Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Scramble & Housekeeping

I haven't had as much time for console gaming lately. Luckily a couple of competitive Scrabulous players have started playing their turns more often. We're quite evenly matched and I hope that they keep their commitment up.

I've also been giving Scramble a chance. It's another Facebook application "in the spirit of" Boggle. It's no Bogglific for several reasons, but it possibly has some legs. A couple of the design decisions I question:

  • Why are default games with friends multi-round events (5 boards)? Seems like this drags out games for longer than they need to go -- especially if one player falls behind and feels the lead is insurmountable (and thus loses interest and lets the game stall). Boggle is meant to be a series of rapid games where you're tallying wins vs. losses, not an epic struggle like Scrabble.
  • Why is the online matchmaking done via lobbies? That's so 1990s and is really far too intimidating an experience. I don't want to choose the wrong lobby and sit around and chat. I want quick matches like in Bogglific. Sure, jumping in was scary at first. But even after a disheartening loss, you've really only blown a minute of your life and can quickly jump back into another game.
  • I ended up joining a lobby for rapid games (with very short breaks in between). The flow was much like Griddle, which I wrote about a while ago. Very addictive. However you never really feel like you're playing other players because there simply isn't enough time for socializing (even a quick "gg") and it's not focused on the winner (another person) but how you ranked in the game, so it just doesn't feel like an interpersonal competition.
  • The game also doesn't feel as strategic as Bogglific because there are no penalties for fake words. This means that often the best strategy is simply to hammer keys as fast as possible without caring whether you'll take a 2 point deduction. Moreover, because common words aren't canceled, there are no real incentives to scour for unique words -- it's all about quantity.
  • There is no rating system (so you can matchmake with equivalent players) and the leader board seems to be restricted to your friends with no overall rankings.
  • Finally, I'm pretty sure I don't like the credit system. You can apparently buy words for credits. You get credits by inviting friends to install and play the application. Basically this incents poor players to cheese out wins by spamming their friends with invites, which doesn't seem cool.
I'm curious to see where Scramble goes from here. Numbers seem a little low and I wonder whether they can up the player totals by moving closer to the Bogglific model. To me, Scramble seems much more like a feature-laden Griddle which means that while it is a good supply of crack, it doesn't have the same legs as a competitive game as Bogglific has (er... had before it shut down).

Other housekeeping notes:
  • Tidied up my "Currently Playing" list. I'm trying to decide whether my next game will be Darkness or Call of Duty 4.
  • Tidied up my "Want to play, but not enough time" list. I'll definitely play some more Gears of War if Brian and I are online at the same time. Sadly our east-west timezone differences make this hard to do. I finished off my Carcasonne single player achievements, so it's time to move on to some other XBLA fare. Maybe a return to Puzzle Quest or maybe on to some new games on my radar.

No comments: