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 FACEBOOK AND SOCIAL GAMING FEATURE

Sensible Soccer designer Jon Hare on mapping 'out the whole world as crosswords' in Word Explorer

Discusses F2P and success, too
Product: Word Explorer | Developer: Tower Studios | Genre: Puzzle
 
Word Explorer Facebook and social, thumbnail 1
Jon Hare, the creator of the Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder franchises, is working on a brand-new title for smartphones and tablets.

It's called Word Explorer, and it's a puzzle game.

Further details on Word Explorer are few and far between, which is why I recently sat down with Jon to grill him about his upcoming word game.

We discussed the game's objective, what platforms we'll see it on, and whether or not it'll be a free-to-play experience.

Pocket Gamer: You've previously called Word Explorer a 21st-century crossword. So, can you explain what you mean by that, and discuss what the player's objective will be?

Jon Hare: Word Explorer comes from an idea I had in 2004, actually. I had a map of India and I did this kind of hex grid over it. Then, I began to fill the cells with words related to the area.

I think, really, crosswords have been a tried-and-tested formula for years now for word puzzles in magazines and stuff, and I don't think we've really developed an equivalent of a crossword. From a game designer's point of view, a crossword is a wonderfully versatile game mechanic.

The current version of Word Explorer is set in North and South America (but, you can visit the rest of the world, as well). If you're over California, a lot of the clues will be about Hollywood or the Pacific Ocean. The words in the grid aren't linked to the region - they're pulled from a hand-created dictionary that features around 23,000 words.

In this 23,000-word dictionary, each word has a clue. Like a crossword-style clue. Like, I don't know, "farmyard birds" and the answer's "chickens".

There are always 30 words in each crossword grid, and within that grid you have a start and an end location. For example, in one of the 'California' levels, you're travelling from the Mojave Desert to Carmel.

Basically, in our Western US, we allow you to travel between eight locations. Each level is presented like a trip, e.g. a trip to Carmel, and each levels starts in the location you ended the last one in. It's literally a world exploration game.

What platforms do you plan to release Word Explorer on?

Well, release-wise, we're definitely looking right now at iOS, Android, PC, and Flash. And then we can hit other platforms like Kindle Fire, Facebook, Windows 8, and Mac.

Word Explorer is a big game. It is not a standard mobile game - it's got a lot of content. At the moment, we're making our mind up how to release it.

So, do we do North and South America first, and then do Europe afterwards and Africa after that? Do we hold back and release the whole world together? Do we wait until Europe is done and release Europe and the Americas together?

You know, we want to add things like photo packs where you can buy photos like football stickers. We want to add a daily prize grid where every day we generate a grid and players can play and win a prize.

Most importantly, we've still not decided whether to run with a publishing partner (or not) on this game.

Will Word Explorer be a free-to-play game with in-app purchases?

Well, this is another interesting question. You just never know how the market is going to be in six months' time. I mean, we've been observing the mobile space for a while and still can't tell.

We started this game two and a half years ago, and have remained totally and utterly flexible on the subject of target platforms, etc. We've been constantly studying the market demands to determine the best path to take. You have to be agile in this industry.

For example, we know that on Android most people are using the freemium model. On iOS, there's some argument for freemium and there's some argument for paid.

We've got a game that can work on all of these platforms, so we've set it up so that we can easily change from free-to-play to the paid model.

So, you obviously have high expectations for Word Explorer. At what point will you consider it a success?

Well, I set the bar pretty high in terms of goal setting, to be honest. Unfortunately, the one problem you have when you've been successful at a young age is that anything that's not spectacularly successful is considered a failure.

Critical success is really important to me. In other words, I think the reviews are important to me. First and foremost, I'm an artist, if you like.

I guess success for me would be critical acclaim. And, I mean, it'd be nice to make back the money we spent on creating Word Explorer. But, that's not necessarily the most important thing. This game should have a long tail.

Word Explorer features leaderboards and achievements. Will they be strictly kept in game or linked to social gaming networks like Game Center and Open Feint?

Achievements work within the game, so you don't need to be connected to Game Center to see them. The levelling-up system works in game, obviously, so you don't need to be connected.

The leaderboards are linked to Game Center on iOS. Again, with each platform, we'll have different things. But, for iOS, yeah, it's Game Center.

Finally, is there anything you'd like to add?

What we did with Sensible Soccer was spend a lot of time carrying out research into the world of football - the amount of depth in the game blew people away.

I really hope with Word Explorer that we have the same effect. That people go, "Wow, this is the whole world mapped out as crosswords", because that's what it is.

I hope it gives people this feeling of freedom to roam anywhere in the world - just in their own time.

 

Reviewer photo
Anthony Usher 25 September 2012
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