WordPop with blank tiles

As I mentioned earlier, the bonus tiles were not yet useful and so it made sense to add that feature next. As you can see in the image, bonus tiles are now place-able and useable in word building as you would expect.

What I didn’t expect during this process was that some restructuring of code made adding one of our new features the next obvious choice. WordPop now has an undo feature! We will let you undo your last move when you’ve done something to change the board (removed a word, rotated, or placed a bonus tile). You cannot undo back more than one move, however. Let us know what you think about undo and how it should work.

WordPop with Undo

Next, the high score and best words dialogs!

WordPop with Bonus Tiles

Wow, it’s been over three weeks since I last posted. I apologize for the dead air. Real life does have a tendency to get in the way from time to time (if you really care, you can read about it on my personal blog).

Anyway, progress has been steady during that time. The gameboard is looking more realistic now as I am choosing letters according to our previously defined algorithm. This guarantees a reasonable balance of consonants and vowels (have you ever figured out which letter is guaranteed to appear on every board?). Furthermore, I’m validating correct words against our updated dictionaries. So, the short days of scoring “ZLDRRX” are over.

Tiles fall into place when the round starts and after tiles pop and are removed. They will also fall when the board is rotated.

Bonus tiles are now falling according to your difficulty level when a round starts and after scoring a word that passes the bonus tile threshold. The word score and total score is now being updated. The word and word score text will only turn black when the word is valid. The word score will go bold when you’ve raised the score enough to earn a bonus tile.

WordPop will play multiple rounds, now, too. As you expect, at the end of a round a new set of tiles is dropped in for the next round.

Last, but not least, WordPop is persistent. That’s not to say that it bugs you forever or tickles your brain without mercy (which we already know it does), but it will save your game state when you quit. So, returning to the game later will restore your game state so you can continue on.

Whew! That’s quite a bit, but there’s still some ways to go. Next on my list will be allowing the player to actually use the bonus tiles (details, details) and recording best words and high scores. And, if you have best words and high scores, you should have a place to view them. So it makes sense that those dialogs will follow soon thereafter.

The picture above is just to show a game in action with bonus tiles and the scoring going on. What you can’t see is that this is the image right after re-launching WordPop to show that I’m correctly persisting the game state. I hope to be back soon with more to share. Let me know what you think!

Progress continues with WordPop. I’ve been working on the interactivity of the letter tiles lately. In my prototype, you can now select and “check” a word. It will be removed and the other tiles will fall to fill in the gaps. As a nice side-effect, having falling tiles made the rotate feature easy to add on so I’ve got that plugged in, too.

I’m still not validating the words against a dictionary, so you can make a word out of any string of tiles right now. Validating and scoring will be next up followed by proper letter randomization. I’m not sure how to show you an animation of the letters popping and falling, but here’s one showing you selection and the building word appearing above the gameboard.

wordpop-with-selection.png

Not as much progress this week as I would have liked, but I did finish a class to handle the letter tiles. This led me to thinking through just how I would handle the game state at runtime and the data structures involved. It seems like a little thing, but later on, it will have a much larger effect. The wrong data structures can cripple me for weeks. The right one makes things go quite smoothly. So, some serious closed-eye thinking was employed in something the user will never see.

I do hope the benefit pays off in performance and stability, however. Now, without further ado: letter tiles!

Game Board with Letters

By the way, don’t be frightened by the letter distribution. I haven’t started using our carefully balanced letter maps, yet. It would have to be some very evil difficulty to give you two Xs, two Zs, and four Qs.

I’m just now about to start on the fun stuff. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve implemented all of the standard dialogs (by standard, I mean those using Windows widgets and regular windows. The High Scores and Best Words dialogs don’t count). This includes the dialogs for Registration, Support, Purchase Info, About Box, Credits, and Preferences.

I also switched the menus over to the new two menu standard that began with Windows Mobile 5. This aligns the menus with the softkeys for easier use on the device. It does mean that the Stop and Mute buttons will not be on the menu bar. The Stop isn’t as important in WordPop! since we have a stop button above the bonus tile chute. The mute isn’t as important since we’ve started allowing the users to tell our games to obey the system volume settings. As one of our users commented on our previous post, updating to the new menus helps us avoid looking old.

Finally, I have added the baseline navigation between screens from the Start screen to the Game screen. You can click any of the difficulty buttons and enter the game and then select New Game or click the Stop button to return to the Start. Here’s the empty game board ready for some tiles!

Empty Game Board

With the preferences, I was able to verify that I’m persisting the user prefs correctly. Now that I can switch between screens, I can also verify that WordPop! will correctly return the user to a game in progress if there is one.

Oh, and although I don’t have pictures yet, I am also building up screens for Windows Mobile devices with a square resolution (like the Palm Treo 700w). This required some changes to layout, but functionality will all be the same.

Next stop: letter tiles!