This is interview with Laurent Coulon, CEO of Liquid Dragon, which made [Word Krispies] & [The Odyssey: Winds of Athena].

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?

Our first game “The Odyssey: Winds of Athena” was a completely original game with a very unique design. It won several awards and got very good reviews in the press but did not sell well at all. Good reviews are good but we needed to generate money to keep going. So for our second game we decided to make a much more mass-market type of game. Word games are probably the most common kind of games on the market so we decided to tackle the genre to see if we could bring anything new to it.

It is not easy to make a Word game fun. Most people tend to view Word games as intellectual and not entertaining. We tried to fight this syndrome by having a lot of very unusual power-ups and by varying the pace of the game. The player spends 5 minutes taking his time making words and then is treated to a mini game where he has to react as fast as possible for 1 minute non-stop.


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

Most existing word games are aimed at people who are experts at all kind of word based activities, like Crosswords or Scrabble. One of the best sold game in the genre is Literati and it is clearly made for a public of word experts. We tried to make a word game that was more aimed at the general public. We wanted it to be challenging but also to be fun and appealing to anyone. That is why we went for a Cereal theme and used very bright and cheerful colors in the product.


3. I saw [Word Krispie] used 'Krispie' as important element. Is there some special reason to choose it, as focusing some 'Target Player'?

The whole concept of Cereal getting less crispy and sinking in a bowl of milk started as a joke while we were developing Winds of Athena. At first we were just joking about making a game in which you have to eat your soup. But as we were joking the idea took shape and we realized there was real gameplay potential in the idea.


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

I haven’t played Bookworm Adventure yet so I’m afraid I cannot really comment on that. I do think overall combining long term gameplay elements (like long term resource building, or revealing a story progressively, or in this case building up RPG style stats) in any time trial game is a good idea. It makes the player want to keep playing after the time trial has expired because the player knows that he has already invested time in building something that will be lost otherwise. Otherwise even if your game is really fun people are likely to close it and forget about it once the time trial ends.


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?

I try to put some sort of educational content in every product I design, even if it is very superficial. I believe that when people are entertained they tend to memorize things better than when trying to learn. I originally wanted to include some word definition based gameplay in Word Krispies so people could learn new words as they played. We didn’t end up going that way because of the amount of work that would have been necessary. We have been a bit surprised to see Word Krispies being popular in non English speaking countries. This did make me very satisfied. I am French and have lived in the U.S. for about 10 years. If this product can help other people perfect their English I feel more gratified than by thinking that I just made an entertaining game.


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?

I cannot give away some of the details. Like most games once you know how certain things work they become less fun. The letters are only partially random. They are a lot of rules under the surface to make sure that the player always has a balanced number of letters to make words with. Each letter has a probability of appearing based on its frequency in the language, and then there are a lot of other rules to avoid having too many identical letters or double letters that are too hard to use. For instance there is only one word in the English language with the letters ‘QUU’ used in sequence. The word is Squushy and it is not even present in most dictionaries.


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?

Actually I think Word Krispies has one of the most complete dictionaries of any other casual Word Game. We have over 350000 words in our dictionary. We had to write our own data format to compress this much data in the space of the game and to be able to search rapidly through it. Unlike most other games no words are censored out of the dictionary. If you want to spell swear words or obscene ones, the game will let you as long as they exist in the dictionary. We remove proper nouns and abbreviations like all Word Games do but otherwise anything goes. We also added a feature to let people add words to the dictionary if they happened to find a word the game did not recognize. We had a problem with the Broccoli Bob power up in the game. Since the power up picks one of the best word you can make with the letters in your bowl it could potentially pick an obscene word. If users want to type an obscene word while playing the game that’s their problem but we didn’t want the game telling you an obscenity. So we had to create a list of “bad” words that were banned from the power up. That list was quite hard to make. When you include slang there are so many words that someone somewhere will think is an insult that it was very hard to build a complete list.


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?

I think if we were trying to make a Word Game for non English speakers the design would have to be fundamentally different. The game should make you discover words so you could increase your vocabulary. In Word Krispies you don’t get to learn any new words you just use the ones you know and that’s good for practice but not for learning. To learn the game would have to help you discover new words and also provide a meaning for them.


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

I lived several years in China when I was a student and used to speak Chinese fairly well. Building a word game using Chinese characters is very challenging and the game would probably not be very fun. There are too many different characters and the combinations are too short to make it interesting. Japanese Kanji might be possible to combine to make words. With Chinese I would maybe try to provide players with keys or strokes that can be placed to create a desired character and then make a word with it. I don’t know enough about the Korean language to even begin thinking about the problem.


10. Please recommend us 5 other good games & reason why?

I’ve always liked games that make you think a lot and even more so if the game teaches you things from real life while you play.

From that point of view one of the most satisfying game I have ever played was Gabriel Knight 3: Sins of the Fathers. Puzzle games are also a favorite of mine, like lemmings. On the Indie side one of the most elegant puzzle game I have ever played is Aargon. I also remember playing a very simple little game a while back called Laser Tank that was quite interesting. And of course all the classic adventure games like Day of the Tentacle, or the whole Monkey Island series.


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 do not believe I have ever played a Korean game. I know of several Korean MMORPGs but that is a genre I am not attracted by at all so I will probably never get to try one. I know MMORPGs are very popular in Korea, I also know Korea pioneered the whole Micro-Transaction business model. Beyond that I am not very familiar with the Korean market. We are too small of a company to think about international markets much. Maybe in a few years. :)
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