Back to Beta for Glitch


Recently at GeekMom, we’ve given a lot of coverage to a MMORPG that some of us have gotten hooked on called Glitch. For me, it was my first real taste of online gaming, for others it was another new world to play around in. While I didn’t get too invested in it during beta, in recent weeks I’ve gotten hooked. On Monday night I spent an hour mining in the caverns for rocks to sell. My husband joined me there; he mined and then gave me the rocks. It’s new for us to have this kind of thing to do together. He has always been a gamer and enjoys sharing this with me. We were both shocked to learn yesterday that Glitch is going back into Beta, in effect, being “unlaunched” as they are calling it. This just two months after it came out. You can read what Tiny Speck have to say about it in this blog post on their site. They have identified two major problems that cannot be patched, as I’m told is the norm for online games. Funnily enough, I have encountered one of these problems, while my husband and fellow GeekMoms have encountered the other.

My problem in beta was that I just couldn’t get into it. I only had time to play in ten minute bursts here and there, and I just wasn’t getting anywhere. I walked around picking berries, gathering bubbles, petting piggies, but didn’t do much else. So it didn’t feel like something that I had to do with my time, I continued to play intermittently mostly because my husband had fun watching me play and I thought it was “cool” to be in on it during beta. Apparently other newbs have had similar experiences with just not getting into it, therefore not sticking with it until it became fun. I’m addicted now, I play everyday as it’s a nice way to wind down. But making the game more instantly accessible to new players is something that the good people at tiny Speck feel can’t be patched, so back to the drawing board.

My husband’s impending problem, one that he shares with several GeekMoms, is more of the “been there done that” variety. Glitch is an infinite game and yet when you reach level 60, have learned all your skills and achieved every quest, there’s little left to do. Sure there’s always another badge to earn, some are very peculiar and hard to attain, but beyond that, there’s not much happening. If you get bored, you stay away and that’s not what Tiny Speck want to happen. My husband was under the impression that street building would be more active than it has been in recent weeks, and that would be where it became infinite. He has been stockpiling resources to work on a new street but has yet to come across new construction. He still has fun playing because I am there and still discovering the world, but how long can that last?

In their words, “We’re doing it to make sure that all of you have a game that is awesome to play from the first moment you step into the world to deep into your Glitch adulthood.” I’m in the middle phase right now, I have skills still to learn, I’m only on level 17 of 60, though I generally advance one every few days, and I have gads of badges to get. I somehow got past my initial “what’s the point again?” phase, and am not yet been-there-done-that-ing it.

My biggest concern is – will they re-set the game and will I thereby lose everything I’ve already accomplished? Tiny Speck says no, they don’t foresee a reset being part of this move, though some aspects of my achievements might go away because they are not compatible with new game play. That’s fine, as long as my account doesn’t re-set. If it re-sets again, I doubt I will be taking the time to do it all over, as much as I’m enjoying it right now, that just doesn’t sound like fun. Level one, again. No money, again.

One of the things I love about this is their attitude towards gamers. Anyone who has paid real money for extra features can visit a refund page if they feel cheated by the unlaunch. Now that’s a company that cares about their players, I’ll stick around and see what they do with it. As long as my account doesn’t re-set!

Raising a Gamer: Nurture or Nature?


Image: Sarah Pinault circa May 2010

When my son was first born, we were determined to get him on an appropriate sleep schedule. So after the first month or so of getting everyone adjusted to some kind of “normal,” we began. We had no guide for this until he was about four months old, until then we just wanted him to adjust to what was play time, and what was not. So at 8-8.30 every night, into his swing he would go and onto the computer one of us would go. We played a game called World of Goo while Toby drifted in and out of sleep. He liked the music and it kept us entertained long enough to not pass out. No interaction meant that he knew very early on that this was down time, it was very hard not to play with my baby. Usually between 11.30 and 12.30 he would take a bottle and then go to his crib for about five or six hours. It worked really well for us and by the time he was four months old he was in his crib by eight every night, with a bottle at 10 and 5.30. Now he sleeps from seven at night, to six every morning. This game saved our sanity, and this tactic has set us up well.

Recently, he has become obsessed with “Mommy’s Smurf.” This is what he calls my character on Glitch. He has very little interest in watching me play for more than three minutes, but anytime one of us sits down at the computer he asks for either “Mommy’s Smurf” or Nanny/Grandad (we Skype with my parents a lot).

This weekend saw a turn of events that has my husband reaching for my netbook as if it were merely a toddler’s laptop. Having won the battle of the mid-day nap, he had settled in for a few hours of Portal 2. After about two hours, he got stuck. After twenty minutes of staring at the screen, our son woke up. Naturally inquisitive, he wanted to know what Daddy was doing, so he walked over and crawled into his lap. My husband started pointing things out to him, explaining what he was trying to do and what the problem was. Toby sat, watching intentionally, occasionally sucking on his juice cup. When the problem had been fully explained to him, Toby set down his cup, pointed at something on the screen, and said “What’s this?” Well, sixty seconds later the problem was a thing of the past, Toby had moved on to his toy cars and my husband was staring at him, dreaming of a three year old’s Lan party. So there you go, if you get stuck, ask a toddler. They see things differently.

Glitch Gone Wild?

I never thought this would be the way I’d have the “Don’t Do Drugs” talk with my kids!

After signing myself up for Glitch, I decided to let my kids develop characters of their own (under my e-mail addresses and with my close supervision). Over the weekend my oldest son took a trip to the dark side of Glitch: “Glitch Hell“.

Simply put, you visit Hell by dying. You can visit Hell several times, and there is even a separate set of achievements you can earn from multiple trips to Hell. Those who are experienced in the game might think that my son simply walked away from the computer, forgetting to “Exit the World.” But in my son’s case, he was mining rocks with another character who offered him a substance called “No-No Powder“.

No-No Powder is Glitch cocaine, my friends. You sniff it, get high, and then encounter this horrible crash that can only be saved from death by another “hit” of the No-No Powder. I have some in my backpack, picked up from someone who left it on the ground. I haven’t used it, but instead was planning to sell it for money.

His avatar sniffed the stuff, experienced the 6 minutes of maximum mood and energy, and then crashed HARD. The avatar died, went to Hell, then resurrected upon completing a task (my son crushed grapes).  Upon resurrection, you have zero mood and near-zero energy and are very close to dying again. My son had very little food, very little currants (money) and no skills to make anything.

Sounds like a textbook drug addict…rehabilitation time!

This was not something I expected to have to do so soon, but I grabbed my arsenal of inspirational, lesson-teaching messages and quickly took over the computer control of my son’s Glitch character. We got Mace Windu fed, educated and built up his account a little under my direction. Then we had to discuss drug use, Internet chatting, the existence of hell and responsible gaming all at once on Saturday night.

“What did we learn?”

“Don’t sniff the no-no powder….”

“When is it a good time to use drugs?”

“When a doctor says so….”

“Will we ever sniff no-no powder again?”


“Do we take stuff from strangers?”


This whole experience — which took about an hour of our Saturday night, also got me thinking about how family-friendly this game might actually be. There’s a lot of…um, sophomoric humor scattered throughout the game that my sons probably won’t understand, but I feel nervous just the same about exposing them to it.

My feelings about my kids seeing Glitch are becoming similar to my concerns about my sons watching The Simpsons, by the way. They really enjoy the humor, but (a) Mom and Dad have to be nearby when they’ve watched it and (b) it has to be a rerun that Mom and Dad are already familiar with so they know what adult themes to expect.

I had written on my personal blog about what fun the family was having developing our respective avatars, but with the Global Chat and IM-ing looming out there, we’ve decided to change things up a bit.  Whereas before I’d let my sons control my avatar with me in the room, I think I need to keep the controls and just keep the kids to the decision making. In other words, if Mace Windu wants to go harvest some allspice, he’ll tell me where to go and I’ll sure he gets there.

My Life as a Newb: The World of Online Gaming

This is me, roaming around the world of Glitch. See how afraid I look?

I married a gamer. I married a man who, quite sensibly, refused to play World of Warcraftbecause he knew without a doubt that it would suck him in, ruin him for life, and lead to divorce. I have watched him play and beat many games, and then, three years ago he caved and played WoW. Luckily he had sufficiently prepared himself, and it sucked him in for but a brief spell before we gave up much of our lives to home ownership and parenthood.

This year I was invited by GeekMom Melissa to get in on a new MMORPG while it was still in Beta. She posted about Glitch when it opened up to the internet en masse a few weeks back. This was my first experience of online gaming, and it made my husband positively giddy to sign up with me so that we could play together.

The first hurdle I had to overcome was not my lack of co-ordination on a gaming keyboard, but my name. I have never had an online personality before. My husband had always been Kalas, after a long discarded AD&D Villain from his youth. That seems to be very popular of late so he has since upgraded to a new name. This name emerged during a Scrabble game, when a friend was left with some unfortunate lettering. I stared at the screen for ten full minutes. I use MaineMummy for a lot of things, as that is the name of my original blog, but it didn’t seem quite right for this purpose. Being a Trekkie, I thought of various Crusher/Troi/Riker names, contemplated Vash or Risa but none sat quite right. I went to the world of Tolkien, hoping to find some Elvish inspiration. I even ran a name generator that I had used when deciding on baby names. Finally I had an epiphany and typed in a name, hoping against hope that it was still available. It was, and so Organa was born.

So I had my name, but then I was interrupted by life and had to step away from my screen. By the time I got back, my husband was on level 15, and had sent me mail I didn’t know how to retrieve. Over the following months I delved into the world of imagination now open to me, it was intriguing.

I’m not a savvy gamer so I liked the scroll screen a la Super Mario, as opposed to running in 360 degrees of direction. I also liked the character creation and the options available for free, clothes and the like. And yet one of the key points of any MMORPG remains elusive to me, questing is not something I have taken to well. I enjoy wandering around and doing things certainly, but I cannot satisfy my desire for level advancement because I can’t seem to get involved in the quests that pop up for you to take on. And we’re talking about quests that you undertake as a single player, I am leery of joining with a group to accomplish something. Playing this week, I was advised by my husband to just agree to everything and that way, when I haphazardly complete something I’ll advance a little. Doesn’t help me with the timed quests or with my fear of online social groups, but my quest log is now enormous and I’ve done several accidentally each time.

Visually, it’s been much easier for me to get into Glitch than I had anticipated based on watching my husband play Lord of the Rings Online or Quest of the Zombie Warriors from Mars*. Some of the areas on the map aren’t as pleasing to me, I tend to hover around Groddle Forest a lot, I like the greenery, but it is all stunning. My Glitch character is actually the avatar for my new twitter account, I take the rain hat off on warm days. My two year old thinks it’s a Smurf!

Since my husband is always a few steps ahead of the game, ahem, he likes to point out interesting things to me, hidden places and quirks in the game play. I’m a spoilers kind of girl so I enjoy “cheating” my way to the cool stuff. Though if you make it to Jethimadh Tower, help me out, I still can’t get to all the hidden places no matter where I look.

There are aspects of the game that I lost in Beta when they did the re-set, that I miss. I can’t wait to start teleporting again. I had just earned the ability to summon people to me, when it was closed and re-booted, so I never got to drag my husband away from his part of the world with no notice, which was a shame. I lost my apartment, but then I didn’t buy a nice one so I think that’s a good goal for this incarnation of Organa.

While it is quite addictive, several of my fellow GeekMoms have lost days to the game since it opened, I can’t quite put my gaming virgin days behind me. I’m a control masher, I enjoy a good game of Mario Kart, anything more and you’ll destroy me in minutes. I enjoyed RollerCoaster Tycoon when it first came out, it appealed to my OCD, allowing me to control things neatly and in a uniform manner. Glitch is a wonderful game, and I am still enjoying playing it, even after all my hard work in Beta was wiped out for the launch. Yet I am by no means a gaming convert. I sit and play, drinking my cup of tea, all the while my knitting, latest book or scrapbook project are all calling to me. I’ll never be a hard-core gamer but it’s nice to add to the list of things I can do with my husband, and I expect my kids in the future. Alas I think I will always be a Newb.

* This doesn’t actually exist. All of his games generally morph into one experience for me, which actually, he would probably enjoy too.

Glitch Players Gather to Mourn Steve Jobs

If you play Glitch, head over to Lowland Slough in Shimla Mirch to see the beautiful spontaneous tribute to Steve Jobs. People are leaving notes (“When I opened my own business, it was on a Mac”) and apples—dozens upon dozens of apples—in the street. The paper tree there has been rechristened “Steve.” Fireflies swirl in jars at the avatars’ feet.

Every now and then a griefer comes along and swipes the apples, but the crowd of Glitches keeps donating more. It’s lovely. I’m playing the game on a Mac, of course.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Jobs.

P.S. Here’s a shot of another street tribute, this one in Ghora Chani. Breathtaking!

Glitch: There’s a New Game in Town

It’s an exciting week for gaming fans: Glitch has opened to the public!

After months of beta-testing, the whimsical, browser-based MMO has thrown open its doors, welcoming new Glitches—er, users—to join the fun. Several of us GeekMoms and our kids were among the enthusiastic gamers who took part in the beta, exploring the Harvest Moon-meets-Dr. Seuss world of Ur, where cute Muppet-like avatars pet piggies, harvest spice trees, mine sparkly rock, and a whole lot more.

What appeals to me about Glitch as a mom is that it’s a benign world, full of adventure and interest but not blood and gore. My five-year-old can play alongside her tween and teen siblings (not to mention her mom), planting crops, befriending animals, and enjoying the surprises that pop all over the collection of islands that comprise this beautifully rendered fantasy land. Meanwhile, the challenging quests keep older users engaged—and I don’t just mean older kids. Late last night I found myself trotting all over Groddle Heights, gathering ingredients for a recipe, chatting all the while with a high-school friend of mine whose Glitch avatar just happens to live in the next house down from mine in a tree in Borem Summon.

The game can be as social or as solo as you like. When my younger children are playing, I keep the global chat window closed, since there is occasionally raw language there. (For adults, though, it’s a great place to ask questions when you’re stumped.) You can open a one-on-one chat window with a friend, join a group, or just chug along by yourself.

In the course of your questing, you’ll delve deep into mines in search of valuable ores; you’ll traverse scenic vistas, collecting treasures and avoiding the Juju Bandits—comical thieves who remind me of the Hamburgler. You’ll fight rooks, milk butterflies, and curry favor with the local giants. The spirit of the game is goodnatured and cooperative; you get “mood” points for helping out plants and animals and your fellow Glitches. Puns abound, and in a particularly charming twist, achievement badges are linked to prime numbers. Water 11 egg plants (they grow eggs, of course) or complete 23 quests, and up pops a reward.

As with Farmville, Harvest Moon, and other agriculture-based games, a lot of practical math sneaks into game play—my kids always wind up doing complicated profit margin comparisons for the various crops without noticing they’re “doing math.” That’s even more the case with Glitch, where you’re always making donations to the Giants to build up your favor points—donated objects earn favor points in an amount equal to ten percent of their value in “currants,” the—what else—currency of the land of Ur.

I love the time my kids spend together on games like this, planning, exploring, calculating, and laughing their heads off. We can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for our little purple avatar.