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Tiny Speck's Glitch game gets a re-beta

After launching its virtual world in September, the company from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield today announces it's going back into beta. The decision made so the company could work on a number of fundamental core changes.

The natural evolution of software is to go from beta to fully launched. So the decision today by Tiny Speck to revert its recently launched virtual world back to beta may leave some scratching their heads.

Tiny Speck is putting its virtual world Glitch back into beta after launching in September.

After a long period in closed beta, Tiny Speck in September formally pulled the curtains back on Glitch, a virtual world that takes players "inside the imagination of ancient giants." The company was founded by Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, along with fellow Flickr veterans Cal Henderson, Eric Costello, and Serguei Mourachov. Butterfield explained today's decision to CNET by saying that as the team looked at some of the changes to Glitch they wanted to make, they realized that users might not feel like they were playing a fully-baked game.

"There are two obvious and huge improvements we need to make," Tiny Speck wrote in a blog post it planned to publish this morning about the decision. "The first is to make the early game reveal itself more easily to new players so they can get into the fun faster. The second and larger task is to give those players who have gotten over that initial hump and fallen in love with the game--spending dozens or even hundreds of hours playing--the creative tools that they need to change the world in more tangible ways: building whole new locations themselves, designing new buildings, setting up resource flows and forming flexible organizations to create bigger things together."

Practically speaking, Butterfield told CNET, Glitch will continue to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but players may see a small reduction from its current 99.99 percent uptime. At the same time, while anyone with an invitation to join the game will be able to get in right away, those without invites may not be able to begin playing for a couple weeks or even a month. Butterfield wouldn't say how long the "beta 2" would last, though he said it would be as long as it takes, but likely less than a year.

Asked if Tiny Speck had considered implementing the changes it felt were necessary while fully launched, Butterfield said no. "We don't want [players] feeling like they're playing the game they want it to be, and some core part changes," he said. "We considered all kinds of possibilities, but this one made the most sense. It's a little unconventional, but that's OK."

In its blog post, the text of which CNET got ahold of ahead of time, Tiny Speck said it feels that the Glitch launch went well, that the game has generated a number of very passionate users, and that there have been no problems continuing to scale the game and adding new features. But it said it needed to make the changes:

These are changes are achievable--we're hard at work achieving them even now. But we always thought we could evolve our way there and the experience of launching taught us that we can't. Some fairly radical changes to core game mechanics are going to be necessary to make Glitch what it needs to be.

Making radical changes to core game mechanics is something that's a lot harder to do while the front doors are open and we have to focus on scaling to support growth, stability and providing the quality of service we aim to achieve for the live game. Going back to beta will let us make the changes that need to be made. And so we're "unlaunching"--and going back to beta.

That doesn't mean we'll slow down at all: we're going to be continuing to release new features and content as fast as ever. Indeed, earlier today we released the biggest update since launch, with seven new skills, many new quests and more. The game will still be open 24/7, though we might be slower in fixing non-critical bugs; for more details on what to expect during this beta or to give feedback, please see this post in the forums.

Tiny Speck also said that anyone unhappy with the changes will be able to get a 100 percent refund on anything they've bought from the company.