Inspiration

I wanted to create a fun-themed and fast-paced game with a touch of peril to it and came up with a game of words and compound words! The initial mock test of the concept was a lot of fun when played with friends and thus the WordSnake was born!

What it does

The multi-modal game adheres to the concept tightly and expands to provides a lot of variety and depth. The player's aim is to compete to grow the largest WordSnake, and thus appear in the World top tables.

Alexa will speak/show you a word, the player must add another 'valid' word to it that when joined to the original word creates a brand new word. The game will time the response as well as the length of the word created (compared to the first word) and award points accordingly.

If the player's answer is incorrect (an invalid word, or they gave up), the player's current WordSnake is in jeopardy. They can choose to use a lifeline or let the WordSnake die - and thus have to start from zero!

Player's get five lifelines for free and can make in-skill purchases of consumable lifeline packs, each with ten lifelines per pack.

In addition, there is the premium version of WordSnake that can be unlocked by making a one-time ISP. It gives the player hint mode (you're given the definition of a word you could make) and the ability to play with friends via multiplayer mode.

How I built it

The game was built using NodeJS and the Alexa SDK, running on AWS Lambda and AWS RDS for the datastore. I incorporated a number of elements to the game, including:

  • Multimodal - The game provides a voice-first experience but displays rich content via displays for all supporting devices.
  • ISP - The game incorporates both consumable as well as one-time entitlement types of in-skill product.
  • Reminders API - The game uses the reminders API to help increase engagement.
  • Immersive sound design - I custom created and mixed a variety of sounds and voiceovers to immerse the user and provide additional cues and feedback.

Challenges I ran into

Some limitations were encountered early in the project with the quantity of words for the database. I initially had decided upon creating a custom script to parse and create a dataset from publicly available dictionaries, but found the validity of resulting data questionable. I settled on a subset of data that is still vast and allows multitudes of combinations of answers.

Another issue was with recognition of words and tailoring for similes and sound-alikes but I created my own internal recognition system to further parse the players' answers to be accurate as well as lenient when required.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am happy with the way in-skill purchasing is deeply integrated into the game. I settled on a way to allow the user to still be able to play and experience the game fully without requiring additional purchases but have the ability to enhance gameplay and add more functionality with ISP. The game is subtle but effective in how it uses upsells. For example, all users can ask for a hint but if they have not unlocked the premium version they are given an upsell at that point and seamlessly brought back into gameplay. The same applies for lifelines, the game upsells when required. Furthermore, aside from these factors, players can make purchases directly or discover through 'what can i buy' intents. An upsell is attempt is also made at game end provided no other sales process occurred during play.

What I learned

This game features additional APIs that I previously had not implemented, such as utilising multiple ISP product types in one skill, the reminders API and newer methodology to the APL 1.1 and above.

What's next for WordSnake!

I have created a section on my website at BrainPickers.co.uk where user's can login (each user is given a unique code) and see leaderboards. I intend to add more features that will cross-link functionality here in the future. I have created a web-admin panel for the game to allow errors and omissions from my word database to be quickly rectified in realtime too.

In the future expansion packs for word 'topics' will be added as well as further elements of gamification to 'up' the level of jeopardy.

I developed the game in a modular fashion so that I can re-use core elements of functionality whilst having the ability to completely re-do the objective, theme and experience - essentially an entire new game can be created without duplicating the base level code used in WordSnake! I have produced one game, a storyboarded adventure, and this will be submitted to the ISP challenge as it's own individual entry.

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