The Lifecycle of Software Objects
May 19, 2017 10:06 AM   Subscribe

 
Suddenly, I'm feeling better about the red-shirt nature of my flock of chickens in Rimworld.
posted by praemunire at 10:08 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I too was immediately reminded of the Ted Chiang novella.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:22 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the mysterious "cease and desist" isn't just the creators getting tired of running the thing, and the sudden shutdown is a way to get a final payout from people to make their rabbits immortal.
posted by Pyry at 10:24 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:33 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


If I read it right, Pyry, the option to buy immortality seems to have gone away pretty close to simultaneously with this announcement. Leaving that option in place would have been much more suspicious.
posted by Four Ds at 10:35 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]




This made me curious about the Farmville I abandoned several years ago- I logged back in and it's still there! With just as many annoying pop-ups as you'd expect from being gone that long.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:43 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Hard for me to get worked up about a bunch of virtual bunnies knowing how many of those poor Kerbals I've stranded out in space.
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on May 19 [9 favorites]




No idea what my Second Life login was, not sure if I want to get back in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:02 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


*** WARNING ***

The linked Ted Chiang novella, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" contains material known to the State of California to be professionally crafted to induce emotional responses in the reader.

If you are an individual who:

* is emotionally sensitive
* is, has been or are considering becoming a parent
* has experienced emotional trauma relating to parenthood

then proceed with caution.

*** WARNING ENDS ***
posted by danhon at 11:11 AM on May 19 [10 favorites]


.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:19 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The future is weird.
posted by PMdixon at 11:28 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


My poor NeoPets. :(
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:36 AM on May 19 [9 favorites]


* has experienced emotional trauma relating to parenthood

then proceed with caution.

*** WARNING ENDS ***


I don't know how it works for others with abandonment PTSD, but art and other simulated representations of emotional stuff don't trigger me, fwiw, only actual betrayal and abandonment. And it's not an emotional response, it's a stress response, which is a different system completely... But that's off topic.

posted by saulgoodman at 11:39 AM on May 19


This reminds me, I should go check on my Neopet.

14 years old and still alive apparently

Edit upon preview: Jinx! Faint of Butt :D
posted by littlesq at 11:39 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Just keep reading. "Robot's Ain't Shit." Keep on readin'. No tears today...

THEY AREN'T REAL IT'S JUST A STORY ROBOTS AINT SHIT

“Not because missed zoo. Sad missed month.”
“Ah.”
“I not want be suspended. Not want miss month.”

AAUGGUGHGH
posted by Khazk at 11:40 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Press release from those behind the C&D.

Damn, that's a whole lot of lawyering to try to avoid paying your programmer what you owe them.
posted by Feyala at 11:41 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]


It was all about not complying with discovery, which makes me wonder if they were going to such lengths to avoid revealing tax evasion.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:01 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I worked on one of the most popular virtual pets of 10 years ago. Does SPP ring a bell?

It started as a little side project, two other guys and me, while working at a startup. We repurposed the existing backends, it was just a lot of front end work. I was the sole engineer for a couple years.

I saw the project grow to millions of users. We built a kind of little social network for pets, and had tons of free and not free items. We were making pretty good money.

Our support team collected emails from users. Apparently our virtual pets provided the most important emotional support for a bunch of people. Little stupid pixels on the screen got people through illness, death of loved ones, loneliness, rehab, etc...

We allowed third party designers to compete to get their design voted into the official store, and we shared revenue. We got emails from people in poor countries. Their single item making it into the shop finally gave them the money they needed for a car, a house, to finish school.

Then for business reasons we had a few weeks to kill the product. On their own time a couple of engineers built and deployed a tool to allow users to download their pets and inventory. But these are living dead pets. No more interaction with other pets, no more new items, no more growth and development.

Users were in a bad state. A user who worked at the flower stand outside Macy's and who was a friend of my wife, was in mourning. He took days off because he could not stop crying. We got letters from people from pleading and begging to death threats.

I decided never to have any kind of emotional investment in a virtual lifeform.

But I have to confess something. Working on that product had become hell. I dreaded going to work every day. All the good people left, I stayed because I was on an H1B. I felt so good when we pressed the kill button. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and I was sudenly at peace, relieved of the burden of millions of little parasitic virtual pets.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:25 PM on May 19 [55 favorites]


Well, it also looks like the programmer was a little overzealous. I'd never try to act indignant because someone was trying to avoid having to sell their house to comply with ordered business losses.
posted by corb at 12:26 PM on May 19


$ python
>>> class Bunny:
...   def __del__(self):
...     print "bunny", id(self), "died"
...
>>> herd = list(Bunny() for i in range(1000000))
>>> 
posted by effbot at 12:31 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Thanks for reminding me of my poor Tamagotchi, who's doubtless long since suffocated in mountainous piles of its own waste.

I am left wondering what the "cease & desist" and "legal trouble" is really about, though. Ah, well. Another Mystery of Second Life. Things pop up and vanish without a trace in virtual worlds all the time, leaving behind inadequate records even when it's something really cool like Kurt Vonnegut showing up or Jim Woodring designing a world. It kind of sucks.
posted by byanyothername at 12:35 PM on May 19


UNLESS PEOPLE PAY ME ONE KAJILLION BOTTLECAPS I WILL NOT SHOOT MARCY WITH THIS FATMAN
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:35 PM on May 19


The Ted Chiang novella was great. It wasn't maudlin, just emotive and thought-provoking. Thank you for the link.
posted by Svejk at 12:57 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


DRM. It kills bunnies. Defective by Design should get working on a new campaign.
posted by Zed at 12:57 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


The Ted Chiang novella was great. It wasn't maudlin, just emotive and thought-provoking. Thank you for the link.

Yeah why doesn't that dude have more than one book to buy?
posted by danny the boy at 1:34 PM on May 19


Sadly, my foray into computer pets seems to have totally disappeared.
It was called meowpal, and was a shill for Meow Mix cat food. It was a little computer cat that walked around your MSWindows screen, and did various cat things (eat, sleep, chase the mouse, etc.)

It would walk on top of windows, and jump off them. There were several skins. You could carry it with the mouse.

It first appeared about 1999, and was available until a few years ago (although the .asp that allowed you to get more cat food for it had disappeared).

I haven't tried it in Windows 10, but it works fine in Windows 7. So I give a big fart in the direction of Apple: >OOOOoooo....!!
When I write a program, I expect to to keep on working.
posted by hexatron at 2:06 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Sadly, my foray into computer pets seems to have totally disappeared.
It was called meowpal, and was a shill for Meow Mix cat food


...yet not forgotten! My multiple monitors confuse it but otherwise it still works on 7, as you said.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:39 PM on May 19


I think bunnies should vote.
posted by kmz at 2:49 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Have we all forgotten Tiny Elvis?
posted by lagomorphius at 2:52 PM on May 19


I'd never try to act indignant because someone was trying to avoid having to sell their house to comply with ordered business losses.

I would, because it's only "ordered business losses" from their point of view. From the programmer's point of view it's "money I was promised for work I delivered four years ago and which you've been fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying me ever since". Fuck those guys. They had, at that point, reneged on two settlement agreements. They'd been held in contempt of court. They'd been sanctioned. They'd filed for copyrights on the programmer's work in their name without telling him. They'd failed to pay their accountant. I'm hard pressed to think of ways they could have been operating in bad faith any more obviously than they were.

Honestly, I think the programmer showed remarkable restraint by allowing them to propose a third settlement agreement, because if it had been me at that point I would have told them to go fuck themselves and I would be happy to see their one of their houses seized by the sherriff and sold at auction only to get me a fraction of the money I was owed, just for the satisfaction of knowing I'd finally been able to screw them a little as hard as they'd been screwing me for years. Indignant wouldn't cover it.
posted by hades at 3:32 PM on May 19 [20 favorites]


When Sony stopped manufacturing and supporting the Aibo robot dog, there was great distress amongst their owners. This short documentary about it is a gem. As the priest says at the beginning, "the animate and inanimate are not separate in this world."
posted by drnick at 3:36 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


Yeah why doesn't that dude have more than one book to buy?

Here's a Chiang story you might not have seen: Exhalation (which I like even better in audio podcast form). It's a favorite of mine, hard science fiction about scientific discovery. Unlike most of Chiang's work it's marked by what I take to be an inspiring optimism (pun acknowledged).
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:54 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


I like to think effbot's model holds for all living things: we die only when we become unreachable. Somebody ought to form a religion around garbage collection
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:21 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


whispering to self maniacally

DO NOT BRING UP MY STUFF THAT USES GAMES FOR WINDOWS LIVE!

DO NOT BRING UP MY STUFF THAT USES GAMES FOR WINDOWS LIVE!

DO NOT BRING UP MY STUFF THAT USES GAMES FOR WINDOWS LIVE!

posted by Samizdata at 6:53 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Hey, if all these software rabbits are going to go belly-up without even their willing-to-pay owners able to do anything about it, wouldn't the considerate thing to be for the developers to offer to make all existing virtubunnies immortal for free?
posted by JHarris at 10:17 PM on May 19


Ozimals LLC dissolved in September of 2016, at which point their right to use the content licensed from Distelhurst and Akimeta also terminated. Instead of immortalizing the bunnies and gracefully shutting down the service at that point, they instead continued to use the licensed content, operating as individuals rather than as the LLC. But the LLC didn't have the right to transfer the content to their individual selves. The contract was with the LLC, and prohibited transfer.

The individuals have been operating for the last eight or nine months illegally, hence the cease and desist. Why the chose to honor this particular order, when it sounds like they'd ignored pretty much every other legal order for the previous six years, is a good question. Maybe now that they were operating as individuals instead of a LLC they would definitely, instead of probably, lose their personal houses and belongings for continuing to violate the many court orders.

It's not like they didn't have plenty of time to make things right for their customers. They had to have known that C&D would be coming. So they chose not to do the right thing. And by "they", I mean Candace Sargent and Cameron Holt, aka Ozimals LLC, not Distelhurst or Akimeta, whoever issued the C&D.
posted by hades at 10:45 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Ah, I'm partly wrong. It turns out they did, at the last possible second, make an effort to do the right thing. Apparently they gave someone a duplicatable version of objects required to keep your bunny alive and revive it if you missed the deadline. So those objects are floating around now, being given away free by players in the community (source).

I note that there's a GoFundMe associated with this. It's to help the Ozimals guy, of course, not to help pay the people who'd been getting stiffed by Ozimals for the last seven years.
posted by hades at 11:08 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


This twitter thread about a similar problem involving Second Life horses is also worth reading.
posted by Zarkonnen at 1:33 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


> ...wouldn't the considerate thing to be for the developers to offer to make all existing virtubunnies immortal for free?

Ozimals don't seem to be developers, more like middlemen managing the developers and assets.

And by saying "See! We didn't want to kill your pets but those mean mean OTHER people made us do it!" they get a chance to divert attention away from their own misbehavior. Because the rabbit owners for the most part don't really care who didn't pay whom, but they REALLY REALLY care that somebody made their bunnies die.
posted by ardgedee at 4:16 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Wading through the court documents (which are, ugh, non-downloadable g'drive embeds), what happened seems to be:
  • Ozimals failed to pay their developers as promised so developers took them to court;
  • Ozimals failed to turn over financial records (presumably, because they didn't want to pay and didn't want anyone knowing how much they were supposed to pay);
  • Devs won some rulings, mostly saying "pay up unless you provide numbers explaining why you don't have to;"
  • Ozimals continued to ignore rulings, delay hearings, and do interesting legal shenanigans to continue dodging*;
  • Developers eventually sent a "we're done playing around; shut it down" notice that had teeth;
  • Ozimals announces to users that they're shutting down over "a C&D order" and not "Because we're several years behind paying some of our devs, and they finally got through the courts in a way we can't ignore."
* People who watched the Prenda law fiasco will find some of their activities familiar.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:10 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


You don't need to tell me about virtual worlds ending and characters disappearing into oblivion; I've been there myself. (Dirty Black Summer in the bottom center.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


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