as "hardcore gamer."

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