Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Griddle vs. Bogglific: Facebook Fight!

So, it isn't much of a fight so far. Griddle kicks the heck out of Bogglific for now at least.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I had to stop playing Griddle because of its addictive nature. It was simply too hard to break the flow -- and I was losing hours of my day while trying to dominate the leaderboards.

After installing Bogglific (as a result of a challenge from a friend) I decided I should play a couple more games of Griddle for research purposes. Almost an hour later I emerged to jot down some notes.

Griddle just "gets it" on many levels. It is much more immersive because of its UI design and flow, and it gets the leaderboard aspects just right.

  • When you start the game, you land on a game in progress (or about to begin). There's no setup or matchmaking UI to fiddle with first.
  • You can have a completely single player experience (just focus on anagramming) or you can try and keep up with the Joneses by scrolling down and seeing the leaderboard from the previous round.
  • There is just the right length of time delay between the end of one game and the start of the next game to check stats (if you're interested), learn new words (from the long list of those you missed), and clear your mind for the next round. More importantly, the next game just starts. No need to decide -- the game basically says "yep, you're playing again."
  • The game UI is very nice. Just start typing what you see and the letters highlight on the board until you type a combination that doesn't exist. Hit the enter key and repeat.
  • The game also deviates from traditional Boggle rules in ways that improve the game experience:
    • No dictionary penalty. For someone trying to brush up on their vocabulary (I also play Scrabble) this is great. I can try new "possible" words without fear of having it count against me (other than wasted time).
    • No requirement for unique words. Yes, in effect, common words cancel each other out because we *all* score points for them. But it's much much cooler to see scores in the 50s, 60s, and beyond than scores in the single digits (which would be the case in most closely contested games using traditional Boggle scoring).
  • They have a nice meta economy where you essentially get points that you can trade in to purchase virtual gifts for other friends (or for yourself as status symbols). This means that I can share my winnings with friends who don't have the game or care to play it.
Bogglific, on the other hand, drops you into a complex looking (but well featured) matchmaking lobby when you fire it up. Although the screen looks cluttered, the flow is reasonably well thought out -- with quick start options at the top (press a button and get dropped into a game matching your basic preferences) and more custom joining and creating options below.

Some of the problems with Bogglific:
  • The setupwin (place where you set game options when creating a game) is a little intimidating because of all the options and checkboxes. However, there are smart defaults so the adventurous player can just hit the Create button and see what happens.
  • The game lobby is cramped and unnecessarily cryptic. There's no need for all the abbreviations (there's plenty of whitespace to list the selected options). One nice feature is that you can see the names of people already in each game room.
  • You can't tell by looking at a game whether the "anyone can start game" option has been selected. This makes joining a game room a scary proposition because the game might start before you're even ready to do so (which just happened to me while I was researching the feature -- luckily I won the game). What's most scary is you can't tell how the scoring options have been set from the game lobby so you might end up in a game with scoring options you don't like.
  • The actual game UI is nowhere near as polished as Griddle's. It's hard to track the words you've already entered (the long scrolling list is hard on the eyes), the board is too big to take in in a comfortable glance (the letters are too spaced out), and there is no equivalent "letter highlight" feature. I guess hardcore Bogglers might think Griddle's letter highlight feature is cheating, but I see it as an accelerator that makes the game more fun to play. It would be nice as an option at least.
Interestingly enough, after mistakenly joining a game I didn't intend to play -- and winning -- my motivation to try again was surprisingly strong. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I felt like I was explicitly challenged to a duel by two other players, so the emotional payoff was higher than in the laid back/less aggro Griddle game room. This is something I should think more deeply about.

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