Games have modeled various mechanisms for conveying win and failure, and in particular some abstract simulation of your life force being sucked gradually as you make mistakes. But GlitchHiker is different: play poorly, and it’s not your virtual avatar that dies. The game dies. And following gameplay at the Dutch Game Jam that created it, GlitchHiker has become extinct. (Happily, yes, there is a Windows download.)

With gorgeous, elemental visuals and a lovely adaptive music soundtrack, it’s a game you might well feel motivated to try to save. I’ll let the creators explain:

A glimpse of Glitchhiker, just after winning the Jury + Audience Awards at the Global Game Jam 2011 (2 day game development) Netherlands. Organized by Dutch Game Garden at the Utrecht School of The Arts.

Working from the GGJ11 theme ‘extinction’ we designed a game that runs on a system that can go extinct. By playing well you can save the system, by playing badly you take life from the system. When the system loses a life the game becomes more glitchy.

The music reacts to the visual glitches and to the player’s skills. Our system of adaptive music does not work with queueing loops. Instead it works with three independent layers of music playing simultaneously, while their volumes are glitching responding to the gameplay. This results in direct musical feedback. It eliminated the need for traditional sound effects in most situations.

“GlitchHiker was a game that existed of two parts. The first part was the game itself, which you can see on the video. The second part was an online internet server that we called the SYSTEM.

In the GAME, players collected coins with the GLITCHHIKER to score points in a single screen arena. They could dash by pressing ‘X’, but wouldn’t be able to stop dashing until they hit a solid object. Non-solid grey blocks would be introduced frequently, and if a player collected a coin near those, the grey blocks would turn into coins to score chains or combos of coins. However, if a grey block remained for a short while, it would turn black and solid.

The black blocks would frequently turn into red blocks that would introduce a vertical or horizontal disturbance in the game. After a short period, the disturbance would execute and kill anything within it – including the GLITCHHIKER if it happened to stand there.

The SYSTEM was the second part. When the SYSTEM started at 15:00, it had a hundred lives. Every time a player played GlitchHiker and died, a life was deducted from the system. For every hundred points a player scored in GlitchHiker, a life was added. Summarized, everyone who did not score at least a hundred lives was decreasing the amounts of lives available to the SYSTEM.

The more lives were deducted from the pool, the less healthy the game became. Graphical glitches were introduced, the audio started glitching and black blocks started shifting around, introducing distraction in the game.

When the SYSTEM would reach zero lives, the game would shut down and go extinct. The game would no longer be playable.

Despite the valiant attempts by some players at saving the SYSTEM, which had already taken quite a hit during the GGJ event, at 21:41PM the SYSTEM executed its inevitable task and GlitchHiker shut down.

This means GlitchHiker can be downloaded but not executed anymore. Luckily, we still have a video of the game at work.”

http://globalgamejam.org/2011/glitchhiker

Download the game (Windows only) and check out the system at: http://www.ramiismail.com/extinction/

Read more at Vlambeer: http://www.vlambeer.com/2011/01/31/r-i-p-glitchhiker/ (including the beautiful review from Control magazine)

GLITCHHIKER was made by a TEAM of six PEOPLE:

- LAURENS DE GIER _ GAME DESIGN _ VISUALISATION DESIGN _ VISUALISATION DEVELOPMENT

- RAMI ISMAIL _ PROJECT LEAD _ BACKEND DEVELOPMENT _ WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT

- JAN WILLEM NIJMAN _ GAME DESIGN LEAD _ GAME DEVELOPMENT _ VFX DESIGN

- JONATHAN BARBOSA DIJKSTRA _ GAME DESIGN _ GAME ART

- RUTGER MULLER _ GAME MUSIC _ GAME SFX

- PAUL VEER _ LEAD GAME ART _ WEBSITE ART

Global Game Jam 2011 Netherlands was made possible by

- International Game Developers Association

- Dutch Game Garden

- Microsoft

- Taskforce Innovation Utrecht Region

- Wacom

The Vlambleer story is especially worth reading, and translates some information (including a review) from Dutch.

There’s something really viscerally beautiful to me about the stark graphics and the gradual accumulations of glitches. I also am having the good fortune to get to spend some time with composer Rutger Muller this week – his musical contributions are such that you could almost characterize the title as a music game. Stunning work.

I think the basic idea is not specific to this game, though this execution is the best I’ve seen. That said, if you can recall any others (I can’t, off the top of my head), shout out.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/cecilnick/ Cecil Decker

    This is beautiful. I am sad it went extinct.