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October 25, 2014, 06:56:49 PM
TIGSource ForumsFeedbackPlaytestingSpellirium Minute Episode #10: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Puzzle
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Author Topic: Spellirium Minute Episode #10: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Puzzle  (Read 7687 times)
UntoldEnt
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« on: May 28, 2010, 11:18:51 AM »

Spellirium

It's the End of the Word as We Know It

From the studio that brought you Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure, Spellirium is a puzzle/adventure game mash-up in the tradition of Puzzle Quest and Bookworm Adventures.



It's a graphic adventure game where you spell words to solve problems.

The game is framed in a dystopia where reading and writing are outlawed. The survivors of a cataclysm eke out their existence building shelter from relics of a ruined civilization. We're calling it "trashpunk."




Head over to the new Spellirium website and sign up for our insider newsletter.  We'll send you behind-the-scenes artwork and give you early access to demos of the game.  A demo is due out this month.

http://www.spellirium.com

Word.


« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 05:25:25 AM by UntoldEnt » Logged
Guert
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2010, 11:08:08 AM »

Looks pretty interesting. When are you planning a release?
I'll see if I can squeeze in this game in my play schedule Smiley
Keep up the good work
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2010, 04:15:45 PM »

Guert - we were originally targeting September, but the art team got a late start.  Expect it in Q4 2010.  (Am i allowed to say "Q4" on an indie site?  Smiley

UPDATE:  Hahahah!  Did i say 2010??  We've suffered a few setbacks, but production is still chugging along at a steady pace.  We're fueled by your encouragement!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2011, 09:57:17 AM by UntoldEnt » Logged
UntoldEnt
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2013, 04:13:13 PM »

Last week, we talked about the world of Spellirium - an apocalypse-ravaged time called The Now, where modern civilization has been buried beneath a mile of earth.

Today, i want to introduce you to the two main characters in the game: Brother Todd and Lorms.



Brother Todd is the youngest member of the secret society of Runekeepers.  He pairs up with the hulking Lorms, who has been changed into a big blue tunk against his will.  Together, they set out on a quest to find the other Runekeepers, after one of the Runekeepers returns to the cottages and promptly dies.
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Nebjezus
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2013, 04:58:38 PM »

Absolutely adore the aesthetic your going for. The concepts remind of Machinarium's art style but with a more rustic feel to it.

I'm curious as to what the gameplay is going to entail. Are your word-based puzzles going to be short calculation based puzzle solving ergo Puzzle Quest, or will the game also contain more cognitive-intensive puzzle solving ergo Professor Layton?

What platforms were you planning on targeting for this?
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2013, 05:24:15 PM »

Thanks, Nebjezus!

i'm catching TIGSource up, daily, on a backlog of developer journals, so you'll see new Spellirium updates every day until we're up to speed here.

Spellirium's structure is similar to Puzzle Quest, but the gameplay is a little more varied. Each challenge you face, and each creature you fight, requires you to spell words in unique ways.  For example early in the game, you have to turn a wheel by spelling words in a circular motion (across, down, back, and up).  Later, one of the creatures you fight can only be defeated when you spell palindromes.

Our initial platform is PC/Mac downloadable, with iOS and Android not far behind.

- Ryan
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Nebjezus
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2013, 05:33:07 PM »

I'm curious, what are the central themes/elements that your focusing on in particular? Or rather, what aesthetics of play are you trying to focus on the most?
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2013, 05:53:48 PM »

i get tired of RPGs that hail me as a hero after 40 hours of mindless button-pushing. i'm also no good at fast reflex twitch games. i wanted to create a game that rewarded me for being clever - for having a large vocabulary and good spelling.  i can't finish Portal, but i can damn well tell you how to properly use an apostrophe Smiley

Different bits in the game poke fun at game conventions. Characters comment on the in-game tutorials. The main character is aware that his quest conforms to Joseph Campbell's "hero's journey" archetype. Achievements are depicted as a carrot on a stick. It's all very tongue-in-cheek.

Thematically, the story explores privilege and the responsibility of those in power, friendship, trust, betrayal, and the nature of evil. It's, honestly, a really great story. i know everyone says that about their games, but i really think the story of Spellirium is a strength and a key feature.

The gameplay is about economy, and doing the best with what you've got based on what you know. Every time you swap letter tiles, you lose energy. The farther away the tiles are when you swap them, the more energy you lose. So you need to make the best word possible by surveying the grid and coming up with words you know using letters that are "in the neighbourhood".   For example, you may really need to make the word BOULDER, but you find you're able to build ROCK instead with fewer swaps, and for more points.

- Ryan
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Nebjezus
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2013, 06:22:28 PM »

Within this world that you have created, what is the value of knowledge and been cognizant?

You could use the mechanic of the puzzles throughout your game, and the fact that they require a wide variety of cognitive abilities from the player, as a point of exploration for the characters and the society they live in.

For example you could explore the idea of the Power Law as it pertains to socio-economic class, and how the main character (or more importantly the player), while intelligent in solving these puzzles and overcoming obstacles, cannot fight the force that is this evident pattern in nature, despite our belief that if you are hard working and intelligent you can move up the curve.

Power Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_law
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2013, 06:50:27 PM »

The story hook with Spellirium is that the world has suffered some sort of catastrophe, and now as the survivors rebuild, reading and writing are outlawed.  You play Todd, an assistant Runekeeper. The Runekeepers pose as innocent tailors, shearing sheep and making garments to trade for valuable "findage", but beneath their unassuming stone cottages they have a secret: they are the curators of an underground library filled with items that have forbidden runes  the letters of the alphabet - on them.  From streetsigns to airplane parts to the occasional rare book, all of the items in the library are forbidden.

So you ask about power, Nebjezus?  You are one of the only literate characters in the game.  You find a device that allows you to impact reality with the words you spell.  Most of the characters in the game are dirt-poor and living in squalor, due largely to the fact that they're not allowed to read or write, on pain of death.
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Nebjezus
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« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2013, 07:01:23 PM »

I suppose I was pointing at the idea of the puzzle mechanics themselves being a metaphor for the main character's intelligence within this world that you've created. Are you going to explore both the power of knowledge within such a world, as well as the idea of it's insignificance in a world where knowledge doesn't equate to power?

You could maybe even setup a situation where the player has to solve a puzzle, but have some outside factor that makes the puzzle incredibly difficult, something random perhaps, putting the player in a situation where, despite their attempts at gaining dominance over a problem via cognitive thought, it means nothing in the face of the Power Law. This would be quite difficult to design for though, as you would have to make sure it wasn't frustrating for the player, although perhaps maybe you would want the player to feel some frustration in that situation to properly convey that idea.

Very interesting!
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2013, 07:12:08 PM »

You'd be surprised at how different players' ability to get through Spellirium varies wildly.  Some players have difficulty building 3-letter words, so there's that. Wink
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2013, 07:18:17 AM »

Sometimes it's just as important to know who's NOT going to buy your product than who IS.

Spellirium is a story-based game with a word puzzle mechanic.  Many people have asked me "Who's the target audience?  Kids?", or have cocked a skeptical eye, implying that it will never succeed in the mainstream marketplace ... but maybe i should try selling the game to schools? 

Breaking from Untold Entertainment's core competency, we're not developing Spellirium for kids.  It's a game for grown-ups.  That's because, simply put, kids hate word games.


H8

Back when i was working at YTV, i developed a series of games called The Sitekick Saga.  It had an episodic release schedule, and each chapter contained a game. To progress through the story, you had to finish the game sandwiched inside.

The second chapter's game was called Four Letter Words, because i'm subversive like that.  It had four slots at the bottom of the screen.  Letters would cascade down from the top.  You guided them into the slots to form four-letter words. You needed to meet a quota of words before time ran out to proceed.


It was an extremely easy game.  The clear strategy was to line up "ALL" at one end, and then plunk down letters to form "BALL", "MALL", "CALL", "FALL", "TALL", etc.  You could do the same thing with "OTE", "ELL", "ATE" or any other common letter formation. i figured any kid who's read a Dr. Seuss book knows this.  Or maybe i paid just a little too much attention to Sesame Street when i was younger, while other kids were busy imagining what's up Prairie Dawn's skirt?



Hey baby - do those legs go ALL the way up?

At any rate, i overestimated the ability of nine and ten year olds to spell simple words.  i received more hate mail about that game than anything i've ever done.  The vitriol poured in over the message boards:

Quote
YTV how daer you made a game that maks us spel words??  what is this shool, if i wantd to learn i nad go sit in Miss jenkins class

While that's not an actual quote from the site's boards, please understand, dear reader, that in no way am i exaggerating the grammatical prowess here.

For the Love of the Queen's English

So i don't have plans to foist Spellirium on the school system.  It's a game for people who enjoy spelling words - who do it for fun rather than out of obligation.  My players will be people who hold Scrabble matches, who adore Words with Friends, who hunch over newspaper crossword puzzles, and who cruise around WordGameWorld.com on their lunch break - during their adult job for adults.



(Er ... that's not quite what i meant)

It's important, then, to know who your audience isn't, so that you don't waste marketing time and effort talking about your game to people who couldn't care less.  Beyond that, if you've really done the legwork to identify your target audience, don't let folks who haven't done the research convince you that you should be selling to someone else.
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2013, 02:53:22 AM »

Wise decision. Nice art - it really catches your eye and brings you in. Hand Money Left
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2013, 07:45:41 AM »

Thanks so much!

- Ryan
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2013, 08:50:44 AM »

WARNING: Swears and general ribaldry

It's really frustrating when you make a word in a game, and it's not recognized by the game's dictionary. It's the worst when the word is a perfectly natural English word like "PUCE", but a game like Jumbline doesn't accept it.  (Hear that, Jumbline devs?  Ahem.  AHEM.)

But in other situations, you punch in words like "bazooms" with a childish grin on your face, and when the game doesn't recognize it, you click your tongue in mock outrage.



How DARE they rob me of 150 points for BAZOOMS!  It's in the Oxford!

Triple Word Score for "BLEEP"

The Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary prides itself on being the most complete and fair collection of words suitable for tournament play, but it ran up against some controversy when a player complained about the listing of non-capitalized "jew" as a verb, with the accompanying definition "to bargain with - an offensive term".  The Jewish Defamation League got involved, and the next version of the OSPD removed the offending word, along with a big list of other words for good measure, including (but not limited to):

  • boobie
  • cunt
  • faggoty
  • the almighty fuck
  • fubar
  • hebe
  • jesuit (i'm really not sure why? Unless there's a pejorative verb form, as with "jew" ... ?)
  • nookie
  • poo
  • wetback

The Seattle SCRABBLE® Club has a complete list of expurgated words in case you're up for a giggle or gasp:

http://www.seattlescrabble.org/expurg.php




(Of note, the word "frigging" was de-expurgated in OSPD 4, which is as good a reason as any to get it printed on a T-shirt.)

http://untoldentertainment.com/store/products/I-Friggin%27-Love-Ponycorns-T%252dshirts.html


When the neutered list was released, the players revolted, many of them upset at not having been consulted. There were threats of event boycotting and ... rioting?  i dunno.  What do Scrabble players do when they're enraged?  Spell "GRR"? 



If the 80's are to be believed, retribution begins with underwear theft.

Caving to the pressure, the Scrabbleati released an unexpurgated Official Tournament and Club Word List. 

[size=180pt]Somebody Set Us Up the F-Bomb[/size]

All this to say, i'm at a point now where i'm considering the word list for Spellirium, and whether or not it should contain naughties.  As i've said before, the game is not necessarily for kids, so we can take "WILL SOMEONE CONSIDER THE CHILDREN??" handily out of the equation.

The difference between Spellirium and Scrabble is that while you have the option to spell various words in Scrabble, Spellirium may actually require you to spell certain words. For example, you may come to a point in the game where you meet a character who won't let you pass unless you've spelled every word beginning with "Q".  i think this makes a big difference in deciding whether or not to include certain words on the list.  When the word list is all up in your bidness, i don't want to force a player to spell a word he is uncomfortable spelling.



Spell "nookie".  DO IT!!!

Degrees of Depravity

We can sort the expurgated words into these general categories:

  • Swears
  • Euphemisms for swears
  • Racist/Prejudiced terms
  • Puerile words for body functions/parts (impolite words that mostly kids would use)
  • Crass words for body functions (impolite words that mostly adults would use)

So we could go a number of different ways with Spellirium.  We could include these words, and complaints be damned.  We could, as some have suggested, give the player an optional switch to flip that's off by default - when you turn it on, you get the complete word list.  And the "complete" word list could be everything but swears and racism, everything but racism, or even plain old everything ... (but i have a gut feeling that of any of the words on the list, most people are most likely to take most offense at the racist/prejudiced stuff).



UPDATE:

We put up a poll on the Untold blog when we were trying to answer this question, and the solution we decided on was to make a list of potentially offensive words, and to give the player an option to turn that list on or off.  The real trick is that with a list of 50 000 words, we may not actually catch every offensive term. 

For example, we had a Scrabble tournament player test Spellirium, and he said he was surprised the game allowed the word "ABO".  Abo?  i'd never heard that one.  Apparently, it's a derogatory term for Aboriginals.  (Did YOU know that?)  So sniffing out absolutely every problematic word might be tricky.  But we'll give it a shot.

Word.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2013, 08:51:12 AM »

As any word game fan knows, big words aren't always big point-earners.  You can drop a six-letter word like "TETHER" in Scrabble and, even though it's somewhat interesting and will eat up a good chunk of the board, it's not a spectacular move because:

  • It's one letter short of a 50-point BINGO (Scrabble's point bonus for using all your letters).
  • You may not reach one of the bonus tiles with it (most notably Triple Word Score).
  • The letters in "TETHER" are all low-value, worth one point apiece.
  • With a sprawling crossword, you're opening up a LOT of options for your opponent to exploit.

Often in Scrabble, it's the tiny, well-placed words that win the day, enabling you to re-score two additional words that are already on the board via clever linking.



These aren't the vowels you're looking for.

A Word of a Different Colour

The same goes for Spellirium.  Spelling a 7-letter word is fine, but if you want to send your score into the stratosphere, you need to make solidly-coloured words.

Here's how the combo/chain system works:



Big scores are extremely important for dominating your friends and showing off your superior vocabulary and intellect.  In Story Mode, you'll need these points in order to craft power-ups. More on power-ups in a future post.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2013, 08:38:12 AM »

It's always exciting to look back across the lifespan of a project and marvel at how it's evolved.  The development cycle of Spellirium is over three years now - not a steady three, but three years of struggling to move the project ahead while putting food on the table, and working through economic and corporate upheaval.

That's why it's so rewarding to stand on the far shore and gaze back across that tumultuous ocean.  Here are some screenshots illustrating how Spellirium began, and how far it's come.



The Dictionary Then



The Dictionary Now




The Runekeeper cottages Then




The Runekeeper cottages Now




The wheel challenge Then




The wheel challenge Now

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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2013, 01:23:54 PM »

The folks at Telefilm were kind enough to include Untold Entertainment in their GDC showcase, which involves playing a video reel to promote participating companies' work at the big Canada party in the middle of the week.  Since i was producing a few short clips for the reel, i thought i'd share them around.

First up is a little snippet from very early in the game.  It's early yet, so there's no sound. Note that we're following the writing rule "always put a body on page one."  Smiley


We'll be posting a few clips of word-making gameplay and the Companion System later in the week.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2013, 06:21:22 AM »

The challenges in Spellirium are ever-changing.  Sometimes success will be based on the length of the words you spell.  Other times, it's all about colour. In another challenge, the direction of the word might be the key.

Here's an early production example of what we call a "word quality" challenge: spell words that have to do with cutting in order to shear a sheep.

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