MyGamerCard Bids Farewell to the Xbox Community
Dear Xbox Community,
First, thank you for visiting MyGamerCard. I apologize in advance if this turns out to be long or disjointed, or if things don't even make sense or seem relevant; there are a number of things I want to say, much of which I'm not even sure how to say, and even more that I will likely forget to say and will have to add in later.
For over five years, MGC has served the Xbox Community in ways that I had never imagined. What started as a "test of concept" for a few Xbox.com forum users led to a rollercoaster ride that has been one of my life's greatest adventures.
When I started working on the code that would eventually become the heart of MGC, I certainly did not imagine that nearly five million unique GamerTags would end up using it. Nor could I ever fathom that the handful of requests that saturated my home cable modem (and kept me from playing Halo 2!) would eventually require nearly a dozen servers to handle the daily load of thirteen million GamerCard requests and the hundreds of thousands of users visiting the site every day!
I don't share these numbers just for show: to me, they're testaments. Testaments that such a service was useful to the Xbox Community - even needed, and worth nurturing and investing in. I wasn't in it for fame or money, I was doing it because I loved the challenge, the learning experience. Of course the recognition felt great, but mostly because it reinforced that I had created something beyond myself, something I was giving others.
Plus I got to play with fun datapoints, and show my love for programming and gaming at the same time! It was easy to work with a company who recognized, embraced, and respected the concept of community involvement in building a strong and loyal customer base. A true symbiotic relationship that benefitted both parties.
However, in the past few years, that love for community has been lost by Microsoft. The closure of customer-to-company community-centric interfaces (that weren't tech support (no disrespect towards the awesome @XboxSupport!)) was a huge blow for Xbox fans. Especially those who really felt like they had a connection to the company they were spending their disposable income on. Similarly, the Xbox Community Developer Program - the program that was essentially created for MyGamerCard and a select few similarly broad-minded community projects - stagnated, with extremely few updates or new data features (despite constant requests), and waning communication as Xbox allocated even less time to the program.
Eventually, the rise of these websites, coupled with the declining advertising ecosystem, pushed my out-of-pocket expenses upwards as advertising alone couldn't maintain the (quite modest, comparatively) monthly hosting fees. Eventually, the decision had to be made to take down the site. It wasn't (and still isn't) a decision I've made lightly; proof of that is the simple fact that I've been running half of my monthly costs out-of-pocket for over a year now. But despite the sadness of having to shut down this part and chapter of my life, there's a part of me is a little relieved that there's a set 'closure' to all of it, rather than infinite abandonment.
But it hasn't been all bad! In fact, as I mentioned, it's been one of the greatest parts of my life so far. I've been able to make wonderful friendships and business acquantances with community members, Xbox Employees, and industry workers. The technical experience I've learned about programming, database design, system architecture and scalability, community management, public relations, advertising (I could go on).... all of that has been invaluable and much of it not easily taught by a book or online. I have gained jobs from that experience, and I've lost those same jobs when my loyalty to MGC came before the tasks I was hired to do. However, I'm currently in a job that I would like to hold onto (assuming my experience doesn't qualify me for any game-industry jobs, which I would certainly consider!), and I simply don't have the resources to maintain the site or bring it back to a respectable state where it could be self-sustainable.
I'm incredibly proud of how far MyGamerCard went, and the status it obtained in the gaming community. While in 'normal' terms five years isn't all that long, as far as the Internet goes, that's essentially a lifetime. QuantCast currently measures MyGamerCard at a rank just under 15,000. Out of nearly 200 million websites on the Internet. I'd consider that an Achievement (Unlocked).
Is this the last you'll hear from me? One can never say. Obviously I'll still be around personally, whether it be Xbox Live (Morgon), Twitter (@Morgon), or via email (see the bottom of the page). But I still have a number of project ideas floating around in my head, including some non-Xbox related things, so perhaps I'll hit on something that's a fraction of the success that MyGamerCard has been.
Thank you again for your praises, suggestions, and criticisms; awards, interviews and invites; and Tweets, Friend Requests, emails, and posts. But most of all, thank you for being a part of MyGamerCard!
Founder, Developer, et cetera
MyGamerCard wishes to thank the following for their support over the past five years:
- Without Xbox Live and the Xbox 360, there would've been no inspiration for MGC!
Between the 'Gamercard' concept, and their support through the creation of the Xbox Community Developer Program, many employees of Microsoft and Xbox have become partners and friends throughout the years.
Extra-special thanks to:
- Major Nelson - The first person to reach out to me from Microsoft, and MyGamerCard's largest advocate within Xbox. I still have his first email to me from November 17th, 2005, letting me know of his blog post about my project; this was before it was even called MyGamerCard!
That same day, Microsoft informed me that the service was putting a sizable load on their servers; the first sign of the impact this project might have.
- e, DMZilla, RedShark, daStahl, and Large Jaguar - I may not be able to publicly say what they've done for MGC, but I list them specifically so they know their support has meant a lot to me.
- The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program, as well as past and present Xbox MVPs for their support, opportunities, and the late nights at MVP Summits, gaming events, and on Xbox Live!
- Major Nelson - The first person to reach out to me from Microsoft, and MyGamerCard's largest advocate within Xbox. I still have his first email to me from November 17th, 2005, letting me know of his blog post about my project; this was before it was even called MyGamerCard!
- After quickly burning through four webhosts in MGC's first two months, Waveform was willing to provide the support to allow MyGamerCard to grow and flourish. They became the sure choice to make home for what has become a farm of nearly a dozen servers, and the largest singular entity on their network.
For top-notch data center services, reach them at Waveform.net or 1-866-WAVEFORM.
- Providing simple .NET Development tools, Red Gate helped MyGamerCard protect and optimize the code that powered our Silverlight GamerCard. This added security allowed us to push more information to the Card and create the interactive experience to match the NXE Dashboard.
See what they can provide for your projects at Red-Gate.com
- DigiCert graciously provided MGC's SSL Certificates and support, allowing MyGamerCard to manage all of its secure operations with one certificate. This was a huge benefit when dealing with multiple subdomains across several servers.
If you're looking for trusted encryption, especially securing multiple hostnames, DigiCert might be for you.
- What good is a site without its users?
It may sound cliché, but our users have definitely been some of the most kind, loyal, and motivational people a community could have. For all of the occasional negative experiences with users (hacking attempts, forum troublemakers, aggressively impatient people, etc), there has always been a positive reception from our users as a whole.
From forum praise about localized GamerCards, to "Thank you" emails out of the blue, to Twitter chatter of one friend referring another to the site, to the random shoulder-taps and handshakes when I wear my MGC shirt at events like PAX - the users have meant the most to me and have been my largest encouragement. So instead, thank you for your support and praise over the past 5 years!
I do have to call out some extra-special thanks to community members who have contributed their time, resources, or expertise to MyGamerCard in some way (in no specific order):
- Tangled Spider and Dynamo Matt for being my 'right-hands' at various stages. They helped provide ideas, feedback, and general strategy for the verious services MGC has introduced. Dynamo Matt also created the front-end for the incredibly slick NXE Silverlight GamerCard.
- madgreatgrandpa and Big Mase 911, our Forum moderators. Big Mase also helped flesh out several great GamerCard styles, including the 'gamebar', 'lastgame', and 'presence' themes - and worked many hours creating suitable images for them!
- Sherveen approached me with an idea to create 'MGC News', a news and review mini-site. Although fairly short-lived, we did get to record a couple of podcasts, which was... an experience.
- Momie is the reason you were able to enjoy MGC's Completion Leaderboard! He was the mind behind the math that powered it, which ended up becoming one of our most popular Leaderboards.
This history has been compiled with the help of Morgon (myself), Tangled Spider, and Dynamo Matt, and I appreciate their help in preserving some of this information. Note that this is not a complete list, and is both filled with minutia as well as missed details.
Microsoft unveils the portable 'Gamercard', which provided a quick view of a gamer's Xbox Live Gamerscore and game history.
Morgon catches a thread on the Xbox.com forums discussing difficulty using Microsoft's HTML-based Gamercard.
After an marathon all-night coding run, the first version of 'GC2JPG' was unveiled in the early morning hours, served by a small, general-purpose Linux machine on a home cable connection. The first version is visually rough:
Another all-night coding (and learning) session gives us our first interactive GamerCard, based in Flash, and is released as 'GC2SWF'.
As the traffic on his home cable connection leaves Morgon without the ability to check email - or worse, play Halo 2 - our first web host is obtained, and services move there as 'gc.morgontech.com'.
The Xbox 360 officially launches in the US, and our site is now transformed into 'MyGamerCard'! Along with an official name, MGC launches the first GamerScore Leaderboard, based on the several thousand GamerTags amassed in less than a month's time.
We've outgrown our second host, MGC purchaes two accounts at another host, in hopes of being able to balance traffic quotas between them.
Just 36 days from the first GamerTag, we've broken 10,000 thanks to BIG WILL76!
Barely two weeks from our last move, we've jumped to yet another host!
Gamer 'ST TheKing' breaks 10,000 GamerScore, becoming the first 'GamerScore Celebrity'.
Our final move to Waveform Technology is thankfully our last!
We shrink the standard GamerCard into a 'mini' variety. Forum owners rejoice as they can fit GamerCards into smaller spaces.
Two months since providing publicly available GamerCards, 'PlayinNaked' becomes our 25,000th unique GamerTag! It is about this time that the site breaks the One Million daily GamerCards.... no wonder we had to move hosts so quickly!
To kick off the new year, a new website is launched:
Our first custom GamerCard is released, called 'sig'. Based on the standard GamerCard, this was designed specifically with forums in mind.
Given our large international userbase, MGC unveils the first iteration of localized GamerCards, with support for Danish, German, Greek, Spanish, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, and Chinese. User submissions enabled us to serve Catalan (courtesy of Roger Baldomà) and Malay (courtesy of PrivateJ0hn.) shortly after!
50,000 unique GamerTags now tracked!
YLA G creates 'GooMGC', a widget for iGoogle that displays GamerCards for you and 8 of your closest friends!
MGC's Leaderboard get a major overhaul, allowing for search filters based on country, and by game. Countries start localized GamerScore races.
The combined GamerScore of all MGC users tops 100,000,000! Who says gamers are underachievers?
Our first GamerCard to be offered in a choice of colors, user 'teh Pixel' submits the theme 'Marble':
User Ondines Curse is the 100,000th unique GamerTag! MGC GamerCards go green for St. Patrick's Day.
MGC's only April Fool's joke, Achieve360Points assisted in creating a false Achievement list for a 'new' Barbie™ game, while our GamerCards and Leaderboard listings showed a random listing of users having played the game, including good sports Major Nelson and Hiroprotagonist!
MyGamerCard adopts the Lighttpd webserver software to facilitate greater handling of increasing traffic demands.
2.5 Million GamerCards served daily!
To thank the people who make the Xbox community what it is, MGC releases a 'Celebrity Leaderboard', listing GamerTags of the Xbox Team, writers of respected gaming outlets, and game developers. Shout-out to Ubisoft dev Momie, who held the top spot as of MGC's closure.
Capturing the buzz around E3, the first iteration of MGC's LIVETracker - a "who's online" list of people to game with - comes online. Many gamers report having a great time with random community users!
What has now become most popular GamerCard themes, 'Gel' was released, provided by user cate kroft. The thin 'signature' version of this card becomes the first one to display more than the default five recent games.
MyGamerCard's first appearance in the gaming press! The Official Xbox Magazine (OXM) US, OXM UK, and X360 (UK) all ran wonderful pieces directly about, or mentioning MGC.
3 million daily GamerCards (that's nearly 35 unique cards per second - all day, every day)! Combined MGC GamerScore reaches 1 Billion!
Chile is formally introduced to Xbox Live, and therefore, MGC. Bienvenidos!
What would become MGC's final site redesign is launched, bringing in user accounts and public user profiles which are decked out with completion percentages and ratings!
MyGamerCard teams up with the GamerchiX to showcase their group and members with a Leaderboard of their own!
Completely without previous knowledge, Microsoft uses MGC in their display at the Leipzig Games Conference in Germany! Ben Talbot, community editor of OXM UK at the time, kindly provided a screen-grab that clearly shows our handiwork displayed for all of Germany to see
MyGamerCard was interviewed by TriXie for the Community Spotlight (link outdated).
The Xbox Live Vision camera for the Xbox 360 went on sale. If you still have the packaging from the 'Deluxe' version (with the headset and Live subscription), check the inside flap! You can clearly see a (doctored) image of an MGC GamerCard. We're especially proud of this inadvertant marketing on a real Microsoft product.
An incredibly ambitious GamerCard project replaced the standard grey background with colorful screenshots of the most recent game in a user's history. The 'LGP' (Last Game Played) card was a popular choice among faithful MGC users, while we had the ability to support it!
Namaste to India and Goeie More to South Africa, as the Xbox 360 goes on sale, and are tracked by MGC. They find workarounds to connect to Live.
Custom Leaderboards were released, allowing members to create their own public (or private) list of comparable GamerTags of their choosing.
Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Hindi, and Polish languages are published on GamerCards
We were nominated for GamerTagRadio's 'Community Site of the Year' award, which we later won. A great end to our first full year!
5 million daily GamerCards served!
Happy Birthday to both the Xbox 360, and to 'MyGamerCard'! Total unique GamerTags now surpass 750,000. In celebration, Xbox.com releases their list of '360 Reasons to Love Xbox 360', which lists MyGamerCard as (alphabetical) reason #184. MGC also launches a public beta test of the Genre leaderboards, featuring ranks of the aggregate scores in Sports, Shooters, Xbox Live Arcade titles, and more!
Major Nelson interviews Morgon for his weekly podcast. Quite an honor for him, given that most guests are direct gaming industry members.
Merry Christmas! Genre Leaderboards are released, ranking users on their aggregate GamerScores in Shooters, Sports games, and Xbox Live Arcade titles, among others.
UK Magazine X360 named 15th in the 'Best Xbox 360 Moments' for their January issue!
The release of the Completion Leaderboard uses math to incite gamers to go back and finish Oblivion.... and pick up Avatar.
MGC tries its hand at a podcast, called the MGC Exchange. I think we made three of these before realizing we should stop.
One million unique GamerTags, solidifying it as the largest Xbox Community website, outside of Microsoft themselves. Combined GamerScore now 3.25 Billion with a total of 115 million Achievements unlocked in 22 million games! Already the largest database I've ever maintained, by far!
Brazil joins Xbox Live, and gets a Leaderboard!
MGC moves GamerCard serving to a pair of dedicated machines to split up the increasing demand. Fun toys like 'caching' now become a necessity to ensure greater speed and reliability.
Russia joins Xbox/MGC. GamerCard themes 'Royale', 'Geothermal', 'Cylinder', 'Crest', 'Corner', 'Presence', and 'Aero' are introduced.
Microsoft finally begins to address the idiocy known as 'gamesaving', and plans to start reset GamerScores for cheaters.
The GamerPic Scout is unleashed to catalog and organize the 6,000-plus GamerPictures available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Among other features, users were able to tag images with common keywords to enable searching on a common theme, such as all GamerPictures that contained a 'puppy', or a 'spartan'.
Image-based Zune Cards allow you to post your Zune activity - previously availably only in Flash from Zune.net - to other places around the Internet.
MyGamerCard partners with several community websites to release themed GamerCards. Among them are XboxAddict, Unscripted 360, The Blue Skittle, MondoXbox, Konsole Kingz, Evil Avatar, and 360Style.
Game history on Profiles were upgraded to allow sorting by date played, game name; and later, or Completion rating - convenient for finding which games you should work on first!
MGC officially begins serving 10 Million GamerCards per day, worldwide. This equates to a rough estimate of 250 Gigabytes of traffic daily - just in GamerCards alone!
10 Billion total GamerScore now reached. You sure do love your Achievements!
5,000 Custom Leaderboards have been created! Despite having support for 250 users on a Leaderboard, the average number of GamerTags on a Custom Leaderboard is only 17. Only 25 of them had more than 200 users.
Independence Day is celebrated with patriotic GamerCards, displaying fireworks and flags.
Here's some 'hardware porn' of our current rack space at the time. It's still amazing to me that we have ever needed this much power for what I thought was going to be a general hobby and novelty.
The first 'ScoreCard' was released for Geometry Wars 2. This highlighted your high scores and in-game ranks for the six gametypes of GeoWars2.
Microsoft updates the Xbox 360 dashboard to what is known as 'NXE' - the New Xbox Experience. Taking design cues from the use of distance and perspectives, MGC updates its flagship GamerCard with a theme of the same name, including the display of the new Avatars.
In short order, the NXE cards get mini-fied!
A fourth GamerCard server is added to serve the 12.5 Million daily requests!
Our second and final multimedia GamerCard is released in Silverlight. This is absolutely our best work in terms of display and functionality. Scrolling through your game history never looked so beautiful!
MyGamerCard makes an important decision to exclude cheaters or members with enabled Privacy Settings from displaying on Leaderboards. The first step in attempting to mitigate an issue that Microsoft has not taken as seriously as the community has demanded.
A 'ScoreCard' for the Halo: Reach beta, drawing from the UI elements of the game, is launched. It was truly a work of beauty, and it was unfortunate that Bungie's final Reach API did not quite match the kinds of information we wanted to display.
A larger blow was dealt to cheaters when GamerCards were no longer served to those GamerTags who had obvious signs of game tampering. While this dropped the overall number of daily successful GamerCards served, the remaining users saw a slight decrease in load times.
All of our work on removing incentives to cheat is destroyed as Xbox.com updates their website to a new look and feel. Large parts of the site which provided usable details to identify such behavior was removed, resulting in the inability to maintain a cheat-free community website. Pleas to Microsoft to re-implement this information went unanswered, making it clear they were neither interested in policing their userbase, nor allowing other communities to continue doing it for them.
(Potential) Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: What's going on here?
A: Due to a number of factors outlined on the front page, we're unable to continue operations. Multiple avenues of maintaining the site were investigated, including donations, acquisition, and even assistance from Microsoft. None of those worked out.
- Q: How long have you known that you would have to close the site?
A: While I had doubts on the future of MyGamerCard for most of 2010, it wasn't until early fall that it really hit me that it wasn't prudent to continue trying to support it alone.
- Q: The site hadn't seen any updates in quite a while. Were you out of ideas?
A: Absolutely not. I have/had no less than 5 different projects that I wanted to introduce to the site, including a general redesign. Being that I'm only one person, especially one with very limited frontend web design capabilities, it was hard to build the enthusiasm to develop them, since I couldn't release it without visual polish.
- Q: I would pay a small subscription fee to use your site! Would that help?
A: Your generosity has been very touching! Unfortunately, my agreement with Microsoft and the Xbox Community Developer Program states that I cannot directly charge for use of basic functionality of my application (in this case, GamerCards).
- Q: So if you can't accept direct payment, what about donations?
A: Funny thing is that MGC had a donation button/section for a year and a half between Spring 2009 and Fall 2010. It was highlighted, but I've tried to steer clear of overly obnoxious advertising/'begging', and perhaps that didn't call enough attention. My eternal thanks for those who did donate during that time.
- Q: You claimed you were getting 13 million hits a day, how does that not pay for itself?
A: The 13 million figure was for GamerCards - the images and interactive widgets you see on forums, blogs, etc. It's not something that inherently generates revenue, unlike most website hits.
- Q: Can I buy the code/site/domain from you?
Note: I don't like this question, and I don't think it belongs here, but this has popped up too much to ignore. Hoping I can answer the vast majority at once.
A: Probably not(?). One of the things that matters most to me is the integrity of the project and identity that was my life (quite literally!) for the past five years. I couldn't just sell the domain to someone, as that would seem like they're only capitalizing on the page rank and/or its familiarity.
As for the site itself, MGC absolutely wouldn't have made it this far without the incredible partnerships I had (see the "Thanks to..." page). The odd conundrum of MGC is that while the site started as a 'community-minded' hobby, it ended up becoming far too high-demand for hobby-level financing, especially for one person to bear. The resources and upkeep required are not trivial, so I couldn't allow myself to give it up to anyone I didn't think had the resources to make it work. Shifting it to another party only to see it go down a few months later would be tough to bear, let alone witnessing the community fallout.
Therefore, with the amount of sweat- (and financial-) equity put into it, any offer on the site (or any part thereof) would need to be made to match that, along with assurances of proper respect to the site and to the community. After all, if you think of GamerCards simply as images, that part of the site is quite literally a mini-Photobucket. If there's an entity that has the resources to make it work, then obviously I'd want to be a part of that, too, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss it further. Otherwise, I'm content with keeping things as they are.
- Q: So then can I have your code so that I can host GamerCards myself?
A: Erm, I'm not sure that's an appropriate question, but the shortest, most civil answer is that my code relies on my private XCDP information, which cannot be publicly distributed, or otherwise used without the express permission of Microsoft (and me, of course).
- Q: What will happen to my user account?
A: While not a whole lot of hugely personal information was ever provided - we take your personal data very seriously. In the (unlikely) event that our hardware or database is transferred or purchased by a third party, your account information will not be. Similarly, such information - in single or in bulk - will NOT be sold, given, donated, or otherwise provided to any other party. In the event that MyGamerCard returns to service, we may contact you about its return.
- Your question here! Send a message to [morgon [at] mygamercard [dot] net] if there's a (relevant) question you think needs answered.
Widgets and such
Despite MGC's current fate, I still love gaming (and Xbox), and programming. I like playing around with things that help me develop my day-to-day skills, and keep (or elevate) me in the "Making Cool Sh*t" department. With that in mind, I may share things that I have fun playing around with, even if they're not 'official releases' of anything.
Xbox.com Friends Leaderboard (XCFL) v0.8.2 [03/18/2011]
- To increase my experience with the jQuery library, I set out to make a Userscript that would create an instant GamerScore leaderboard of my friends.
Upon installing this add-on (see below), your Friends List on Xbox.com will gain a new tab marked 'Leaderboard'. This shows your friends, organized by their GamerScore! You can even quickly jump to your own position in the list.
- Step 1: Confirm pre-requisites (below)
- Step 2: Install XCFL v0.8.2
- Step 3: Visit your Xbox Live Friends List on Xbox.com!
It's relatively simplistic in function, but I think it does it well - and it was a blast to create! While I can't offer full support, if you have a quick question, comment, or feature request, you can certainly follow me on Twitter: @Morgon.
Running Userscripts is easy, but you may require some setup to be able to install them:
- Google Chrome allows native runtime of Userscripts; just click and go! You can remove Userscripts via the 'Extensions' tab.
- Mozilla Firefox requires the Greasemonkey plugin before using this script.
- Apple Safari's version 5 allows the installation of the NinjaKit extension (Click 'Safari for NinjaKit').
- Microsoft Internet Explorer is unfortunately left out of the party. With no native support for userscripts, and no development on addons for years (and only for earlier versions) means no automatic Leaderboards for now. :(
Note: All programs are released under the aptly-named Don't Be A Dick License, with the added request that you do not redistribute program files.
(Work in progress...)