Every week in the office, Demiurge has a game night where everyone stays late, plays video games, board games, and eats pizza. One of the greatest moments during development was when we passed around copies of WordFu and had people play the versus mode.
It was extremely flattering and exciting when we couldn't get people to stop playing our game! We played for so long that we had to trade off the one charger cord in the office so that everyone's batteries would stay alive. This is when we knew we had found something special.
New and interesting dynamics emerged when we were competing against each other. In WordFu, you must shake the letter dice until you find a set from which you will find your words. Normally, players try to optimize the letters to achieve the highest possible score, but in versus mode a different strategy arose.
People were trying to sabotage each other by choosing a set of less than ideal letters (i.e. only one vowel and a bunch of less commonly used consonants). It became a game of who could make the best of the worst letters. This session doubled as a focus test and a play test, since we received lots of great feedback on both gameplay and bugs.
Demiurge staff duking it out in versus mode.
4. Wacky Style
Nailing the style of the game was a difficult process that ultimately paid off in the end. The sound effects had a significant influence on the visual style. The game started out with a more photo-real appearance, with the dice and board mimicking real-life objects.
The tone of the game was very different, and much more serious. Once the sound effects were added into the game, however, perceptions of the game changed. With wacky kung fu quips, it became lighthearted and cheeky, and the art was changed to match the new tone.
There was a debate over whether to move forward with a more Flash-like modern interface, or whether to stay in the photo-real realm, or if a combination was possible. A Flash-y style had become popular for iPhone games, and we didn't want to seem behind the times.
However, the tactile gameplay of rolling 3D dice on a board lent itself to a more reality-based art style. As for a combination, we felt that the two clashed with each other, and chose to pursue only one. Ultimately the unique style made it stand out amongst other word games, and helped to influence the arcade-style gameplay.
5. A Match Made in Heaven
A great developer-publisher relationship is invaluable to a project's success. Demiurge and ngmoco worked extremely well together, with each side contributing to and collaborating on the development.
When we first partnered with ngmoco to create WordFu, they had no expectations that we would know everything about developing an iPhone game, and they were very helpful throughout the process.
Whether it was ramp-up, debugging, or design input, they were there every step of the way. They've developed a handful of titles on the platform, so their experience helped solve problems quickly and efficiently when they arose.
We had a great relationship of sharing ideas and collaborating to bring new features to fruition. This process was even better, since ngmoco was very flexible about scheduling new features. If new things were added, ngmoco was understanding about their impact on the schedule and was willing to drop features and requests when necessary.