I won't recite the ongoing Foundry issues as others have done so exhaustively. Rather, my concern is the uncertainty surrounding the custodianship of an author's work product by the provider. As with other IaaS (cloud) type services, the success of the Foundry is highly dependent on the hosting provider (Cryptic) keeping the service in good working order. It is also highly dependent on the voluntary contribution of subscribers to the database of missions. Without both of these elements, the Foundry fails.
From the “voluntary contributor” perspective, the work product is a time consuming creative process done without tangible reward. There are a variety of motivations and expectations driving authors, but common among them are durability and faith in execution—the product should be preserved intact over time and when run should reflect the original intent of the creative process. If the product is altered from the original or executes in an unexpected way, the author's expectations are not fulfilled.
Durability and faith in execution, then, are the key minimum standards the provider should strive to meet if the provider is interested in the success of the service. Failure to meet these standards would result in loss of faith in the efficacy of the Foundry itself among authors, ultimately leading to it's demise.
Acknowledging the difficulty of programming, operating and maintaining the Foundry, the provider should seek to build into it process and procedures specifically designed to insure durability and faith in execution of authors' product during times of transition (upgrades, patches, etc.). It is these procedures that would form the basis of an SLA between Cryptic and contributors.
The business case for creating an SLA here is not only based on preserving the company's reputation but also to insure the future success of other Cryptic games that will more heavily depend on player contributed content. If indeed Star Trek Online is a test bed for future projects, it would seem wise to determine now what it would take to retain and cultivate voluntary contributors for those nascent games.
The procedures themselves are naturally best addressed by the programming, engineering and operations teams within Cryptic as they have the most knowledge of the systems involved. But some obvious possibilities would be to allow authors to choose if their missions will be auto-republished after Foundry updates to allow them time to see if a mission is intact and to have a well defined and multi-layered roll-back procedure to deal with situations such as we face today.
We're not talking about critical infrastructure here, of course. The state of the Foundry hardly impacts the lives of the vast majority of people, and the Sun would rise tomorrow if the Foundry were to go away forever. But as an author and lifetime subscriber (yes, I don't have the blue name, but I'm ashamed to wear a sign that says I spent several hundred dollars on an entertainment product), my comfort level with the current lack of an SLA and established recovery procedures is very low--so low that I will not produce more content with the Foundry until I can be assured of it's durability and have faith in the execution of that content.
While I appreciate the OP's intentions and that this was written constructively, I think it's unrealistic. Cryptic will make no binding guarentees with Foundry authors. We're really at the mercy of the devs here.
However, hopefully the rough S4 transition will keep the Foundry on the radar with new updates, etc. But, who knows?
...my comfort level with the current lack of an SLA and established recovery procedures is very low--so low that I will not produce more content with the Foundry until I can be assured of it's durability and have faith in the execution of that content.
I should've started reading your post from the last paragraph...
There already is an SLA, and it is basically composed out of two documents, the EULA and TOS and since the Foundry is but a component in the product that is STO, it will probably never have a SLA of its own.
When you purchased the game you agreed to the EULA. Furthermore, who would determine such a service level agreement when the game is based on individual account subscriptions?
The Foundry is a extension/ addon provided by Cryptic. One you do not even pay for - how can you ask for a SLA in that regard? A monthly subscription fee does not qualify for that level of accountability. What investment other than that do you have in the infrastructure utilized by Cryptic?
The specific nature of the Foundry service is immaterial to the need to promote quality over quantity within the service. You are all, of course, correct in pointing out that the complete agreement currently consists of the EULA and TOS, and perhaps framing my thoughts in terms of an SLA narrows your thinking of my concern to be simply one of licensing. That's not the case. An SLA is just one possible way out of the problem.
Nor does it matter that an individual's monetary contribution is small compared to the overall cost of the service because Cryptic's interest in the service is the cash flow generated by the sum of other players' interest in authors' contributions, and that cash flow is directly proportional to the quality of authors' works. In other words, the better Cryptic is at cultivating and retaining talented authors, the more cash flow they'll see generated by others playing those authors' content. Again, the issue is quality over quantity, with quality being a much better place to be.
I'm sure all of us want to see the Foundry and Cryptic's other player contributed content endeavors succeed in fostering high quality, enjoyable content. Star Trek Online is uniquely suited for this sort of thing, and creating a mechanism that allows players to tell their own Star Trek stories is frankly brilliant. But Cryptic itself only gets paid if others stay to play those authors' creations, and unless Cryptic works now to retain voluntary talent and keep quality high, I fear the quality of Foundry missions will suffer, and interest in the Foundry will wane.
However Cryptic sees fit to do this is up to them, be it an SLA, an announced set of procedures, a comforting “Don't Panic” sign on the wall, or a pinky promise--it doesn't matter what it is as long it's truthful and works with a track record to back it up.
I think if it came down to it, rather than provide a gauranteed level of service with Foundry, Cryptic would just pull the plug. It would be hard to dedicate the needed resources from a small team to support just a single add-on component to the larger game.
It's my hope that the Foundry will grow within STO and Cryptic's other titles and the infrastructure used, both software and hardware, will stabilize and mature. However there is no benefit to any MMO developer to dedicate resources to creating a specialized SLA on the scale that we've come to expect from service providers like cellular phone companies or even ISP's.
Further more, Cryptic can't ever promise us more than they already have. Consider the following:
What legal compensation should a Foundry author be eligible for if their mission is adversely affected by Cryptic modifying their own game and/or infrastructure?
What legal compensation should Cryptic be eligible for if the a Foundry author promises to publish a mission but fails to do so by the deadline?
As long as those two questions remain answered, the Foundry cannot have an SLA, and all we'll have is a faith (or lack there-of) in Cryptic's ability to resolve issues and make things work.