16 September 2011

This is not something you've seen before...

Lil' Glitch shipwreck
As much as I adore serious things and bear a mile-wide serious streak, I've always held a place in my heart for the silly, goofy, and absurd. If I'm honest with myself it's more in line with who am I. But for as long as I can remember those two parts of me have taken turns: in the midsts of my metal/grunge obsessed adolescence The Presidents of the United States of America snuck in and maintain a dustless space on the trophy rack of my heart; along with countless re-reads of The Lord of the Rings and nameless other fantasy, scifi, historical novels I still break for the comedy of JRH or George MacDonald Fraser; it's a toss up between Young Frankenstein or Momento any day of the week for me as well.

If brevity is your thing, we all need the silly.

So it comes as no surprise to myself that that Glitch has stolen my attention for the time being. In a gaming world of exploding Orks and endless raids a cute, fun, almost combat-free game is as crisp as the fall air that approacheth from the west. TF2, if nothing else, has proven that a little comedy goes a long way in enamoring a bunch of bloodthirsty nerds.

So this Glitch thing...is new.

Alright, so the title of this post and the last statement are not entirely accurate. "New" would imply a feat otherwise undone in the world of gaming, and Glitch is certainly not that. Then again the active verb in the title is "seen" and Glitch is indeed something I have not seen before and that is where it catches you off-guard and forces a decision: either the cute, original, and simply brilliant presentation and art grab you and demand you play among them, or it puts condescending grimace on your face and sends you back to Rift.

The trailer does little to explain what Glitch is and what it is, as I hinted at before, is not anything entirely original. Style and presentation aside, it's essentially a nigh-perfect hybrid browser game/standard MMO; you have an energy bar, mood meter, experience bar, inventory, quest log, skill queue, many of the standard things you expect in one of our beloved MMORPGs. Skills are time-based, like EVE Online, but not as exclusively important as they are in other games; many tasks can be completed, albeit slowly, without the corresponding skills. Quest are different as well. Since there is no (er, minimal) combat in Glitch the quests are generally task completion to help get you acquainted with certain goings on in game.

What's really got me hooked on Glitch, though, is how it makes me feel. There is a giddy, almost child-like feel to the game peppered with some grown up wit and cleverness. It's sly in that regard. Dialogue with NPCs is hilarious, butterflies are milked (not cows), beach bum frogs serve as couriers, and so much more. It should come as no surprise that Katamari Damacy serves as a source of inspiration for the game and that its creator (Keita Takahashi) is now working on Glitch. The creators at Tiny Speck (newly monied by the sale of Flickr to Yahoo) cite the "positive power of play" as a credo and you start to feel that in your time in game. While many games work in humour as an afterthought to lighten things up, Glitch works it as a point of view or mode of being. It's not WoW, where pop references and silly quest dialogue are shoehorned in, it's made with the intent of pleasing and delighting.

Additionally, it is technically excellent. The game is wed seamlessly to its website and the API allows for a staggering number of player created options (despite its ties to Flash).

In short, it's something that's missing in the online game field where we either have something that's too cute (Hello Kitty Online) or way, way too serious (EVE Online and many more). I guess it's not something I've seen before.

I started this post in an attempt to describe the way I feel about Glitch and what a special thing it is, but I still find that difficult to do. I guess you'll just have to try it for yourself and see if the bug bites you too.

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