Category Archives: zynga

Too many games, too little time

Recently, my employer, has been launching a lot of games.

And in different genres.

Wanna play a running game, try out Running with Friends.


Wanna go on a long quest to defeat some dark lords, try Battlestone.


And then if you want to engage in groups of battles just wait for Solstice…

And if you need something more sedate, more cerebral but still fun, try War of the Fallen…The first card battler that was simple enough for me to play.

In the past, Zynga released a lot of games in similar genres. Which was great, but it did mean when you wanted to play a different kind of game, you could play someone else’s game…

But no more.

And as someone who likes to stay on top of our games, and the player experience, I am spending too much time playing games…

Well, maybe my life isn’t SOOOO bad….


Zynga to help education startups

This is pretty f-ing cool:

The San Francisco-game company’s non-profit,, plans to announce Wednesday that it is investing $1 million in a new program to help technology startups build games to help children learn. It has selected an initial handful of startups to join an accelerator this summer at its offices and will supply Zynga employees to help improve their products.

While the financial press regales in tales of woe, and the gaming press has had less than kind words to share about Zynga, it’s good to see Zynga continuing to demonstrate that a company has more constituencies than just the company’s customers and their shareholders, but also the the community the company lives in.

Software Defined Storage – laying claims to being a visionary ;-)

After the recent valuations associated to Software Defined Networking startup, storage companies have decided to get on the band-wagon.

Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, I wanted to lay claim to having been a visionary in the space 😉

And for the record, much of this work would have not been possible without an extremely talented set of senior architects, in particular Jim Voll.

In 2003 Steve Kleiman, then CTO of NetApp, brilliantly noted that storage was a physical system that was going to turn into a software system. And that managing the software was going to be the problem in the virtualized data center.

He was right. And I spent 4 years trying to understand his insight. In 2008, shortly before I left NetApp, I got it…

But then I decided to go work on games.

Because a claim without proof is just a claim, let me refer to two papers I wrote.

The first describes a way to do software defined storage for the problem of managing storage withstorage of data replication:

The second describes the problem that increasing software virtualization of storage was going to create and the need for a new paradigm for management.

NetApp then delivered a product, Provisioning Manager, which implemented a lot of these ideas.

In both of these articles, I called for re-thinking storage management from a hardware system to a software system and proposed an approach that would allow humans to manage the complexity.

Nice to see the world catching up 🙂

Introducing PlayScript

Over the last year Zynga has been looking at solving a hard problem in the mobile and web space: how do you deliver games that run on both mobile and web simultaneously without having to do a full port.

Although there are a variety of technologies out there that solve the problem to some degree or another, none of them were quite right for Zynga.

What we wanted was a single language that could then be compiled to a variety of run-times allowing us to quickly build 3D games for both web and mobile devices.

We looked at technologies like HTML 5, hAxe, Native Client and others but they all suffered from a distribution problem: not every browser supports 3D (IE) or the tool doesn’t support 3D (hAxe) or the technology is limited to one browser (Native Client)

So a couple of our great engineers looked at the problem and decided to see if there was a way we could bring actionscript games to mobile.

And so PlayScript was born.

PlayScript provides a Flash compatible runtime and rendering environment on mobile via OpenGL via the .NET platform, allowing games to be written once and run across web and mobile with the same code base.

PlayScript compiler and runtime has been released to open source under the Apache license.

You can find it here:

Happy Hacking!

Here’s to Starbucks and Zynga and to many others


supportstarbucks Today is a good day to drink some Starbucks coffee, play a Zynga game, download YMCA from iTunes, post on Facebook, buy a kindle book on Amazon, buy some EMC storage, search on Google about gay rights, tweet your support, and and make a Xerox copy. And you should do all of that, today, in protest against those people who want to boycott any of those companies for having a shred of human decency.

In 1996 I remember the frustration that was felt when Clinton signed DOMA. And I still remember the embarrassment and rage  I felt when California became a scary state (voted in favor of protecting the quality of life of chickens and voting against gay marriage). I also remember my ambivalence in 2004 when Gavin Newsom took a heroic stand in favor of gay marriage. Ambivalent because I was happy that he was doing the right thing, and sad because I knew Karl Rove would use it to great effect against John Kerry.

So here we are in 2013, and perhaps, we have an opportunity to fix something that has been broken for too long.

Regardless of how this goes, I know who our friends are. And it brings me great personal joy to know that Zynga, my employer, joined an amicus brief in support of repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

Should I join Zynga?

Someone asked the question of whether they should accept a job offer at Zynga, here’s my response.

Good question. I am biased. Very biased. I work at Zynga. Have worked at the place for 3+ years.

The first thing to realize is that the press is the press. When they love you, you can do nothing wrong, and when they hate you, you can do nothing right. Things are never as good or as bad as the press would like you to believe.

The press isn’t a good way to pick your next job.

What you should instead focus on is; what is the macro opportunity, who am I going to be working with, and what problems will I be working on?

In terms of your job after Zynga, what people will evaluate is not how successful your last company was (there are far more failures than successes in the world), but rather what did you do while you were there. I have hired a great many great people from companies that no longer exist.

I won’t speak to the macro business opportunity.

Let me just state something that is not obvious to many people. We ship 100+ releases a day, sometimes 1000 in a week. Each of these releases is a carefully designed shot on goal. Not everyone scores, but enough do. We ship many many games. And each game is an opportunity to revisit every element of our stack all over again. As a technologist, that should be exciting.

What I can speak to is the technology challenges we have. Our challenge isn’t where we invest our precious technology resources, but where we don’t. We have to innovate on all layers. From the core data center, to the infrastructure management, to database technologies, to API layers, to using client technology in new and novel ways, to core 3D. We have to innovate on mechanics (how people play games) and on channels (how we reach players).

We are, especially around games, a content company. As such we have to continue to navigate disruptive platform changes to continue to deliver the content our players want.

We have to continue to surf technology disruptions that break our plans. On the back-end when we started we built the world’s largest No-SQL database out of memcache, PHP and mysql. Then we helped build early versions of couchbase and now we are investing in our own versions of couchbase and we’re looking at scale SQL engines like memsql. On the front end we started with PHP and web games, became big users of flash for games and on mobile are looking at a wide variety of technology platforms. Each of these changes creates challenges and opportunities and I believe that although there exist great answers today, there are better ones out there.

One of the things I am most intensely proud of is that Farm 2 is possibly the biggest 3D game of all time. Having been associated with 3D graphics either directly or indirectly, the idea that eight million people everyday that are not hard core gamers would interact with a 3D interface is mind-blowing. It might be the most main-stream 3D app out-there…


I know that if you want to work on back-end, scalable systems, at Zynga the future is bigger than the past. If you want to work on the bleeding edge of building games that are social and accessible this is also a great place to work.

So we have good hard problems to work on, and you will get a chance to work on them. But what about the near term future?

Nothing in life is guaranteed. I joined SGI in 1996, which was the last profitable quarter they had. I joined NetApp in 1999, and in 2000 we almost went out of business. Who would have guessed in 1999 when they were growing 100% year over year.

First of all we’re living in this disruptive world. In 2009 when folks had bugs on Safari we ignored them because nobody had a Mac. In 2013 we have OS-x+windows+tablet+mobile+ios+android+win8? Different platforms with different interaction patterns. That disruption creates opportunities and challenges.

When you look at other opportunities out there, ask yourself how many of them have an opportunity to become an internet treasure? Zynga is certainly on any short list. We have a large audience, we have games that people love to play and we have a great team.

If you living in a disruptive world you want to bet on the right team. Zynga, in my opinion, has a great team.

Hope this helped.