50 MMOs in 50 Days #21: Glitch

Last played: 2011
Experience: Very Minimal

Along with Earth Eternal, Glitch is my other “barely played this enough to offer real commentary on it” game, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Most of my impressions of it come through one of my freelancers at Beckett, who adored the game and wrote about it a couple times in the magazine. Unlike Earth Eternal, though, Glitch was anything but traditional – but it might have been a little too far left of center.

As explained on the Wiki page for the game, Glitch launched in September 2011 and then “unlaunched” two months later, because “The developers cited issues of accessibility for new players.” My first few minutes were a non sequitur of events and actions that made seemingly little sense. Imagine that you logged into an MMO for the first time and, instead of being commanded to kill 10 rats, you were asked to give a branch to a talking rock who would then offer you a spaghetti noodle in return. That’s not exactly what happened to me in Glitch, but I feel like it’s pretty close.

GlitchMapI do lament when “kill 10 rats” is all a game has to offer, but for the first few minutes, or even hours, I don’t mind it as I get my footing in a game. In Glitch, I had no idea what my “footing” was. What was I supposed to do? What were my overall goals? Even in a sandbox game with minimal instruction, like DayZ or Minecraft, you catch on pretty quickly that you need to scrounge up some stuff to survive before the monsters (or other players) come after you. After my first half hour or so with Glitch, I still had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it.

Even the title offered no hints. In World of Warcraft, I’m… in a world! And there’s war going on! Where do I fight?

Maybe Glitch was trying to be abstract art, or maybe an economic simulator, masquerading as a video game. If you got into it, like my freelancer did, you could really get into it. It was probably like seeing the Matrix, that once you got past the incoherent surface of the world and delved deeper, you found a fantastic world. (A Glitch in the Matrix? Maybe that’s what they were shooting for.)

Whatever it was, it didn’t catch on. The game shut down for good in December 2012, but it’s one of those games, like City of Heroes and Star Wars: Galaxies, that so enraptured its dedicated players that there have been calls (and some action) to bring it back. The source code’s in the public domain, so maybe it will. If it does, it’ll almost certainly have to be as a fan project; it’s so “out there” that I can’t foresee any chance of it being financially viable.

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2 Responses to 50 MMOs in 50 Days #21: Glitch

  1. zax19taken says:

    I never played it but Bree from Massively loved it. She has several blog posts mentioning the game:
    http://skycandy.org/tag/glitch/

    • jasonwinter says:

      I just read this one:

      http://skycandy.org/2012/12/we-drop-stuff/

      And she pretty well sums up my points:

      “Someone paid someone to draw a secret, lost world inside a Flash-based video game and code it for me to walk past and ponder.”

      “this does explain a bit about why the game wasn’t a financial success.”

      ““A lot of people were just like, ‘I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do,’” he lamented. “Some people took ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do’ as an invitation to explore and ended up loving it. Other people closed the browser. That’s it.””

      “There are lots of reasons Glitch is closing down, mostly related to marketing and platform issues and things not directly related to gamers’ inability to puzzle out for themselves “what the fuck to do.” ”

      I think a little bit of early hand-holding is fine for a game, especially one that doesn’t have clear and obvious goals, even if that hand-holding is just an info box that pops up and says, “There aren’t big monsters and dungeons and loot grinds. Wander around and do whatever you want.” As it is, when I (and most other people) first log into an MMO, you’re thinking about all those other things and figuring the game will “punish” you later if you don’t have decent enough gear, mastery of your skills, and whatever. If I know from the start that’s not a big deal, then I’ll be all “OK, I’ll go do whatever.”

      If you have a big marketing team and budget, like games like GW2 did, you can express that sentiment in flashy videos, a big website, streams, blogs, etc. If you don’t have that, the only place to put it is within the game itself, since most people aren’t going to be following the marketing for your product. It’s a design issue rather than a publicity issue, but not in the sense that design needs to “dumb down” stuff. It just needs to include the marketing within the game itself, where people aren’t going to miss it.

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