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Last year, Hburger posted an interview about Game NeverEnding featuring Glitch players Eleanor Rigby and Striatic. That interview went away when the GlitchStrategy site closed, but I found a copy floating around and am nailing it down here for posterity.

Interview – Game Neverending vs. Glitch
Interview time!

The most avid Glitch players will know that Stewart Butterfield – commonly known as stoot barfield , head of Glitch and Tiny Speck – and friends originally set out to make a game similar to Glitch, called Game Neverending (or GNE, for short). This project eventually morphed into the photo-sharing website Flickr, which was later bought by Yahoo. The original team then got back together years later to create the company Tiny Speck, which, led by Butterfield, Cal Henderson , Eric Costello and plenty more, have created Glitch, the game we know and love.

A brief overview of GNE: Imagine similar front-end mechanics and humour to Glitch, but with a far less “polished” interface. The gameplay experience revolved around location, communication and creation/exchange of items, but with a rather cluttered and makeshift interface, it was by all means a game in alpha. You could stroll through “hubs”, enter rooms (houses, buildings and shops) or interact with tree lots and items on the floor, but with no avatar, it was a primarily point-and-click based playing experience. By interacting with the items you made (which could get rather obscure ), you gained or lost mood, karma and XP, much like in Glitch. XP and levelling up didn’t do much other than secure a position in the leaderboards. Communication played the key part in developing such a tightly-knitted community, with global chat taking centre stage (though with private and group IMing also available). Global chat records are still kept here and there (see links at bottom of page), and in-jokes still batted around. It’s hard to believe that only a few months of alpha testing brought so many people together , and laid the foundations of what was to become Glitch. And something called Flickr, but who really cares about that.

For a more in-depth look at GNE, a great online museum can be found here .

Now for the interview: we’ve gone back to Glitch’s roots, and interviewed striatic and Eleanor Rigby : two Glitch players who were around when Game Neverending seemed infinite. Enjoy!

Interview with Striatic

About how long did you play Game Neverending? Glitch?

Played GNE from the outset of the Beta in 2003, until the end of times in 2004. I first played Glitch in early-ish alpha, in July 2009.

What was your favorite aspect of GNE? What is it of Glitch, now?

striatic contributed to GNE Fansite in his first week

My favourite aspect of GNE was the community. Glitch has an excellent, industrious community, but it is a community very much like those I’ve seen in other “Online Worlds”. The GNE community was intelligent, inventive, entertaining and above all unique. Comparing the communities is difficult, but if I were to sum it up in one sentence I’d go with “Glitch may have good parties, but GNE had *great* conversation”.

My favourite aspect of Glitch is the geography, tools, as well as the creative expression and social activity. Glitch has the potential to be a much better sandbox than GNE ever was. The built in social activities like Group Mining, Cubimal Trading, Game of Crowns, Racing Tickets are great. Player concocted stuff like Ghost Hunting Parties, Item piles, Cubimal Trading Groups, character Role Playing and Tree Wars are much more complicated and interesting than any similar phenomena in GNE.

Your least favorite aspect of of both games?

I don’t have any “Least Favourite Aspects” of GNE. Mid-way through the beta, as well as at the end, there were a number of conversations to the effect of “one day we will look back at this community and environment and be tempted to play down our memories as overly nostalgic so it is important that we establish in advance that yes, it really was that good.” GNE had a lot of problems, beginning with the fact that it wasn’t particularly popular and ending with the fact that it was not, in fact, neverending. These problems were ever obvious but didn’t diminish the experience of the players in any direct way.

Glitch has lots of things in it that I don’t like about. Lots. It also has a lot more potential than GNE ever did, both in terms of popularity and sustainability but also in terms of creativity and community. The main things I don’t like are quests and achievements, which represent retrograde game design that stifles community and creativity.

Is there some part of or aspect of GNE that you think could be incorporated into Glitch to improve gameplay?

No. Glitch already includes almost all aspects of GNE, and more good stuff on top of that. If Glitch could learn from GNE it would be through subtraction, not addition. Sometimes adding a feature will make a game worse, sometimes much worse.

Is there some part of or aspect of Glitch that you think is done better than it was in GNE?

The communication tools are better. You can dress up, invite friends over to help decorate your house, dance around. There are more levers to pull in terms of activity and expression. The world is much more immersive.

What do you think the biggest difference is between the two games?

GNE was much more innovative than Glitch is. So much of Glitch’s structure is either taken from aspects of GNE that are much more common in other games now, or lifted wholesale from Facebook games.

Some GNE items may sound familiar...

Glitch is much more focused on economically oriented economic activity. Glitch also has much, much, much more polish than GNE did, and significantly more flexibility in terms of what players can do.

The biggest similarity?

The biggest similarity is the underlying synthesis of virtual world and graphical web browser to create an accessible venue for social play. This is much less novel now than it was in 2002, but just because something isn’t novel anymore doesn’t make it automatically boring, or cause its underlying strengths to vanish.

Which game would you say you prefer?

GNE. As sophisticated as the social dynamics of Glitch are, and the more room for ingenuity and personal expression, there’s just so much boring, mind numbing, unfulfilling, repetitive activity that the game encourages players to engage in. The game pushes these things through the quest and achievement systems, diluting so many of its strengths and unique qualities.

Sometimes when I’m playing Glitch I will ask myself if i’d be having more fun doing actual gardening or virtual gardening.. actual cooking or virtual cooking.. actual clothes shopping or virtual clothes shopping. The answer is almost invariably “actual activity” with actual smells and actual fabric and actual dirt. In GNE, by contrast, I used to ask myself all the time if I’d be having more fun talking with or hatching plans with an “actual” person or a “virtual” person and realizing that there wasn’t much of a difference. Glitch focuses players on economically oriented virtual actives much more than GNE did. In doing so, it loses much of GNE’s humanity, despite the two environments being extremely similar at their core.

Interview with Eleanor Rigby

What was your favorite aspect of GNE? What is it of Glitch, now?

I’ve always said that the community was my favorite part of GNE, and after many years to think about it, I have to say that is still true. Not just the people, since many of them have found their ways to Glitch now, but rather how we all interacted in silly ways, completely undirected by devs or game architecture. In 2005 I wrote the following about my time playing GNE: ”The sense of camaraderie and the wealth of opportunities for pointless activity, construction, art, and gifting, along with watching the process of creation of a community from the witty, bright, silly, and just plain fun individuals who showed up became the nectar that drew me back, day after day, month after month, filling my Zappa closet in my little house in Cormac with odd things and hoarded items for future art and gift exchanges.” I cannot begin to tell you how very, very, very happy I was on April 1, 2008, when GNE was resurrected for a single day. I was at work that morning when I heard, and did nothing else for the rest of the day but play GNE. So many players found their way there for the day; it was magical all over again.

In Glitch, I can see the seeds of a possible great future, ways to form communities and play with each other, but it’s still a toddler and will need to be built in layers. I always appreciate the involvement of the devs in daily game play and in squashing bugs with such good attitudes, and of course the quirky humor (which carried over from GNE, but has expanded exponentially here) is a big plus. Glitch has the potential that GNE did not have, and I have hopes that it will evolve in a wondrous way.

About how long did you play Game Neverending? Glitch?

Although it seemed like way longer than it actually was, I started playing GNE on Oct. 20, 2002, and played through until the first incarnation ended (“The End of the World”) on Jan 28, 2003. How could it have only been THREE MONTHS and yet had such an impact on all of us?! It’s a true testament to the community and how quickly it came together, that most of us felt a huge aching gaping hole when GNE ended. Many of us kept in touch through everything from Flickr to email to blogs to holiday craft/gift exchanges for many years, and many of us met in person.

Whilst some GNE items may be very unfamiliar...

Although I played again during the second incarnation, it just wasn’t the same and didn’t hold my interest really, so I wasn’t as gutted when V2 ended. It was missing so much of that je ne sais quoi which had made GNE priceless. We kept referring to “the big game”, which we all hoped and expected would arrive someday, but eventually we all had to admit that its time had passed.

I kept informed on what the Flickr crew were up to, and once I heard there would be a modern incarnation of MMORPG coming, I signed up for an early notification. I first signed in to Glitch (again as Eleanor Rigby) on Feb. 18, 2010 and have been playing ever since.

Your least favorite aspect of of both games?

GNE: The grind in creating currency (making paper), and gathering the ingredients for making a GNE. (I have to say, though, that the latter task nearly REQUIRED cooperation among players, and it was a huge thing when people accomplished it.)

Glitch: The fact that it is possible to hibernate perpetually in one’s house (and looks to be even MORE possible in Housing R2), although this does allow introverts a way to play and be happy. Also, the emphasis put on clothing and furnishings in one’s house. I’m glad others really enjoy this aspect of the game, as it makes it more accessible to more players, but I couldn’t care very much less about it for myownself.

Is there some part of or aspect of GNE that you think could be incorporated into Glitch to improve gameplay?

There were small games-within-the-game game which GNE offered. ”Flow-tending” is an oft-mentioned one which everyone loved: it was meditative but tricky and required quick reaction time, but it also looked beautiful. You could watch it be gorgeous and geometrical even as you were going down in flames, but it didn’t matter, just letting it wash over you was rewarding. What I’d love to see is essentially the opportunity to play more games rather than just grinding and achieving. Sort of along the line of “Game of Crowns” in Glitch but without so much having to run and jump and play keep-away (which some of us totally stink at). I think of the “figure out the words from these child’s letter blocks” game in Glitch, which reminded me very much of a GNE activity when I went through it.

If the Yeti says so...

These are the sorts of individual activities which would be nice to have for when we want to be alone and challenged… but then there are the art projects. Ohhhh the art projects in GNE…. Public art has made its way into Glitch by way of people writing and designing images by placing objects in gravity-free areas or by color-coordinating their homes or by taking camouflage snapshots, and this is to be commended! But even now, art projects are strangely bounded by location to some extent. The ability to collaborate (which has its beginnings in Glitch Groups) and to build grandiose projects as big or as artsy as our imaginations can take us (which may yet be coming!), preferably in a safe playground where our labors won’t be thwarted before they’re completed… that would be nifty indeed.

Is there some part of or aspect of Glitch that you think is done better than it was in GNE?

Glitch is so much more modern and interactive, and there is so much opportunity for growth and expansion! It’s exciting to think about where we might go someday, when we are able to control more of the larger world.

GNE was more open-ended in terms of why you were there and what you could collect, which wasn’t a good thing in terms of sustainability and ensuring a future for the game. There were only a small number of things you could craft, and although they were whimsical, they did not generally lead to many other things, so they were limited. Glitch offers the opportunity for building, actually BUILDING, a much bigger world, and I hope we are able to seize on these abilities and find ways to develop the community (or rather sub-communities) to enable all of us to have a niche where we feel at home. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see how this shakes out, as the whole concept of community is in its infancy here in Glitch.

(I want to add a ‘thank you’ to the devs for including paper trees in Glitch. The first time I saw one, in Scribe’s Weald, I just sat back and smiled a long and satisfied smile. Memories of Old Pulpy.)

What do you think the biggest difference is between the two games?

Glitch is a larger universe. It has a more personal feel (with one’s avatar) and it allows so much more construction in a wider way, with defined paths for learning and applying that learning. With new skills and animals and objects, it will only get bigger and more creative.

But for some reason, the GNE community was more special. Closer. More playful without being dismissive. Oh sure, there were ne’er-do-wells and troublemakers in GNE, just as there are in Glitch. But GNE players didn’t get their knickers in a twist when someone yoinked all the blue paper in City UnderSea, the way Glitch players do when someone poisons all the wood trees in Wickdoon Mood. They just found a way to playfully cause minor havoc for the troublemakers, maybe by putting a few hundred harpsichords in their treehouse (OK, GNE players, I know that didn’t actually happen, it was just a serving suggestion.) If the Glitch community can find a way to let people play the way they want, but still enjoy their own gameplay, it will be golden.

The biggest similarity?

Community cohesion in GNE

Creativity abounds. Give us a light and we’ll follow it anywhere, er, no, wait: give us the tools and the raw materials and we’ll create something no one dreamed of at the start.

Which game would you say you prefer?

Boy is that a loaded question. Which is better, a sheet of purple paper that you had to grind to make (from brown from green from blue from yellow from red from white papers), or a GNG Musicblock that you receive from playing with a Senor Funpickle? I’ve enjoyed and am captivated by Glitch and am looking forward to watching it grow and morph into something more than we can imagine right now. (There’s a REASON the devs are switching us over to an imagination-based economy, after all…)

But there was nothing like the community that jelled so fast and so firmly in GNE. Maybe it was just a function of its time and place, but I’ve never experienced anything like it.

So I’m going to waffle and tell you that I ‘prefer’ them both. Although I’ll never give up my New Economy mug, I’ve probably grown too far past GNE in the last ten years: I think I’m a Glitch gal now for the duration.

From the Back Room at the Mash Bar in Bentown, and from the secret corner of Nandak Intention, I bid you good gaming. Be well, love you all.

Thanks, ER and striatic for participating in the interview!

If you have opinions or thoughts about GNE vs. Glitch, please add them in the comments! - a collaborative effort by Hburger and Cupcake.

Interested in further GNE reading? Some great links:
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