Flickr Founders Bring Latest Artistic Creation to Life. It’s Not a Facebook Game!

Tiny Speck, which was started by Flickr’s founders, is finally unveiling its online game after more than two years in development.

And — diverging from the current social gaming trend — it’s not available on Facebook.

The game, called Glitch, is comprised of thousands of hand-drawn illustrations — it’s a multiplayer online fantasy world that takes place inside the minds of 11 giants.

It is less like FarmVille and more akin to Activision Blizzard’s very successful World of Warcraft — except that there is no war. Instead, players must rely on their imaginations to build a nonviolent community of made-up characters.

In the company’s fact sheet, one question asks, “What can I kill in the game?”

The answer: “Your time!”

While that’s a genuine answer, it will be interesting to see if there’s a wide enough audience willing to invest a lot of time in a game without blood and violence.

The game, which targets adults 14 and older and has been available in beta for the past few months, is being called “a collaborative simulation,” where the direction the world takes requires cooperation among the players.

Glitch’s universe is a fantasy land, with plants that look like a hookah pipe with eggs at the end of each tendril. Strange palm-tree-like animations have googly eyes and tongues hanging out, and users can dress their avatars up as space crusaders or in dinosaur or unicorn outfits.

Tiny Speck’s CEO Stewart Butterfield said he doesn’t expect to attract as many players as a top game on Facebook, but added that he expects engagement among the players to be much higher. “We don’t need tens of hundreds of millions of people to play. We need a couple hundred thousand players to break even,” he said.

The game will be monetized through microtransactions — such as buying new outfits for your avatar — or through subscriptions. Butterfield said the company purposely avoided charging for simple things — like more energy in order to play for longer — even though that’s a popular way to get people to pay in free-to-play games.

“It creates a weird experience. It’s like stop signs with dollar signs,” he said.

While Tiny Speck is not on Facebook, the company does expect that the social gaming craze will be beneficial, as players introduced to gaming will seek out deeper experiences elsewhere once they get tired of playing different variations of the same farming-like mechanics.

“I think social gaming companies are burning their customers out. That’s the best possible position for us,” Butterfield said. “We are trying to bring beauty and brains to the online gaming world. There’s humor and absurdity. We have a low-level fundamental belief that there’s an importance of fun in everyday life.”

Even though it is not focused in the hot social gaming space, Tiny Speck has been the recipient of venture capital from some of the big-name Valley VCs, including Andreessen Horowitz and Accel.


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