Glitch un-launches

Glitch is a whimsical, sweet multiplayer browser-game launched two months ago by Tiny Speck, and it is now un-launching. Having learned a bunch of stuff from both the people who love the game and the people who left it, they've decided that they can't fix things through a series of iterative steps, but rather they must take it down, go back to beta, and make wholesale changes. They're offering 100% refunds to anyone who wants it, and they've got more investment capital in the business to help them along.

Tiny Speck has already made a reputation for being willing to buck received wisdom, and this is the kind of odd and oddly sensible step that I've come to expect from them.

But at the same time, there are two obvious and huge improvements we need to make: the first is to make the early game reveal itself more easily to new players so they can get into the fun faster. The second and larger task is to give those players who have gotten over that initial hump and fallen in love with the game — spending dozens or even hundreds of hours playing — the creative tools that they need to change the world in more tangible ways: building whole new locations themselves, designing new buildings, setting up resource flows and forming flexible organizations to create bigger things together.

These challenges are surmountable — we’re hard at work surmounting them even now. But we always thought we could evolve our way there and the experience of launching taught us that we can’t. Some fairly radical changes to core game mechanics are going to be necessary to make Glitch what it needs to be.

And making radical changes to core game mechanics is something that’s a lot harder to do while the front doors are open and we have to focus on scaling to support growth, stability and providing the quality of service we aim to achieve for the live game. Going back to beta will let us make the changes that need to be made. And so we’re “unlaunching” — and going back to beta.

The Big Unlaunching (via Hack the Planet)

(Disclosure: My wife is an advisor to the company that makes Glitch)


  1. I’m a pretty hardcore player of Glitch (find me there under the username ‘warki’ if thats your thing), I’m level 34 (also my age IRL as it happens) and I’ve been intrigued by the Glitchy world since i saw it discussed here at Boing Boing. I signed up for an invite and joined just a day or two after it came out of Beta. I am one of the people who has spent 100s of hours ingame, in fact this is my first experience of an MMO, and I’m loving it. I think the move to un-launch, like many many things about Glitch, is a wise and yes, unusual move. I am glad to see how responsive the devs have been and how helpful, and I’m super intrigued by the changes as they are unfolding. I will be sticking around, and I won’t be asking for a refund on my yearly subscription (yes, I love the game that much). 

  2. Brilliant news. I loved this game for a few hours and then hit a brick wall of boredom, and it’s amazing to see such a fundamental design problem being tackled head on (rather than, say, with a sequel or interminal series of ‘expansions’)

    1. I had exactly the same experience, Rob. The varied environments were interesting to look at the first couple of times around the islands, but the repetitiveness of the tasks wore me down. It will be interesting to see what changes they’ll incorporate.

  3. I played a bit during the beta, but quickly realized that the motivating factor for me was being able to progress through the skill chart and decided to step away until they guaranteed no more world-resets.

    The public release happened to fall during a stretch of idle time (freelancer), and so I started in again, again motivated by progression through the skill tree. (I started with the “Better Learning” skills, with that in mind). This does force you to also spend time in-game, as advanced skills tend to require an “emblem” from one of the giants, which you receive for donating objects of value at their corresponding shrines.

    And there were a few nice little surprises along the way. For me, the most compelling were those that introduce novel game mechanics. Finding the “ancestral grounds” was neat, for example, in which the weight of the place’s history forces you to leave after a certain amount of time (with certain objects scattered around that will add some time to your clock).

    I also liked the idea of needing to deal with the bureaucrats, though as with most of the elements of the game, there doesn’t seem to be much depth there once you dig a level or two down. (I think there are currently two things you need the bureaucrats for: a travel permit and a housing permit?)

    And so I found myself continuing to play here and there, drawn by the mild allure of that skill tree (an email coming into the in-box each time a skill had been learned, an introduction to start the clock going on learning a new one, a new corresponding mini-quest to check out in the game proper), but upon exiting the game each time I would pick one of the lowest options available when asked “Would you recommend this game to a friend.”

    I think in order to become something worth *my* time, I’d want the game to include more surprise game elements, a greater (or more consistent) sense of exploration and progress beyond simple collect-this-many-fruits or cook-up-this-many-recipes “quests.”

    From their open-letter, however, I’m not sure they’re moving in this direction. Instead, it seems they’ll be focusing on more extensive world-building tools, in which players can meaningfully create new areas of the world?

    In any case, I’m not sure why I’m compelled to write this rambling comment (let alone play the game at all). I’ll finish up by noting that I’m charmed by the developers’ tone, the whimsical, sometimes mildly acerbic writing in-game that suggests they’re having fun making this world, and perhaps if you stick with it you will too.  

  4. Yeah, I’m level 23. This is also my first MMO. I love Glitch and though I wasn’t bored of it yet, I think the new gameplay will do wonders.

    That said, I’m out if they do a full reset. I can’t imagine working my way back up to level 23 being much fun.

  5. Only level ten(?) and already bored, I’m afraid.  It is/was fun, but I’ve pretty much run out of things that I want to do.   The constant inflow of quests stops me thinking of it as a sandbox game and inventing my own activities (so perhaps it’s me).

    If they are working to fix that, I’m impressed.

  6. YES! This is just what Glitch needed to do. I beta-tested it the first time and lost interest… but now, they seem to be tackling it. Well done.

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