Report: Zynga Insider Spills His Guts, Talks Spying And Bad Math

Report: Zynga Insider Spills His Guts, Talks Spying And Bad Math

A user over on Reddit, claiming to be a former Software Engineer at social games giant Zynga, has not only gone and posted the rather dense separation letter he received upon quitting the company (above), but done a little extra guts spilling at the same time.

Among the claims user mercenary-games makes are, when asked “What creepy stuff went on?”:

Spying on players. Getting intimate gaming data, their habits, their networks, and how to effectively monetise given X. Another issue was skewing gameplay for the sake of profit, example; I actually resorted to BAD maths, to make the case for making a feature more fun. At the end of one sprint, a QA dude was complaining about the drop rate of a specific item being absurdly insane, and therefore UnFun. I looked at the code, and tweaked some values, gave it back to QA guy, and fun was restored. Product Manager overrides this, goes for unfun, yet more profitable version.

Later asked for his thoughts on the current spat between Zynga and the developers of hit iPhone game Tiny Tower, mercenary-games says:

Tiny Tower + D Heights is all standard operating procedure here. If you can’t buy em, clone em. Even the core technology for FarmVille (MyMiniLife), was bought. The only “homegrown” codebases at Zynga is MafiaWars2 and maybe Poker, the rest of their tech was just bought from small studios. Lookup Dextrose Engine. To me, that’s utterly creepy. They try to choke out the competition by gating all these engines and tech.

And finally, asked how data-driven the company is as opposed to looking at things like, well, fun, he replies:

I have a hook into every piece of new data and user involved feature. I have to report the data at all times. PMs rely on metrics more for office politics, not science, not game design. Zynga is a marketing company, not a games company.

None of which will be particularly new to anyone who’s been following the success of the company, but for those aghast at what’s been done to achieve that success, it’s interesting reading.

Provided, you know. It’s real. So keep a grain of salt handy while you munch popcorn.

IAmA Former FullTime Zynga Engineer => quit 6 months ago. Not a contractor, (Z treats em like shit) [Reddit]

Why Farmville Turns Humans Into Lab Rats [Kotaku]

Why Zynga’s First Day on Wall Street Went to Shittyville [Kotaku]


  • “None of which will be particularly new to anyone who’s been following the success of the company,”

    I wish this was the first line of the article. Just because it’s an ‘insider hate note’ doesn’t make zynga wrong. Although i’m guessing in game data (habit and activity, not personal data?) is covered by terms and conditions… but even then, all websites do this.

    If you own a store in real life and you notice people are looking at a product but not buying it…. of course you would do something about the product to make it more attractive to buy.

    • Zynga not wrong for blatantly copying other peoples work and being able to keep doing so because of their money?

      Zynga does everything wrong and the only reason why they have their success is because they are latched to Facebook. If we’re lucky more lawsuits will emerge against them and drive them into a deep, dark hole from which they never recover. The whole games industry would be better for it

      • If it is that easy, then why don’t you make a game for facebook then?

        Anything successful gets copied in some way, it’s why there is so many colas and so many touch phones. But an exact copy (or close to) is questionable and can be taken to court.

        • Are you serious???
          Did you really just use the” If you can’t do it, then you can’t say anything” argument?
          One does not need to be an expert cook to know when a meal is bad.
          One does not have to be an expert marksman to know when someone misses the shot.

          But thats besides the point because that argument has NOTHING to do with Zyngas terrible practices of copying other peoples games blatantly making a complete clone of the product is bad.
          its bad for the industry and bad for consumers. Your delusional if you think otherwise

  • A day in the life of Luke Plunkett.

    1. Wake up. Go to work.

    2. Google ‘wicked sweet cosplay.’ Post the first five galleries to Kotaku.

    3. Hop on reddit for five minutes. Post the first five top stories to Kotaku.

    4. Do fuck all for the rest of the day and contemplate how I can be even more of a fuckup than Brian Ashcraft and still not get fired

    • i dont get it…

      i may not sit all day on reddit like you, so its nice that luke pokes around on my behalf and reports to me what is interesting

      whats your problem again? you dont think giz has any good content? then stick to reddit and wait for your giz articles there, dont come here and whinge that youve read it already

      • Giz overall has some pretty good content, but there are a couple of writers it could do without (Plunkett being one of them)

      • I think his point is that it’s quite possible to cover these stories by researching them properly and actually putting out a well written article. Look at Mark or Tracey or Logan and then compare what they do to Plunkett and the other folk at KotakuUS where the articles are mostly big blokes of text copied from other sources.

    • Why don’t you go over to the US site and contact Luke and advise him on how to do his job better instead of complaining.

      You don’t like his articles? Then don’t click on them!
      You realise by coming in and reading/commenting on them in in fact keeps him in a job?

    • Side note, hell fucking yes I’m jealous. I’d fucking love to have a job where I do about ten minutes of work a day, and spend the rest of it browsing reddit and fapping it to cosplay galleries. It sounds like a fucking sweet gig!

  • Sarcastic comment on how Zinga is a pure profit making company and how anyone thinking that their games are meant to be fun is fooling themself.

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