What do you do if Google disables your cloud life? Andrew Spinks, co-author of the Terraria game and president of Re-Logic Games, does not know either, but has declared Google "a liability" and cancelled the port of Terraria to its Stadia platform.
Terraria, co-designed by Spinks, was first released for Windows in 2011 and has sold over 30 million copies across PC, consoles, and mobile devices, states a post on the official forums last year.
The problems started, according to the official Twitter account, when Re-Logic Games received an email concerning its YouTube channel "saying there was a TOS [Terms of Service] violation but that it was likely accidental and as such, the account would receive no strikes.
"Three days later, the entire Google account (YT, Gmail, all Google apps, even every purchase made over 15 years on Google Play Store) was disabled with no warning or recourse. This account links into many business functions and as such the impact to us is quite substantial," said Re-Logic.
The YouTube channel itself was not disabled, only the access to it.
The complaint was spotted on Twitter by YouTube support, which provided a link to the standard Google Account Recovery process. "We have attempted this process twice and received an automated response declining our request," said Re-Logic.
That was late last month. Now it seems the problem is still not fixed. "My account has now been disabled for over 3 weeks. I still have no idea why, and after using every resource I have to get this resolved you have done nothing but given me the runaround," said Spinks. "My phone has lost access to thousands of dollars of apps on Google Play. I had just bought LOTR 4K and can't finish it. My Google Drive data is completely gone. I can't access my YouTube channel. The worst of all is losing access to my gmail address of over 15 years.
"I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge. Consider it burned. Terraria for Google Stadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward. I will not be involved with a corporation that values their customers and partners so little. Doing business with you is a liability."
The incident would be unremarkable except that Spinks is not the first to complain of shoddy treatment in the one-sided relationship users have with tech giants and Google in particular. Users complain that it is challenging getting past automated responses, or equally uninformative responses from support, and that discovering and correcting the real reason for bans and blocks is challenging.
The impact of a disabled Google account can be considerable, not only affecting access to Google-held data such as email history and files in Drive, but also other services where a Google login is used to authenticate.
The best approach in cases where a ban is not justified is to shout loudly on social media – which is what Spinks is doing. In his case, he is also stating that he will no longer develop Terraria for Google's Stadia platform.
Earlier this month Stadia veep Phil Harrison declared that it was closing its in-house studios. "We will not be investing further in bringing exclusive content from our internal development team, beyond any near-term planned games," he said. The platform itself continues, and Harrison added: "We're expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players."
The cancellation of Terraria does not help that strategy, though whether the left hand of Google's account-blocking algorithms and the right hand of Stadia's developer platform communicate at all is unclear.
Note that we only have one side of this story so far, though we have approached Google for comment. Further, even if Spinks gets his account back, it will be little comfort to individuals who face similar issues but lack the prominence of a millions-selling games developer. ®