This interview is the first part of the Editor’s Choice series. Every month Shannon Doyle, the Editor in Chief of MMOGames.com selects some of the games that are of biggest interest and then the public votes for which one will be put under the spotlight. Our very first winner was Eleven. Eleven is a reboot of the casual MMO darling, Glitch. We sat down to talk with Jim Condren, aka KaiyonAlatar who is the project lead for Eleven to find out more about the project.
Please introduce yourself and tell us what your role is on Eleven, the Glitch revival project.
Hiya! My name is Jim Condren (known as KaiyonAlatar in Glitch/Eleven circles), and I’m the Project Lead for Eleven. What exactly does that mean I do? Well, from the start, I’ve been involved in many different aspects of the project, such as Public Relations (helping manage the blog and interactions with the community), Human Resources (bringing in new people that have skill sets that can help us out), Planner (trying to continue driving the project forward, especially when things slow down), and, when I have some time outside of everything else, Coder. While I wear all of those hats, by no means do I do so alone. We’ve got a very talented and driven group of people helping across every aspect of this project.
What have been the specific challenges in trying to revive Glitch?
This is a question with many answers; I’ll focus on one of the biggest: we’re volunteers. While it’s been a challenge to rebuild the world to look the way it did before as well as to fill in the missing code gaps to get full functionality, the biggest thing in the way of those tasks is the fact that we’re all volunteers doing this on our free time, which, for many of us, fluctuates a good bit. While most of us are holding down full time jobs or going to school or raising a family (or some combination), we’re very driven to make this happen, and I know it’s frustrating to many of us that we can’t devote our full attention to this so we can bring the world back to life for everyone. Where this has been an issue in the past as well (though not as much recently) is finding the right people with the right skills to jump in and make an impact.
Your project was made possible because of the release of the original game’s materials to the public, but certainly there must be some major gaps. What is still missing, and are there any key features that won’t be reincorporated or will have to be replaced or upgraded?
While we got an insane amount of code, there were definitely huge gaps to fill. The original release was missing several layers required to get the game up and running, and we’re doing our best to reconstruct them. The API layer (used for some of the different game objects to interact with each other along with allowing some different layers of the system to interact), the data layer (where every instance of everything in the game resides, from players to items to locations to groups), the web app (everything that was in your browser aside from the game client itself) and a set of locations are the biggest areas. While a lot of features are still missing from our Alpha build, we’ve got a good bit more working in an old development environment and we’ve constructed a good framework on which to build all of the missing pieces back on. As far as features that won’t be reincorporated, our goal for Phase 1 is to bring the game back in it’s whole as it was when it shut down, so everything should get reincorporated.
Have you been able to have any direct contact with or get more assistance from Tiny Speck?
The team at Tiny Speck have been absolutely amazing to us. Not only does our team exist on their amazing new collaboration platform, Slack, but we’ve gotten a ton of feedback and direction from them, especially early on in the project. They helped us better understand some of the code while we were just starting to work our way through it and gave us the benefit of some lessons they learned the hard way. While we aren’t in contact with them nearly as much these days (they’re a pretty busy group working on Slack), we’re still in touch from time to time, and they’re providing encouragement all along the way. We also have/had the benefit of help from several former Speckers.
What specifically does your team miss most about the original Glitch? What do you find lacking from current MMO offerings that makes recovering Glitch so important to you?
A common thread that I find most people miss about Glitch is the community, while I personally miss the simple fun that can be had in a beautifully crafted whimsical world most. Current MMOs aren’t necessarily missing any game feature specifically (you can find most of the different features implemented in some level on many other games), but it’s the combination of everything; cramming all of those features into a beautiful world with an amazing sense of community spirit is something that you just don’t find easily.
How do you plan on rebuilding the community that was so important to the game? Do you expect that the new project will be able to recapture the same level of cooperative social interaction that was necessary to succeed before?
While we’re working hard to get the game up to a point where we can keep letting more and more people in, the community has actually done a pretty good job of keeping itself going. Since we opened our Alpha, we also opened up public forums to help bring the community together around us, but before that, there were several Facebook groups (although one or two bigger ones), an instance of Slack just for displaced players and smaller groups spread out amongst other gaming communities. We know there’s still a massive part of the Glitch community that’s missing, either unaware or uninterested in the efforts to bring it back to life, but we know there’s more people out there that are looking to come back into their home in Ur; we just need to find them.
Are there any problems due to the fact that another team is currently working on the same task as you?
While there is another team working on a similar project, it’s far from the same task. Our friends over at Children of Ur started off their endeavors to build a Glitch like game well before Tiny Speck released their assets and had a goal of building up a similar experience in HTML5 instead of Flash from the ground up in order to get past some of the apparent limitations of Flash (such as trying to be mobile friendly and independent of any special browser plugins). Our goal is to take what we got from TS and bring it back to life instead of re-developing a new one, and, while we wish them the best of luck (I’d love to see two fully featured versions of Ur with a community that can bridge the gap between them), we’re both doing our own thing.
Is there anything you can tell us regarding new content, changes to the setting and story that will be part of moving your reboot forward?
We’ve got loads of ideas percolating around, but nothing we’re ready to share. Any major new content likely won’t be part of our initial Phase anyways, but we’re always planning for the future.
It seems like it’s still probably too soon to discuss things like a precise timeframe for launch, but when will we at least know? Has progress occurred mostly on schedule so far?
Schedule? What’s that?
As much as I’d love to give a time line, or even an estimate on when we could give a time line, the fact that we’re a bunch of volunteers working with limited time means it’s really hard to do. Throughout this project, we’ve really only set one deadline for ourselves, and we were so secretive about it, only a hand full of people on the team even knew about it. I’m referring to our initial Alpha launch back on December 9th, exactly 2 years after the shutdown of Glitch. Even going into that morning, we weren’t sure if we were ready and were toying with just releasing the forum and leave the game part as “coming soon”. Fortunately, we decided that, while the game was pretty bare bones as far as features go, that was as good of a time as any to let people in so we could see how well the framework we built would hold up.
It looks like restoring housing has been an early priority, why is the housing in particular so important?
While it’s a very divided topic amongst the community, it’s a feature that many saw as central to the community. It also happened to be my favorite feature, so whenever I get time to work in the code, that’s where I like to focus. So, while it was never necessarily an early priority over all, since we’re all volunteering, we try to allow people to work on the parts of the system that interest them the most whenever possible.
Building on that, the crafting system which is coming together appears to be massive. Crafting on such an amazing scale has become more commonplace in games since Glitch started, do you think that will be as big a draw as before, or bigger?
I think it will be just as big of a draw. As with most things from Glitch, the crafting in itself wasn’t so much the draw as everything around it was, down to the beautiful art and amazing sound effects along with the marketplace and player stores.
Glitch had a very specific and surreal art style to its look, and the release of the original assets seems to mean you can match and maintain the look perfectly. Would you say the visual feel was a major contributing factor to the game’s popularity, and would the future need to conform any new art to the same style be more of an advantage or a challenge?
Since they released the client in its entirety (minus a few third party plug ins), we’re able to match it exactly, which is a huge draw for the original fan base, for sure. While I definitely feel the visual feel was a major factor to the games popularity, I don’t think new content would need to exactly conform, although some, of course, should. If you look at the different regions in the game, there are several very distinct feels, so some added diversity I think would only help expand on the amazing world more than anything.
Since the style is somewhat simplistic, why is it so important to have some many wardrobe elements, allowing for so many thousands of combinations of costume?
The outfits in the game are just one of several ways players can express themselves, which is such a big part of the world, so the more options, the better.
Eleven is powered in part by Creative Commons licensed assets and open-source software technologies. Would you say that the communal nature of the game also lets it lend itself better to that kind of development environment?
Most definitely! The community is so amazing, and we’ve had so many offers of help on so many different levels, and we’re doing our best to get as many people involved as we can. The community, and all of its little branches, are how we’ve been able to come across some of the very talented people on the team.
How do you plan to make the finished product more profitable and successful (and thus longer surviving) than the previous game?
One of the biggest factors we have going for us, regardless of how we plan to run the game down the road, is that we don’t have venture capitalists that we need to satisfy in order to be successful and long lasting. The problem that it seemed Glitch had wasn’t that it wouldn’t be profitable, just that it wouldn’t be profitable at the level needed to provide a return on the millions of dollars that were put into the game. Right now, the only money being put into Eleven are server fees, which we’re currently managing internally.
Will there be opportunities for public involvement from the fans soon?
We’re constantly making headway on improving the stability and functionality of the game, and whenever we feel it’s handling the current user base well enough, we’ll increase the testing group. Aside from that, we’re always trying to think of ways to get others involved, as we’ve crowd sourced a few tasks already and would love to do more.
Regardless, the best bet for anyone who wants to get involved in any level would be to keep an eye on our social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter and our blog) and on the forums. If any fan hasn’t signed up yet, please do, as that login will eventually link to the game.
A very big thank you to Jim and everyone on the Eleven team for making this project possible. Additional thanks to Tiny Speck who, without their hard work none of this would be possible. Today’s interview is sponsored by the number 11 and viewers like you.
If you enjoy this series and would like to suggest a game for next month’s spotlight head over to the Top MMOs voting pages, select the most recent month and leave a comment if the game you want to suggest isn’t on the list.Related: Alpha, Casual MMO, Editor's Choice, Eleven, Glitch, Interview, MMORPG