TinySpeck opens ‘Glitch’ to the world


TinySpeck’s offices in San Francisco. (The Washington Post)

Glitch, a nonviolent online game from TinySpeck leaves beta behind on Tuesday, opening its doors to thousands — perhaps millions — of new users.

TinySpeck was founded in 2009 and has offices in San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. The game is the product of a collaboration between Flickr co-founders Stewart Butterfield, Cal Henderson, Eric Costello and Serguei Mourachov.

We visited the Glitch offices in San Francisco for a meeting with Butterfield, Henderson and Kakul Srivastava, vice president of product and TinySpeck operations. The office is a collection of modern technology and old design, with picture frames depicting the 11 gods whose imaginations are home to the game’s extensive and evolving world.

“We’re not trying to make the biggest thing in the world. We’re trying to make the best thing in the world — the best at least as we can perceive it,” Srivastava said.

In Glitch’s 2-D world, users can pet pigs, squeeze chickens and collaborate to grow trees, among a variety of other activities. If you’re looking for a point of reference, think Farmville and World of Warcraft. Unlike other games of its kind, however, you can have a full user experience without buying additional components (clothing and items). Although the creators envision a profit model, they’re primarily concerned with getting the game up and running and creating a rich user experience.


TinySpeck’s offices in San Francisco. (The Washington Post)

Given Glitch’s depth and nonviolent nature, a great deal of social interaction in the game mimics real life. Asked whether Glitch could be used as a case study for human behavior as it relates to environmentalism and conservation (it has a strong nature theme), the team did not say the program is 100 percent able to do so. “I don’t think we’re going to solve any world problems,” Butterfield said. Henderson, however, gave the game a bit more credit, saying: “We won’t solve any real-world ecological problems. But I do think that it is a pretty complex system. And so the way people interact — there are good lessons there.” The team believes strongly in the game’s potential and originality.

“I’ve been doing this stuff for about 15 years professionally,” Butterfield said, “and from now to six months ago, at any point, it isn’t radical changes — but the changes over the last decade are just complete. It’s a different universe. A lot of the stuff that was fantasy and kind of hype in ’98 and ’99 . . . that seemed crazy then — 10 years later it turns out they’re all true.”

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