From time to time new apps and games appear where you can make words from letters. Some appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, others stay up and running and inspire spin-offs. Just like Letterlicious. Letterlicious started as a web-based browser and is now available for iOs. Jeff Widderich and Andrew Stuart are the faces behind this wonderful game that is not only fun to play, but that also helps players to make words from letters more skilfully.
The Canadian Jeff Widderich is a game designer. He lived a few years in Germany when he was a teenager. He talked with us how he developed games together with Andrew Stuart.
”Andrew created the perfect Sudoku.”
Jeff Widderich and Andrew Stuart are well-known in the world of word game creators. Andrew is one of the best Sudoku programmers worldwide.
Jeff, you work together with Andrew on word puzzles and Sudoku. How did you get to know each other? Are you both friends and business partners? Which came first?
I invented Str8ts as a number puzzle and it seemed that Andrew would be the only person to code, program, and bring this sequencing puzzle to life. The programming was very intense and Andrew basically had to write the code from scratch.
Who is assigned which tasks?
I’m the inventive force and Andrew has to follow up coding and bringing the word game to life.
Jeff, You started first with Sudoku and then entered the world of letters and words. Why?
Str8ts is our focus now. Simply because Sudoku has been overused. Andrew has perfected the creation of the perfect Sudoku game and he was the go-to source for many programmers to find the pathway to their coding.
“Word games are like hot apple pie and ice cream!”
What do you like about word games?
I feel that word games are like hot apple pie and ice cream. They have a built-in comfort level that number puzzles rarely have. I find most word games, especially crosswords, limit the creativity of the solver. That is why I invented Crossword Pyramids and Letterlicious.
You have to use your own “built-in vocabulary” to show off your skills.
How do you develop puzzles?
Most number puzzles have been developed already. With Str8ts the idea of sequences was uncharted territory. So it was a beautiful experience to find an untouched area of puzzle design. I’m a five minute type of inventor. If the idea works I usually get it right in the first five minutes, then I torture myself trying to improve the idea. Almost always the simplicity or essence of the idea was captured in the first five minutes. When I hear about game designers that have spent years developing their ideas I always brace myself for ideas that have lost their simple appeal.
Do you have a special ritual or procedure? A place where you always have good ideas?
No, ideas and creativity are organic. They have to arrive. Pushing out ideas is work and the ideas usually feel forced. Ideas are extremely easy and plentiful, the execution is the real issue.
“Language is sexual, numbers are a structured addiction”
Many people I know are afraid of mathematics because of all these numbers… to what extent do you treat letters differently to numbers? Is there any difference at all?
Language and mathematics are separate entities. Language is sexual, numbers are a structured addiction. The next time you’re passionate with someone start whispering numbers into their ear. See what happens?
We really have to divide the world into two groups. Language lovers and number crunchers. We all feel comfort inside our own brains. In the first two years of our lives we are basically pushed toward language or the solitude of numbers.
Being afraid of numbers isn’t about fear. It is about comfort. Being articulate and creative with words is about exposure. Exposure and comfort create the distinct separation between both individuals. Basically our brains seek language or numbers and equations as a way to appease our souls. I’m writing about this idea intensively in my upcoming book called God’s Toys that I will be crowdsourcing shortly on Indiegogo.
Make Words from Letters in Other Languages
Letterlicious is available in English, German, and Dutch? Do you speak German or Dutch? Why did you develop these languages?
I’m fluent in German. But the reason we developed the other languages was that players were dying to play Letterlicious in their own languages. They turned into foot soldiers providing word lists, translation, and anything else needed to go live. When that happens you know you have an awesome puzzle.
Learning and Improving the Skills of Making Words from Letters
The intention of the game is to improve one’s skills and make words from letters. Do you think it’s easier to learn good Scrabble strategies and words using your word puzzle? Playing Scrabble you usually compete with one person and with your website you compete with thousands of players. Why is it easier?
I love giving someone a canvas to paint their language of choice. Letterlicious and Crossword Pyramids are the best examples of removing the limitations of creative thinking. How good are you? If a puzzle limits the abilities of the users then it is hard for the player to improve their skills.
Letterlicious probably is the best puzzle to improve your scrabble game. It has a special place in many Scrabble players’ hearts. We keep hearing that comment over and over again, about how it has improved their game.
You first used a list of words based on the OSPD. In 2011 you switched to the TWL list. What is the difference and why did you change?
Complaints that words were missing made us improve the list and the choices we made to keep Letterlicuos current.
Go Mobile and Make Words from Letters on Your Way to Work
You’ve built a Letterlicious app for iPhone and iPad so that users can make words from letters all over the world and on the go. Will other platforms follow?
Yes, we will work on getting an Android version up and running.
The app provides more features than the website application. How was the feedback about the app?
The app basically provides a better interface than a web-based application. Andrew and I prefer simplicity and effectiveness over bells and whistles. We think our audience prefers the same simplicity.
How was it to develop the app? Did you have any ideas upfront for features you wanted to implement? Which ones?
We own a company in India www.iLifetouch.com so it is easy for us to build apps. It is sort of like working in-house, but it all happens on Skype.