Glitch: Towers and More

It’s been over two months since I’ve posted my last Glitch review. Up until a few days ago, we’ve encountered numerous smaller updates, but nothing really huge (in my opinion; different features tend to have varying levels of interest on different people) until Wednesday’s introduction of Towers. As always, I’ll describe a few of the new game features, provide screenshots and video, and give my opinion on those features. Finally, I’ll give my outlook on where the game is heading. The new content I’ll be focusing on in this review includes Towers, butlers, new map regions (Roobrik and Balzare), and achievements. While not a creation of Tiny Speck, I’m also going to give my opinion on resource routes, as they seem to have become a controversial topic on the forums.

Butlers

First up are butlers. In a nutshell, they’re fancy mailboxes for your home street that also act as a sort of security camera.

My butler (on doorstep, next to pigs), named Jeeves because I have no sense of originality whatsoever

Butlers (colloquially known as botlers on the forums on occasion) are the first NPC in the game that players can chat with. You don’t get many options for doing so, but those options that do exist are just plain funny (chat isn’t used for any useful options; all of those are presented within its context menu). As seen in the video above, butlers have numerous customization options to choose from (it’s also interesting to note that it’s one of the few customization areas in the game that have no credit/subscriber-only options). Among their more useful functions are serving as a mailbox (selecting the Mailbox menu item brings up the familiar interface presented when accessing a mailbox from anywhere else within the game), and as a log of visitors to one’s street. Butlers can also hold packages and messages from visitors. Among their functions of questionable usefulness, but reasonable entertainment value, is the “zombie” command, presented in the video above. While butlers don’t bring with them any major new gameplay elements, they do address the much-requested feature of a mailbox on one’s home street.

Roobrik and Balzare

Castan Nella in Roobrik

Memento Sana in Balzare

Since my last review, Tiny Speck has also added the regions of Roobrik and Balzare to the game. They feature a distinctive look (from other regions, although every street within the two regions looks pretty much exactly the same as all the other streets within Roobrik and Balzare). Both regions have a slightly above average number of slightly above average quoins. But that’s it. There’s no shrines, vendors, trees, rocks, animals, or much of anything else to do there. If you’re looking for vast numbers of fast-respawning quoins, Groddle Forest Junction is your best bet. If you’re looking for huge quoins, the Ancestral Lands are where you want to be. But hey, if you want two more easy badges (Roobrik Completist and Balzare Completist), awesome! Speaking of badges…

Achievements

Tiny Speck has introduced over 60 new achievements to Glitch. This is great news for people like me who have a goal for number of achievements, but are stuck with a bunch of ridiculously insane achievements left to grind. A few of the new badges were just the ticket to propel me over 500.

The new Cultivation category of achievements

This new series of achievements was much overdue, as indicated by the two new categories added: Cultivation and Furniture. With so many new aspects of gameplay added, there was a stark contrast between old gameplay elements and new ones (badges for interactions with pigs, chickens, and butterflies; but not for interactions with foxes and sloths for example). Achievement stagnation has finally been remedied, and achievements once again span all areas of content in Glitch, making foxes, sloths, furniture, and cultivation equals to their longer-standing counterparts. There are many achievements in the style of the traditional “do X Y number of times,” as well as some rather interesting unique ones (for instance, feeding three sloths on the same street at the same time). Also added were a few achievements related to old game content, such as a badge for dying in one’s own house (not quite sure how that’s an achievement, but it was an easy one to add to my collection, so I’m not complaining). Let’s hope this trend continues, and more of the promised upcoming content also comes with its own set of badges.

Towers

My tower, complete with furniture and stuff for sale

Possibly the most notable recent addition to Glitch is Towers. Towers are optional public spaces that you can build on your home street. They essentially act as public houses with elevators. They can be decorated just like houses, and projects to expand them work in a similar fashion as projects to expand houses. Towers are exceedingly expensive to expand (Palindrome, whose tower I shop in during the latter half of the video above, wrote an excellent guide to this here), however past a certain point, having a ridiculously tall tower doesn’t provide any real benefits. I had trouble deciding what to do with all nine floors of my tower (which I built solely for the sake of doing so), and still have two floors that remain completely unused. That said, I’ve enjoyed having another fully-customizable space, and a public one at that. It brings Glitch ever-closer to being “a game of giant imagination,” as it claims to be (more on that in the closing of my review, which I’ll lead into on my section about resource routes). And unlike houses, towers provide a place to show off your decorating skills to the world at large (call me paranoid, but I’ve let very few people into my house, so its decorations go largely unappreciated). They’re also quite the credit sink for this reason. Hours after having fully expanded my tower, I’d spent over half my stash of credits. My one complaint about the creative potential of towers is the fact that they can’t be expanded horizontally at all, making it impossible to design a room that needs any significant width (as I said before, space in general is not a concern, as even with their small size, it’s fairly difficult to come up with a use for all the floor space of a fully-expanded tower, although I’d still like to see the ability to make the tower wider).

Towers also finally make Vending SDB’s (Storage Display Boxes) a useful item. Until a few weeks ago, SDB’s were merely used for personal storage. Now, they can also be used as vendors. You can set prices for items you place in SDB’s (items in SDB’s without prices are safe from others; only you can access them), and other players can buy items from them in the same way they would buy items from a vendor. Introduced about two weeks before Towers, vending SDB’s were previously not really useful. You’d have to let people in your house in order for them to purchase from a vending SDB, meaning you must be online in order to allow them to buy from you. And if you’re there with another player, you’d may as well just trade with them. Furthermore, it means having to trust often random people in a private space that often contains valuable items. Since Towers are a dedicated public space, they solve this problem nicely.

Miscellaneous

In addition to the major updates I’ve mentioned so far, Tiny Speck has also added a few smaller updates in the form of character upgrades. The first is a set of inexpensive upgrade cards purchasable via the imagination menu that turn into tickets placed in your inventory. These tickets send you to one of several special locations containing high-value quoins. If you’d like to buy some of these for currants, I sell many of these cards in my Tower.

Arbor Hollow, a location accessible via purchasable tickets

The second is an upgrade card which provides access to the Trade Channel, an official chat channel for buying and selling things. Due to its official nature, it has an extremely large number of people in it, making it quite effective in finding buyers and sellers. Unfortunately, due to people who complain about every last thing Tiny Speck does, the introduction of trade channels was met with a barrage of complaints about the fact that there is a small iMG cost to purchase access to the channel. At 200 iMG, the cost is not a barrier to entry, as, even at level 2, a player must have earned at least 400 iMG (worthy of mention is that the players complaining about this are all a much higher level, and most likely have thousands of spendable iMG at any given moment).

Typical conversation in the Trade Channel

*Note: Not actual typical conversation in the Trade Channel

Whither Craftybots?

As big a deal as I’m about to make about how the game is heading full-force in the right direction, I’ve been left with one question, that seems rather answerless. We’ve been promised craftybots (devices which will automatically craft items for us) for ages now. We’ve been given numerous updates in the mean time, that we had no idea even existed beforehand. Based on screenshots of craftybots in existence, and on random other things, I’ve thought for awhile that they’ve been coming. I realize how it is with development, that asking for ETA’s is possibly the worst thing you can do. And I won’t. Because while craftybots would certainly make the activities I’m about to talk about later (and the tower-building I just talked about) easier, by no means are they a necessity to complete such tasks. Ultimately, it’s no longer something I anxiously care about; it’s just a weird sense of something we were told of that’s since faded into oblivion.

Resource Routes

For the first time, I am going to cover an unofficial gameplay element in one of my Glitch reviews. Why? Because it’s had a bigger impact than quite a few official features. Harvesting resources is now more efficient than ever before.

Warning: I’m really reviewing resource routes as an excuse to rant about the people who complain about the fact that resource routes exist. As such, if you’re not looking for heavily opinionated commentary, please move on to the next section (depending on how much you don’t want to read such rants, skip the rest of the review; the next section ties into this rather extensively). Thank you.

Resource routes are chains of home streets, linked together by a given signpost location on one’s home street. The intent is to provide access to vast quantities of a specific resource. As an example of why this is useful, the region of Ix, formerly the only place to harvest allspice, contains 35 spice plants. Assuming the highest relevant skill and not counting super harvests, that’s two harvests per tree per game day at twelve spice per harvest, totaling to 840. On the other hand, The Original Spice Road currently contains 457 spice trees. Assuming the same things as assumed earlier, that’s 10,968 allspice. I used the spice route as an example because I’m a member of it, but other routes provide similar advantages (huge amounts of a given resource, all accessible in an orderly manner). In addition to the original Housing Resource Routes, Serious Routes aims to provide more concentrated resources but with fewer participating streets, and Glitch Routes allows players to create impromptu routes based on given criteria.

Now that I’ve provided facts and math about routes, I’d like to analyze the complaints people have given about them. Really, there is one major complaint that has been mentioned on the forums time and time again. That is that routes have essentially pulled people out of the “real” world.

To quote Steve Jobs, himself quoting Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin’.” I’ve never really understood why people complain about routes. Nobody’s forced to use them. As a matter of fact, for a certain few resources, I actually find the “real” world a better place for gathering them. Not to mention, the “real” world is not going anywhere. It’s still the only place that provides quoins, vendors, shrines, foxes, sloths, batterflies, and quite a few other things. But for quite a few resources, it is becoming obsolete. And it signals a change to the core of who’s putting together the locations. For the more sentimental among us, I suppose I understand the whining to an extent… for now. The “real” world used to be a large general social place. It’s less populated now. However, resource routes aren’t to blame here. Significantly fewer users are active ever since Glitch un-launched. And invites have been disabled for ages now, so there haven’t been any new players. The game is ripe with new content, but the player base in general is stagnating. A lot of friends I’ve had for quite awhile have left or gone on hiatus, and if anything, this situation for myself and other people is probably what’s leading to the decline in social activity within the game. Routes have nothing to do with it.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that resource routes are extremely true to the original vision of Glitch (more on that in the next section), and group halls (supposedly coming in the future) will provide new spaces geared toward social interaction.

What’s Next?

Beginning with the housing changes, moving steadily forward with towers, and with even more future plans to this extent, it seems that Glitch is finally on track to reach its vision, proudly declared on the game’s loading screen as “a game of giant imagination.” Back when I first joined, in November, I read a review of the game. Based on that review, that talked a lot about emergent gameplay, I expected Glitch to be a lot more like the thing it’s becoming. I enjoyed the game, but to be honest, I was disappointed at the time. Pretty much the only “customization” you could do of any location in the world was deciding which tree went in a certain patch. Now that you can customize nearly every aspect of your house, home street, and tower; and these aspects can lead to larger emergent goals like resource routes, Glitch is becoming much more imaginative, in the way it was always meant to be, and in a way the “real,” or as I will refer to from now on, “old” world was never able to facilitate. Yes, this may be a hard pill for players who have been around longer than I’ve been to swallow, but even then, you’ve gotta admit that the old way of doing things was indeed lacking in imagination, and some of those elements would have to be de-emphasized as Tiny Speck unlaunched the game to re-tool it toward its original goal (not to mention, I’ve seen a lot of really old game screenshots, in which the entire concept of the game was completely different; this appears to be by no means the first time Glitch has seen a radical shift in direction).

In a forum post by Glitch creator stoot barfield, mention is made of upcoming “infinite streets.” Whether this means players will be able to create an unlimited number of streets, or expand their home streets an unlimited number of times, but due to the context (performance issues solved by daisy-chaining different locations together), I’m going to optimistically assume the former. While a quick read of the forums shows that Tiny Speck has a lot more up their sleeves, this “infinite streets” concept sounds like it would be the last major piece to truly enabling a nigh-limitless world imagined by players.

Edit: I need optimistically assume no more. After much forum-digging, I managed to find an additional post that confirms that by “infinite streets,” he meant “infinite number of streets.”

Conclusion

Based on the introduction of Towers, the game’s past changes (housing, etc…) as well as lots of forum posts (two of the most significant linked to above), it seems that Glitch is undergoing a fundamental shift in what you do in the game. Previously, it seemed like it was about being handed a world and learning how to use it and its resources for… something. Something not really clear. Now, Glitch is evolving into a game where it’s about players being constructive, and being provided with tools with which to build the world. I’m reading a lot into future content updates that haven’t happened yet, and into forum posts that are vague at best, but my optimism for this future is heavily based on the updates that have been coming so far, and it seems like Glitch is becoming the game that, at the time I joined, I had hoped for and sought after in vain.

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