The browser-based MMO Glitch opened yesterday (Tuesday). I received my account about 6 hours after requesting one that afternoon. When I first read about this project it sounded interesting, but I was left unimpressed by the website. This was way back in early beta, maybe even pre-beta. However, it is free to sign up (I still haven’t figured out if there are pay subscriptions or a cash shop) and they’ve recently added Keita Takahashi (katamari, noby noby boy) so I thought it was worth a try.
An odd mechanic in this game (at least for me) is how you train skills. Part of the process seems (I am an absolute beginning so I might be confused on some aspects) to come from repetition. Use your frying pan to cook and you gain more recipes. However, training new skills – becoming a beginner cook or master of saucery, or learning to meditate or teleport – happens passively as you play. Specifically, you have a magical book-reading rock who learns these skills for you. You can learn one at a time. Different skills take different amounts of time. As I began this post, my rock is learning meditative arts II for me, with just over an hour left. As I’m logged into the game, this process continues.
Last night I went through the tutorial and explored a bit. Today I’ve just been logged in letting my rock learn skills for me. I’ve made some money auctioning off documents (see below), but otherwise haven’t played much. So far it has been enjoyable, but I could easily see it ending up either incredible or terrible. If you signed up for this game, it is likely for one of four (possibly overlapping) reasons:
1. The Farmville, casual, social game element. The beta participants do not like references to Farmville. Supposedly it has nothing to do with Farmville. I’ve never played Farmville. I’ve hardly played Glitch. I trust they are correct. However, at first glance this game has the feel of at least some of the connotations associated with Farmville. Not necessarily in the unholy spam from Hades sense. More, in the casual/social this looks cute but is it just an empty grindfest sense?
2. The “I like the internet and am good at it” element. The people behind this game were among the founders of flickr. Lots of the hype I’ve read about this game mentions that. Casually glancing at their message boards, I get the same impression. Lots of people being very openly proud at how great their virtual community is. If I sound jaded, I’m really not. It has the feel of a web 2.0 project for people who were into web 2.0 before the New York Times started running culture and tech pieces on it.
3. The I like “creative” games element. At least since the success of LBP this has been a huge way people missed by the realist fps war blockbusters have been sold on games.
4. The Takahashi Element. Ok, so the farmville stuff is no fun. The collaberative internet can be creative and fun aspects of 2&3 can be hit-or-miss. Having Takahashi involved doesn’t guarantee success, but you figure it will be interesting. If this game turns out to be mind numbing or a disaster or unplayable it will be all of those things in the most bizarre and amusing way.
The game is funny. It is not so funny a bitter person couldn’t convince themselves otherwise, but it is definitely funny enough to be amusing. In the tutorial I acquired some milk from a butterfly.
Yes, farts. This milk ended up being quite handy. I used it to make butter, and then cheese, which I used making some nice cheese plates and an omlette.
Ok, not the funniest thing in the world. But that is just the beginning. While offering me a new quest, my bespectacled rock asked me my feeling on “raindrops on roses.” The only response I had available:
I have no idea where this came from, but I immediately thought of Mitch Hedburg on club sandwiches:
I order the club sandwich all the time, but I’m not even a member, man. I don’t know how I get away with it. How’d it start anyway? I like my sandwiches with three pieces of bread. So do I! Well let’s form a club then. Alright, but we need more stipulations. Yes we do; instead of cutting the sandwich once, let’s cut it again. Yes, four triangles, and we will position them into a circle. In the middle we will dump chips. Or potato salad. Okay. I got a question dor ya, how do you feel about frilly toothpicks? I’m for ’em!
I only purchased one thing from the auction house, a bunch of grains to practice some cooking with. I expected the delivery to come via mail. Instead, a little frog guy showed up to bring the package to me. Oh yeah, and he called me “brah.”
I can appreciate that. This little frog is the only person who can get away with it.
My favorite moment so far is finding this gem from a vendor of cooking supplies.
Incredible. I wasn’t excited about about learning to grill, but I can’t resist now. As soon as I (my rock) finish training transcendental radiation.
I tried to ride a subway (train?) but I was refused because I lacked the appropriate papers. I was told I needed to find some office at the bureaucratic building, get papers there, and then complete these forms. Pain in the ass. Plus in order to get the papers from the bureaucrats, you need training in the bureaucratic arts. Blaa. Terrible. Fortunately, there is a way around this. Someone with training can buy the papers and then sell them to you directly or through the auction house. Well auction house it is. Except, well the game just opened. It is going to full of new paper who are going to want to explore. They don’t want to wait in line for forms and deal with bureaucrats. That is what real life is for. Everyone is going to want to get them the easy way through the auction house. No travel. No wait. No bureaucrats.
When it comes to the economy, I am a definite satisficer in video games. I never worry about finding profit opportunities, optimally pricing goods in auctions houses, etc. If it is convienant I’ll pay more than I have to. I’ll sell for cheap. This, however seemed like a good opportunity. I didn’t have time to really play today. But I could have my rock learn bureaucratic arts for me. Find the Bureaucratic Hall, park myself outside, buy, and then resell the papers needed for traveling (and buying homes). The return has been pretty good. I can sell them for twice what they cost easily.
I’m selling them for double to triple what they cost, but my price is still well below everyone else. Some of my sales went to other auctioners trying to corner the market, which is fine by me. I’m not sure why the price hasn’t been driven down further. I figure there is a big opportunity cost for most people. If you are parked outside of the Bureaucratic Hall, you’re not off developing your character, seeing new places, and having fun. I didn’t really have time to do any of that. My opportunity costs (at least within the context of the game) were very small.
Dealing with the bureaucrats is a bit of a hassle. But in a fun way. You have to walk in and ask to be seen. You must wait, doing absolutely nothing. When someone is finally ready to speak to you they ask you some absurd question.
Depending on your answer you either get to buy the papers, or have to speak to a different representative. They are all reptilian. Their names are all some play on Josef K. Assistant Giusseppe Cay. Jozefina Quejh.
This guy asks me who let the dogs out. I answered “someone else” on crude probablistic terms. I was wrong. Or, at least, that was not the answer he wanted to hear. Maybe he let the dogs out, framed a man called Graham, and is worried I’m on to him.
Then, of course, my favorite reptilian bureaucrat.
There he is the back, playing what appears to be some representation of Farmville non-stop. I doubt they have that in Farmville.