What Glittermitten Grove Revealed About Steam

If you’re the type of person who can be immediately sold on a $20 indie game you’ve never heard of based on a mild recommendation from a random internet blogger, then dammit, I have to try. For your sake.

In mid-December a game called Glittermitten Grove came out on Steam, and, like most games, was ignored by all 125 million Steam users. You can’t really blame them. I mean, watch the trailer for yourself:

With cliché resource gathering, no unique art style, and a voiceover that could’ve been taken straight from a direct-to-DVD Barbie movie commercial, nothing about the game makes it stick out as worth playing at all. That is, until a couple weeks ago, when something happened, and Glittermitten Grove became one of the biggest news stories of the year. People rushed to play this girly game about managing a pixie village in hordes, downloading it immediately upon hearing about it so they could be the first to discover its secrets.

Instead, they discovered something else: that Glittermitten Grove is actually pretty fun.

No, it’s not the most original game in the world, but the way its systems tie together puts a few cool spins on the survival genre. It goes beyond preventing the player from mathematically exploiting the kinds of inbalances you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill resource management sim; by implementing some clever mechanics, it forces the player to use their brain in new ways entirely.

ss_393406e24b7836e2406286349845d37b5b96bdf2-1920x1080

It all starts with the limitation that fairies like to build their homes in physics-obeying treetops. Place a building on a weak branch, and it’ll crash to the ground, meaning the player must construct their homes only in sturdy parts of the tree or wait for it to grow large enough to support them. However, if smaller trees aren’t getting enough sunlight, they’ll fail to bear fruit, meaning less food for your fairies. The player has to balance their tree growth just perfectly to sustain an ecosystem that can produce enough resources to survive while also being capable of growth.

Making the player think about how their actions will shape the environment enhances the feeling of being a fairy who lives in harmony with nature, and adds a nice set of consequences to the imperialistic “EVERY TREE MUST BE HARVESTED” nature of a lot of other survival games on the market. The game being about goofy fairies doesn’t prevent it from instilling those sorts of real emotions in its players, either; the first time I witnessed every single one of my trees immediately go dormant on the first day of winter, striking me with the realization that I had no means of obtaining food for three months, will go down as one of my most memorable gaming moments in a long time. And when my last starving, freezing fairy on the verge of death was rescued on the first day of spring by a group of fairies who had left earlier in the year, the relief I felt was astounding.

But, like… let’s be real. We’re talking about a game whose Steam description mentions “collecting berries for our prickleberry loaves and finding treasure with our special fribblesham fireworks.”

Why!?

Well, now’s your last chance to quit scrolling and find out for yourself, but if you’ve used the internet at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know.

ss_dc843762a2dfdaa7c88f2c9c733a391d18632ab2-1920x1080

Glittermitten Grove is Frog Fractions 2.

The game contains a secret door that you can find deep underground, and when you click on it, the real game begins. Frog Fractions 2, referred to in-game as “TXT WORLD,” is an ASCII-art action adventure reminiscent of DROD, ZZT, and The Legend of Zelda, which contains about a dozen “sub-games” with their own inventive concepts. And it’s great. The developer lists games like Fez and Spelunky as inspirations, and TXT WORLD is right up there with them. Its core mechanics are taken to their furthest extremes, with every tile and action in the game used in ways you’d never intuitively think of. While I hesitate to call the game a “sequel” to Frog Fractions 1 in anything other than name due to its distinct lack of bug porn, it’s absolutely worth playing for anyone who loves games that stretch their brains.

Even after clearing all of the game’s challenges, though, there’s still one thought that I can’t get out of my head, and it’s something I’ve seen echoed a lot:

“That fairy survival sim was actually pretty good, and I never would have played it if it didn’t have anything to do with Frog Fractions 2.”

And this bugs me because Glittermitten Grove definitely isn’t the only game on Steam that I’m sure I’d love if I even knew it existed. When the game first came out, it was buried in the mountain of other new releases. No one cared about it whatsoever. But after we were all forced to play it, we realized that it was actually worth our time—and there’s no telling how many other games this is true for.

There isn’t even a bad guy to point fingers at. A million people have written a million articles about how the indie bubble is bursting, how Steam is more crowded than ever, and how game devaluation is ruining our industry, but the fact of the matter is that there are just a ton of really creative people out there nowadays. One of the first projects I ever uploaded to itch.io in early 2014 was the 1717th game page created on the site; I uploaded one in late 2016, and it was the 107,111th.

ss_073966703f6ea2eaa3b85a24013b1a68aff60477-1920x1080

It’s physically impossible for someone to play every single game on the entire internet that they might enjoy, and it’s not financially feasible to take gambles on random fairy games you see in the New Releases section either. That doesn’t, however, mean that platform holders (and, to a lesser extent, game critics) couldn’t be doing a better job recommending games to their consumers. We’ve all had the experience of listening to a new song on our Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and falling in love with it. Steam should be doing the same thing—and, to be fair, they’re trying.

This issue goes beyond indie games, and even the games industry as a whole. With as huge as the internet is, it’s just not possible right now to see all of it that you’ll find interesting. Even with all the recent talk of fake news, censorship, and curated social media, I find myself wishing I could press a button that would show me exactly what I care about and throw out all the rest—and the first marketplace to come up with an algorithm that does that is going to make a lot of money. As the developer of Frog Fractions 2 himself said just a few days before the game came out:

content-desert

Imagine having a button that could bring you the next Ocarina of Time the second you pressed it.

That’s what I want.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “What Glittermitten Grove Revealed About Steam

  1. JK Riki January 9, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    Another fascinating article, keep ’em coming. This one, unlike many in the past, I see a touch differently. Perhaps this is largely because I had never heard of this game, or the hubbub surrounding it, or even this Frog Fractions that you mention being the cause of the hubbub. Frog what? Only frog game I know of is Frogger, and I wouldn’t leap after a sequel.

    At any rate, the place I suppose I disagree with is this:

    “Imagine having a button that could bring you the next Ocarina of Time the second you pressed it.

    That’s what I want.”

    I honestly think that would cause Wall-E style obesity. It seems like a great idea but in practice? You said yourself, there’s more to consume than ever before. Having an algorithm that fed us exactly what we wanted of this daily-growing mass would cause a bloating the likes of which we probably couldn’t currently imagine. (Heck, I’d argue things like Netflix have already begun this process. Imagine how many MORE creative works we’d have if we weren’t so busy consuming? How much we could help the world? But perhaps that is off topic.)

    Ocarina of Time was what it was because of when it was, and everything that entails. If there were 1000 Ocarina of Times, all just as good if not better than the last, either you would die before consuming them all or none would be special. It would be “Oh, just another Ocarina of Time.” This is the hidden flaw of gluttony. More more more sounds great until it removes the shine that made the lust for gold so compelling in the first place. Then where do we turn?

    This speaks particularly to me because last night, unable to sleep (very possibly perhaps caused because the vast of the Internet was at my fingertips), I browsed Good Reads for something to reserve from the library today. What I wanted was a book as close to “Ashfall” as possible. And Good Reads lists books readers of one book might also enjoy. However I didn’t want something similar, I wanted the exact thing but more of it. I didn’t want to sift through the so-so similar, I wanted more Ashfall. My standard was Ashfall-or-bust.

    Interestingly, after a solid hour of reading reviews of the “recommended” other books, I picked up the copy of Of Mice and Men sitting on my desk. I can promise you, Good Reads would never recommend to me Of Mice and Men. I bought it at a church book sale for a quarter, because it was “a classic.” Somewhere I was taught one should read the classics, whether one likes them or not. But it is vastly different from anything in my library, minus maybe “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” At any rate, good heavens is it well written. I hate books written where the characters speak with dialects and odd spellings. Yet here is a book I couldn’t put down, and was instantly engrossed in.

    I suppose my point, if I have one because I think halfway through I simply started rambling, is that having technology point me towards what it thinks I would like is not how I’d really like to live my life. It feels like my wife looking at Yelp to determine where to stop for lunch. It removes the adventure. It removes the Of Mice and Men. Will I miss out on a few Ocarina of Times? Yes, but frankly my numbered-days are going to cause that anyway. There’s too much to see. I think part of what makes the great things we discover great is the fact that we found a lot of stuff we hated along the way.

    The rainbows require both the sun and the rain. I don’t really want a button that removes the rain, because frankly I would abuse the heck out of that button. And I’d never get to see any rainbows as a result.

    Anyway, good post as usual. Glad I for reasons I can’t remember came to your site and started following.

    Like

    • secret_tunnel January 9, 2017 / 11:22 pm

      I basically agree with you, sort of.

      When I first started using sites like Spotify and Pandora with their music-discovering algorithms, I was skeptical. Just because I like a few songs by Green Day doesn’t mean I want to listen to a punch of punk rock all day! What I found, though, was that they were actually recommending a pretty diverse range of music based on my defined tastes. I think the soul of a work goes beyond its genre, it’s the seemingly-intangible thing that lies under the experience which dictates whether you like it or not. Like, Star Wars could be classified as a sci-fi film, so maybe fans of it will enjoy Star Trek too… or maybe one subconscious reason someone likes Star Wars is because of the way the dialogue is delivered, which could point them in a different direction entirely.

      So when I say I want another Ocarina of Time, I don’t literally mean I want another action-adventure styled just like a Zelda game, I mean I want a game that makes me feel that same sense of wonder that OoT does. This is where I think projects like Yooka-Laylee majorly miss the mark; they’re not trying to recreate the feeling of newness that Banjo-Kazooie brought, they’re just making a carbon copy of the original game. There’s no way it’ll go down in history like Banjo-Kazooie did. Same goes for, say, Deadpool: a lot of directors are going to release R-rated superhero movies within the next few years because they think that’s what people loved about Deadpool, whereas what people actually loved was that it was something new.

      I mentioned in the article how Frog Fractions 2 isn’t really a “sequel” to Frog Fractions 1. They’re two completely different games, with different stories, different gameplay mechanics, different everything. But they instill similar feelings in their players, which to me is way more important than the surface-level details.

      Of course, sometimes you want something completely out of left field, but a well-designed algorithm should be able to account for that too. And even if it can’t, like you said, Goodreads didn’t recommend Of Mice and Men to you, but it didn’t really need to, because you’ve heard about it a million times anyway. If you like it, then you can dig deeper into that style of novel, but there’s no point in starting your adventures in that area with a B-grade story that nobody’s heard of.

      Like

      • JK Riki January 10, 2017 / 3:39 pm

        Makes sense, thanks for the thoughts! 🙂

        As for Yooka-Laylee, I’m not sure they were trying to do anything but make another BK game, were they? Pretty sure if they could have been handed the BK rights, YL would have been Banjo-Threeie… Not to say that was right or wrong, just their intention. 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s