November 26th, 2012 by Marianne McCann
“This is a horrible day. This is a horrible thing to have to say: Glitch is closing.”
So begun a missive from Tiny Speck, the company behing a cute, quirky MMO game named Glitch. With those words, the land of Ur, fashioned by the imagination of eleven giants and populated by the seemingly-genderless glitchen and a host of other creatures mundane and magical, had its death warrant. As I type this, Glitch has two weeks before its demise.
This is my glitchen, Marianne. Yes, she’s rather kid-like there too, though the world is not much at all like, say, Second Life. She has her own little house (as do all players), is making her way through a maze of quests, learnable skills, and levels while running headlong to the end of the world.
I’m not going to bore you with reminiscing about her adventures — though the Last Pilgrimage of Esquibeth quest was beautiful, and I love the Autumn Walk — now do I want to spin a maudlin tale of woe about the loss of Ur.
Rather, I want to tell you about one of the most enduring, powerful parts of the Glitch world. It’s not the game play, the badges, the backstory, the adorable art direction, or even Glitch itself. It’s the community.
In the goodbye letter, Tiny Speck says that “Glitch has not attracted an audience large enough to sustain itself.” That’s likely true. It can be hard for a game — especially on e that is a bit off the beaten path like Glitch — to build an audience. That it is flash-based, not necessarily suited to mobile gameplay, and not another mindless game attached to Facebook likely doesn’t do much to help.
Yet the audience they did gain is the sort that most would be envious of. It’s a well-behaved, adult-acting community. They help out each other, a trait even more pronounced in light of the shutdown. They’re generally better at using blocking and reporting tools to keep things on track, and yet not vigilantes seeking to shut people out of their clique.
In the light of the shutdown, the community is going through the five stages of grief in their own ways. Many have chosen to drop all their goods into massive piles, letting others pick through and take it all away. Some are trying to organize other places on the web or in other games to continue to meet up. A cottage industry has sprung up of creators making physical copies of game sprites.
Meanwhile, many continue to explore the world, checking off their “bucket list” and getting some time in to enjoy the world they love one last time.
The glitchen who remain have stepped up, helping everyone they can to complete that last quest, gain that one item they wanted, or mentor new users even though we all know that time is limited. There are a lot more parties going on, too — no need to hoard their virtual “party packs” for that special day.
It is also refreshing to see how this has been handled by the owners of Glitch. Tiny Speck has been firm that, indeed, this is the end — but has taken the time between the announcement and the shutdown to introduce new lands, new items, and other upgrades they’ve had sitting around — giving people new items to have fun with even in the face of virtual doom.
The company has refunded all subscriptions, made everyone a subscriber, and provided every account with some free credits (you would usually have to purchase those with real-world money) to enjoy until the end.
Soon, my little glitchen will be a memory. All her achievements, all those little upgrades, her wall of trophies — they’ll only live on in a handful of snapshots from the game, and in my memories. It will be sad to see her go, but I’ll always appreciate the community of people there who have made the experience all worth while.