A blog for fans of Bananagrams, word games, puzzles, and amazing things

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review of the new version of WordSquared

The brand new version of Word2 is now out. It comes with a different design (lots of wood grain and most squares on the board are off-white) and a host of different rules which definitely change the game.
One of the problems with the original version of WordSquared is that once you developed a big enough word structure, you could always find a place to put almost any letter. Consequently I quickly stopped needing the "Swap Tiles" option, and so accumulating lives (by building on the stars dispersed around the board) became irrelevant.

The new version solves this by no longer giving you blanks for free. You start off with three, and then if you want more, you have to buy them. (Five stars buy one blank tile, and swapping your seven tiles for a new rack now costs twenty stars.) Word formation is consequently more challenging. Your rack now consists of seven non-blank tiles and one slot for an arbitrary number of blanks.

Stars are acquired in a variety of ways. Stars are granted for logging in once a day and for achieving certain score benchmarks (called "Levels"). Stars may also be acquired by building a word over a square with a star on it. While you will often get just 1 star for building over a Star Square, occasionally you will get more. I've gotten 2 stars in a couple of instances and 3 stars once. (When beta-testing, I once got 8 stars.) Since the number of stars dispensed is random, this is an example of operant conditioning: varying the reward (as when training an animal) results in more rapid acquisition of the skill being trained for. In Word2, randomizing the reward should make you crave the stars more...

A new feature called "teleporting" is supposed to solve the problem of players being boxed in. On the one hand, it takes away the perpetual threat that you are going to be trapped somewhere if you don't check in with the game frequently enough. But on the other hand, such fear is really not a good way to motivate players. We ought to play games because they are fun, not to prevent others from building impenetrable double-walled word structures around us.

The new version also alters the tile values and tile distribution from the Scrabble parameters, based upon how Word2 players have played in the past.
The vowels are all still worth 1 point, except for the U which is two (logically, as the U is the hardest vowel to use). A Y is worth 5 points.

This table compares Scrabble tile values with those for WordSquared:


There are a number of interface changes:
  • When you play a blank, instead of having to type in the letter you want to play, you are presented with a complete alphabet of tiles from which you may choose by clicking.
  • Placemarks are placed, not by double-clicking, but by dragging a placemark icon from the bottom of the placemark list.
  • For now at least, your word history is hidden in your profile, which you can get to by clicking on your avatar icon.
The best change is the new transition between the full map and the mini-map which is now a smooth animation, making it easier to maintain a sense of where you are in the WordSquared world.

This new version of Word2 breaks with the Scrabble rules and model in favor of making Word2 a better massively multiplayer game. The creators seem full of ideas, and I am interested to see what they do next.

Further clicking: