Flickr man's Glitch to beat FarmVille?

"Richer", "deeper", "more sophisticated".

Stewart Butterfield (no not Battlefield) - the man who invented photo-sharing website Flickr - is making a game called Glitch.

It could be as big as FarmVille.

But for now Glitch is in alpha stage. Butterfield hopes to launch in spring 2011.

What is Glitch? A deliberately weird and colourful side-scrolling platform game with a huge emphasis on social networking.

Glitch takes place inside the heads of 11 giants - in their thoughts. How you behave in there determines how big they will be. You can have your own house, customise an avatar, spend points, learn skills, earn achievements - there's a bamboozling amount to it.

You can even create entire new areas with other people, although every so often you'll need to defend them from birds - rooks - which are apparently higher up the pecking order than you.

Glitch will make money by selling items to players. You can buy decorative things or items to make you learn abilities faster, and there's even the option to subscribe for "premium features".

"Our goal is to create a next-generation social game," Butterfield explained to VentureBeat. "The first generation blew the world wide open and radically increased the number of players out there. There is also a high burnout rate because the games are very simplistic, partly because there is such an emphasis on driving purchases.

Tiny Speck reveal Glitch

"That is dangerous. It's a scorched earth policy. We wanted to avoid that. We want to develop a longer-term relationship with the player.

"There was a lot of ad fatigue in the late 1990s through now. People created bigger banner ads and pop-ups that drove users nuts."

Work started on Glitch 18 months ago at Butterfield's Tiny Speck studio (where 16 people currently work). "A lot" of testing has gone into ensuring "a real community" springs up around the game.

"This is an uncharted world. Everyone plays in the same world. The strength of the community will matter. We are investing heavily in that," said Butterfield. "We'll have new cool features that other people haven't done before.

"There are tens of millions of people who just got their taste of gaming. People who identify themselves as gamers have been a minority. With FarmVille, that has changed. People have had a taste of gaming now.

"We are shooting for higher production values for people who want something more sophisticated," he added. "Some want quick diversions. But there will be people who want something richer and deeper."

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