Word Jam: Into the Verse Meta
I do love be some word games. Unfortunately, I don’t get to work on them as often as I’d like as UX is Fine! continues to grow. We have to take on bigger and longer term projects to “feed the beast.” but I plan to return to smaller more interesting projects at some point.
I’ve blogged about word games before in a previous blogging life.
Now I’ve got some new takes (some hot, some not).
Single player experiences. They can be fun as challenges, puzzlers, and vocabulary builders. It’s hard to find truly single player experiences that don’t even have leaderboards (NYT Crossword — sorry, only the Mini can be played without an account). The thing is that even though I love both it and Spelling Bee, they’re too grindy for a competitive completionist like me. I’ve finally stopped my “pure solve” on crosswords because I got tired of the end game grind on some puzzles — spending 30 mins to grind a puzzle is fine (maybe 45–60 on Sundays). Spending 30 minutes to get 85% done and then another 30 to grind out the last bit was just a waste of time in my mind. Spelling Bee doesn’t work for me for basically the same reason. Some puzzles require more time going from Amazing to Genius as it does getting to Amazing in the first place. But I refuse to stop before I reach the top rank and it just burned me out.
Haimrik is a great indie game that is story based and really does capture words in the context of story. You should check it out on Steam.
True social experiences are a large part of the reason that I will retain on these games. They can be direct head-to-head competitions like any of the Scrabble type games (Words With Friends, anyone)? Works great with real friends if you’re equally skilled, otherwise it gets kinda frustrating and boring for the friend who always gets crushed (sorry friends). In that case, great matchmaking helps keep the game top-of-mind.
Of course, UGC is another way to foster true social experiences. For my tongue-in-cheek review of Word Scraper, have a looksie at an old blog post of mine. There are also some truly amazing multiplayer experiences. Babble Royale (a, you guessed it, battle royale style game) and then games like Griddle which no longer exists (blogged about it on my old blog site — it almost cost me my Amazon job and was one of the reasons I had to return to the industry and work on Facebook games).
Wordle is the new hotness. And I love that game. But it doesn’t retain me for the very reason it is (well was…) an indie darling. A true labor of love that resonated in a fundamental way with players. Facebook was a means of keeping it in mind and on my daily list. It also introduced me to other amazing games in the genre (e.g., Quordle, Sweardle) but I’m a lapsed user because I no longer Facebook on a regular basis. Kinda similar to Zynga games before the great cleansing of the feed spam (and aggressive pruning of my feed).
I haven’t even bothered to find out if there’s a mobile version that I can add to my Daily Game folder on my iPhone home screen, which is the way I make sure to play a game every day (or on breaks during the day) since I turn off all notifs. Maybe I will at some time?
This begs the question, maybe for another blog post, about the kinds of meta that work for these kinds of experiences in terms of engagement, retention, and monetization.
But for now, I’m just going to meditate on the pure joy of the verse and leave the meta behind.