The Incantations of Absurdity, or, Glitch – A Remembrance

On November 14, Tiny Speck announced that Glitch is closing its doors on December 9 at 8PM. This was met with much sadness, as well as some anger at Tiny Speck for building such a great game, and the best community ever to exist on the internet (or anywhere for that matter) atop it, just to take it away. Many people have expressed their thoughts in updates (I have as well, to an extent), on the forums, and by other means, but I figure I’ve got enough to say that it warrants a blog post. Gwynne and I both have things to say here – we’ll share this space, split into two parts.

Justin

This game was absolutely preposterous. In my time in Glitch (a little over a year), I’ve squeezed a few thousand chickens, nibbled a similar number of pigs, as well as milked countless butterflies. And of course, I’ve jumped around for days upon days with a crown that levitates above my hat. And only a couple of weeks ago, I foolishly posted (toward the end of that) that I was looking forward to a second year even better than the first. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.

After the sad news was announced, I had this to say:

This is awful, and I’m in tears right now. While I don’t believe the world will end in 2012, it may as well. Glitch was my life for the past year, and I have no idea how I’ll spend my all-too-copious (and about to be even more copious because of winter break) free time from here on out. I regret not having gotten to know more of my friends here out-of-game in some way, although in one case, I actually did, last night (strange; almost prophetic even). Two groups have provided the best company I’ve had, ever: Game of Crowns, and PBMS. I hope they’ll reassemble somewhere, and someday soon…. For those whom I may never see again, it’s been awesome knowing you, and I’ll miss you all dearly.

I’ve given away most of my remaining collectibles and stopped grinding badges. While collecting and grinding used to be enjoyable pastimes for me, they just don’t seem to matter anymore. From this point on, I just want to enjoy the time I have left (although I do intend to fulfill my old promise of helping Gwynne grind Licensed Teleporter, Whoa Class).

My life is more or less completely in pieces at the moment. Glitch has been the only serious time-killer I’ve had recently, and there aren’t any satisfactory replacements. Nothing even comes close. In a world of MMO’s that involve “orc vs. mage PvP”… or whatever people do in those games, Glitch truly stood out. No orcs, no mages, no PVPs. It was actually original. And not just in gameplay. In business model too. TS set out to provide a fun game that didn’t demand money for everything. Unlike everything else out there, Glitch didn’t bend you over and screw you for cash. Because of these admirable qualities, I had hoped for the past several months that I’d someday get to work for Tiny Speck, because they actually did something meaningful, instead of following the established pattern of churning out crap to make money. I guess my dream was just that… a dream. Not something I’ll actually get to do.

In the very beginning of this post, I mentioned that there are feelings of sadness, and also feelings of anger. I feel like a child that’s been given a piece of candy, and then had it yanked away right after opening it. In this case, the candy is an imaginative game with an amazing community, both of which are without comparison. I suppose the part that hurts the most is that it wasn’t some investor decision that was outside the control of the staff. To the contrary, Glitch’s very founder is the one who decided to pull the plug. While I am a little angry, I would like to make something very clear: Tiny Speck has created a game that’s given me the best year of my life, and they deserve to keep every penny I’ve paid them (if only I could give them more). I implore you to come to the same conclusion. My apologies if this whole post has sounded like an incoherent rambling… if it does, it’s only because it represents me right now.

Gwynne

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve been playing for over a year and Glitch never ceases to amaze me. I mean, Asslandia? And I still smile sometimes while massaging butterflies. The names of the streets blow my mind every time; there are so many, and they are all so exotic and creative. But I always thought Glitch would be here for me for years to come. The community has been inspiring and almost therapeutic at times, it’s helped me grow in ways I might not have otherwise. Even though I don’t talk all that much in group chat or the forums, I’ll miss every last one of you, whether I’ve gotten to know you personally or just lurked in chat and laughed at all the funny things you say (does that sound creepy?).

I’m not sure what I’ll do after Glitch, I’ll probably never get into another game like this one. I can almost see myself after Glitch closes, getting bored and wandering over to the computer only to remember…  Glitch is gone. No doubt those will be bad days, but until then I intend to make the best of what time we have left, which will hopefully involve lots of Game of Crowns =P

Like I said before, I’ll miss you all immensely. I’ll miss the amazing staff, I’ll miss the music, the artwork, and I might even miss discovering the occasional bug.  We’ve all heard the phrase “All good things must come to an end” but I never dreamed it would hurt this much. Glitch is a huge part of so many of our lives; things won’t be the same without Glitch to come back to after a hard day, or just to log in for a few minutes and check up on updates and the forums. I hope a little bit of this preposterous game lives on in us all, and I wish everyone the best of whatever they decide to do next.

Yet, we kind of liked it.

One Year of Glitch – A Reflection

One year ago today, I read a review on Ars Technica about a game called Glitch. It was a little misleading, and I signed up based on more than a few misconceptions. Oh, and the game confused the ever-living crap out of me for weeks. But, for whatever reason, I persevered, and I’ve been playing essentially every day for the last year. In that time, I’ve reached the maximum attainable level – about ten times (twice “naturally,” and another few because of a short-lived bug that caused meditation to unlevel players with high energy caps), gotten 600-ish achievements, played a lot of Game of Crowns, won a couple of feats, and made several awesome new friends – a few of whom have been the highlight of my last several months. Don’t expect a review. I’ll be writing plenty more of those until Glitch relaunches (which, as much as I know TS is depending on a relaunch for their survival, I hope is awhile away; it’s a joy watching the best game ever metamorphose into an even better best game ever). I will discuss the evolution of the game since the point at which I joined though, tying into my personal experiences over the past year. I’m going to try to sort it chronologically by month (for months in which a lot of stuff happened) or group of months (for months in which a lot of stuff didn’t happen), although I may wind up deviating from this a little if I can’t get my thoughts in order. Fortunately, I have a large archive of screenshots to draw upon that should help me remember when stuff happened. Plenty of them will make an appearance in this post; there probably won’t be any video this time.

November 2011

It’s November 9, 2011. I’m bored. I’m reading Ars Technica (their content’s usually pretty interesting), as I always do when I’m bored. I stumble across an article about a game. It’s called Glitch, and it looks different. And in my book, different is interesting. So I sign up. I do the (old, lame) tutorial that I don’t really remember. I stumble into the game, still confused. So I aimlessly wander around. I don’t know why, but I keep going for the next few days. I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, but the concept of a non-violent MMO is so appealing that I persevere. Eventually I meet a few people, and start saving up to buy a house (back in my day, houses weren’t in our imaginations; we had to buy them!). I don’t remember the number of my first house; I do remember it was located within Puran Pills Quarter. I then saved up to buy a bigger house, located at 3208 Mangane Gaps quarter, and started to grind levels (finding stuff to grind has always given me stuff to do when bored… although occasionally gone so far as to distract me from other stuff I really should be doing). I begin to hang out in Global Chat (I still remember the first thing I said there: “How do I get the achievement ‘Spent First Emblem of Alph’?”), and upon meeting people there talking about their experiences from the (first) beta, I begin to lament the fact that I didn’t get to take part. Then…

In late November, I got my chance! To my knowledge, a first for any game I’ve ever heard of, Glitch unlaunched. As I always do, I thought obsessively about how I got my wish, and what that means. I began to wonder whether it’s what I really wanted. From the beginning, I always thought the review that led me to join was a bit misleading. There wasn’t really any major player involvement in world-building, as that article made me believe. Sure there were street projects, but street projects were lame and I never got to participate. So new stuff started to flow in…

December 2011 – January 2012

As far as Glitch as a whole is concerned, at this point, we began to start to see the first new features trickle in. Stuff like a keyring so people could visit our houses, and new skills for tincturing and potionmaking. As for me, I continued leveling. I also took an interest in Game of Crowns, and was introduced to the Game of Crowns group. To this day, GoC ranks among my favorite things to do in Glitch (that group could really use some more people; you should join it!). On January 10, 2012, two months and one day (about one game year) after joining, I became the 69th (heh) person to reach level 60 in the old XP system. This is what my house looked like after I’d emptied my inventory for only the stuff I’d need for that grind (by donating sparkly; I’m glad I wised up and did more efficient stuff to grind 60 the next time around…).

Look at that pile of junk in my house. Also, I don’t know how I got the pickle to sit on the couch like that.

Looking at the image above, I don’t miss old housing and its lack of SDB’s, at all. Finally having reached my goal of reaching level 60, and having not yet discovered badge grinding, I chilled out and did random stuff (and played GoC). I also did other things with the GoC group. Like this.

In the small room in Corridor Six.

The events pictured above occurred on January 13. (Wow, stuff was big back then. I kinda miss that. Also, remember the magic rock that used to sit on top of our screens? Yeah. I miss that too.) Anyway, we basically decided to go out of bounds on random streets, and it still ranks as one of my most memorable nights on Glitch. I can’t remember what name we finally decided on for this endeavor, although my favorite was “Crowns Underground, Notorious Tomfoolery.”

February – March 2012

A PBMS party in Timtim Timm. I miss these.

The party above happened on Valentine’s Day 2012, after a much larger party in Ilmenskie. I haven’t been able to get the pictures for that party that I’ve been looking for, but I littered the place with High Class Hoes in honor of VD Day, as I chose to refer to it. It was basically the best party ever.

 

Glitch logo item art.

In late February, some people came together underneath Corridor Six (it’s a really fun street for hacking…) to make this Glitch logo artwork. While I had no part in its construction, I still think it’s the single best example of what Glitch is about – a bunch of people coming together to make something awesome. Even stoot himself showed up to admire it. Sadly, as with all other artwork made in public spaces, it eventually got stolen. Looking back through my old screenshots, I found this lone capture of it, and would like to use this time to honor its memory, and also to pay tribute to those who made it, even though I can’t remember who all was involved.

New Housing Party

On March 1, the new housing system was accidentally discovered hours before its release. The screenshot above is of Danny’s Home Street, which led to the discovery. A party ensued as we marveled at the new stuff.

My old house, an example of why new housing was needed.

Old housing. It was unscalable, and didn’t really give a good way to organize your stuff. Also, you couldn’t customize it. Those were dark days…

My test house. And yes, we finally had a way to organize stuff!

Then along came new housing, at first in testing form. We each got a brand splanking new /home, that we not only didn’t have to pay for, but also could fully customize! Oh, and did I mention it had these wonderful things called Storage Display Boxes that could hold a near-infinite number of a single item? Unfortunately, we only got a limited amount of testing furniture, so as seen above, it didn’t quite prevent me from tossing crap all over my floor. But hey, at least it was way better than what we had before.

Anyone remember this? That screen that showed up… every… single… time?

April – July 2012

Only 7052 iMG?

In May, TS replaced XP with iMG (Imagination). Basically, it exists as a lifetime count that determined your level (which was the sole purpose of XP), and as a balance that you could purchase character upgrades and cultivation items for your yard and street with. The level cap remained at 60, but levels were re-scaled. Anyone who was level 60 in the old system was moved to level 42 in the new one. So I began to grind levels again. While I hit level 60 before the discovery of the upgrade card strategy (that was later nerfed), I still did reasonably well for myself, and became the eighth person to reach the maximum level in the new system.

A hard day’s work. Not as good as some others have done, but still decent.

This badge was painful. I stand in awe of anyone who got it before home streets were introduced.

After leveling out, I switched my focus from levels to badges. A lot were insanely boring grinds (like Supafly Flycatcher, pictured above). Others (like Monarch of the Seven Kingdoms, and any of the other GoC badges) were quite a lot of fun and didn’t feel like grinding at all (while these weren’t introduced until months later, the hi sign badges remind me of the GoC ones – challenging, but not grindy). I hope to see more challenging yet un-grindy badges added to the game in the future.

Badge grinding also gave me the opportunity to torment 503 Juju Bandits. Also, why are these things not edible? They look like candy.

August 2012 – Present

During this time frame, feats were introduced to the game. Perfect timing, since I don’t have a bunch of badges left (although new badges have been added, including some for feats). Aside from their use to unlock new content (which puts Glitch more so in line with how I pictured it after reading that review months ago), they also provide an opportunity for the occasional all-nighter of grinding. Which is a nice change of pace from levels and badges (slower grinding over days or weeks). This more or less brings my casual overview of what’s been happening with Glitch as a whole to an end (I’ve written several reviews though, if you’d like more detail). As for me nowadays? I grind on occasion (feats and a badge here and there). I also play Game of Crowns, whenever I can assemble enough people (not often, unfortunately; if you haven’t joined the group already, don’t make me beg…). When I’m not grinding (and sometimes when I am – together we won the Deaths and Reminisces feat), I’m usually found hanging out with Gwynne, the best artist in all of Ur.

A larger-than-life homage to Game of Crowns graces Corridor Six. Sadly, a few snaps are all that remain of this crown.

She’s done numerous item art installations, including the giant crown pictured above, as well as a snail in Firozi; and Glitch SDB’s, a purple flower, and a conch in her tower.

Conclusion

My, Glitch has changed so much in the year since I’ve joined. If I’d have been able to look forward in time to the game I’m playing now, I probably wouldn’t recognize it. But almost all of those changes have been for the better (except triple jumps and movement speed upgrades no longer working in GoC; that completely sucks), and Glitch is now the game I thought I’d signed up for a year ago. A fully-customizable housing system (with practical storage!), assorted new map regions and skills (including a couple of my favorites, Jal and Nottis), as well as the iMG system and hundreds more achievements than existed when I signed up, have made Glitch much bigger, better, and more fun. I’ve loved watching it grow over the last year, and here’s to hoping the next year is even better than the last!

Thanks Gwynne, for everything.

I’d like to conclude this reflection by thanking someone who’s done a lot for me. Without her help, I would’ve never won the Deaths and Reminisces feat, or written my last review. And this post would’ve been full of typos and other mistakes if she hadn’t painstakingly proofread it numerous times as I wrote it. So… yep. Thanks Gwynne, for everything.

Glitch: Feats, Quests, Quoin Sharding, New Regions, and Skills

I suppose bi-monthly Glitch reviews are sort of becoming a thing for me. Which means it’s about time for a new one. I usually look for specific content releases, but I think I’ve decided to tie the reviews more so to an approximate time frame, and just work with what’s there. As such, this review will deviate quite a bit from my usual focus of housing/construction-related stuff. Sort of. While there haven’t been any changes that directly involve housing and construction (I’m rather fond of getting to build stuff, so those have been a recurring theme in my last three reviews), there have been quite a few major additions nonetheless, including things that Glitch has been lacking up until this point (namely things that provide a story behind the game). Ultimately, the root of most of these are feats (albeit I think these have a bit of work to go before they serve as a suitable replacement for street projects, much for the same reason street projects were problematic; more on this later). They tie into some of the new quests, and now serve as a method of unlocking new regions in the game. A series of new lore-related quests (Respect for the Beginnings and The Last Pilgrimage of Esquibeth) unlocks the ability to participate in feats. On a different note, two new, gardening-related skills were also added to the game. Also notable is the new tutorial, but outside of a bug that allowed a few of us to see it (I got to see one street, but couldn’t do anything on it), no existing players were able to visit the new tutorial, therefore it is out of my capacity to review it. I have seen videos of it though, and suffice it to say it looks awesome, and I wish I had a chance to go through it. Now, let’s go one by one through the new stuff that I have gotten to play around with (with the exception of this first thing).

Feats

Several months ago, street projects were removed from Glitch. I had never participated in a street project, although I did get to witness one. It was basically a hoarding contest, that culminated in a lag-fest during the actual project. Fifty or so people would gather at the project location, and hand their hoarded items over to the vendor on the street to help “construct” the street. There were badges for contributing large quantities of stuff. The main problem is these projects just didn’t scale. I believe they originated in alpha, when maybe a couple of thousand people played Glitch. If you’ve got about 20 people on the street, okay. But at some future point when you’ve got hundreds of people all wanting to participate, it’s A Bad Thing. ® Enter feats. Feats are the new method by which players can unlock new game content (usually new map regions), although quoin sharding was unlocked by the same method. While I didn’t get to participate in either feat (because, thus far, they haven’t scaled as well as they supposedly should), I’d imagine it’s something the staff will have under control soon. The good news is, feats are not un-scalable by design. Street projects forced large numbers of people to congregate on the same street. While the second feat (Mihceal, Blow that Conch) did encourage people to gather on one street, they did scatter over a couple of streets, making the lagging and crashing not quite as bad. The first feat (The Meditation of Groddlocritus), however, didn’t even encourage people to gather on the same street, and serves as a slightly better example of how feats solve the problem of scalability. As a near one-to-one parallel to street projects, participation in feats also rewards artifact pieces, that can be assembled into full artifacts (in street projects, one was given trophy pieces, that could be assembled into trophies). As a badger, I hope to see badges added aside from the artifact pieces, as well as the artifacts behaving as trophies (which also count as badges). In summary, once Tiny Speck has tweaked feats such that they scale properly to a community the size of Glitch, they will serve as a promising solution to the dilemma of unlocking content as a result of collaborative effort among players, and I look forward to being able to participate in them in the future.

Quests

 Waterfall Hollow, the last street in the quest The Last Pilgrimage of Esquibeth

In the past couple of months, numerous quests have been added to the game. A fair few of these add details to the story behind Glitch, and quite a few of these new quests are repeatable as well. These include story quests such as The Greedy Street Spirit, as well as puzzle quests ranging from the easy (Walk Toward the Light) to the rather challenging (Le Miserable). Also included was a quest called Respect for the Beginnings, designed to introduce new players to the Giants. Upon completing this quest, a musical quest (screenshot above), The Last Pilgrimage of Esquibeth, is unlocked. I enjoyed this quest, and it basically represents everything a quest in Glitch should be, at least in my opinion. It has a place in the story line of the game (unlike several of the quests I remember from earlier in the game, that involved things like planting and selling crops), has just the right amount of challenging element to it (it took me a bit to solve the puzzle, but at no point did I get frustrated with it; on the other hand, I did have to give up on Le Miserable and come back to it later), is repeatable (I also liked Walk Toward the Light, but don’t have any screenshots or video, because it isn’t), and has a keepable, unique item received at the end of it.

Quoin Sharding

Quoin sharding is a mechanic that was added to Glitch after the completion of the first feat (The Meditation of Groddlocritus). This was added as a solution to the dilemma of quoin collecting while there are other people on your current street. The idea is that those around you also receive rewards when you grab a quoin on a street. While the rewards are only a fraction of those received by the one who actually grabs the quoin, they do add up to quite a bit. For instance, even in a (very!) small sharding party like the one demonstrated in the video above, I managed to get ~33k iMG. While trying to figure out the mechanics of sharding as it was explained to me, I described my understanding as “OK, so I follow you, but I don’t follow you? I think I follow that.” Which is basically how it works. You have to be reasonably close to the person grabbing the quoins to receive shards, however you can’t be following them using Glitch’s follow option. This, in effect, turns quoin sharding into a fun mini-game in which you follow the leader. As an occasional Game of Crowns (join that group!) player, the challenge for me is primarily to make myself easy to follow, as, instinctively, I’m not. Regardless, even though I don’t need iMG anymore, by any means, I find quoin sharding an extremely enjoyable activity for its own sake. It also gives purpose to the regions of Roobrik, Balzare, Haoma, and Kloro, regions whose emptiness never really made sense up until now.

New Regions (Haoma, Kloro, and Firozi)

Tiny Speck has introduced three new regions to the world of Ur since my last review.

Me, exploring Firozi. Just so happened to get a badge. Not planned at all. I’d never go out of my way to show off getting a badge in a review video…

Tumera Hilda in Firozi. Yes, there are things here besides quoins!

The region of Firozi was added a few hours ago as a result of the completed feat Mihceal, Blow that Conch. It’s the most interesting of the new regions. The four regions introduced before it (Haoma and Kloro [which I’ll cover in a bit], Roobrik, and Balzare) were fairly empty regions solely for the purpose of quoin collecting, and the streets within any one of these regions look almost entirely the same. Firozi, however, has an interesting combination of scenery, resembling several different regions, as well as some scenery all its own (including much-demanded water and beach scenery, as seen in the video above). Also, it’s got vendors and trees and rocks and other stuff that fully-functional regions have! As such, Firozi’s completist badge was the most pleasurable I’ve earned in quite awhile.

Russula Involutii in Haoma

Porcini Bolete in Kloro

Haoma and Kloro are new quoin-collecting regions similar in purpose to Roobrik and Balzare. Just like Roobrik and Balzare, they exist as a pair of similar, but different regions. And much like the aforementioned pair, any street in one of the regions is basically the same as any other street in that region, and no shrines, vendors, trees, or other “verbable” items are to be found. Haoma and Kloro do bring with them some interesting new artwork, as well as bouncing red platforms (which questionably obsolete the old rainbow potions, as these do the same thing, for free).

Skills

The new gardening potions at work. Video edited so you don’t have to stare at nothing happening for two minutes while the herbs grow.

Two new skills have been introduced to Glitch, Potionmaking III and Master Gardener. These new skills allow you to make (Potionmaking III) and use (Master Gardener) potions that automate gardening. Gardening used to be a really tedious activity, especially if you’re like me and have 90 garden plots in your back yard. Furthermore, this tedium was usually compounded by lag, which affected gardening more than any other activity in the game. These new potions, at least in my opinion, change large-scale gardening from something boring and tedious, into something fun (although you then have two options for obtaining the potions, resulting in less profitable gardening: make them yourself, or buy them). Regardless, even though I don’t particularly have a reason to garden anymore, the primary reasons not to garden have been dealt with, and dealt with well.

 

What’s Next?

Fishing, hopefully.

Conclusion

While the last few major releases (and therefore my last few reviews) focused on housing-related content, this round, different things have been addressed. An impressive set of quests, in fact, some of the best in the game, have been added. Quoin sharding has introduced a fun and useful mini game style mechanic to Glitch. Feats have brought the return of player-unlocked content, in a way that (with tweaking) should provide a replacement for the street projects of old that were hopelessly unscalable. Finally, new potions have decreased the chances that you will want to smash your computer while gardening by 100%. As a result, the story behind Glitch is now better fleshed-out, existing game mechanics have been made more fun, and new game mechanics have introduced unique new activities.

Thanks to Gwynne for helping with the review; be sure to check out the artwork in her tower!

 

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.

Glitch: Imagination and the Housing Reset

In two more rounds of sweeping changes made to Glitch (that I’ve decided to cover together, as they’re related), Tiny Speck has added the new Imagination (iMG) system, as well as the long-awaited housing reset. The imagination change (and the user interface changes that go with it) possibly marks the biggest change made to the game since I’ve joined (and possibly since its inception – even though I’m not really familiar with the game’s history before last November). Once again, this review will include not only facts, but also my opinion on the changes (which, aside from one major thorn, is mostly positive).

Imagination

Imagination cards, and some new UI bits

The first of these recent rounds of changes was the conversion to Imagination. Imagination, commonly referred to as iMG, is the replacement to the old experience (XP) system. Earned by the same actions that earn XP, including gathering iMG quoins, which replace XP quoins, and new Qurazy Quoins (which give huge amounts of iMG), seen below (although upgrade cards exist that increase the amount some of these actions can dish out), the primary difference is that imagination (which I’ll refer to as iMG for the rest of this review) is spendable. The player is dealt three cards, which they can re-deal for free once per day. They can then purchase one or more cards using iMG. These upgrades include improvements to Super Harvests, improvements to learning speed, increases to one’s energy tank, and increases to one’s quoin multiplier, as well as some pretty random stuff. My upgrade video will primarily showcase energy tank and quoin multiplier cards, as I’d already purchased most of the unique upgrades during the conversion.

An iMG Quoin (the small purple one) and a Qurazy Quoin (the large white one)

A selection of my purchased upgrades

Supposedly the experience is to be different for a player new to the game. For those who have already been playing, our XP was converted to iMG (and our levels dropped accordingly – Level 60 players were moved to Level 42). Note that I said “levels.” This means that in addition to being spendable, a lifetime count of iMG earned is also kept. This determines one’s level, in the same way as XP previously accomplished this task. However, one’s energy tank (or mood tank, which is now tied directly to energy tank) is no longer level-dependent. At the time of conversion, energy tanks were, however, assigned based on level (level 60 players received energy tanks of 1610). Now, energy tanks can be upgraded using cards, allowing for absurdly high energy tanks. Mine, for example, is 5990 at the time of this writing (for comparison, level 60 players had energy tanks of 2860 before the conversion). While it is not my goal to cover strategy in this review, it is worth mentioning that the community as a whole questions the value of having a large energy tank. I find it convenient, but it does vastly increase teleportation costs, and it does make mood harder to manage, although mood is a non-issue if you have a supply of the Rookswort herb to munch every ten minutes. Following is a video demonstrating the upgrade card system.

Some of the “upgrade” cards are not actual upgrades, but purchasable items. These include the Reshuffle Card, and the Get Out of Hell Free Card. These cards are also much cheaper than the upgrade cards. The Reshuffle Card allows additional reshuffles to one’s hand past the one allowed per day, and the Get Out of Hell Free Card allows you to leave hell with full mood and energy (normally, one leaves hell with almost empty mood and energy). These cards can also be found on the auctions.

The upgrade card system, if used wisely, allows a player new abilities that really enhance gameplay. One of my favorites is a card that increases the amount of seeds received when shucking herbs. While a lot of the upgrading felt like buying back things I already had as parts of skills, this isn’t much of an issue since at the point of conversion, almost anyone who had played much at all received so much iMG that it was easy to buy back all the abilities one might have had before the conversion, and more. Actually, as far as new players are concerned, I see this as a good thing. Previously, you could basically just sit around and learn skills all day, and never play the game. One could become “really good” at Glitch, and never actually enter the world (in reality, some skills were tied to a few easy to earn achievements, but almost any of these could be earned in mere minutes). Since the only way to earn iMG to purchase these upgrades is to actually play the game, this now requires active involvement in the game in order to improve one’s character. As it should be. It’s only fair that in order to become good at something, one should invest time in doing so. It’s how it works in the real world and in most games, and now Glitch also works this way.

User Interface Changes

Many user interface changes were implemented at the time of the iMG conversion. Look back at my first review, then look at the following screenshot.

Different, huh?

I don’t really know how to describe why, but as a 99% generalization, I like the UI changes. It’s more modern, or something like that. Energy is now represented by the curved bar near the top left. Mood is now represented by an image of your player avatar in the same location, whose expression changes based on your current mood level. This also replaces the player menu that used to be present in the upper right corner. Click the mood image (or your name above the image) to access the player menu. And in perhaps the most controversial change of all, the magic rock (or familiar) that used to occupy the center of the screen is now gone. In addition to the keyring upgrades, the functions previously accessed via the magic rock are now accessed by means of the iMG menu, as seen below.

The iMG menu

While I also think the magic rock was a nice, uniquely Glitchian touch to the game, and will be missed, I’m rather enjoying the new UI for the most part. I do have two minor complaints though. The first is that the new UI seems to add a little more lag to the game. The second is a “scrolling” behavior that has been added to the iMG, energy, and currants meters. If one of these is increased or decreased, as opposed to quietly changing to its new level, it now increments toward that level, much as the display on a gas pump might. And, to me at least, it gives the impression that even a small change to these is actually much bigger. I don’t know why it gives me that feeling. Maybe it’s just because so much attention is being drawn to it. But to be honest, I really don’t like it. Now, onto the housing reset and related stuff.

The Housing Reset, Construction, and Imagination (Again)

First let’s briefly revisit cultivation (along with a not-so-brief video), which I covered in my previous review, and how it now relates to Imagination. Now that housing has been reset (meaning houses, yards, and home streets have been restored to their default states, and old houses are gone), cultivation items cost iMG (like upgrade cards do), and all changes to stuff are permanent (as in they won’t be reset again). Unlike upgrades, housing-related upgrades are exceedingly cheap. By “exceedingly cheap,” I mean possible to max them all out with about one day’s worth of iMG grinding. It’s worthy of note that I’m only talking about upgrades that can be purchased with iMG right now (enlarging one’s home street and back yard, and placing cultivated items in these locations). Housing expansions, which are performed using a Construction Tool, are quite a bit more involved. I actually managed to fully expand my house in one day, but I found doing so exceedingly taxing (it’s worthy of note that it probably is not intended to max out one’s house in one day; this was just something I really wanted to do). In addition to now costing iMG to cultivate one’s street and yard, players are no longer limited to one of each resource per home street or yard. The only limit now is the size of the land on which the resources are to be placed (I have thirteen tree patches on my fully-expanded home street). The price of any size increase or resource goes up with each of that increase or resource purchased, but it’s only by amounts that any player with an efficient iMG-gathering strategy would find trivial. In summary, cultivation now costs iMG. But it’s fairly easy to max out all cultivated resources, as opposed to upgrade cards, which keep appearing indefinitely.

The Housing Reset

Yesterday, housing was reset. This means that all customizations a player made to their house, home street, and back yard, were reverted, and the house was returned to a template state. This was only planned to happen once, meaning now players can customize their houses with confidence, knowing that their changes are now permanent. This has four major implications. The first is that old houses are gone. New houses are now the only houses. Old houses, while inferior to the new ones, will live on in screenshots we’ve taken of them days before the reset.

There used to be a signpost leading to my old housing quarter here

The second is that furniture items can now be crafted. We’ve been given a small selection to start with, but beyond that, furniture items are crafted using a Construction Tool (this also includes Wall Segments, used to expand one’s house). Resources needed to do so include Planks, other wood items made from Planks using a Woodworker, metal items made using a Metalmaker, and Fiber (and fabrics made from Fiber) and Snails (obtained from the new Fox and Sloth). Following is a video demonstrating construction and house expansion.

The third, visible in the video above, is that many upgrades to furniture (as well as most wallpapers, floors, and ceilings) now cost credits. I’ve always wondered how Tiny Speck stayed afloat, considering previously the only real gain acquired from purchasing credits or a subscription was extra clothing and vanity items (although it was more than worth it anyway, in my opinion at least). Since you’ll likely want lots of (upgraded) furniture, this may finally provide them with what I’d imagine to be much-needed income. Which is great news, because I really want Glitch to stay around for a long time (and ad-free; I admire the fact that TS respects clean user interfaces and doesn’t try to gain revenue by placing advertisements in the game or on the Glitch web site).

The fourth change brought about by the housing reset is what happened to the items stored in our old and new houses. They were placed in Moving Boxes, which were placed in our newly-reset houses. This is the major thorn I mentioned at the beginning. Unpacking these boxes left all your items in a huge pile on your floor.

Really? FML. 

As seen above, for those of us who hoard things, this was unpleasant. I know I managed to pick up that mess in a few hours’ time (I made sure to clean it up completely so I could create the review screenshots and videos), but organizing all that stuff was not fun. As picking up Moving Box contents won’t affect new players, and those who play the game already have already suffered it once and shouldn’t have to again, I won’t focus on this much. Suffice it to say cleaning that up was extremely unpleasant and tedious.

Where from here?

Aside from group halls (which the staff have been rather quiet about lately), imagination and the completion of housing mark what more or less amounts to the completion of what we were promised at unlaunch. And Tiny Speck has delivered on those promises and more. The game is almost completely different now than it was before the unlaunch. While I don’t know what all TS has planned for the future, it seems like the most sweeping changes are now in place. Stewart Butterfield (the creator of Glitch) has suggested that player-driven vendors and craftybots (used to automate crafting) are some of the next things to be in the works. I look forward to these upcoming changes, and trust that they’ll be every bit as impressive as the previous ones.