The Evolution of Losswords
Hello backers! It's Eric here from the Losswords team. As we continue to develop and grow the game, we wanted to take a moment to step back and share with you the many ways that the gameplay of the project has evolved since we first started it. And to be totally honest: maybe sharing these game design twists and turns can help you appreciate why we are currently behind our original schedule!
Prehistory: Losswords on Twitter. You heard that right: Losswords began as an idea for a game on Twitter. You would be sent a random text phrase, and then would have to "deconstruct" it by finding words inside the words of the phrase. For instance, you can find the word "own" inside "brown" so the sentence: "Brown horses running in the water" might be deconstructed to: "own or run in he ate." You got more points for the more words you found, with bonus points for finding repeat words and longer words.
Put it back together. That first version was fun but got a little monotonous, so we added "reconstruct" gameplay, where you would have to reassemble the deconstructed parts into a sentence. For example, figuring out that br+own made brown - and then putting the rest of the sentence together too. This new reconstruct gameplay definitely livened things up, but overall we found playing Losswords over Twitter a little confusing. And we also wanted to make the game about reading literature, which would have meant displaying longer sections of text than 140 characters would allow.
Smartphones... here we come. So... all of that led to the version of the design that we eventually Kickstarted: a game on iOS where players deconstruct and then reconstruct passages from classic books. We established a general art direction and storyline that still continue to guide our design today. There were of course many hurdles to overcome in making Losswords a phone-based game, from back-end database issues to front-end touchscreen challenges, but by the time we Kickstarted the project, we had a working prototype that seemed very promising.
Sometimes, more is more. As we continued to develop and expand the game, we were getting consistent feedback from our playtesters: the game was fun, but just didn't have the breadth or depth to sustain dedicated play. This led to a major change in our design: rather than just deconstruction and reconstruction, we expanded our gameplay palette to a wider range of gameplay modes. We have written about these in past updates: players now swap lines, drag words into place, cross out words that have been added, and interact in many other puzzley ways.
The nitty-gritty. The moment-to-moment game got better from the introduction of this new gameplay, but we still didn't have the long-term sticking power we wanted. So the last 6 months of development have been spent refining our multi-mode version of the game, experimenting with different text lengths and win and lose conditions. We have tried short excerpts and long chapters, high-pressure timed versions and more relaxed untimed play, and have had loss conditions based on counting moves, making errors, and running out of time. Each time we try a new version means designing new gameplay schematics, revising the game code, and creating new interface elements to support the changes. It has been intense!
So where do we stand now? Our relentless pursuit of fun is paying off. We'll talk about the current game design in upcoming updates, but we are homing in on a really compelling experience that we can't wait to share with all of you. And we know you've been waiting a long time! Thanks for sticking with us - hopefully this update helps explain what we've been up to!
Yours in words, - Eric Zimmerman