MMObility: Are Glitch's Feats smart design or mindless grind?

Glitch Feats information screenshot
Live events are a funny thing. They can be some of the most exciting content and can possibly cost developers very little. Sure, there are massive big-budget events like anything building up to a World of Warcraft expansion, but there are also wonderful smaller events like welcoming new characters to Ryzom or tournaments in Illyriad. Live events can be very, very simple but can also be absolutely thrilling to players. We don't need much to make us happy, and live events are a great way to do it.

Glitch has been mad about live events for a while, although developer Tiny Speck and the players might refer to them as something else. The example I want to talk about today is Glitch's Feats, great events that not only pull parameters from lore but give almost every player from every experience level something to do.

Some see live events like Glitch's Feats as nothing more than excuses for overly passionate players to grind their way into virtual glory. While there is definitely some of that going on, I have to ask whether it's possible to have a live event that gives grinders something to shoot for while allowing casual players like yours truly something to do as well. We all want to feel included, and Feats do a pretty good job of that.

Close up of a Glitch wallpaper
What are Feats? From the official page at the site:
Feats are the adventures, exploits and accomplishments of Ancient Heroes who saved the world from danger, discovered the truths of our existence, explored new lands, invented new technologies or created new delights for all to enjoy.
Players participate in the Feats by performing different, often simple, tasks. Over this last wave of Feats, I was asked to wave hi to as many Glitchen as possible and later was told that I needed to visit as many homes as possible. The home-visit Feat even gave us hints as to where to go to get to special stones that would transport us into random homes. Some players stood outside these visitation stones and teleported themselves into virtual glory, obtaining the top spot and possibly thousands of imagination points -- the Glitch equivalent of experience, sort of -- in return. This was a brilliant way to get players to not only visit random homes but to leave gifts for each other, make new friends, and earn imagination along the way. I had probably scores of visitors to my street, gained several new friends, and received many funny little presents left with my butler.

Every player earned something for participating, even if it was a tiny amount of coin or imagination or sometimes a piece of petrified rock that revealed different prizes once cracked open. I am no grinder and definitely did not attempt to hit the top spot in any of these Feats, but I still got something in return, a sort of participation badge like the ones I got as a child when playing sports. I sucked at sports but liked the badges.

Glitch screenshotOne of the smartest Feats had players go up to random trees or animals and hug or water them while resisting the urge to gather materials from them. Essentially we were asked to spread some love, but ignore our want for those awesome gathered materials. I have to admit that out of habit I clicked "harvest" more than a few times and lost some points, but I still came out with some in the end. What I love about such a simple Feat is that it made players feel something, something in real life, while they were playing a video game. It's so rare these days to have an MMO bring up any real-life feelings. Sure, we come across the occasional sad quest or enjoy a laugh at the expense of some silly NPC, but many MMOs these days seem as if they don't want to allow players to do anything but grind or kill. Where are the quests that have not a pay-off but an emotional response? Feats somehow elicit these emotional responses quietly. I smiled more during these Feats than I have during gameplay in a long time. Tiny Speck knows how to make players feel something while building community.

But what about those players who felt as though the Feats were nothing but a cheap, fast bit of content to make them grind? I talked to a handful of those higher-level players. Of course many of them could not explain why they felt the need to grind their way to the top of the charts in the first place, but players who play one title for so many hours per week really cannot be reasoned with. Those players, as wonderful as they are and as nice as they are for a game to have, would grind away on anything. It's in their nature; it's possibly how they work at a job and is a natural fit for them. Me? I cannot stand to grind. I enjoyed a small chunk of each feat but overall mostly enjoyed watching the players working together, forming impromptu teams and helping each other out so that everyone had a shot at some goodies.


"To me, the real beauty of live events like the Feats I have been talking about is that, surely, they are a cheaper form of development for developers."

To me, the real beauty of live events like the Feats I have been talking about is that, surely, they are a cheaper form of development for developers. This is not a bad thing at all... we should want developers to have the ability to put out as much content as possible or to put out smaller, fun bits of content like these Feats while larger projects are being worked on. On top of that, however, is the wonderful effect it has on the community. Feats or other live events can come unexpectedly and will not fit into the normal, everyday routines of players. Nothing is more thrilling to a player than new content, however small in scale. Give us new things to do or put new twists in the game to work around and we will enjoy ourselves greatly.

Sure, those grinders and six-hours-a-day players will complain that developers should skip this live event silliness and instead should concentrate on "real" content, but those players forget that all players enjoy all different things. To many players, these live events are the best content possible. I personally believe developers should skip developing such predictable content like yet one more expansion featuring a level cap raise and more monsters to kill and should occasionally make the entire development cycle concentrate on changing and ever-fresh live events. In other words, I certainly hope Glitch's Feats continue along side all of the rest of the wonderful development that is going on in game right now.

It's been a while since I played an MMO that has had such a large variety of fresh content pouring in, but Glitch does. This is a good thing, even for those of us who might never reach high level or care about being the best of the best. Keep the live events coming.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
This article was originally published on Massively.