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Word Puzzle 101


After some good, hard thinking, the Sophocles group approached our prototyping team to come up with some quick and dirty paper prototypes for one of three minigames. They had already decided they wanted to focus on three areas--a game about violence, a game about escape, and a game about words. We were asked to focus on the game about words, inspired by the riddle of the sphinx in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex.


An initial brainstorm gave way to two groups of thought. As such, we decided to break up the task and work in groups of two. Our group focused specifically on the idea of words building a bridge or tower from the player to a desired object. Since words are built with units, we gathered that each unit could become a building block in the tower. A structure could be built using these blocks by overlapping matching units in words. This could be achieved either with morphemes (the smallest meaningful units of a word) or with individual letters.

The unit-stacking portion could either be open-ended or restricted based on our design. In an easier to design, more restricted model, players would be given a scaffold of 'blanks' within which they could place letters/ morphemes. This may only have one solution depending on the design. Given that there were only one solution, players would be given cues as to which letters would overlap (see figure).


A more open-ended design would ideally allow players to build up as they go, with only limited constraints. This could be accomplished with a drag-and-drop interface using 'unit blocks' of 2-3 letters. Players could build vertically or horizontally such that the final result may look like a crossword. To ramp up difficulty, certain restraints could be built into the building landscape (e.g. a long word might span through the middle of the screen so that the player has to match the letters to build through it).

We built a quick prototype of the first version as described above. Some letters were filled in to ease the process for the player. This may or may not have significantly changed gameplay, which would need to be considered before taking this concept further. The initial board and final result are shown below.

Initial Board

Final Board

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