Glitch and the LED Sneakers – Intro

I’ve been playing Tiny Speck‘s Glitch for the last six months. I don’t play much in the way of computer games these days – I don’t play MMOs and I run Linux so I don’t exactly have a bundle of games at my disposal, but Glitch is different. The game is a lot of fun, the artwork is beautiful and the writing is consistently funny and quirky – but what really elevates the game are the people:

– the player community is very friendly… it’s not unusual to have strangers give you items or strike up conversations with you as you walk down the street. This is a game where there’s no player-player combat and very little opportunity to cause your fellow players grief so it maybe shouldn’t be surprising that it attracts a different type of player

– the developers are amazingly open and involved… it’s not unusual to see company founder Stewart Butterfield in the forums engaging in debate about a new game addition or to see a player suggestion appearing in the game

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game that encouraged player-player interactions and the whole concept of “paying it forward” as much as this game. There’s a unique thrill to be got from helping out a less experienced player with some food or advice – it makes them feel valued within the game and you know that they’ll want to repay your kindnesses to others later on. Plus the players create stuff of their own to have fun with: lotteries, casinos, quests, challenges… almost universally group events.

Glitch came out of beta a month ago and the quiet world of the beta testers has been swamped by tens of thousands of new eager players discovering everything for the first time. The developers have done a great job surviving the onslaught and still introducing a whole raft of new features. To celebrate the launch, Tiny Speck put on a party here in Vancouver last night & I was lucky enough to snag myself a ticket.

Hmmmmm… what to wear, what to wear? Well the invite made mention of dress-up and a tickle trunk so I think some sort of costume is called for. The obvious choice is to dress as my Glitch and fortunately that’s not too difficult or outrageous – he basically wears all black LOL. However he does have the most incredible pair of LED shoes with a row of lights that strobe down the sides. Hmmm… actually, you know what… I could absolutely make those. John Biehler introduced me to the Arduino microcontroller platform last year and I’ve been wanting a nice little project to implement with it. Even better, there’s an Arduino variant called Lilypad, created by Leah Buechley at the MIT Media Lab, specifically for wearable electronics.

So yeah – with a little bit of programming, some fairly cheap electronics, a visit to the thrift store and a lot of hot glue, I built myself a set of flashing light shoes. With multiple modes! The shoes were a big hit at the party and I lost count of the number of people who came up to me to comment on them.

Both the Arduino and Glitch communities are heavy on the concept of sharing, so I’ll be posting details of the shoes’ construction and software here (in great detail!). If you’re interested in Arduino then you’ll probably find something of use in each of the posts. If your interest is purely Glitch and non-technical then you might want to skip the geekery and jump straight to the demo video.

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