Sonyfication, Revisited

Roughly seven months ago, I posted about what I called Sonyfication, a term I created to describe the acts of a company that promises and delivers features, then, out of nothing more than pure greed, removes them. The namesake of this term was, of course, Sony’s removal of the OtherOS feature of the PlayStation 3. My first usage of the term was aimed at Spotify, who initially offered free (but with advertisements) unlimited listening, then altered their free plan to enact severe limits on listening after six months of membership.

Today, Glitch has announced that it’s “unlaunching.” That is, they are returning to a beta stage. As an end-user, and as a developer who understands (at least to some small extent) his responsibilities to the end user (oh, and let’s not forget, a huge fan of Glitch), I figure I have a few things to say about this.

Before I begin, let me make one thing clear: I am not comparing Tiny Speck (the developers of Glitch) to Sony, or to Spotify. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Tiny Speck, and nothing but the utmost of loathing for Sony and Spotify. Tiny Speck is not doing this unreleasing of Glitch for profit, but to make the world of Ur a better place (unlike Sony and Spotify, who clearly performed their actions as a malicious act of greed). I applaud their motive, but I’m worried that the results may still be disastrous. So I’m not entirely confident that the term Sonyfication is appropriate here. However, for lack of a better term, it’s what I’m using.

Quoted below is my comment on the Glitch forum topic on the issue, verbatim, and in its entirety (but with some formatting added):

I’m going to add myself to the list of “please no reset” people. As much as I’ve always wanted the honor of “being in the beta” and getting a pickle and all that jazz, I’ve realized something. None of that will make up the 99 hours I’ve devoted to accomplishing stuff in the last three-ish weeks. I’ve more or less renounced real life in favor of spending more time on Glitch, although if I lose all I’ve got on here, I may not come back. I feel really sorry for those who are up at levels 50-60. The amount of time they’ve had to spend doing rather menial tasks in the game (I’m looking at you mining) is incomprehensible to me. The previous resets (while I can’t actually speak for those who had to deal with them, as I had not yet signed up) made sense. If people sign up knowing it’s in beta, then they sign up expecting the worst. However, many people, myself included, signed up after this period, and expected smooth sailing (I’ve written about this kind of thing before; companies like Sony and Spotify have promised features then later removed them, in an act I’ve termed “Sonyfication”). While I’m a developer myself, and certainly acknowledge the fact that software can have bugs after launch, as I am also an end-user, I realize my responsibilities toward the end-user as a developer (e.g. making it a priority to cause as little disturbance to users as possible when there are indeed bugs).

One possible solution (I realize I’ve never developed anything on as large a scale as Glitch; so correct me if I’m wrong on this) would be something like what Chrome does. Have a “stable channel” (e.g. Glitch as it is now), and a “beta channel.” Then, completely informing them of the possible repercussions (resets included), allow them to opt into the “beta channel.”

That said, and to attempt to end on a somewhat positive note, I’m glad to see that things like housing and the ability for more player control over the world are being addressed. Remove the ability for players to kill each other by splank fight, and I think Glitch has the opportunity to become the perfect game (the lack of violence as a core gameplay element is key, in my opinion, and I applaud Tiny Speck for making such strides in this arena; also, I realize that the term “perfect” is subjective). For what it’s worth, I’m not offended by or opposed to violent games. It’s just not my cup of tea.

You already posted that there. Why repost it here?

A couple of reasons. First is visibility. My comment will quickly be buried in that forum post. Here, it will remain at the utmost level of visibility for, at the very least, the better part of a month. Second, is out of my respect for Tiny Speck. The Glitch forums are theirs, not mine. I have a bit more I’d like to say on the topic than what I said there, but I respect that the Glitch forums are their home turf, so I’ll instead post the extended version here.

So I’ve always wished I were in the Glitch beta, as I felt, until today, that in order to really be part of the community, it’s a prerequisite. Furthermore, and partially for the same reason, I’ve always wanted the Special Item That Only Beta Testers Get (aka Señor Funpickle). However, what I never really gave much serious thought, is that sure the pickle says you were in the beta. But that’s not much of a real accomplishment. It’s actually just a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time. What really struck me in light of this was my reconsideration of a Glitch who was level 59 for as long as I could remember, then finally accomplished reaching level 60 (by comparison, I’ve attained level 30 at the time of this writing), and another Glitch who was in the beta, but has only attained level 8. Let’s assume the level 60 Glitch wasn’t in the beta. Still, it’s obvious as to which one was more devoted to the game. So really, a special item doesn’t properly make up for resetting one’s level, as it isn’t an accurate indicator of the amount of effort and time one has put into the game. Upon giving this some consideration, my advice to Tiny Speck would be to provide an additional piece of information on each player’s profile, stating “Pre-Reset Level: [level number].

In addition to level number, the other thing I’m most concerned about is cubimal collections. I’ve, admittedly, only recently started collecting cubimals (for those who do not play Glitch, just know that a cubimal is a collectible in-game item, often of excruciatingly high value). However, I have a little over half the different kinds of cubimals in my collection (sadly, the more common half of the cubimal spectrum, in general). Of these, a couple were obtained from Cubimal Boxes, and the rest were obtained by trading with other players. This is cause for alarm. What if, after post-reset, these other players are no longer able to trade cubimals at the same prices I paid for them the first time?

At this time, I’d like to reiterate the ultimate moral of this post: the responsibility of developers toward users. Especially after launching my first paid iOS app, I’ve learned some of these responsibilities quite well. Like see that “App Support” link up top? In my opinion, it’s unnecessary clutter. It’s also the first time that my blog contains content that I don’t really want. But Apple requires that I offer a support page (maybe in the future, I’ll create a support page separate from my blog), so I have to put it there. Returning to Glitch, the subject of this discussion, I understand the previous resets. As far as I am aware, it was made quite clear to users that they were part of a beta, and that there would be resets. However, for those of us now, who signed up to what we thought was a finished product, the ethics of the situation have changed. A beta was not what we signed up for. Stuff like resets wasn’t part of the deal. So I leave Tiny Speck with this challenge: No more resets, please. And I do understand that you’re working for the good of the community (and I’m deeply sorry that I had to mention the likes of Sony and Spotify in this post along with the good guys). Even if you do have to perform a reset in the course of this (and I’d also like to remind the reader at this point that they said it’s extremely unlikely, and to apologize for my “the sky is falling” tone), I won’t lose any respect for you. Will it perhaps preclude my return after such a hypothetical reset? Yes. But that’s more so my fault than theirs. I simply can’t bring myself to spend the many hundreds of hours to get back to where I was. Ultimately, Glitch is a free game, and I suppose Tiny Speck doesn’t really have an obligation to go out of their way to avoid a reset. But I challenge them to go above and beyond what’s expected, as they’ve already more than proven that they can, and to ensure a seamless user experience by avoiding a reset. I have faith in them, and until some terrible reset comes, I shall continue to play Glitch in every possible minute I can find.

10 Responses to “Sonyfication, Revisited”

  1. Miss Melody

    Hi Justin,

    Just to let you know I have read your comments and I completely agree with them. No more resets please You are right we did know that there would be rests, before. This time we were just told we were back in beta, I do hope that this go’s as smoothly as possibly. I would hate not to be a part of this community, but as I said I don’t think I could start all over again. Spent too many continuous hours this time, playing and helping others get started, on housing etc. I told you a lot of us played together on Faunasphere, we were all very unhappy when Big Fish Games pulled the plug on it, with only a few weeks notice. We had all spent a lot of money on our spheres and we felt very cheated, we still do. I decided that I would take out a moly subcription, to help the developers with the making of this game. I hope as well it will stay free for those who cannot afford to pay. See you in game sometime, you never know I might try the GoC one day.

    Melody

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