Interview

Now playing: Jon Hare on Word Chums

Now playing: Jon Hare on Word Chums

Great games aren't created in a vacuum. 

Being successful in the games industry requires a strong understanding of the medium and the market, and playing lots of games is inevitably a part of this.

Given how crucial this can be for insight and inspiration, and just how passionate this industry is, it's about time more people started openly talking about the games they play.

So PocketGamer.biz will be regularly reaching out to key figures in the mobile games industry to ask them what game (other than their own) is currently keeping them busy after hours. You can view all entries here.

This time, it's industry stalwart, Sensible World of Soccer designer and Tower Studios CEO Jon Hare with his playing habits in the spotlight.

PocketGamer.biz: What mobile game (other than your own) are you currently playing the most?

Jon Hare: Currently, I am playing a game called Word Chums (by PeopleFun) the most.

It is a very mobile-friendly version of Scrabble that I find more playable than the current version of Scrabble on mobile or Words with Friends.

How long have you been playing it and do you see yourself continuing?

I have been playing it for about two months now and I see myself continuing for a while - I notice some of the top players I am playing against have notched up a ridiculous number of games already.

I have been playing Scrabble in various forms for the last 45 years or so and I don’t see myself getting tired of this one quickly.

What do you enjoy most about it?

I can play as many concurrent games as I want and providing I have a Wi-Fi signal I can play, otherwise I can play the AI bots - hard level, of course.

I am a pretty good Scrabble player - it is the game I hate losing at the most - so I try to maintain an 80% win rate minimum.

It also has a rating for the average number of points scored per word. So far I have played just over 1,000 words at an average of around 44 points per word, and as a competitive maniac I enjoy this kind of challenge to myself.

I also enjoy the rivalries you build up with fellow players over a series of games and the controls are very clear to understand, smooth and fast.

What does this game do that makes it especially unique and innovative?

As a game designer, it is teaching me how you can improve classic games for the mobile format.

As a game designer, it is teaching me how you can improve classic games for mobile.
Jon Hare

It has good social features, silly costumes to buy with coins and great game additions to the original Scrabble.

Firstly, any word you try out automatically lights up if it is legal. Secondly, it rates the word out of three stars before you play it, which helps you decide whether you should continue to hunt for better words.

Thirdly, it has added letter bombs that you can buy with your coins that get rid of bad letter racks such as EIEIOUU.

You need to use these very sparingly, on average one time every other game, in order not to run out before you can afford a refill.

I also like the way it tracks your individual match records against every player encouraging personal, friendly rivalries.

If you could change one thing about the game, what would it be?

I would allow the ability per game to key up the next word you intend to play when you are back online and to retain it so it can be played the moment you have signal.

Have you learned anything from this game that could impact your own work?

Yes, for sure - we are currently constructing the free-to-play loop for mobile versions of Sociable Soccer. 

This game handles full-screen ads pretty well in a rewarding and unobtrusive way.

The in-game chat system during games, the personal rivalries, the money-per-move system, the matchmaking, the customisation of characters, the weekly rating versus your friends for words and games and the messaging to say it is your turn are all good.

On the other hand, the way it handles deals taking you out of the app entirely is not good and to be avoided.

But most of all, the lack of fear in modifying a classic game for the better by using the best of what the mobile phone has to offer is great.

More generally, how important is it for those in the industry to actively and regularly play other people's games?

Well, it is a double-edged sword. Currently I play Football Chairman as my offline game, Word Chums as my online game and Candy Crush as my de-stresser.

We have been able to analyse the good and bad bits of FIFA Mobile.
Jon Hare

Seeing as my phone is in my pocket most of the time, these can be very distracting during work hours. However, it helps me keep in touch with what else is going on.

For example, this week our whole team played FIFA Mobile.

We have been able to analyse the good bits and the bad bits of this game, the market leader in the football action sector on mobile - which is currently relatively uncompetitive and worth $320million a year to EA alone.

We would be happy with even a thin slice of this, and to access this part of our research must be in knowing our enemy... no offence to any friends currently working at EA!

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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