My name is Cheesefish, and against all logic it is one of the more mundane names I have come across. I am wearing a sari and I have a fox on my head. My hobby: squeezing chickens. My mission: to become the finest chef the world of Glitch has ever seen.
Glitch is a browser-based, entirely combat-free, massively multiplayer online game. And for the last few days, it has been something of an obsession. It is Maple Story, if Maple Story cut the combat (and the Korean-ness) and focussed solely on exploration and crafting mechanics. And it’s the exploration that makes it. As a 2D scrolling flash game, there are none of World of Warcraft or Guild Wars’ sweeping vistas here, but it makes up for it in variety. One moment you may be exploring a lush and utterly normal forest, but one stop on the ever-present intercontinental subway drops you off in a land of pastel where the hills have eyes.
Stranger places still await the intrepid explorer. Keita Takahashi, creator of Katamari Damacy, has had his hands on this game and it certainly shows. (The other more recognisable members of the team are, bizarrely, the founders of Flickr.) There have clearly been some… unique minds behind the design of this game, which become most apparent when acquiring raw materials from the environment.
Need meat? You get it by nibbling on pigs, but only after petting them. Milk? From butterflies of course, but they must be massaged first. Grain can be obtained by squeezing chickens, but eggs? Oh, right. Egg plants.
From the odd interactions with fauna to the bizarre contraptions you can use, the ever-humorous quest descriptions and the pet rock that does your learning for you, there’s a strange sense of humour at work here and it works very well indeed.
Glitch is also an example of one of my most hated things – an Energy-based game that has no end. But here, it doesn’t feel malicious like the game-killing ‘games’ of Zynga and Playfish. Energy is plentiful and refills completely every few hours, and even with my character’s mediocre cooking skills, she can easily whip up enough odd food and drinks to keep her energy and mood full. Skills are learned over minutes, hours or days of real time, but again unlike FarmVille and its kin, they’re not just a mechanism to drag you back to the game. There doesn’t feel like an urgency to get them learned, and besides, you can manage them from the website or the iOS app without having to touch the game itself.
So what the heck is Glitch? It doesn’t seem much like a game, as there’s no way to win and no reason to compete against anyone. It’s a world to explore, to create and add to, and apparently, to hold farmers’ markets in.
It resembles nothing quite so much as a twenty-first century upgrade of the MUSH, the shared environments from the early ’90s. If it allows anything like a MUSH’s ability for players to create and expand the world, it will be a wonder. But creating with text is easy; doing so with graphics much more complex, and I can’t imagine the company behind Glitch giving up creative control so readily.
But even without that, even without an idea of what it is and what it’s going to be, it’s certainly a beautiful something.