Facebook gaming communities are abuzz with news of Friendly Gaming Simplifier being closed by Facebook’s lawyers. Ever since the news broke, forums, Facebook walls, Facebook groups and blog comments have been filled with allegations against the games developer Sergey Smirnov.
The allegations claim Sergey, the developer of Puzzled Hearts, Puzzled Dogs and Charmed Gems, fell out with Arkadiusz ‘Flies’ Rzadkowolski, developer of FGS, and waged a campaign of dirty tricks to have Flies booted off the Facebook network.
If you’ve been watching closely you will have spotted a regular commenter to all CNN iReports. The commentator’s name is Virginia Moody.
Virgina is the admin of the 3,000 member strong Puzzled Hearts group. Virginia mediated between Sergey and Flies as they battled to outwit each other’s programming skills. Like so many gamers, Virginia feels Flies has been harshly treated by Facebook and Sergey.
You could guess that Virginia has a lot of documentary evidence to back up her claims that Sergey grudge against Flies obsessed him to kill FGS. That guess would be absolutely correct; and I have that evidence ready to publish courtesy of Virginia’s and Flies’ kindness.
Sergey’s Interview at CNN iReport
On January 13th, Sergey gave an exclusive interview with CNN iReporter Robert Kriegar who uses the moniker FightBackNow. During this interview, Sergey denied any involvement in getting Flies banned from developing apps for Facebook, he denied visiting Facebook to tell Facebook to block FGS and he denied there was any co-operation between himself and Flies to develop FGS for use with his games.
When Robert Kriegar asked, “It is being said that you, personally, made it a point to go after this particular browser extension. Is that true?”, Sergey replied “People who believe that I, or any other developers, even Zynga, are able to force Facebook to do, or stop doing, anything are very naive, or have no idea about the Facebook infrastructure.”
Sergey continues to say, “My personal point and point of Facebook are completely different. FGS made the Puzzled Hearts game extremely unbalanced. So, I blocked it more than a month ago. It is not my business to comment how Facebook forces their rules. However, I understand the reasons why FGS has been banned.”
According to Sergey, FGS was banned by Facebook because FGS failed to follow the Facebook Platform Policies that all developers are supposed to obey. Facebook has remained quiet about its reason for targeting Flies with a cease and desist order. The true reason why FGS is banned will remain unknown until Facebook speaks up.
When Robert asked Sergey whether Flies had offered his so-operation to make FGS more acceptable for use on Puzzled Hearts and Sergey’s other games, “I believe that for me, as a US citizen, having any deal (cooperation) with such software is not appropriate (not safe). So, I avoided any contact with FGS developer about FGS.”
Sergey follows up with an attack on Virginia Moody: “At the beginning, Virginia Moody asked me somethings like “What if FGS would click the ads on your pages of the players behalf?”. Just after I realized that those (illegal, BTW) offers came from FGS developers, I ended contact with her as well (so, her personal war began at that time).”
There have been rumors that Sergey visited Facebook to ascertain the legality of FGS. Sergey’s reply is plausible. He explains it as a misunderstanding of his poor choice of words spoken to Virginia re a Facebook Developer Conference hosted at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto that he was due to attend a few days from the time of their argument:
[A] couple days before the event, I argued with Virginia about the legal issue. I said, it was illegal to use it. She insisted, it was good and people should have a choice what to use. At the end, I said “I am going to the Facebook HQ, so will ask them directly whether it is legal or not”
I have no proof he was there but he did comment in a group called Facebook Games Hack 12/8 albeit his first comment came one day after the event’s close.
Many comments to Robert’s iReport point out that FGS is a browser extension not a Facebook app so Facebook has no actual control over its distribution and should only be able to ask members of the social network not to use it. I’m not a lawyer but that argument seems reasonable. The extension is still available from Google Code for those who need it.
Virginia Moody wrote a rebuttal to Sergey’s claims in Robert’s iReport. For reasons
only known to Robert explained in a comment to this post, Robert chose not to publish Virginia’s rebuttal.
Virginia’s steadfast loyalty to Flies and support for the Friendly Gaming Simplifier project brought her to JournalXtra. It is with great gratitude to both Virginia and Flies that I am now in possession of 595 lines of messages between Virginia and Sergey Smirnov. I have read every single line with the nosy enthusiasm only usually derived through secretly reading other people’s computer screens over their shoulders.
The file covers Facebook messages and wall posts between Flies, Virginia and Sergey through November 2011 and December 2011.
So, where to begin. I am not about to give you all 595 lines. A digest of the highlights is all I am willing to give at this point. I will provide further details if asked. I suppose the best place to begin is with Virginia’s rebuttal to Sergey’s interview:
Setting the record straight and this is for Sergey.
Rumors have it I “hate” you Sergey. That is the furtherest thing from the truth there is.
I do NOT hate you Sergey, I am extremely ANGRY with you and the way you have not only treated me and my members and ALL the PH, CG & PD players, but the way you’ve gone after Flies AFTER he offered his hand to you in friendship and cooperation, willing to program FGS to YOUR specifications NOT his. You returned that offered hand by stabbing him in the back. You returned my friendship and help by blocking me from your games where I could no longer help my members or the other players on your wall answering questions you never bothered to address.
Understand the difference between hate and anger Sergey. I don’t hate you, I am very angry with you and will go the distance to make everything you’ve messed up right again for everyone, myself included.
From reading the conversations held between all three, I find it hard to believe Sergey’s interview answers. In the interview, he does seem to be attacking FGS and attempting to character assassinate both Virginia and Flies. At one point in the interview he says Virginia asked whether making FGS click ads would solve some of Sergey’s concerns about lost ad revenue. Virginia doesn’t deny saying this but what she actually said is very different to Sergey’s allegation:
Primarily what I’m rebutting is Sergey’s statement that Flies stated he would program FGS to click on Ads. As you’ll see, Flies never mentioned that. I’m the one that was trying to work out the compromise with Sergey and ask if I clicked every ad that came up would that help him and you’ll see his response. – from an email sent to me by Virginia.
On December 4th, Virginia asked Flies to answer security holes alleged to affect FGS:
ok missed you again…………. I have 4 questions to ask you that are VERY important Flies. I hope you didn’t leave the group after putting yourself in because there has been information, I hope false, given to the group regarding FGS. The developer has blocked you from collecting his 3 games, Puzzled Hearts, Charmed Gems and Puzzled Dogs because he considers FGS a security threat to us the players and feels he’s doing us a favor in blocking you.
- Is FGS a FB authorized application and if not then how can we add it to our FB accounts with all of FB’s so-called security lately?
- Is FGS secure or does it take control of our browsers, as accused, giving you the ability to hack into our banking and other personal information?
- How long has FGS been available to FB games and how many users do you currently have?
- When did you add Puzzled Hearts and Charmed Gems to FGS?
This battle will be won as we are all willing to give up his games to keep FGS and will simply move on to other games you provide us the ability to collect and play. It has now become a battle of developer vs developer and our group, being the largest of his [Sergey's] games, are behind you and not him, but I desperately need the answers to the above questions.
Flies response came the same day:
- No it’s not authorized. It’s my homemade creation.
- Yes, FGS has a list of domains (game addresses) it can use to collect data. Also FGS source [code] can be seen by anyone. It was also checked by Softpedia and marked as 100% secure. FGS has also been awarded [GameMaster.com's Golden Game Gear Award]
- 1,5 year and over 1.5 mln users
- About 6 months ago PH, and 4 CG.
The file also shows Sergey gained Virginia's trust enough for her to make him an admin of her 3,000 member strong Puzzled Hearts group.
Sergey's actions suggest he ran a premeditated campaign to discredit both Flies and FGS. Firstly by pretending to work with Flies via Virginia to make FGS function properly with Sergey's games; secondly by using Virginia's Puzzled Hearts group as his personal support forum for game players to curry favor; thirdly by spreading rumors about Friendly Gaming Simplifier's security; and fourthly by booting Flies out of Virginia's Puzzled Hearts' group:
He [Sergey] deleted you, I had made him Admin, my mistake, just request to rejoin or I'll see if I can add you back.
We are currently on 7 day boycott of his games because of this issue.
It seems Sergey knew FGS would be banned ahead of the cease and desist notice Flies received on January 6, 2012:
[..]would like to know if you've heard from FB that FGS and all other game collectors are being banned by FB as Sergey is telling everyone? - 19 December 2011, Virginia Moody.
It is hard not to conclude that Sergey played Jekyll and Hyde to rid the world of Friendly Gaming Simplifier.
Where Does This Take Us?
From reading the messages, iReports and Save FGS Group Wall posts, it looks like a game of cat and mouse between two developers grew out of hand. Sergey was obviously increasingly frustrated that his best efforts to stop players using FGS to play his games were constantly thwarted by Flies.
It is understandable that a game developer will want to exercise a level of control over the direction of play of his games; but a developer needs to understand that a percentage of game players will always look for ways to end the game as quickly as possible. Some of us just like to get things done.
Many applications are funded by the ads displayed when players load them. Reading between the lines, Sergey was worried about the ad revenue lost due to players not seeing the ads his applications display when wall and gift requests are collected. It is not cheap to host a game. I know this from experience and fully sympathize with Sergey on this point.
FGS did not make money for Flies through ad revenue. He received occasional donations from FGS users. Through Virginia, Flies offered to place Sergey's money making ads in FGS:
If you want, please pass this message to Sergey: I am willing to go on compromise with FGS and his games anytime he contacts me. I think that wasting both of our time is not worth it and we can resolve it. I suppose no one would be offended by an ad displayed inside FGS PH, CG. That would "satisfy" him financially I suppose and we would both have time to do something more meaningful. - Arkadiusz 'flies' Rzadkowolski, 7th December 2011.
If Sergey did pester Facebook to ban FGS, it would be no real surprise that Facebook flexed its claws just to rid itself of a crybaby.
Sadly, Sergey's frustration with FGS caused him to develop a blind vendetta against Flies. Consequently, many people with hand and wrist disabilities are no longer able to comfortably play Facebook games; people who work and have little time to spare to their games are not able to keep up with those players who can play games their every waking hour; and Sergey is losing even more ad revenue as people stop playing his games in protestation of his alleged actions against FGS, Flies and Virginia.
Another deeply saddening outcome is that Flies has been banned from using Facebook. He may not login into Facebook and he may not develop applications that interface with Facebook. Flies is undoubtedly a very clever man with a strong aptitude for a future in application development. Facebook is one of the biggest markets for applications. Sergey's alleged actions have cost a very talented young man a future in Facebook application development; and as he won't be able to participate in conversations held over Facebook's networks, Flies may find his usefulness to some employers severely limited.
You Can Help
A number of Facebook groups have rallied support of Flies and FGS. Join them and let Facebook know you support FGS too:
There is a petition at Petition Buzz that you can sign:
Like the CNN iReport to get the FGS battle onto CNN:
And share this article with your friends, Facebook game buddies, Digg, Stumbleupon and every social network and social bookmarkng site you can think of. Together we can show Facebook that it needs us more than we need it.
Article Updated 15th January 2012
Added You Can Help section.
Amended reason for Robert not publishing Virginia's rebuttal.