Getting Started in Odd Giants

We mentioned Glitch remake project Odd Giants back in October. It’s incomplete, and the game it seeks to revive was incomplete too, so there’s a lot missing. Still, Glitch (not that Glitch) was beloved among a certain faction of internet people, and some of that magic is still there.

It’s an unusually chill thing to play. To get a sense of the game, here is a promotional Youtube video from 2011, which looks a little different from how the game evolved, but conveys Glitch’s great sense of whimsy:

Now, there are lots of forgotten, abandoned, or failed games that are worthy of a second look, or would be if anyone knew of them. They are an invisible ocean around us, most games that have been made, by far, will disappear unknown and unloved. While many of them perhaps aren’t worth knowing about, some of them definitely are. Just because Stewart Butterfield backed this one doesn’t mean it was any good. But, some people liked it, and remember it fondly, and I’m one of them. We like old and forgotten pastimes here at Set Side B, and want to tell as many people about them as we can, as long as we are able.


Glitch was a Flash-based web MMORPG platformer. You played as a glitch, plural glitchen, a humanoid creature living in the land of Ur, which existed within the thoughts of eleven godlike Giants. (Eleven is kind of a sacred number in Glitch and Ur.)

Glitch was created in Flash, and it was already in the outs back then, preventing iOS players from entering. Since Flash is unusable in browsers any more (without alternate runtimes like Ruffle), Odd Giants is implemented in Unity, which means you can’t just jump into the game by browsing to a site, and that you have to download a 1.2 gigabyte client to play. And you’ll have to download a new one when there’s a major update. But on the other hand it means all of the game’s graphics are stored on your computer, greatly speeding load and transition times. I think I prefer to play it this way.

As I said, Glitch was created by Stewart Butterfield, the creator of Flickr and, later, Slack. (In fact, Slack’s communication code has its basis in the chat system from Glitch.) In a move atypical of many rich tech bizzes, when Glitch shut down, its production studio Tiny Speck donated nearly all of the game’s assets to the public domain, which is what makes Odd Giants, and other Glitch remake projects like Children of Ur and Eleven, legal. (Tiny Speck renamed themselves to Slack, but it’s the same company. They just make business communications software now instead of a laid back exploratory MMORPG platformer.)

Glitch, and thus its revival/remake Odd Giants, is a platformer, but it eschews many of the basic principles of platformers. There are no enemies, you never die from falling off the screen, and dangers are few. Platforming, running and jumping, is mostly just a way of getting around and collecting “quoins,” little objects floating around the games many areas. If you never lost that basic joy of running Mario around terrain without having to stomp on things or dodge hammers, you’ll have fun in Odd Giants.

Since the world of Ur is in the Giants’ thoughts you don’t actually encounter them directly as creatures in the game, but their presence is felt in many ways. Particularly, there are shrines to them all over, where you can donate objects for their favor, and eventually earn Emblems and Icons devoted to them.

The world of Ur is divided into a number of regions, each divided into a hash of streets, which are shown on the region map as lines. Here’s a map of Groddle Forest, the starting area:

Each street’s left-right scroll corresponds to its in-game area. If you’re standing at the left edge of a street in the game, you’ll also be at its left edge on the map. Where the streets connect on the map, there are signposts in the game that allow you to transfer to connecting streets. It’s not a completely frictionless way of navigating the game’s regions, but it’s easy to get used to.

If there are no enemies, then what do you do in Ur? Mostly you just run around and collect Quoins, and also water trees, harvest fruit, mine rocks, squeeze chickens, milk butterflies, nibble on piggies, and other miscellaneous activities. These actions are initiated by clicking on an object and selecting the action from a menu. When you do, a progress meter appears, which fills quickly. Most actions just take two or three seconds. As you advance, you become able to more things like make meals or transmute metals, that build off of the things you did at the start.

There is no solid final goal. It’s just a world to explore and have fun in. Without enemies to fight, some people will find this pointless. That’s okay. It was always something that some people would find unappealing. But if you like the idea of a non-violent game where you can talk with friends and do silly things in, then you may enjoy playing Odd Giants.

Aiding in this is a great sense of whimsy and fun that suffuses almost everything aspect of the play. The graphics are charming throughout, with well-animated creatures and many scenic vistas to explore. Almost every text sentence in the game has a joke or two in it. Just playing to see whatever funny thing to see or read next can be entertaining, for a little while at least. The music, especially, is worth checking the game out for a little while. I don’t think I’ve heard a single track that isn’t great.

As you do things, you use up your Glitch’s Energy. If you run out of energy, your little person “croaks” and ends up in Hell! But Hell is a region of streets, just like the others. It’s not hard to get out of Hell. You just run around squishing grapes lying on the ground. Squash enough and you’ll be returned right where you were, although without much energy. You could even spend a Get Out Of Hell Free card, if you’ve found one, and bypass that whole process. A lot of the negative things in Glitch/Odd Giants are pretty light like this. No punishment ever really feels punishing, although it may interrupt what you were doing for a bit.

In addition to Energy, glitches have Mood, which slowly depletes and decreases rewards if it dips too low, and “iMG,” or Imagination, a general advancement currency used to pay for Upgrades and other features, like expanding your house. There’s also experience points, or “XP,” which contributes to a glitch’s experience Level, but Level doesn’t affect the game much at all. It just seems to gate being able to use a few high-end items that you probably won’t even see for a while.

Instead of level, most of your character’s advancement comes from buying Upgrades and learning Skills. Some Upgrades are things like being able to walk faster and getting a triple jump, but most are things like increasing your maximum Energy, increasing the bonuses you get for Quoins, or getting bonus items randomly while doing things, or other things of that nature. Upgrades are bought with iMG, and are offered from a “deck” three at a time. You can buy any that are offered, but to get new options you’ll have to “reshuffle.” This will put the unbought upgrades back into the deck and deal you three new ones. As you buy Upgrades and remove them from play, the deck is seeded with more powerful, and much more expensive, replacements. Every game day (which last for four hours of real time) you’re allowed two free reshuffles, with them growing in price after that. There are also some other special upgrades that can be bought repeatedly, like Get Out Of Hell Free cards, extra Reshuffles, and access to special bonus areas (that, unfortunately, mostly don’t work yet in Odd Giants).

Most Upgrades are nice extras. The need to have Skills, on the other hand, blocks access to more major game features. There’s a complex array of Skills, many requiring other Skills, or particular accomplishments, under your belt before you can learn them in a kind of skill tree. Each skill takes real time to learn, which pass whether you’re in-game or not. Some skills take hours, or even days, to learn.

You start out with the capacity to know ten Skills. Back in Glitch, you could still learn skills if you were over capacity, but they took even longer. In Odd Giants, at least for now, your capacity is a hard limit, but you can raise it with Upgrades.

Some Skills are really basic things, like access to the Info command on objects, or access to the map. Most of them give you new powers, like being able to teleport places, or allow you to use items like the Meditation Orb. Many things are blocked until you learn the requisite skill, so it’s good to always make sure you have one learning, if you have excess capacity, when you log off from the game.

It cannot be denied, though, that sometimes the game feels like a gussied-up skeleton of progression systems with a visual veneer. You can make some cool items later on, like “Essence of Purple” or “No-No Powder,” but you’ll have to master many skills to get to that point. Glitch had a number of mini-games to discover that you could play at low levels by finding Game Show Tickets, and bonus levels you could buy at the Upgrade shop, but none of those things work currently. It makes the early going a bit of a slog, but the players in the game tend to be very friendly and helpful, and willing to give new players advanced items just for asking.

Details to get you started

It’s fun to collect quoins, those little floating powerup items that are scattered in many streets, but truthfully they don’t earn you much. Once in a while a quoin will give you a larger-than-usual bonus, but it’s infrequent, and rarely enough to bother going out of your way to collect them. Still, they’re fun to pick up, so I usually do it anyway.

Your Energy cap is a major limiter of your activity. Food items usually restore Energy, so it’s good to stock up on those. Learning the skill Meditation I lets you use a Meditation Orb, which allows you to regenerate a random amount of Energy or Mood when you want, with only a 30 second timeout to using it repeatedly. I would try to get that as soon as possible.

You’ll want to earn lots of iMG to unlock Upgrades and expand your yard and home. Most things you do will earn you at least a tiny bit of iMG. When you get the Skills to use machines to make stuff, you can usually convert several items at once, which can get you more for less work. A lot of your iMG will come from Achievements, which the game tracks in the background for you, and Quests, which are usually randomly assigned.

There is a bug in the current version (0.14.1), as I write this, that allows you to get all the rewards for most Quests without having to do them. Just cancel the Quest from the quest screen, then exit the game and reenter. You’ll have to wait 30 seconds before coming back in, but when you do you’ll get the full reward! One of the Quests, the one that asks you to construct an Icon, is extremely time-consuming to complete, but has high rewards. This can be used to help fund some of the most expensive Upgrades.

You can gain a lot of iMG every game day by using Emblems and Icons. There are shrines to the 11 Giants around many areas. You can click on one to donate items to it, which awards you an amount of iMG, and well as favor with that Giant, depending on the value (in the game’s money, called Currants) of the item. If you built up 1,000 points of favor with a Giant, you can exchange it for an Emblem for that Giant. (In 0.14.1, the first time you do this with each Giant you’ll receive two Emblems, which is good since you can immediately spend one to unlock an important skill!) Using an Emblem’s Contemplate command can be worth 30 iMG per Emblem of that Giant you’re holding. That takes up a lot of inventory space, so you’ll want to invest in bags, which you can buy from vendors to carry more. It takes a significant number of Currants to outfit yourself with full Bigger Bags, but it’s ultimately worth it because you can carry so many more Emblems, and all kinds of other things too.

If you collect 11 Emblems, you can combine them into an Icon, which can be set on the ground and be Reflected upon, for even more iMG. In the Groddle Heights region, at the moment, there are a number of Icons set up on the ground for people to use, although sometimes they require a small Currant payment. If you can find your way to Xalanga, the region Zealous Rd NE currently has all 11 kinds of Icons set up for easy use.

Some features are not yet coded. Some of these are in the game as Upgrades or Skills that don’t work once acquired. There is no indication which these are, which sucks, but what can I say the game’s under heavy development. One of these as of this writing are the ability to unlearn skills to make room for others, and most of the bonus levels you can buy as Upgrade cards.

At the moment lots of areas have terrain but not much of interest to find in them. Many of the special areas don’t yet work. One that does, at least, are the Savannah areas, among them Choru, Xalanga, Zhambu, Baqala, and some others. Try navigating there if you want to find a lot of valuable items quickly.

There are some other things to do if you explore a bit, but many things that were in Glitch are not yet implemented. It’s a bit wild and woolly in that regard, but presumably that kind of stuff will be implemented eventually. As it is, it’s still fun to log in, customize your character (click on their portrait in the bottom-left corner of the window), and run around and explore.

More information

An archived version of the wiki for Glitch is here. There’s also a lot of information left up at the game’s website.

While constructing this post I rummaged through the Metafilter archives (which are a great resource) and found a number of related posts:

On Game Neverending (a predecessor of Glitch). On how it gave rise to Flickr. On Glitch itself. On Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi joining up with Tiny Speck. On Glitch’s closing. On Keita Takahashi’s idea journal. On the grant of Glitch’s assets to the public domain. On the Glitch Forever wiki revival.

A Retro-Focused Guide for Dance Dance Revolution Beginners

Image from Mobygames

Racketboy has a great article about getting started with Dance Dance Revolution at home. DDR is still kind of going in U.S. gameplaces from the 2016 release of “Dance Dance Revolution A,” but hasn’t received a home release in that country since the days of the Wii, in 2011. That leaves options to picking up a home machine, finding a version for an older console, or, of course, yarr. Thanks, Konami! Your attention to preventing access to your products is ridiculous and easily mocked!

The ultimate decision reached is to play DDR Max or Extreme 2 on a Playstation 2, and on a CRT if at all possible, but the article contains a number of options that may be more workable for you. Dance on!

DDR Beginners Home Guide for Retro Gamers

More Info on the Return of Blaseball

As reported earlier, Blaseball is coming back. Over the past couple of months the site has been playing host to “Fall Ball,” where players from past eras of Blaseball have been falling out of a Black Hole onto the 24 teams.

Hey it’s that image again

More information has been scarce. Fact Alpha about Blaseball is that information is always scarce. But they did post a FAQ on the site with information on what is happening, and what is to come. (If you are still clueless about this whole Blaseball thing, see after the list.) Basically:

  • The players falling out of the Black Hole are the simulation seeding the teams for the next season. We don’t know if this is just drawing lots or if some underlying process is at work.
  • This is the form of the “Pre-Season” for the next era. It’ll end on December 30th, and some time after that games will resume.
  • Blaseball’s return won’t just be on the web, there will be iOS and Android apps!
  • The number on the site is the number of fans (human being persons) who have signed up to keep up with news on Blaseball’s return. As more fans sign up, more information about the season, and the weird universe of Blaseball, will be revealed. As of this writing the next reveal is slated to happen at 30,000 fans, which is some ways away with just a month to go. Even fans who had been active before should still sign up, they say. It’s kind of like a RSVP.
  • “Prizes” given out as the number of signups increase include special social features and commemorative pins.
  • The FAQ recognizes that Blaseball had gotten a bit involved at the end of the previous season (its words are that it “contains multitudes”) and the new format is meant to make it more accessible to new (and lapsed) fans.

So, what is Blaseball? It was a weird sports simulation that went viral in 2020 at the height of COVID pandemic social distancing. “Players” of Blaseball are not the humans who follow the game. Instead, they’re wholly virtual entities. In fact, games of Blaseball, for now at least, have no visual component beyond a text ticker and a diagram showing which bases are occupied.

A Blaseball season is roughly one week (or, towards the end of the previous era, two weeks). Games advance at the rate of one event every couple of seconds or so. Blaseball players possess a whimsical assortment of stats in a variety of ways, some more obvious than others, with names like “buoyancy,” “patheticism,” “Shakespearianism,” and a player’s “soulscream,” which is a string of random-like characters.

What Blaseball is, essentially, is a sport for people who don’t like sports. (Blaseball calls itself a “splort.”) Blaseball players aren’t millionaires, and won’t express odious political opinions, and Blaseball teams won’t stubbornly stick to offensive stereotypes for their team name and logo. Yet Blaseball doesn’t lack for its own form of drama. Ordinary baseball players may get injured, but Blaseball players can be outright incinerated by rogue empires during solar eclipses. And, while fans (Blaseball’s name for human participants like me and, perhaps, you) cannot directly affect games, they can indirectly influence outcomes by voting on advantages for their teams, and can bet fake money (but not paid-for perks or NFTs!) on outcomes.

Blaseball developed a huge and absurd fandom during its early months which, truthfully, it seems to have been trying to recapture in the time since. There is a website player statistics, blaseball-reference.com. There’s both an unofficial and official channel giving seasonal recaps. There’s even an internet-famous band, the Seattle Garages, named after the Blaseball team, and songs like Mike Townsand Is A Disappointment.

Blaseball may never again become as popular as it was during quarantine times, but it is a unique internet thing and I personally eagerly await its return.

That official YouTube channel is pretty humorous, by the way, and you might be interested in a couple of videos from it. Here’s one recapping its earliest seasons:

All of those videos are very entertaining! And quite confusing!

BlaseballBlaseball FAQBlaseball’s YouTube ChannelThe Blaseball RoundupBlaseball Blexplained

Sundry Sunday: The first episode of Saturday Supercade

This is a real rarity. Saturday Supercade has, to my knowledge, never been officially released on any media format. All of the tapes of this show date back to their original broadcasts in 1983-5. I’m sorry for the poor quality, but this is from a tape almost certainly recorded off of live television nearly 40 years ago.

The year 1983 was such a weird time in media history. Take for instance the movie Joysticks. A cheaply-made culture cash-in, essentially the Supervan of its decade, it was a teen sex comedy themed around arcades, and it could only have been released in 1983. In 1982 games were big, but it takes time for a movie to be made. In 1984, US arcades and consoles had crashed calamitously, and any projects in production would have been cancelled. Saturday Supercade also dates from 1983.

Saturday Supercade was a Saturday morning cartoon show that hosted a variety of different game characters and universes. By no means a classic of animation, there’s still a lot of interesting things about it. Donkey Kong gives Mario and Pauline their modern names (decided on around the time of Donkey Kong Jr’s arcade release), and Donkey Kong is voiced by legendary early TV children’s entertainer Soupy Sales.

Frogger is depicted by the show as a reporter for a swamp’s newspaper. Q*Bert is a student in a 50s-styled high school, and other characters (including a girl Q*Bert, “Q*Tee,” not seen in the game) are imagined as his friends and rivals. Donkey Kong Jr has the young ape searching for his father, while assisted by a greaser. Pitfall’s cartoon is not only the sole home-original game to be featured on the show, but also lent two of its characters, Pitfall Harry’s niece Rhonda and mountain lion pet Quickclaw, to cameo roles in the game’s sequel Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. Kangaroo and Space Ace were introduced in the show’s second season. Yes, somehow, it got a second season.

The Wikipedia page of the show notes that episodes of Space Ace were once shown late at night on Cartoon Network, and once in a while can be spotted between shows on Boomerang, while “The Best of Q*Bert” is available as a print-on-demand DVD from Amazon. Other than that, many episodes are lost outside of master reels held by whatever company owns Ruby-Spears’ output these days, which I expect is Warner Media. There’s tons of Saturday Morning shows that are lost; this one only survives to us in any form because classic video games have oddly persisted in this weird cultural cul-de-sac, the same one that made Wreck-It-Ralph an improbably hit for Disney.

So please, enjoy, or else, experience whatever substitute for enjoyment you can bring yourself to feel while watching an old old kids cartoon from the classic arcade era. Queasiness? Unease? Existential dread?

Roguelike Celebration: Santiago “Slashie” Zapata on Moria

Next on the Roguelike Celebration 2022 train, Slashie’s wonderful explanation of what Moria is and why we should care about it. It’s true, Angband is basically expanded Moria, but the original game is incredibly important. Not just because its close descendant UMoria was the inspiration for Diablo. I could (and do!) argue that Moria is the secret foundation of the modern RPG paradigm. Disclaimer: I am quoted by Slashie at one point in this video.

As I mentioned earlier, the creator of Moria, Robert Koeneke, died recently, but thankfully before he went he did interviews about his experiences, notably in David Craddock’s Dungeon Hacks.

Roguelike Celebration 2022: Celebrating Moria (Youtube, 25 minutes)

Romhack Thursday: Super Mario 64 Reduced Lag

It’s not so much a hack as a recompilation, but it’s distributed in patch form so I’m accepting it. A person identified as “Nintendo 64 Wizard” took the source code created by decompiling Super Mario 64, and, simply, did something that Nintendo didn’t do: compile the game with -O2 optimization turned on. The result is a much more consistent frame rate.

From the romhacking.net article, a scene from the star with Bowser’s Sub in it, which is notorious for causing the game to lag.

If optimizing Super Mario 64 is an appealing concept to you, you might be interested in some of the videos made by Youtuber Kaze Emanuar, that goes into why the game has lag, and his own efforts into improving it.

Super Mario 64 Reduced Lag hack (romhacking.net)

The Difference Between Kiosk New 3DSes and Normal Ones

It’s a video from YouTube Channel The Retro Future with the title “Nintendo didn’t want us to know this…” which I hate. Why not just mention it’s about the difference between the Kiosk Units and retail ones? I’ve seen a hundred clickbait titles like this that have completely disappointed me.

This time though, it actually was interesting content, even if I can’t see why Nintendo would care if we knew it.

The kiosk units that were displayed in stores to demonstrate software differed from the ones you could buy in one important respect: they have a resistor in a different place on the motherboard. Without this resistor, the kiosk units will only turn on if they’re connected to power. They still have a battery, but it doesn’t appear to be used! If the resistor is removed and soldered into the location it’s at on a production unit, it seems, it’ll function normally.

Here is the video:

Roguelike Celebration: Joel Ryan on Creating the Sil-Q Tileset

Sil-Q is an Angband variant. Joel Ryan, aka MicroChasm, made its tileset which shows a lot of care in its creation. Sil-Q’s tiles are modular, so humanoid monsters can hold weapons, and also have strong silhouettes to aid recognition. It’s full of the kinds of concerns pixel artists have to worry about!

Silhouettes of various monsters in Sil-Q
As a bonus, the talk provides this lineage of Sil-Q!

Wobbledogs comes to Switch

There are dozens of new indie games every month (ask blogmate Josh Bycer about that!), and it can be very difficult for any to stand out. One that has for me is Tom Astle’s Wobbledogs (Steam) a bizarre pet sim involving raising sorta-dogs in a physics system, feeding and caring for them, and mutating them as they progress through their life cycle, which involves hatching from eggs, and sometimes spinning a cocoon around themselves and mutating into a new form. Like dogs do.

Image from the game’s Steam page

Well this post is just to inform you that Wobbledogs is now on the Nintendo Switch! No one paid us for this notice-I’m just an enthusiast. That’s everything on this site-enthusiastic.

Roguelike Celebration: Common Pitfalls With Roguelike Traps

From Roguelike Celebration 2022, Reed Lockwood’s talk on trap design in roguelikes. Traps are an essential part of a D&D-style dungeon exploration sim, but are very easy to get wrong, either by making them too strong or, conversely, too weak. Some interesting ideas here!

Arcade Heroes Reviews Mario’s Arcade History

Image borrowed from Arcade Heroes-so that I can promote the post it came from!

It’s a great article! It starts out covering the classic-era games everyone remembers, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario Bros., and then slowly gets less and less well-known. It even mentions the two Gottlieb pinball games!

Breaking Madden: The 1,500 Point Super Bowl

I promised I’d explain the origin of the Football Fetus. It’s from the Breaking Madden Season 1 Super Bowl, which is still one of the funniest bits of game writing in memory. Jon Bois does good work.

Half Denver Bronco, half Seattle Seahawk, all madness. It was spontaneously generated by Madden 2013 when Jon Bois set up an experiment to engineer the biggest drubbing that the software could generate. The Broncos fought the Seahawks for the Super Bowl that year, so he set up a match between them, and decided randomly which team would be the Gods, and which would be the Worms. The Gods, the Seahawks, would all have maximum stats in every category. The Worms, the Broncos, would all have the minimum stats.

Image from SBNation

In particular, all the Broncos had the minimum stat in Awareness, which affects their AI, and which seems intended by the developers to create improvised video game comedy. A low Awareness saps a player of the ability to function on any competent level, for any football-related purpose. A low Awareness produces people who willingly walk into tackles. A low Awareness stat produces men who can only say huh.

Further, durability stats were all minimized for the Broncos, so they kept getting injured, but they ran out of replacement players they could field, so they kept on playing, getting more and more hurt. Infinitely hurt. People don’t die in Madden. It would have been a kindness if they could. Oh also, all the penalties were turned off.

Just to make the obliteration complete, Jon took control of the Seahawks. He began to rack up points. Before the first quarter was over, he discovered that Madden 2013, a game for the Xbox 360, still tracked scores with a single byte. The Seahawks’ score froze at 255, although some places listed it as 256. I suppose we should be thankful it had bounds checking, and didn’t wrap back around to zero.

So Jon took a cursory count of score himself. Somewhere around 1,500 points, the game called a penalty even though they had been disabled. Viewing the footage on the play presented, not video, but a single frame, locked in time, of the Football Fetus, resting in the center of the field. A creature of chaos. A mandala of nonsense. Procedural generation at its finest.

While entertaining, still, things like this shouldn’t happen. Jon Bois is generally careful not to tear too hard into EA’s programmers, and truthfully I don’t want to either, they only have jobs to do. But EA Sports is the only source for sports games for multiple fields. If you want to play with pro players, if it’s the NFL, you can only get it from EA Sports, and it’s been that way since 2005. It’s a monopoly, and it’s inevitable that craftsmanship would decline. 2K Sports, these days, is the same with the NBA.

How sports games have been ruined by monopolies is a story for another time. There’s an article from a student newspaper from 2021, by Blake Malick, decrying their sorry state. Presumably I’ll weigh in in more detail myself someday, but that would require caring about sports games, which is something I am not prepared at this time to do. I will leave that to Jon Bois and the other inhabitants of the Fumble Dimension.

Anyway, still, bad craftsmanship in a game can be hilarious, and so it is in Breaking Madden. Please, enjoy. And here’s the rest of Breaking Madden, which includes the saga of Clarence BEEFTANK. Ah, BEEFTANK. We should look back on his storied career at a later time too.