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Letterpress Deconstructed (gaborcselle.com)
60 points by by_Seeing on Nov 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

I was hoping for more analysis of the game mechanics, rather than the UI.

I love how letterpress is really a territory game disguised as a word game. Instead of rolling a dice like you do in Risk, you find words to form your attacks. Rather than trying to pick up words with obscure letters, or lengthy words, you try to capture strategic tiles and expand your controlled area. Once you cover a large area of dark blue tiles, you choke out your opponent's ability to score points, and the game slowly snowballs further in your favor. It's really fascinating.

Yeah it also has an interesting aspect where the loser can win all of the sudden. It makes it a little more exciting. To win you have to plan carefully. If you leave the wrong set of black tiles on the board, you can get surprised.

Also I like how you can attack and defend simultaneously. If the opponent goes first, then they'll stake out a corner. And then I will attack their corner and stake out my own corner simulataneously, as long as there's a big enough word on the board.

"The app and its website both play the mystery card. No mention of who made it and where it came from, but I found this Mashable piece that provides a bit more background."

This seemed bizarre to me, so I went looking. There's like half a dozen places on the website with background:

It's in the FAQ: http://www.atebits.com/support/faq/what-is-atebits/

The News page: http://www.atebits.com/news/ ("atebits 2.0 October 15, 2012 In 2007 I left Apple...")

The Contact page: http://www.atebits.com/contact/ ("Follow us on Twitter at @atebits and @lorenb.")

The Press Kit: http://www.atebits.com/contact/press/atebits-presskit.zip (Contains an about.txt that's exactly what it says.)

All of these are one or two clicks away (except the press kit, which is 3). Loren's not exactly bragging about his background on the front page, but if you're going to say he's secret and mysterious, at least take the time out of your day click a link or two.

Thanks pflats for pointing this out. I changed the post and added a note with a link to this comment.

The wait spinner rotates anti clockwise once every 8 turns, not randomly. The "Zoom into game" part is very much a replicate of the photo app behavior. Also it's very hard to tell Loren implemented his own scroll view in OpenGL, apparently he did a really good job: https://twitter.com/lorenb/status/261336421888036865

I was about to say that. 8 turns for a company called Atebits is certainly not random. (actually the name and logo are very clever: it's 8 dots that form the letter A)

Excellent point. Corrected and added [3].

You should remove the word "randomly" from that sentence, since it's anything but random.

The UI of this game is so impressive that it appears to be nothing special on first blush. Everything just fits and works like it should. It's a beautiful example of the near invisibility of some types of good design.

This is a pretty good talk on how to make such a simple UI be fun. Letterpress does a lot of it...


Also, multitouch! Even most jigsaw puzzle games on iOS are inexplicably limited to a single finger. This attention to detail is amazing.

I think the biggest drawback is the lack of a ranking score. Almost every random internet player has been absolutely clueless about the rules of the game, not to mention the tactics. From a quick look at the GameKit docs, that seems to be a limitation of using (only) GameCenter to find players.

Nope this is not UIKit, Loren stated that the whole UI is implemented in OpenGL

More from the interview with Loren Brichter:

> LB: It’s all custom. The whole game is actually written in OpenGL with my own animation system and a bunch of other neat things.


Thanks, I didn't realize this. I've updated the sentence in the article with a reference to your comment.

I recall lamenting (well, only sort-of; last thing I need is a new addiction) that the use of GameCenter meant it's unlikely to be easily ported to Android (or at least an Android port wouldn't interoperate with iOS users). The funny thing is that, being written in OpenGL, it's be much easier to port to Android than if it used UIKit. Ah well.

My friends stopped this game when we realized that in a relatively even matchup, the first player will win about 85 percent of the time. Going second is just so much of a huge disadvantage. The first player can surround 2 or more spaces easily leaving player 2 always playing catchup and defense. I'd like to see a future version that fixes this. Also, sometimes a game can get stuck in the endgame with both players playing chicken, not selecting any of the last few letters. Both situations are less than awesome game dynamics that need to be addressed.

Loren made the game because he wanted a simple word game to play with his wife.

Hear more from him firsthand on the first episode of debug: http://www.zenandtech.tv/debug/debug-1-brichter-letterpress/

There are two subtle aspect of the game. Both based on simplicity. First the actual rules of the game. Just like angry birds almost anyone can pick it up and start playing from the word go. The other is about the platform (read iOS) that helps you treat a simple action like flicking a tile such a joy.

I was so intrigued by the first part that I actually cloned the app so I could use it on non iOS platform. But the beauty of the app just could not be reecreated. It was just a hack and made in two days with not much thought into the ui. FYI, the clone is at http://letter-press.herokuapp.com

So well made that the author thought it was piggy backed on UIKit. :-) all compliments.

Visually, it reminds me quite a bit of an Android game called Gyro. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pl.submachine....

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