If a new game from a cofounder of Flickr is a hit, "glitch" may take on a new meaning. On Tuesday, a new startup from Stewart Butterfield, cofounder of the popular photo-sharing site, announced a social online game called Glitch, where users team up to solve problems.
The game, targeted for launch by the end of this year, is now in private alpha, with a public beta scheduled this summer. Butterfield's new company, called Tiny Speck, said the massive multiplayer game takes place in "one big world," so "anyone's actions have the ability to affect every other player in the game."
'Very Little War'
The makers also pointed out that, unlike many games, Glitch "involves very little war, moats, spaceships, wizards, mafiosos," or similar violent action and tools. Another difference, the company noted cryptically, is that the game has eggplants and they "make it very different."
The basic premise is that in the far and perfect future, the world starts falling apart because of a glitch and the players have to go back in time into the minds of 11 great giants "walking sacred paths on a barren asteroid who sing and think and hum the world into existence." After going back in time, players work together to solve puzzles and do other tasks that help save the present world.
The game is attracting attention because of Butterfield's history with Flickr, which he sold to Yahoo in 2005 for $35 million. Originally, Flickr was an online game called Game Neverending, where players could drag and drop photos into conversations. But players were spending most of their time sharing photos, so the popular photo-sharing site evolved.
Butterfield also indicated that the game will try to explore areas that games seldom do. For instance, a player can "heal" people nearby by meditating and doing nothing. There will also be interaction among players outside the environment, such as through SMS text messages and social-networking sites.
Many Visual Styles
The visual style is also deliberately non-classic. "The look varies as you travel around the world," says a statement on the Tiny Speck web site. The styles include psychedelic, surrealistic, "Japanese cutesie," class cartoon, contemporary mixed media, and "hypersaturated pixel art."
The game will be free, with game items for sale and premium, subscription-based accounts.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with industry research firm Interpret, said there is nothing "overtly new" about Glitch, based on the information so far released. But, he said, it appears to "refine some existing concepts," such as social gaming. It will also stand out, he said, because "you don't go around shooting things up."