Below is the press release for the award we are up for. It is always fun when our peers nominate us for an award and this is a big one. It will be a few months before we know if we won and the other nominations are pretty great too. I must admint it would be great to win.

BELLINGHAM, WA – August 27, 2007 – The “Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine” staff and its board of experts have nominated the Windows Mobile versions of “Word Monaco Solitaire” and “WordPop!” for a 2007 Best Software Award in the category of “Word Puzzles”.

WordPop! challenges players to spell words in a checkerboard of letter tiles, with letters being eliminated as words are spelled with them, until the player eventually clears the board. WordPop! was a finalist in 2006 Best Software Award. Word Monaco Solitaire plays like a standard game of solitaire but with letters. Players may only lay a card on a stack if that stack will result with a word. Players win if they manage to overturn every card and each stack of cards spells out an entire word.

Smart Box President, Todd Sherman said of the announcement, “We are thrilled to have not one, but two games in the running. Our word puzzles are among our most popular games and this nomination means a lot to the teams.”

Smart Box Design is located in Bellingham, WA and creates many puzzle and strategy-based games for Treos, Palm devices, Windows Mobile Phones, Macs, and PCs.

Here are some more features coming to WordPop this fall. All of these features have been suggested by players, either at our bulletin board or direct e-mails to me.

Add Treo Support– I am a big fan of the Windows Mobile Treo line, but it has a unique square screen, while most Windows Mobile devices have a rectangle screen. To support the Treo with the highest quality possible, the art has to be redrawn. Jim Patterson, Smart Box Design’s lead artist, has finished redoing the art and it looks FANTASTIC!


Allow a single Undo– When WordPop was originally created, I wanted to make sure the game was challenging, and it is, any by the many wonderful e-mails I have received. However, there have been many requests for an Undo, not to make the game easier, but because sometimes a player would make a mistake. For example, dropping the bonus tile in the wrong spot or rotating the screen by accident. A single Undo will be added to the menu for those rare occasions when a mistake needs to be corrected.


Allow the letter “I” as an acceptable word – In creating the word list there are many rules, such as no abbreviations, hyphenated words, and no words that can be capitalized, such as a name or place. For that reason the letter “I” is not accepted as a word while “a” is. I could remove the “a” but this might cause confusion, so I am breaking the rules for the letter “I” and it will now be accepted.


Display the Letter When Blank Bonus Tiles are being used – When a word is created it shows up in the word creation area at the top of the screen. When a blank tile is being used, we simply put in an underscore to show that a blank tile is being used there. Several readers have asked for the letter to appear. Thus a lower case letter will appear there and in the “Best Words” screen. You might be saying, “Huh!” the problem is in some cased the player was not exactly sure what word was made with the blank tile, this will make the process complete. This feature is one that is better understood playing the game then describing it.


I am looking forward to the new version of WordPop coming out this fall.


Keep those comments coming!

Here are some more features coming to WordPop this fall. All of these features have been suggested by players, either at our bulletin board or direct e-mails to me.

Clear Best Words List – When I first designed WordPop with my team we did not think that clearing the best words was necessary. But an interesting problem arose. Sometimes a player makes a word that is really high scoring but is embarrassing, such as,…hmm, I don’t think I will give you an example but if you get the point. Because the word is embarrassing the player does not want to show their Best Words to anyone. The next version will have a button to clear the Best Word list.

Clear High Score List – Similar to Best Words, I did not think clearing was needed but many players e-mailed me that they wanted to start over or their was a score from a friend or family member they wanted to remove. Players will be able to clear the Easy, Medium, and Hard High Score Lists individually.

New Word List – I have had hundreds of suggested words sent to me. Many of them did not make the cut as our word list does not include acronyms, abbreviations, proper names, or hyphenated words. However, we have added hundred of new words including all the official Scrabble two and three letter words and their plurals, inflections, etc. This new word list will also be added to Word Monaco Solitaire for Windows Mobile too.

Splash Screen – The splash screen appears immediately upon launching the game and serves the purpose of showing something while we check the resolution, load in files etc. A minor feature but important.

Check back often as there are still a lot more features that we are adding to make WordPop even more fun and a great value.

In my last post I talked about the process in selecting new features. Over the next few weeks I will go over the features one by one that are being added.

Add Trainee Tips– WordPop has been praised on its ease of use (thanks Mom), however there are several rules that need to be learned. A few trainee tips at the right time can make all the difference in learning how to play. Two examples would be adjacent letters and how to use the bonus tiles. Thus one trainee trip will explain to new players that each letter needs to be adjacent to the next when a word is being created. The second is explaining that a bonus tile can be picked up and placed on the grid when there is an open space. The tip will also offer strategy advice on when to use bonus tile. All of our games have trainee tips except for WordPop (and WordPop was a bit jealous).

The key for making trainee tips work is to keep them to the bare minimum and to display them at the correct time or they become annoying. We know which tips to display from the feedback from players and by watching the player play we know exactly when the right time is to display them.

Add “Reset” tips in “Preferences” – This is a button we add to the preference page under the “Game” menu. This is useful when a player wants to show the game to someone who has never played before. The experienced player can “Reset” the tips so the new player can learn the rules while playing which is a lot more fun.

Add “Show Player Tips” to “Preferences” – This allows existing players to turn off the tips since they usually don’t need them. However, the trainee tips include strategy tips that even the most experienced player might learn from.

Add “Use System Sound” to “Preferences” – We’ve added this feature to Farkle Dice and Word Monaco Solitaire. This setting will default on and will use the sound volume controlled by the master volume control. This has become very important as many Windows Mobile devices are also phones and players are very specific on the volume setting. Plus, sound effects should mute when a call comes in, this setting allows that to happen.

Here is an example of Preferences for Farkle Dice that includes the above features.

Farkle Dice Preferences


















OK, this first list is not the most sexy of the new features being adding but for new players it will make for a better playing experience. Next time, new features requested by experienced players.


Over the next few months I will describe the features that will be added to WordPop and the rationalization behind them. Most companies do not share why they add or not add certain features and some of the reasons might surprise you. There are many reasons why features are added. For us they fall into the following areas.

  1. Was the feature requested by several players? Requesting a feature alone is not enough to get it in. The team discusses the feature. How will it add to the game? Does it enhance game play? Does it affect difficulty? Can it be added safely? How much time is involved adding it? Do we have the expertise to add it? Can we support the feature? Does it need to be explained to the player or is it intuitive? Does it differentiate the game or make it more like an existing game? But the bottom line is — IS THE REQUESTED FEATURE FUN?!
  2. Is there a bug in the game? With so many different devices the game may work 100% on a Treo 700 but have problems on a 750. I catalog all bugs reported into a bug database. The team tries to repeat the bug. If we can repeat it, we can usually fix it. Typically if a bug impedes game play we will fix it in a timely manner. The bottom line is — IS THE BUG KEEPING THE GAME FROM BEING FUN?!
  3. Is the game still competitive? As time goes by, competition will no doubt come out with similar games with more features. This is good as it forces us to rethink our game. The bottom line is — IS THE COMPETITION’S GAME MORE FUN?!
  4. Can the game be more fun? We play our games a lot. And being designers we are always looking for something to add. If the team finds the game not keeping their interest we’ll add a new feature, such as a new level or new art, to keep the game fresh. The bottom line — CAN THE GAME BE MORE FUN?!

In my next post on features I will describe the several new features being added. I’d love to hear your feedback on some of these features.