This is Interview with Dan Ferguson, who is Founder of Blackdot & Director of Game Development of [Chicktionary] & many other games.

Korean version of this interview
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1. How come to make 'Word Game', while there are tons of other genre in Casual / Indie Game scene? And what could be 'Best Fun' for 'Word Game' genre?

The market is flooded with traditional match three, connect four casual puzzle games and shooters. Chicktionary was built to fill a segment that seemed to be overlooked. We have a staff of 6 writers who create crossword and trivia content games for us. We launch over a dozen content game shows a day to users who subscribe to our www.boxerjam.com site. When we realized that not many people were creating downloadable or online word games, we decided to start producing a series of games for that audience.


2. Did you choice some 'Target Player' for Word Games? If so, how did you choice them?

We run the game web sites, www.kewlbox.com and www.boxerjam.com and both of them have a huge female audience. Most of our female visitors enjoy playing word games or games that you need to use your brain. Women tend to play games that are more cerebral. Chicktionary was built for an audience that wanted something fun, but challenging to their intellect.


3. [Chicktionary] chose 'Chicken' as basic element. Do you have some special reason to use it?

We wanted to make a word game that didn’t take itself too seriously. We wanted something fun, cute, silly and appealing to a wide audience. We didn’t want to do anything that was too obvious, like a game in a library. My business partner, Mike Bielinski and I started working on the initial game design by drawing out concepts on a marker board. We thought it would be funny if there was a line of chickens that laid eggs with letters on them. As players type out the letters, the chickens would squeeze out an egg and make a funny sound. This was a lot of fun. Then we realized that players may need to remove a letter by hitting their backspace key. When we started shooting the eggs back into the chickens, we started laughing! When we saw beta testers laughing as well, we knew we had made the right decision.

Chicktionary is based on an game we originally created named Fowl Words. We thought it was particularly clever, by playing on the word FOWL and FOUL. Foul in English means naughty or bad, so we thought it was a bit risqu? by calling our game FOWL WORDS. At first glance, people might think the game was naughty. But when they see the chickens, they would realize that the game is a play on words. It was a big hit. When publishers started to pick it up, they didn’t have as much of a sense of humor. They requested that the games name be changed. So we spent some time reworking the game and came up with CHICKTIONARY. One of the first companies that wanted the game was Merriam Webster, a producer and publisher of dictionaries. They appreciated the twist.


4. [Bookworm Adventures], the mixture of 'Word Game' & 'RPG' released. What's your opinion about such fusion of 2 entirely different genre?

It is exciting. Several years ago, word games were thought of as boring. The idea of games “mash-ups”, the combining of several different genres into one unique experience, is giving games a fresh new life. We all grew up with crosswords or word search games. That seems so tame and boring now. By taking simple word play concepts we are building several new games that are mash-ups of technologies and game play that were impossible several years ago. The potential is as limitless as a developers imagination.

We are making word games that are integrated into online mapping technologies as well as sports and MMOG games. We just created a bowling game with some word gameplay that is really fun and unique. We will be launching it in a few weeks. We also just released a game for Microsoft MSN Games that includes a word game tied to their new Live Search technologies. You can see that game here - http://zone.msn.com/en/flexicon/default.htm

Whoever said word games were boring is obviously disconnected to what is happening out in the world.


5. We could call it 'Word Game' as 'Another Method of Education' or 'Edu-tainment'. Did you expect something like that, when you make & release 'Word Game'? And there might be some 'positive feedback' about your works, as 'Word Game'. And you might feel very good about that. Could you please let us know some episodes about that briefly?

That is very interesting. We have been building games for a long time. When we started to get emails and letters from teachers and doctors about how they are using the games, we were really surprised. We have received emails from several doctors who use the games to test their patients. A brain surgeon wrote to us and said he uses the games during therapy, after they have had brain surgery.

We have a lot of schools who use Chicktionary in their learning computer labs. We’ve sold multi-user licenses to public and private school systems who are now integrating the games into their curriculum. This is especially exciting because we often get letters from teachers who write about how their students love the games. Chicktionary gives teachers a tool to use that makes learning fun. Because the games have a scoreboard system, teachers tell us that the students often try to beat each others scores. We also have parents who write to us about some of our word and math games. People are using the games to spend time with their children, help them learn about spelling and word play. We have also created some math games that have proven to be just as successful.


6. Player must make some words, with any alphabet tiles appeared. It seems to be done randomly, but there might be some algorithm, as I assume. Could you please let me know what kind of algorithm to make it happen?

The way this game works is taking a word that has 7 letters, scrambling those letters up and creating a list of 30-40 other words out of the original 7 letters. The challenge is finding all of the words. The game has a dictionary library built into it. As you spell, it is constantly crosschecking against that library. So it knows if the word you are spelling is correct or not. There are also algorithms built into it to male more common words load first. So as you are typing a word, it helps you along.


7. You can't use all the words in the English culture, and you might have some basis to choice 'What words use & What words don't use'. Could you please let us know, how you decided (or choiced or made) 'Dictionary' of the game?

We reviewed every word in the library and rated common words as well as flagged every potential slang or dirty word. The game picks the most common words and requires the player to find them to advance to the next level. If a player decides to place a more obscure word or a dirty word in place of a common word, they can. However, some of our more conservative clients or publishers have asked us to remove any dirty words. Which we have done. However the game will never use a dirty word as a required word to finish the puzzle.


8. Player must have basic knowledge of 'Word', if he plays 'Word Game'. If you'd make it for foreigners, who doesn't know 'Word' very well, what you would do to make it happen?

The game is currently available for the English market. The library of words in the game are built that way. If we were to do a different language, we would release the game with a different language library built into it. We have been approached by several companies outside of the United States to do just that.


9. Could you leave some advise something, if somebody wants to make 'Word Game' with non-English, as Korean or Japanese or Chinese?

Creating a game using character word languages may be difficult. We have discussed it internally and we may have found some interesting alternatives. It would probably be a different game altogether. We thought a game based on phonetics would be fun.


10. Please introduce other good Word Games from your site.

We have created several other word games.  We actually have a section on our www.kewlbox.com website dedicated to word games. But these are my favorite.

  1. Wordo ?
    1. I love this game. Players attempt to spell words within a wall of stacked tiles. As time ticks on, more tiles are added form the top. As the player spells out words, the tiles used are removed, helping keep the tiles form stacking up. Remove enough and you end up unlocking a casual, non-word style game. The game has special trix to help you out.
    2. http://www.kewlbox.com/games/gameDetail.aspx?GameID=109
  2. Letter Rip ?
    1. A word search game were users must find words on a game board using tiles. As a tile is used, that letter is replaced with a new letter and the point value of the tile is increased. The game board changes per round, much like a Mahjong game, so the game play is unique and different every time.
    2. http://www.kewlbox.com/games/gameDetail.aspx?GameID=83
  3. Writer’s Block ?
    1. Think of a Rubik’s Cube with letters on it. This game challenges users to find as many words and they can using letters on a particular side of a cube. Players can rotate sections of the main cube to get new letters. Very fun and very addictive.
    2. http://www.kewlbox.com/games/GameDetail.aspx?GameId=137
  4. Flexicon ?
    1. The goal in Flexicon is to complete the entire puzzle. It plays like a normal crossword puzzle, except that the four answer grids are overlapping and only one is played at a time. One long answer stretches across the entire puzzle. The overlapping grids give you many ways to attack the long answer.
    2. http://www.boxerjam.com/puzzles/puzzlemod.php?puzzle=zfl
  5. Clink ?
    1. The goal in Clink is to fill in all of the shaded blanks that form the answers to the clues on the right. Each of the answers shares a word (or part of a word) with the answer above and below it. The top and bottom answers are also (c)linked.
    2. http://www.boxerjam.com/puzzles/puzzlemod.php?puzzle=zfl
  6. Dingbats! ?
    1. In Dingbats! you try to guess the three answers before time runs out. The answers can be words or phrases. The three answers are related in some way, and their clues and the title give you a hint about the answers and the relationship between them. The vowels in the answers are represented by "Dingbats." Each Dingbat symbol represents one vowel... the same vowel in all three answers. So if you know a certain Dingbat is an E in one answer, then you know it is an E in each of that day's three answers.
    2. http://www.boxerjam.com/puzzles/puzzlemod.php?puzzle=zdb
  7. Magnet-O ?
    1. Magnet-O is a word phrase game in which you link "word magnets" together into phrases, and then link those phrases together into one long chain. Your goal is to piece together the entire chain. The "word phrases" can be common phrases or expressions (like "Dog Days Of Summer"), well-known names, song, movie, or book titles, or names of places.
    2. http://www.boxerjam.com/puzzles/puzzlemod.php?puzzle=zmg

Several of the Boxerjam games allow users to compete against others in tournaments.


11. Have you played some Korean game, or experienced or even heard about Korean Gaming Scene & Market? If so, please share your opinion about that.

I lived in Seoul as a child, so Korea has always been of interest of mine. I am particularly interested in the way the game industry, especially the mobile space, evolves in popularity from one genre to another. One game will come out that is radically different and set the tone for most of the development for that year. The Korean game space may be primarily focused on hardcore gaming. But we do see a lot of interest in online games. Several of our games end up on Korean web sites. Even though our games are made here in Dallas, Texas, we try to make them as universal as possible. Many of our games have very little English in them so a user does not need to read any rules to become a champion at playing them.


12. Please leave some message for Pig-MIn Interview Readers, especially for whom are interested in 'Word G'.

We hope that your readers enjoy the games we produced. Please visit www.kewlbox.com or www.boxerjam.com for some fun free games.


Korean version of this interview.

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