We spoke with Jackbox Games about the studio's new octopus-starring word game, Word Puttz.
Anyone, it seems, can make a Scrabble-esque word game. But it takes truly twisted minds to make a Scrabble-esque word tile game that’s set on a mini golf course, and has an octopus as your host. And to then call it Word Puttz. But then, the people at Jackbox Games are pretty twisted. They are, after all, the people who made the iconic trivia game You Don’t Know Jack.
We spoke with lead designer and programmer Mark Turowetz about how fans are reacting to this twisted word-tile game.
TabTimes Games: For those who haven’t played it yet, what is Word Puttz? Because it sounds like something my Uncle David would’ve called me if I had used a big word incorrectly when I was five.
Mark Turowetz: Word Puttz is word-tile game that takes place on a mini golf course. All you need to do is make a crossword that connects the golf tee to the cup.
Every hole on the course has a different layout. Sometimes you need to reach the cup under par, sometimes you need to collect coins, and sometimes you have to race an octopus. Y’know, standard mini golf stuff.
Where did the idea for this game come from? Because my Uncle David loved playing golf…
We wanted to bring something new to word tile games, and I’ve always wondered, “What if you actually had to get somewhere when playing a word game?” So I spent a week making a prototype game called Word Snake. It looked like a newspaper crossword puzzle, and had nothing to do with golf, but the basic gameplay was all there.
From there, we just had to think of something that starts at point A and ends at point B. It could have been a foot race, or a road trip, but for us mini-golf fans, the idea just clicked.
Given how some golfers will use “colorful language” when they miss an easy putt, does your game let people use similarly colorful language? “Double dumbass on you!” and all that.
Last time I checked, those words are in the dictionary. We don’t discriminate over here at Jackbox Games.
Do you get special bonuses if you use golf terms?
Right now there’s no bonus for spelling “Birdie” or even “Octopus,” but stay tuned. We’ve talked a lot about it.
Speaking of which, your nemesis in Word Puttz is an octopus. Why did you go with him as opposed to, say, a gopher? Or was a gopher just too obvious?
We had one rule: No gophers. So I guess we didn’t want anything too obvious. We actually have a bunch of other animal hosts that were drawn up to compete for the coveted MC spot. I’m still very partial to the Pirate Manatee, and “Golfin” The Dolphin.
The game is available for iPad, Android tablets, and the Kindle Fire. Are there any differences between them?
They’re identical. But I’m glad we planned on that early in development because it can be a pain in the ass to try and port something over after-the-fact. The iPad version does have Game Center integrated, but we’re planning on adding Google Play Games and Game Circle to the Android and Kindle versions soon.
Your game is free-to-play. Some F2P games have come under a lot of scrutiny lately for being aggressive about microtranscations. How does yours work and what did you doing to make sure you to don’t annoy people?
If you don’t want to purchase anything within the game, you don’t have to. Once you run out of lives, you need to wait for them to recharge, but if you’re patient you can play for free. We do have helpers and shortcuts for purchase, but you aren’t forced to purchase anything.
Word Puttz has been out for a couple of weeks now. What’s been the biggest criticism of the game?
Reviews for the game have been overwhelmingly positive. The most common request is for more content, which is good because we’re just finishing up work on course 5 now.
That being said, a few people have had bad luck with our auto-spell mechanic. Most word tile games ask you to set up a word, then tap a confirm button and wait for a response. But in Word Puttz, we skip the confirm button, so if you drop a letter by accident, there’s a chance that it can lock in and make a word that you weren’t expecting.
Is there any aspect of the game that people are liking a lot more than you thought they would? Or anything you thought they’d like a lot and they’re not?
People either love or hate the octopus races. Even at Jackbox, some of us love the added pressure of being timed, and others just want to spell words in peace. That’s why we started focus testing the racing early on, to see which style people preferred. But the testing led to an even split, so we thought, “damn that was a waste of money” and then just put them in anyway.
And after all that, only a few people have commented on them at all.