Flickr Founder Stewart Butterfield’s New Game Is a Game-Changer [Q&A]

<i>Glitch</i>” width=”600″ height=”245″></p>
<p><a href=”>Glitch, the new flash-based, massively multiplayer game from the mind of Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, has already been called “a neverending feast of imagination” and “an intersection of World of Warcraft and Facebook.” And it hasn’t even started alpha-testing yet. To get the inside scoop, we spoke with Butterfield about its premise (“it harkens back to aboriginal Australian creation myths”), its possibilities (“when we make our APIs public, we expect to have our minds blown”), and how it pays homage to Sim City, Farmville, Super Mario Brothers, and more. Excerpts below:

There’s been a lot”>trailer seems pretty psychedelic. Is that the aesthetic you’re going for?
We’re going to draw from a bunch of different styles. Glitch is 2-D, so it will get hardcore gamers less excited about the graphics. But we’ve got a huge legacy of 2-D games that we get to both draw on and pay homage to–everything from Super Mario Brothers to Little Big Planet, which we really admire. Our aesthetic will vary from Japanese cutesy hyper-saturated pixel art to line drawings to graphics more evocative of a Tim Burton movie, with dark, weird curly Qs and twisted shadows. We’re working with illustrators all over the world to produce some really amazing stuff.

How did you experience at Flickr inform the game’s development process?

When I left Flickr, we were doing 35,000 database queries a second, and serving out maybe 10,000 images a second. Managing that level of scalability was a great experience. With Glitch, my engineering team and I are working to do the same thing–that is, deploy code to the site on a daily basis, and usually several times a day. We can deploy tiny incremental changes or big huge changes whenever we’re ready. As soon as they’re sent out, everyone’s game experience is updated in realtime.