Epic Love Word Search

Our latest huge word search puzzle is available on the App Store for iOS and on Google Play for Android.

This time, we’ve used the broad theme of love – just in time for Valentine’s Day – and hidden more than 1,500 words in a massive, scrollable grid.

To solve the entire thing, you’ll need to smooch your way through Paris, meet Verona’s star-crossed lovers and learn some intimate secrets of the heart. Grab a box of tissues – we’ve included some of the best-loved romantic movies too!

Epic Love Word Search is a free download.  Click here to get it now!

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Stak Bots Exclusive Cards

If you’ve been playing Stak Bots you’ve probably noticed that the Bot of the Day is frequently a strange and unusual Bot :) Often their ability is a little more difficult to understand, so they aren’t part of the basic game. You’ve probably met all of these Bots now if you’ve been playing a while :)

Stak Bots

Cannonball Bot is one of my favourites, mostly because of his sound effect :D Although Greedy Bot comes a close second as he can become super powerful! :)

You probably already know that there was a Kickstarter project to get some of these expansion bots printed to be played with the physical card game, along with some which you’ve likely not seen before! If you missed out I’m sure it won’t be long before you can buy the cards from the Stak Bots website.

However, we have 2 cards which you will never see anywhere other than in this blog post! :) Tom presented us with a most excellent wedding gift at our reception earlier this month :D

Wedding Gift

As you might not be able to read these, there’s Cat Lady Bot whose power is equal to the number of cats in the room and Gamble Shot Bot who does damage equal to the roll of a dice. For the former, I’m hoping cuddly toys count ;) For the latter it doesn’t say what kind of die, so I might have to hide a D20 up my sleeve :)

If you haven’t played Stak Bots yet, then you can download it for free from the App Store! :)

Epic Christmas Word Search

This blog post is coming to you in a slightly different format as Chris, who would usually write them, is stuck in hospital! I’m glad to report that he is recovering well and hopefully the Lightwood team will be back to full speed soon, but in the mean time it’s just me! :)

I know a lot of you have been enjoying Word Search 10K and hundreds of people have now completed the whole puzzle! :) Whether you’ve finished it or not you’ll probably like our new large puzzle – Epic Christmas Word Search! It plays just the same as its giant predecessor – it’s a bit smaller but with a wonderfully seasonal theme :)

Epic Christmas Word Search

You’ll travel through exceedingly cold weather, meet reindeer, watch classic holiday movies and enjoy the perfect Christmas dinner :) You can download it for free from the App Store. The game is also available on Android, and as a PDF to print out and solve with a pen! ;)

Amazingly, we’ve already had 2 people complete the puzzle even though it’s only been out a couple of days! :D

For something a little bit different take a look at Stak Bots (download it for free from the App Store). This is an official iOS conversion of the card game and features cute battling robots! There’s a tutorial to introduce you to the game before you challenge your friends, or enemies, in this quick to play casual game.

Stak Bots

Our conversion features some extra bots from the first expansion. If you’d like to play the physical card game you can back their Kickstarter campaign to get both the original deck and the new expansion bots! :)

In other news completely unrelated to games, but very exciting for us – Chris and I got married last month :) We flew off to Las Vegas to plan our wedding for next year, but couldn’t resist tying the knot then and there :) It was a crazy last minute decision and a wonderful, spontaneous day ending with a trip to see Evil Dead the Musical! :) If you’re interested in more details and a whole lot of photos, I wrote all about it over on my blog :)

Board Game Conversions

If you follow us on Twitter you’ll no doubt have noticed we play a lot of board games. Whilst I generally only post photos of the physical games we also spend a lot of time playing their digital conversions.

Hawaii

There are a lot of board games out there to choose from, and a good number are now available on your iPad. So what makes a good digital board game?

First up, a game needs some kind of tutorial. We’ve seen some games skip this entirely which might be okay for those who are already very familiar with the physical game, but it is certainly no way to treat a new player! Even if you know the game, playing on a touch screen is very different to holding and manipulating the cards and pieces. That said, some tutorials might be taking it a little too far when it takes over an hour to play through before being “ready to play”! ;)

The way players can interact during the game makes quite a difference to the suitability for a conversion. If there is too much interaction between players (e.g. unlimited trading requests) this can seriously slow down the game :( If each turn can be played entirely without the other player then it will more easily suit a turn based format which could be played locally or online. Preferably with each turn providing enough to think about to maintain interest and also feel like a worthwhile turn.

Speaking of turns – being able to play online is important! Pass & play using a single device is great if you only have one iPad to share. However, where there is secret information, it can often lead to people seeing things they shouldn’t be able to see! If your game doesn’t have online or at least Bluetooth play it’s unlikely to get much play from us. Of course, having some kind of solo or practice mode is good for learning alone :)

Le Havre

Working on small screens means condensing a lot of information. If you’ve seen our photos you’ll know that games tend to sprawl all over our large poker table. Agricola and Le Havre easily take up most of the space just for a 2 player game. Working out how to condense that onto an iPad is hard. Making it fit on an iPhone and still be readable and tappable is even harder!

If a player cannot read or interact with the items they need then obviously the conversion is going to be frustrating to play. You need to be able to see the resource counts at a glance and follow the game play without it becoming confusing. Some games succeed at this better than others, and it’s clearly one of the hardest parts of a conversion.

Obviously there’s a reason behind all this pondering about table top game conversions. A lot of the work we’ve done making turn based puzzle games fits very well into these kinds of games. Also, we’ve already taken traditionally physical interactions like jigsaws and made them fit onto a small screen and still feel intuitive to play. We have two card game conversions already in development which we’re hoping to be able to ship soon :) Then there are even more planned later this year! So, you see, all of this game playing is important research! :) Don’t worry, we have more word games planned too! ;)

Do you play table top games? Have you played any on your iPad or iPhone? Would you ever brave an unknown board/card game on your device?

Watching people solve Word Search 10K

One of the really cool things we’ve been able to do with Word Search 10K is generate heatmap images to show which sections of the grid that have been solved the most.

We’ve also been able to watch the way that users tackle the puzzle and now that we’ve had more than a hundred different users get all the way through the puzzle I thought it would be interesting to compare some of the different approaches that players have been taking.

It seems like everyone more or less tackles the puzzle within the different themed squares, completing one topic before moving on to the next.  But beyond that, the patterns can vary quite wildly.

Some like to work along the grid methodically.  Some start with the edges and work inwards.  Some sprawl, picking out the categories that interest them most.  Others make their own patterns.

We’ve compiled this time-lapse video from the data of four different users, showing the contrasting approaches they took to solve Word Search 10K.  Although one of these didn’t quite finish the puzzle, I couldn’t resist including their awesome checkerboard pattern here!

A word from the current world record holder

Over on the Guinness World Records page for World’s Largest Word Search, the current world record holder, Mel Crow, had this to say about our failed attempt.

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“As happy as I am to hear that I retain the record, I have to tip my hat in admiration to you guys. I ordered a print of your puzzle and it is in fact amazing. The layout is very organized and your word count is impressive. Your puzzle is in fact much more fun, as mine is more challenging because any word can be found any where in the layout. I admit, this can be frustrating, intimidating, and overwhelming. I understand why Guinness has it’s specific guidelines, but feel sympathy for your efforts as well. With respect I sympathize with you. I will strive to conquer your word search myself and will have lots of fun, for a long time, doing it. :) Great job!”

We love you, Mel :)

Our apparent attempt to subvert Guinness World Records

Guinness World Records has refused to accept Word Search 10K as the largest word search ever.  They say we cheated.

At least, that’s the subtext of their explanation.

“As each square of the wordsearch can be treated as its own puzzle, or ‘unit’, then we did not consider this to be within the spirit of the record.”

 Yes, I’ve argued our case.  They’re not listening.  In fact, it took precisely six minutes between me hitting “send” on an email full of questions and getting this terse reply.

“Your appeal for evidence review has been escalated to my colleague [name redacted].  Unfortunately, the conclusions have been confirmed and the claim has been rejected again for the reasons outlined below.”

Six minutes.  Oh how I wish I could believe this.  That’s barely time to unfold the poster!  (The “reasons outlined below” was simply the copied email thread, not any new attempt at an explanation).

Here’s the lesson learned for the benefit of anyone considering paying for “Fast Track” when they attempt a World Record in future.  ”Fast” doesn’t just mean “turned around speedily”, it means “dealt with in haste”.

I’ve tried to see their side of things.  I really have.  They’re simply wrong and all I can see is this: our £360 bought us a rushed, careless decision and now they’re too proud to correct the previous misunderstanding.

The fact we chose to format the poster using grid lines and show an organised word key was simply a design decision, intended to make the puzzle more enjoyable.

Absolutely, if someone pastes together hundreds of little puzzles and calls it one big puzzle, that’s no achievement.  But that’s not what Word Search 10K is.  There are 10,004 different words, hidden in one massive grid.  It is a continuous puzzle and it is uniquely solvable.  We worked very hard to make sure of that.  Words overlap every printed grid boundary – so no single grid square can be isolated and solved on its own – and you won’t find the same word twice.

If you take any word search puzzle and split off an arbitrary region of the puzzle, it’s trivial to create an answer key that only lists the words in that section.  The underlying puzzle is still the same though, is it not?

According to what little explanation they’ve given, if we’d not added grid lines and a structured word list, we would now be world record holders.  The world’s largest word search would be the same grid of 90,000 letters, but it would be a horrible mess of a puzzle – unsolvable and unenjoyable.

We actually have a version of the puzzle like this.  We called it “evil mode” but decided that we’d much rather have people try to solve the puzzle than get frustrated with it and throw it away.  I’ve even sent this version to GWR, but they’ve ignored it.

solving

Guinness has also refused to answer how we should go about a further record attempt.  Word Search 10K is so popular already, there’s bound to be a follow up, so I’ve asked what we would need to do in order for it to be considered “in the spirit of the record”.

Of course, I have computer software that could generate a new 10,000 word puzzle using haphazard, trial-and-error placement in a matter of minutes. Perhaps that’s what they’re looking for?

Frankly, though, I don’t think there’s any point trying to attempt this record again – or any other, for that matter – given that we’ve now been branded as cheats.

It’s irrelevant that we followed the guidelines given to us by Guinness World Records that relate to this attempt.  They are:

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Check, check, check and check.  The Notary Public who acted as our witness, was satisfied we’d done this too, before he gave us a lovely document sealed with a ribbon to say exactly that.  It’s his sworn duty to verify facts like this before he can notarise a document to confirm it is truthful, so we spent some time discussing with him how the puzzle was compiled, how it was checked, the challenges we faced and so on.

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I’m sure he will be thrilled to hear that this document was meaningless.

However you look at it, Word Search 10K is the largest word search ever made.  It’s almost twice as large as the “official” Guinness World Record – and, regrettably, things seem set to remain that way.

Word Search 10K Complete!

Over the past 3 weeks we have been enjoying watching the heat maps fill in as people all around the world have been having fun playing our giant word search.

Last week something happened which took us a little bit by surprise – someone completed the puzzle! This mammoth task which we had estimated would take approximately 100 hours was completed by one dedicated user in just 55 hours over the course of 11 days! Wow! :D

Cheryl, who has been a fan of our games for some time now, was determined to be the first to complete the puzzle and stormed ahead of everyone, speeding through the words :) I asked her some questions about the experience of playing the largest word search ever made!

What did you think of the game?

I was in word search heaven. Lol. I loved the sheer challenge of finding 10,000+ words. The different themes of each grid kept it more manageable. Finishing a section was a small victory. I learned some new words, too.

How did you go about tackling the puzzle?

I pretty much just scrolled around the screen looking for words. If I found a word in the next area I would move over and start working there. I really had no plan.

When and where did you play?

I would stretch out on the couch and play until I couldn’t see straight anymore. All of those letters…..

What compelled you to complete it?

The sheer magnitude of the word search. I am a very competitive person and I wanted to be one of the first to finish.

Would you like to complete more large puzzles?

I would love another huge puzzle. Maybe even bigger?

What game are you going to play now?

I’m not sure. I may just take a break and catch up on my reading. A little Dresden Files or perhaps re-read the Matched trilogy. I’m seriously thinking about creating my own word lists for a new word search (hint, hint). More along subjects I’m more familiar with, Doctor Who, Torchwood, who knows?

Since Cheryl completed Word Search 10K, we’ve had another 9 players also manage to finish! The latest this morning from Canada who spent 93 hours on the puzzle! Someone has even managed the whole puzzle in just 38 hours! We’re amazed to see people spending so much time solving the word search and clearly having a lot of fun :) It’s always lovely to make people happy! :)

Are you playing the game? How much have you managed to complete? If you don’t have a copy yet, grab the free download now!

Reviewing the Reviews of Word Search 10K

Word Search 10K has been out nearly a week and the App Store reviews are starting to appear.

I wanted to start with this one from Japan.

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No, I don’t know what it says.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s from JAPAN and we got FOUR STARS.  For an English language word game!

What do English-speakers think then?  It’s mostly good!

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It is indeed very different from anything else out there.  And the reason it’s so easy to come back to is that we made a special effort to have things start up quickly.  No sitting through tedious splash screens and waiting 20-30 seconds for the game to initialize – you’re straight back into the action every time!

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We weren’t sure if $2.99 to remove adverts would be asking a little too much for this game.

On the one hand, there’s an immense amount of gameplay to be enjoyed.  The very quickest players are on course to finish it in around 50 hours.  Most people look to be taking more like twice that.  How many mobile games keep you entertained for that long?

On the other hand, $2.99!  For an app!  Are we crazy?

It’s great to see someone say they thought it was worth paying for!Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 21.18.44

I know, right?

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You’re welcome, and we love you too.  I felt the need to share with the world that you also felt the same way about Word Search Party :)

But not everyone can be happy, of course.

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Well that doesn’t sound right, does it?  Fussngrump is absolutely correct – we would like you to buy the full version to enjoy an advert-free experience.  But just going black – that sounds like an ad didn’t load properly.  We’ve had no similar complaints sent to support by email (which, need I remind everyone, is a much better way to report bugs than leaving a review where we can’t contact you!).  If anyone has experienced this, we’d really like to hear from you with more information!

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We can’t please everyone, and I know some people have this visceral reaction to adverts.  They’re wrong, but what can you do?

If you’re OK paying for an app, why not just pay when the time comes?  This way round, you got to try it out for free for a while (at least fifteen minutes, as it happens) before having to make a decision.

To do it the other way round – charge $2.99 up front – would alienate an awful lot of people who are playing for free.  Some of them wouldn’t have given it a chance to discover they love it; some people just never pay for apps.

Honestly, I’d rather have all those people playing our game than someone else’s.  That’s just how we roll here.

A frightening, and yet also joyous, fact to finish: more people have logged ten hours of playing time than have paid to remove adverts.  They’ll have seen at least 60 adverts by now.  Many more people have logged 5 hours (30 ads).  If you don’t want to pay, just watch some commercials.  We’re really happy to be able to bring you these awesome games without insisting you pay for them :)

Visualising Word Search Play

Here at Lightwood Games we love statistics! When we release a game, there’s nothing better than watching as people start to play and send data back to us. Watching new devices appear around the world as the release goes live and then how people play.

With Word Search 10K we can watch people solve the puzzle, and with these lovely heat maps Chris made we have a great visualisation of the process. Some people work very methodically through the puzzle starting at the top left and working across a section at a time.

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Other people seem to be choosing individual sections which appeal to them and solving those.

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Then there are still other people who appear to be playing completely at random!

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How are you solving the puzzle? Are you being methodical or jumping between sections randomly? :)