Glitch was...different. It had chibi characters, and an aspect of customizable avatars, but that wasn't the main focus. It gave each player their own personal "dream bubble" that they could put what they wanted in, and decorate a personal house. That wasn't the focus either, and neither was crafting items, growing plants, massaging butterflies, nibbling piggies, or squeezing chickens, although all of those things were present.
What Glitch was is something that was printed right on the tin, "A game of Giant imagination". It was a very social game, and even what passed for combat required gathering a group together. Everything had this moon logic to it that was really charming, in a glorified Facebook App sort of way, all revolving on shaping a world that wasn't quite real with the power of your imagination. It had quite the cult following.
Then, in early December of 2012, the game was ended and shut down. The announcement was sudden, and the excuses given not very satisfying. According to an official statement, "If there was a way to make it work, we would make it work. But there is not. We've been through this from all angles, over and over and over. We've shed tears, and we will probably shed some more ... but Glitch is over." They claimed that there just wasn't enough interest in the game. It was an odd claim to make. Tiny Speck had never really done much to promote the game, and from those I talked to, people pretty much only heard about it by word of mouth. Even the business model seemed designed to be discouraging, though that could just be my personal bias talking.
I have a reason to believe it, though. I have a big reason. I have the reason... I know why Glitch really shut down.
Even though I only started playing Glitch during the last few months it was online, it always felt really, well, beta. There were odd glitches (appropriately enough) and things that didn't seem quite to be finished. At first, I just figured it was part of the game. With the announcement that they were shutting down, though, it started to seem fishy to me. I'd always enjoyed looking for the bugs and unfinished things. With the game's closure looming, though, I didn't have much time left and really started looking into those things with a vengeance. I was just hoping that something in the game would give a reason, like, deep down it was broken in some way that they didn't want to admit. I thought that anything would be better than to admit that a game so amazing just wasn't what people wanted. I was obsessed, but maybe that's what saved me. For instance, I never got to Soulless.You won't find much information on it if you go looking, and that's probably for the best. Even what little I've pieced together from talking to people doesn't paint a pretty picture. There's still screenshots out there, though, because as you would expect, a mysterious special area in an online game became a popular place to visit. It was a hellish area that showed up towards the end. For the most part, it was just empty.
While most areas in the game were full of things to interact with, and resources to gather, Soulless had nothing. No trees, no creatures, no rocks to mine or any of the other things that would usually have been in an area. It was just an empty area. Some people have claimed to have seen a single tombstone in the area, which doesn't seem to be placed in any consistent location. In fact, I've never found even a single screenshot of the "tombstone". I believe it, though. Most people only went there now and then, or as part of a group, but I talked to a few who knew people who'd become obsessed with the place. Never the people themselves, though. Not even when I could get their contact info. Something in Soulless changed them, and trying to get them to talk about it, even with their closest friends...suffice to say they reacted poorly.
That's why I say that I'm lucky. I was so busy looking for hidden things that I totally missed the one everyone knew about, and it's pretty obvious that I'm just the type of person that would have found whatever left those other people so broken. For the entire month of November I was looking over all the information I could find, looking for some reason that Tiny Speck wasn't telling us for why they'd want to close. I think that I've already mentioned that I was unlucky and determined enough to find it.
Of course, there were clues in the game. You could even say that the game was nothing but clues. What really opened it up for me, though, was an old post on Twitter by one of the devs, since removed from his account. He mentioned that the number of Giants, the "Gods-but-we-aren't-calling-them-gods-so-we-don't-offend-people" of the Glitch universe, was something carefully chosen. According to the tweet, the dev team always knew that they wanted the number to be prime, and to be something that would "feel meaningful" to most players.
Now, in Glitch, there are - or rather were - eleven Giants, each with domain over a different aspect. So, like I said, gods. The thing is, eleven isn't very meaningful to most people. Suddenly I had something to work with. One of the big things in Glitch was hints from various NPCs that the history of the game's world is a lie. I'd thought it was a clever nod to the fourth wall, but now I had something to work off. I started with the assumption that there weren't eleven Giants, and worked from there. If there weren't eleven, then there had to be more or less. So, I started looking at what was in the game, and if there were any obvious things that hinted at a Giant not existing, or of something that was there, with no Giant related.
Yes, I found what I was looking for. The harder I looked, the easier it was to find. There were a lot of references in the lore to the incarnations of Glitch that had come before. Little areas with things that were obviously relics of prior builds. I remember the area I went to that proved my suspicions vividly. It was just called "An Old Place", and didn't seem like too much to look at. It was a forest clearing, with big dark trees, and shrubs and brambles in the background. The area involved a puzzle where you had to use light sources to build paths of shadow to get around the briar bushes. The mechanics weren't as polished as other puzzles, and the nagging message that would ask you if you needed to leave didn't pop out. It stood out because the messages were usually obnoxiously persistent.
The puzzle itself wasn't much of anything, though. What caught my attention was just a background object, something you couldn't even interact with. It looked like one of the shrines to the Giants, only cracked and dirty, and covered in brambles. Maybe not exactly, it looked like a less polished design, but the intent was obvious. It fascinated me, and I worked with the lights to study it in as much detail as I could. Each of the Giants has a symbol that appears on their shrines, little cave-painting style pictographs to tell them apart. The one in "An Old Place" looked like it had a bird on it, which is not a symbol associated with any of the Giants.However, there is a significance to birds in Glitch. Specifically, the Rook, crow-like enemies that spread death and destruction in their wake. Rook will even break the fourth wall and leave "broken monitor" decals on your UI. Game lore had it that the Rook were intelligent and malicious, with mysterious motives. They, and everything to do with them, almost felt out of place in the otherwise saccharine world that Tiny Speck "created". Well, may be not that out of place, after all, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
At the time, seeing the bird mark on a shrine didn't fill me with a hollow sense of impending doom. It was exciting. A discovery. I couldn't wait to find out more, because even if it ended up having nothing to do with the site shutting down, I'd wind up with a great story that no-one else knew. Had there been a god- err...Giant- of evil? At the time, that sounded like the coolest thing ever. I'd never bothered with the snapshottery perk (no, seriously, screenshots were an in-game ability), so I had to get more creative to take screenshots...okay, really I just opened something else so that Firefox was in the background and hit printscreen, but I thought I was pretty clever.
There was an obvious question, though. Because twelve wasn't prime, there had to be another Giant, to make it a prime number. I wondered, if the twelfth Giant's domain was the Rook, and their destructive world, what would a thirteenth Giant possibly represent? I no longer even cared if it had anything to do with the game being cancelled. This was way more interesting than some maybe-not-real superglitch, or politically incorrect elements hidden in the game that could get them in legal trouble...but oh how I wish that my more frivolous, fangirl speculations had been right.
The sad thing is, ignorance really is bliss. If I'd known even an inkling of what I was going to find, of what all of it meant, I don't think anything could have saved me. Actually, I'll get back to that. For now, just know that it got worse. Much worse.
I was losing sleep trying to get in all the time I could. Sometimes I'd talk to people, trying to be sneaky because I didn't want to share my "big discovery". I'd follow up on rumours and stories about weird, hard to find parts of the game, and try to study them as much as I could. A lot of it was nothing, some were quirky, but normal...one I realized pretty quickly was just a phishing scam...but there were a handful that lead to things that really seemed out of place.
There was an area with a name card that showed no text and had what looked like a player house, but so far as I could tell was in a public street and had no owner. I found a minigame that involved shuffling Rook skulls - like the ones from the Rook Cemetery area - in giant scales. One spot featured an inky void, that you swam through like a water level, lit only by the glow that came from these, for lack of a better description, long, ragged tears in the blackness, that reddish purple light poured through, and a dim glow around my Glitch.The one that was perhaps the worst, was a room called "Sacrifice". It was another dark room, lit so only the thing you were supposed to see could be seen. It was a broken shrine, like the one from "An Old Place", though not the same one. At regular intervals, a Phantom Glitch, the one from one of the quests, would go up to the shrine. It would seem to speak for a moment, then do its giveHeart animation. The heart would fall toward the shrine, which acted like it was receiving a donation, even though you couldn't interact with it yourself. This may sound weird, but the Phantom Glitch seemed to fit more in the "Sacrifice" room than it did in the quest where it normally supposed to be.
I must have taken dozens of screenshots, each labelled carefully and stored on a flash drive for safekeeping. I've deleted them all, now, trying to erase what happened, but there was a lot of them, once. It was easy to know what to take pictures of, because there were two things that set these areas apart. The first thing was the music. It had a soft thudding back-beat, like a heart. Not a calm heart, though. To me, it always sounded like the heartbeat of someone that was just a little bit afraid, and trying to hide it. The music that played overtop of it was unnerving, but not in the same way as the deliberately eerie tracks that you'd hear for the abandoned building, or the open menace of the music that played for a Rook attack. It actually sounded more like the track you would hear for the "Ancestral Lands", only it was slowed, put into a major key, and played on something I couldn't identify. It's hard to explain with words, but you recognized it right away.
The second thing, though, was by a symbol that each of the rooms had. It was on the scales in the Rook room. It was on the door of the house. It pulsed, shadowy, in some of the "rips" in the void. It was on the shrine in "Sacrifice". It was a simple pictograph, like the ones for the Giants, and the Rook one, but something unique. It looked like a web, or maybe more of a fractured cluster of cracks, in between three dots. It didn't look threatening in the least, but I'd feel like my spine had just got brushed with ice-water whenever I saw it.
Finally, the last day came around. My last chance to learn the game's secrets. There was one last thing I wanted to try, and I got an early start for it. I'd heard from a couple people about a trick that involved messing with some of the game behaviours to spawn in things you normally couldn't, in place of the game's prize wheel. It was one of those things that I'd been reluctant to try, because it could get you banned. However, I'd saved up my Gameshow Tickets so that I could try it out just before Tiny Speck pulled the plug. After all, what could they do...ban me from a game I already wouldn't be able to play? What a "brilliant" plan that was...
The process was tricky, and involved getting certain effects to trigger or end with the right timing, so that variables got shifted around when it tried to call up the prize spinner and it grabbed another entity instead. To tell the truth, I didn't understand most of the explanation on why it worked myself. Even if I had, I wouldn't explain it here. Partially to protect people from trying to repeat what I did, but mostly just because the game servers don't exist anymore, so why bother? The point is, that I spent a good part of the day playing with the glitch, and figuring it out. Based on some things I read, I tried low variables first. Some items I called were interesting, but not what I was looking for. I was running out of tickets and about to give up when, on a hunch, I decided to try high, instead, figuring maybe they tried to hide something that way.
Maybe I got "lucky", or maybe it was some kind of default value for when it couldn't find the object called, but that actually worked. Instead of the gameshow wheel, I had a shrine sitting in my house's back yard. It was cracked and worn looking, and the model was more crude than the ones you'd normally see in the game...and, it had the symbol on it, that spidery, cracking symbol that had been haunting me. I wasn't sure what to do, so I tried to interact with it. To my surprise, it worked, just like it was a real shrine. I swear my heart started beating a little faster. This was the first time I could interact directly with something related to the lost Giants. I went pretty quick to get my "Rook Kit", the bag with supplies for making big donations to shrines (in the game, the shrines were used to fight, as well as gain personal bonuses). I wanted to get my favour up with the mystery Giant, and see if it would give me his or her emblem. If I could get that, it would be something no one else had.
I wish I hadn't...you have no idea how I wish I hadn't. I really, really, wish that I hadn't. I'm sorry, I'm just stalling now. The sooner I finish this, the sooner I can forget this ever happened, convince myself I imagined the whole thing. That bottle of cheap schnapps is calling me...
Everything I donated seemed to give less favour than it did for any other Giant. I just couldn't seem to find things it would like. Even using my shrine powders to boost the results, it took way more than I expected. Even though the shrine worked, the messages didn't. Where it would say "You gained X favour with [Giant]", the name was just a bunch of garbage characters. Eventually, though, I did it...oh boy did I do it...
Okay, Im continuing this after a few drinks to calm my nerves. Forgive me if it's alittle hard to read becaus it.
Whenver yuo completely fill the favour bar for a Giant the first time, it gives a little cutscene. You get to see the face of th Giant you won the favour of, and read a little bit about them. It did that for the mystery giant, too. First, the music started playing, soft at first as the picture faded in, then louder. The volume kept increasing till the Giant head appeared and by then it was pretty loud. The face...I really don't wanna talk about the face. I don't. I gotta, but I dont. Heh...I dotta. Okay, that's not as funny as I thought. Sorry. Stalling again. I'd delete this part but just, fuckit, yanno? Maybe you should stop reading here anyeway. It'd be better that way.
Yeah...I'm gonna assume that you didn't listen to me because I'm stupid, and a littke bit drunk. and also I need to finish this anyway. So the face. The faces of all the giants look like nightmare fuel. Just a big bunch of friendly neighborhood horrorterrors. This was worse. It wasn't that it was more realistic or in a different style. If anything, it looked unfinished, a crude early design like the shrine. It was twisted, though. Where the other Giants are creepy in an almost charming way, this one was actually sickening to look at. If you could imagine death having a face...not the Grim Reaper skull, but like a face that looks like deth, like rot and decay and vermin and all that? I think this thing would have grossed out that face. The eyes bulged and pulsed, three of them on different parts of its face. Sometimes they'd flash colours, red and umber and violet and sickly green. Mostly they were just black-pupiled and bloodshot. The mouths...three...four...six of them? They twisted snapped and snarled, showing snakelike fangs, and the inside of the mouth looked gooey and filled with...something. Maybe bugs? Bones? Organs? I don't know they weren't detailed enough. If anything, not knowing was worse than knowing. Things crawled across the face like centipedes but covered in spikes, and slithered over these crooked antlerlike spines, going in one mouth, and out another.
The effect was sickening, and hypnotic. I couldn't tear my eyes away even to move my hand to the volume control. I realize I could hear whispering voices over (under?) the music. Coudn't tell what they were asaying, but it felt like something was squeezing and tugging on my heart. I remembered the "Sacrifice" room. All those ghosts offering up their hearts to the giant...this Giant. A sweat broke out over my body, but I felt like I was freezing. My bones ached. I don't know how long I sat there, starig and frozen with just abject terror. Eventually, the voices started making sense. I could hear it talking about me. They were listing off my sins. Every time that I lied, or cheated, or took something from someone. If I'd gotten jealous of someone havign something they deserved, the voices knew. If I'd refused change to a hobo and then saved it for a year, they knew. They knew every thing I ever did, and for each one they listed, I felty another pull on my heart, each a little harder than the last. The worst was when they got to people I'd rejected, a chant of names and reasons, one for every time I'd ever been asked for a date and turned it down for superficial, shallow or selfish reasons. The tugging was getting faster and faster. My chest hurt. I felt faint.
I think I blacked out. When I came to, my speakers wre quiet. I looked at the screen and it showed an error message. I'd been disconnected. For a moment I just stared at it, uncomprehending, before looking at the clock, and starting to laugh. Disconnected? Of course I'd been disconnected. The whole game had been disconnected! I stood and threw my hand in the air, spinning in a fit of joy. There was a jolt of pain in my chest and I collapsed. It terrified me at the time. The doctors tell me I have an unusual form of arythmia. I'd say I got off easy, but sometimes I still see that face when I look at a reflection, or hear the music in my dreams.