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Rise and Shiny recap: Glitch


Ah, so we meet at last, Glitch. I have been looking forward to playing this game for a long, long time. Possibly decades. All right, not decades... but there is something familiar about the game, something that feels homey and warm and nice. What is it? Perhaps I will find out soon. Before I get all gushy about the wonderful world of giants, I need to explain why I think it is important for the genre, not just for me.

Glitch is like Minecraft, not in its dynamic or design but in the obvious impact it is having and will more than likely continue having on its particular genre. Actually, it has already had this type of effect on gaming in general, but not quite at the level of Minecraft. Yet.

Click past the cut and I'll gush some more.

Another Glitch screenshot
There is no set of numbers for me to divulge nor any table of metrics that I can show you to prove how well I think Glitch is doing. I can only tell you that I have seen more of a response (from the industry as well) to this game than I have seen from a game in a long time. Sure, RIFT had a good launch, ran well, and was beautiful. I imagine Star Wars: The Old Republic will do even better. But in the world of indie games, odd gamers, and people who have no boundaries on their gaming tastes (you know, super cool people), Glitch is almost a perfect game of time management, farming, exploration, crafting, customization, deep lore, lo-fi beauty, and social adventure.

No (with a capital N), it is not a "Facebook game." That term is officially the goofiest way to describe games that have nothing to do with Facebook other than having an optional Facebook login or being embedded on Facebook. I know, I know... it's the term to throw around when you have no interest in actually trying to play or understand why someone else would like anything else but your favorite game (variety? pssh!), but I protest anyway. Calling Glitch a Facebook game is like describing Lord of the Rings Online (or any other MMORPG that launches with a client) a "typical MMORPG." Let me rephrase all of that: Describing a game by how a player might sign in or launch the game is one of the stupidest trends in the MMO community.

Stop it.

Now, why is Glitch important? It's brought style, humor, and modern-day hipness to (of all things) browser-based gaming. For those of us who appreciate old-school gaming in so many ways but are very tired of hearing about the same class mechanics and tired fantasy settings, Glitch represents a nod to design that is subtle, artwork that is both deep and whimsical, and writing that does not assume we have never played a game (or read a book) before. Glitch is especially important for someone like me, someone who has been concerned for some time that the browser medium might not get that really slick, cool game that it needed so badly. Hell, Glitch is good for nerddom.

Instead of listing off a bunch of numbers and, you know, facts about the game, I would rather tell you about a typical night of adventure I had recently. If it sounds cool to you, go try the game out. It's free.

One night I was stumbling around the varied environments of the world of Glitch, a world that resides within the imagination of 11 giants, and I came across some sort of quest. I am not sure what happened exactly, but I was sent to an empty, dry landscape and told that I had something to do. There is a friendly (yet snarky) rock that floats above your head and doles out the occasional quest to you. I told him I didn't like what I felt while in this place. My chest hurt, or something similar.

"That's called nostalgia, kid," he said. "What you're feeling is the weight of aeons pressing on your heart."

Honestly, I was moved. Perhaps it is because I am getting older, but nostalgia is an everyday emotion for me. To see a game base an entire zone mechanic on resisting the intense feeling of the memory of your entire being was thrilling. It's just bit of text coming from a cartoon rock inside a 2-D side-scroller, but when design is good design, it can have a real effect on the player.

I've spent the rest of my week raising skills using the offline skill trainer, similar to the one you'd find in EVE Online. I've learned how to: garden, raise favor with the gods by donating metric tons of goods, tickle chickens to force wheat right out of their feathers, own a house, communicate, add more friends to my list than I ever have in any game in my life, travel, teleport, meditate, eat, drink, die, go to Hell, squish grapes to return to life, laugh, stop to eat the flowers, jump, collect, obsess over collections, and many other things that I am forgetting.

To put it simply, Glitch has done more clever things within the confines of a browser than I have seen many games attempt to do with massive budgets, special effects, and high-dollar box prices. Glitch is Donnie Darko, The Flaming Lips (only the pre-Hit to Death in the Future Head ones), and the lovechild of Hello Kitty and Sinéad O'Connor.

Here's the question: Do I think Glitch will last beyond this initial wave of charm? It will die down, of course. My industry friends will need to go back to making their own games soon enough, and my buddies will go back to LotRO, RIFT, City of Heroes and all the others. However, the solid core of hardcore fans will remain, and the accessibility and interesting payment model will guarantee a solid stream of players. Tiny Speck, the developer behind the title, has created such a blank canvas that it could literally add anything to the game and it would be kosher. Live events would be something to see, not to mention more glimpses into the lore of the giants.

At the end of my first real week with Glitch, I had to pinpoint how I felt about it so I could put it down in this article. I think I came up with a pretty good approximation.

Because the game is set within the minds and imaginings of a cadre of giants, there is a feeling of being protected in the game world. The youthful, androgynous look of your character along with the customization options give you the ability to make any type of character you want. I felt pretty much like a kid during his favorite holiday. I was excited, curious and thrilled. My little glitch felt more real to me, more connected to feelings I have in real life, than almost any character I have ever had. The giants are there -- and they can be stern -- but I actually felt responsible for this strange, microscopic, trippy little world.

Surely that didn't happen by accident.

Next week I will be in Austin at GDC Online, so no Rise and Shiny next Sunday! I will pick up with it the week after that by playing MagicDuel Adventure, a unique-looking browser game. See you in game!

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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