What’s Stopping Glitch From Becoming Farmville?
What is a Glitch?
Glitch is a new MMORPG from Tiny Speck, so new, pre-new even, that it’s still in beta and you need an invite to join. It’s more than a little bizarre, with piggies inviting you to “nibble” them for meat and massaging butterflies the primary course to acquiring dairy products. There is as yet no combat, though recent signs point to a change there. The future combat looks to be rare, however, and the primary focus of the game will remain cooperation and friendship between players in the world that they in some ways create and no doubt affect.
During the Glitch beta period, which seems to last for an infinite “six weeks,” the game is periodically “open” and “closed” to players, and while the developers give hints as to when the game will next be available to play, nothing is ever written in stone. The elephant in the room is that at some future date, when the beta is ready to go public, the game will be reset and all progress gained during the beta period will be lost. Beta players understand this to be a way to level the playing field for new players just entering the world, but there is an underlying fatalism that everything done in the game isn’t going to last much longer. While the devs are entirely upfront about the reset, I wonder how many beta players will be discouraged by their loss of progress and not return when the game goes public, not as a conscious decision but out of lack of continued interest. The Glitch beta players are no doubt valuable to the community, as they will serve as ambassadors for the new, post-reset players, shepherding in refugees from Farmville and similar Facebook games. While Google+ remains Restaurant City-free, it may be non-combat MMORPGs that fill the time-sink hole for those fleeing Facebook.
(image source: TechCrunch)
Using the Glitch Skills Tree, a casual player can focus on one specialty (Animal Kinship or Mining) and power players can go all out and learn all the skills, becoming a jack-of-all-trades. The order in which skills are learned is important, however, as the more skills a player has acquired, the longer it takes to learn new skills. This isn’t immediately obvious and may only be gleaned from careful observation of the skills timers or combing through the forums. Casual players aren’t going to put forth that same effort and will be easily left behind, unfortunate in an online game that prides itself on community.
An ever-present meteorite hands out quests as skills are completed and abilities are unlocked, guiding the gameplay, but in the open world, the player is allowed to do pretty much, well, whatever. There is milking butterflies and squeezing chickens for grain. Pet trees for a bonus before harvesting them of their eggs, gas, and spices. Convert (yes, convert!) cherries into any fruit, and tune bubbles to make different sorts of bubbles. Advanced players can mine sparkly rocks, beryl, and dullite for the core elements of alchemy, allowing them to make sneezing powder. See another player you fancy? Play a tune for your fellow Glitchen; give another player a hug, a kiss, or a “splank.”
They’ve got Keita Takahashi, creater of Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy. So. Yeah. Enough said. But, you know, in case it’s not, here’s the Glitch trailer.
The community of players makes Glitch work. Casual players can come and go anonymously, but they are missing out on a lot of what makes Glitch so special. While the community is no doubt guided by the devs–there are quests to give items to lower level players and achievements for chatting with fellow players and adding them to your group of friends–it’s the players themselves who guide the community. As the Glitch world grows larger, players band together to “build” new streets on the outskirts of the world, providing tools, labor, and items. If a player is low on energy or “mood” and near death, a fellow player can be called on to provide assistance, usually asking nothing in return. A confused player need only ask the Global chat for help, and three or four people will be there to answer.
When the game nears close at the end of a test cycle, players will meet at a predetermined location for End of the World party. Players freely share food, drinks, tickets (used to race against one another), and the Glitch equivalent of narcotics. Higher level players with more impressive skills allow low-level players to “follow” them, creating a conga line, so that everyone can enjoy the skill at the party.
There’s nothing stopping Glitch from turning into Farmville or another Facebook game clone. A huge influx of casual players and a loss of the beta players who maintain the community are the first steps. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, right? People like those sorts of games, they’re entitled to like them, and because I don’t like them doesn’t mean they are of any less value. However, the preservation of a strong community with continuously exciting, involving, and evolving gameplay will keep the beta players coming back, even after the game reset and loss of progress, ensuring Glitch remains the promising MMORPG world that it is.