Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the shutdown of Glitch, the quirky, browser-based massively multiplayer online roleplaying game that placed a high premium on being as strange as possible. Though the game’s audience (which includes myself) was small—too small to sustain it for the long haul—the fan base has proven remarkably resilient, setting up Facebook groups and tribes within other online roleplaying games that carry forward the daft spirit of the game. (That daft spirit was perhaps best exemplified by publisher Tiny Speck employing Katamari Damacy designer Keita Takahashi to basically come up with crazy ideas that might be implemented in the game, like using dinosaurs’ digestive tracts as a subway system.)
The publisher of Glitch, Tiny Speck, has been good about supporting the fans’ efforts, launching a ridiculously in-depth encyclopedia that includes almost all of the game’s visual assets, including animation for various critters and collections of screenshots from within the game, taken by players. The company has also mostly archived the Glitch site as it was at the time of the game’s shutdown (and the later shutdown of its attached forums), sort of the ultimate repository of information that will please a tiny but devoted audience. (For its part, Tiny Speck has moved on to developing an instant-messaging program based on a tool it developed internally while working on Glitch, so all involved still stand the chance of sweet, sweet lucre.)
Now, however, Tiny Speck has taken the unprecedented step of releasing almost all of the game’s visual assets and animations, as well as a good chunk of its code, to the public domain under a Creative Commons license. While this falls short of the material some mad billionaire might need to fund his or her own relaunch of the game, the substantial number of assets might allow for fledgling programmers and game developers to stick Glitch stuff into their own programs, so that the game’s agreeable little piggies might roam free throughout the indie gaming sphere.
Will all of this Glitch stuff pop up elsewhere? It’s hard to say, but it’s also easy to hope it will. The game’s whimsical art style and attractive character design was a big part of its appeal, and perhaps having easy access to those thousands of man-hours’ worth of work will resurrect the game, piece by piece. It may not be what Glitch’s cult hoped for in terms of a revival, but, hey, a background here and a chicken there is better than what’s left behind in most online-game shutdowns, and it offers a good chance that the game’s devotion to beauty, whimsy, and kindness above all else might live on, even if only in the tiniest of data packets.