Shuttered online game Glitch gets new life in the Creative Commons

The death of massively multiplayer games, reliant on expensive infrastructure to stay alive, is more final than most. But doomed worlds can enjoy an afterlife in the Creative Commons: the developers of Glitch, shuttered only a few weeks ago, have made the game's artwork and other components freely available. A hardcover book collecting the best of it, and a soundtrack album, are also on their way. Read the rest

Sad news: Glitch is shutting down

Here's some very sad news: Glitch, the innovative and playful virtual world from Stewart Butterfield and his friends at Tiny Speck, is shuttering. The letter from Tiny Speck is very bittersweet.

This is a horrible day. This is a horrible thing to have to say: Glitch is closing. The live game/world will be closed on December 9th at 8pm Pacific time (see when this is in your time zone). The website and forums will remain available until the end of the year, so players can still communicate and find each other. Glitch HQ, the Glitch API and third party applications which rely on the Glitch API will become unavailable at the same time as the website closure.

Automatic refunds for recent purchases will begin immediately. Refunds for older transactions will need to be done manually and will be processed as quickly as possible, from most recent to oldest. For details on your payments, to request a refund, or to see the status of your refund, please visit the refund information page.

Unfortunately, Glitch has not attracted an audience large enough to sustain itself and based on a long period of experimentation and our best estimates, it seems unlikely that it ever would. And, given the prevailing technological trends — the movement towards mobile and especially the continued decline of the Flash platform on which Glitch was built — it was unlikely to do so before its time was up. Glitch was very ambitious and pushed the limits of what could be done in a browser-based game ...

Read the rest

Glitch, the whimsical game, reboots

Last November, I blogged the open beta of Glitch, a whimsical, beautiful, dreamlike browser-based game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, with help from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takehashi. Stewart and co took Glitch down after its initial test and did a substantial revision to it, which is now live. I've been playing the Glitch reboot today, and it's just so lovely I can't say enough nice things about it. It's one thing for a game to be fun, another for it to be fun and beautiful, but to be fun, beautiful and witty is something special.

Glitch is a web-based massively-multiplayer game which takes place inside the minds of eleven peculiarly imaginative Giants. You choose how to grow and shape the world: building and developing, learning new skills, collaborating or competing with everyone else in one enormous, ever-changing, persistent world.

What's different? For starters, it's all one big world. Which means everyone is playing the same game and anyone's actions have the ability to affect every other player in the game. It also involves very little war, moats, spaceships, wizards, mafiosos, or people with implausibly large muscles. Also: we have egg plants. Egg plants make it very different.

Glitch Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

Glitch: dreamlike whimsy and play in a MMO

Ars Technica has an in-depth review of Glitch, the whimsical, free-to-play game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield (we've written about Glitch here before) and his new company, Tiny Speck. Glitch uses whimsical, cooperative tasks to produce fun and delight, rather than combat:

Tuning the quests and interactions to provide the right level of difficulty and reward was complicated. In beta testing, the development team found that while singing to butterflies was repetitive and boring, people would still sing to butterflies obsessively—because it provided small but guaranteed amounts of experience. The devs tried to balance this by making singing to animals cost energy, but then players simply farmed huge numbers of girly drinks (which made animals interactions cost no energy) and continued to grind the same thing again and again. The girly drinks were then nerfed, and people immediately complained.

"We realized that if we incentivized things that were inherently boring," Butterfield told me, "people would do them again and again—it showed up in the logs—but that they would secretly hate us."

Player housing is implemented, with an apartment-style design that lets anyone have their own home without cluttering up the landscape. You can decorate your home and grow things in your own garden on the patio. Unlike many games, in Glitch it does not take long to save up enough cash for a place of your own, though making it look less than spartan will take considerable effort.

Funny little touches to the game litter the game. For example, getting the right papers to let you purchase an apartment requires multiple trips to the Department of Administrative Affairs (Ministry of Departments) where you spend much time in a waiting area while bureaucratic lizard men play Farmville on tiny computers.

Read the rest

Katamari Damacy creator joins Glitch

Exciting news: Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi has joined Glitch, a spunky browser game startup from Flickr cofounder and all-round-good-guy Stewart Butterfield. Takahashi had left the industry, but was lured back by playing the Glitch beta. He describes his job in Glitch as "to make the world unique and more fun and more surprising." Read the rest

Glitch: the new game from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield

Steward Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr, has just launched his next act, a web-based multiplayer game called "Glitch." It sounds a lot like the original game behind Flickr, Game Neverending, full of puzzles, whimsy and warmth (like Stewart). The game's in private alpha now, but the intro video and Daniel Terdiman's profiles of the company on CNet are damned exciting:

A new game that went into alpha testing on Tuesday, as reported exclusively by CNET, Glitch (see related behind-the-scenes feature about its development) is a puzzle-heavy, Web-based social MMO built around sending players billions of years into the past to develop the optimistic future that today seems increasingly unlikely.

"The whole world was spun out of the imagination of 11 great giants," said Stewart Butterfield, the president of Glitch developer Tiny Speck, and better known as the co-founder of Flickr. "So you have to go back into the past, into the world of the giants' imaginations and grow...the number of things in the world, grow it in terms of physical dimensions, to make sure the future actually happens. So all the game play takes place in the past inside the world of the giants' imagination."

While Glitch shares some of the features of hard-core MMOs like World of Warcraft and EverQuest--principally quests, leveling up, an in-game economy and working socially with other players, as a 2D Flash game--it might at the same time feel mildly familiar to players of Facebook games like Farmville or Nintendo titles like the many iterations of the Mario franchise.

Read the rest

Yuri's Night space fete, Xeni hosting Houston webcast

On April 12th 1961, 45 years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space. Two decades later, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen flew America's first Space Shuttle flight into orbit. And tonight, commemorations of human space travel will take place all over the world: Yuri's Night. 86 parties in 32 countries! I'll be hosting a live webcast from the Houston edition, and it should be a lot of fun.

Reader comment: Eric Mortensen says,

Zia, a space-themed electronic band that builds their own instruments and often performs using unusual tunings, recorded the theme for a previous World Space Party. The track, Yuri's Night, is available as a free download from Zia's website.
Read the rest