I’d always had a fascination with computer games from early on. First, it was the coin-operated games like Zaxxon and Missile Command, which eventually led to the market for the in home cartridge-based games of Atari, Mattel’s Intelivision, Colecovision, etc. These days we find ourselves living in a world of day-to-day digitized social networking and gamification, almost to the point where the line between real world and game world can appear quite blurry. At some point during the holiday season, we will probably stroll past a department store TV display “broadcast” of game footage of Madden Football or FIFA Soccer, and have to think twice about whether or not we’re viewing live footage from an actual sports event. Game simulations now offer real world applications in public education, and in corporate and military training. Professional baseball executives use statistical elements derived from “hot stove” fantasy leagues to assess actual on-the-field talent.
The Groddle Meadow
About a year ago, my first experience with a “massive mulitplayer online” (MMO) game came to a close when the wonderfully creative and dedicated people of Tiny Speck, Inc. shut down Glitch, the Game and its virtual world of Ur. A well designed MMO captivates the imagination of its players when it makes them feel like characters living/interacting inside of a great TV show or movie. World of Warcraft is the most famous example. Unlike, Glitch, the Game, however, WoW involved a dollar cost to buying the initial software and follow-up costs of a subscription. Most MMOs also demand heavy equipment and computer processor/video graphics requirements to play. Glitch, like Runescape, was initially free to play (outside of optional ugrades) and browser-based.
Unlike Runescape (at least when I last played there), the look of Gltch’s world of Ur abounded with smoothly rendered vivid color animation and sound. The mythic back story of shrines and “ancestral lands” contrasted with whimsical humor and the charmingly cartoonish look of the characters. A problem with many MMOs is the time involved in creating a character and learning to fit in with some sort of clan or tribe or gang, etc. The folks at Tiny Speck succeeded in offering up Ur as a kind of surrealistic utopia. Obiviously, they had to provide the basic motivational elements common to most comptuer games, level-ups, badges, quest/skill completions, etc. They tied it all together with great forums, Wikipedia resources and even an assistive iPhone app. Unlike the gritty urban worlds of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, the “sandbox” play format of Glitch, the Game allowed players to socialize amiably with each other within an ecosystem of lavish landscapes (and seascapes, even) which made you forget you were playing a 2D side scrolling game!
Spice Trees of Ix
Currently, I’ve spent a lot of time playing MLS Fantasy Soccer. That season ends in a couple weeks with a championship match, but as with any sport there is always next year. MMOs on the other hand, eventually come to an end like a favorite TV show (without the reruns). Designers and staff leave, companies get bought out, revenue streams dry up. However, the folks at Tiny Speck, perhaps realized that inevitably too great a thing can’t go on in present form forever. So they came up with the brilliant idea to make all of the vast game resources available as public domain! This way creative minds can use all the beautiful sights and sounds of Ur in any ways imaginable.
Your Glitch avatar lives on in a little iPhone game app called “Glitch Run”.
Previously, there had been some Kickstarter-type projects to market books of the art work and recordings of the music. Much of the public domain files are in SWF format and require Adobe designer software. I’ve often wondered how feasible it would be to re-create a Glitch-world in a smoother running HTML5 format. Presently, I don’t have the know-how or resources for such an undertaking, but all the same, it is very inspiring to see at least the ghost of Gltich, the Game/Ur arise like a phenix from the ashes!
Below is the link to the files of Glitch, the Game. Tiny Speck, Inc. prohibits the use of the logo and copyright to Glitch, but everything else is available (so long as it is used to do “good”). The company is also marketing a team communication service called #slack: