Glitch, the cute browser MMO set inside the minds of giant monsters, is officially opening up to the public today at 10AM PDT after a long beta period. The game is the work of Tiny Speck, a new company formed by Stewart Butterfield, Cal Henderson, Eric Costello, and Serguei Mourachov, four co-founders of Flickr. It's a free-to-play game with subscription and virtual currency options, both used for avatar customization items.
Speaking to me in a phone interview yesterday, Butterfield claimed that the game is playable in a casual style, but also accommodates players interested in a more intense experience. "We wanted to have enough depth to capture the imaginations of people who want to go deep," he said. "There are 1000-plus items and 90 skills."
Glitch has potential for emergent gameplay, which he compared to Eve Online, though he was quick to note that it's not as combat-oriented as Eve and more fun to actually play. For example, he related an anecdote from the beta, about players creatively using a "notes" system. "Early on, some of the richer players started a bank, with an alternative currency that was based on notes," Butterfield said. "They just guaranteed the notes with their supply of in-game currency based on the timestamp and the person who created it."
Tiny Speck recently got the attention of the game community when it hired Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, moving him to Vancouver to work on the MMO. According to Butterfield, he and Takahashi were introduced at GDC by thatgamecompany's Robin Hunicke. During the conversation, Butterfield delivered the following successful pitch, targeted at Takahashi's interest in playgrounds. "I was able to convince him that this is like a playground, except you don't have municipal authorities and budget constraints to deal with," he said, "and, like, health and safety inspectors checking out your kind of dangerous playground designs. Playgrounds sounded fun, but isn't this a pain in the ass?"
Takahashi is a permanent, full-time member of the Glitch team, working on ... all kinds of things. "From quests to UI changes," Butterfield listed. "He's really very evocative -- he's more concerned about the emotional angle of, say, quest design than the mechanics." Takahashi has also been working on prototypes for iOS and Android minigames meant to tie back into the main browser-based game.
Taking inspiration from Flickr, Glitch has an API that allows developers to export sprite sheets for use in mobile games. Butterfield told me that he hopes to eventually get hobbyists and indie devs making games that can be promoted to Glitch's audience. For now, there's a mobile app that reports on game and website updates.
"There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other,
infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for
the purpose of continuing the play."
- James P. Carse
San Francisco, September 27, 2011 – Tiny Speck, a San Francisco-based based company, will unveil today
at 10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern the world of Glitch, a highly crafted, artfully detailed, rich online game for
the extra-ordinary player. Available to play for free at www.Glitch.com, the social, massively-multiplayer
online game has already attracted tens of thousands of players in the beta phase. The ambitious next
project from four of the original team behind Flickr, Stewart Butterfield, Cal Henderson, Eric Costello, and
Serguei Mourachov, Glitch was born out of a desire to create an engaging and thought provoking online
social game compelling to the connoisseur of the curious.
What is Glitch?
Glitch is a non-violent, highly social, web-based, massively multiplayer game that takes place in the
collective imagination of 11 particularly imaginative giants. The world exists on a persistent, ever-
evolving playground with the aim of creating infinite play. Designers and players create the Glitch
universe in tandem, the former constantly modifying and improving the platform, while the latter
cultivates a sophisticated and irreverent online civilization. And nearly anything can be created and
experienced: from curating an art installation, to hosting a diamond-infused dinner party, riding the
subway, building a house or hosting a gathering with friends outside the great Bureaucratic Hall. Glitch is
not a "click for click's sake" type of game; rather it respects the value of play to human life.
"Our vision for Glitch is to bring a new level of creativity, beauty and social engagement to players who
expect more from their online social gaming experience – an experience that has value beyond traditional
forms of entertainment," said Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Tiny Speck. "Glitch is an
experiment in culture building. We provide raw materials and a stimulating environment, but it's the
players who bring the infinite world alive, shaping it with their imagination."
Investing in the Art
Glitch brings together a number of fresh and original visual styles. The look varies as one travels around
the world, from psychedelic to surrealism, Japanese cutesy to hyper-saturated pixel art, classic cartoon to
contemporary mixed media. Glitch combines original hand-drawn illustration and traditional animation;
part of Tiny Speck's mission is to find the best of the best in art and bring it to a wider audience. In
addition to the visual aspects – the music, the text and details of the interactions – have been crafted for
the artful game experience. Legendary Japanese game designer Keita Takahashi, creator of Katamari
Damacy and NOBY NOBY BOY, joined the team in July as Glitch game designer, to bring his uniquely
creative and emotionally evocative style to the game.
Creation at Internet Speed
Building upon the team's deep experience in web-scale software development, Glitch's technological
infrastructure and the rate of new feature releases sets it apart from other MMOs - patches and new
content come on a hour-by-hour timeline, rather than month-by-month. The development team enjoys
collaborating with players as the game is created and extended beyond Tiny Speck's imagination.
Extending the Game
Glitch players can stay in touch with the world of Glitch, even when not playing the game through a
number of extensions. The full Glitch site, including forums, groups, updates, auctions and other game
related features are accessible from mobile device. Tiny Speck has also just launched Glitch HQ, an iOS
app, that allows players to keep up with updates and social chatter from their game friends, access player
profiles, learn new skills and more.
In addition, a number of third party developers have created web and mobile extensions of the game
that allow players to manage their inventories, keep track of their auctions, or play games that extend
Glitch game-play on mobile devices - allowing players to take their avatars, inventories, and even in-
game friends out of the game entirely and into new experiences. Tiny Speck has a full-featured developer
site at http://developer.glitch.com, that features a continually growing list of read/write APIs, developer
kits for web, iOS, and Android developers, sample code, sample apps, a developer forum as well as a blog
highlighting news, apps and developer stories.
"Glitch provides a rich development environment with highly engaged and active players. We built Glitch
in a new and different way from most games, designed for maximum flexibility and ease of deployment.
With a community of developers leveraging our API, we can't wait to see how Glitch makes new and
exciting appearances in the real world," said Cal Henderson, co-founder and vice president, engineering
About Tiny Speck
Tiny Speck is a new kind of gaming company founded in early 2009 by four of the original members of
the Flickr team. With offices in San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C., Tiny Speck is supported by a global
team of more than 40 creative professionals in those locations and beyond. The team uses every ounce of
their craft to build bits to bytes and summon Glitch to life.