Boston-based puzzle maven Devjoe updates us on his progress at Wordsquared, which bills itself as a massively multiplayer online word game. This is the first I've heard of it, though by his own account he's been playing it for months. Given that he's racked 776,998 points to my 56 (after three experimental moves), his tale rings true. (And I'd played a Z on a Double Word Score, too!)
Included in his report is this crazy image he made (via Python script) out of his own Wordsquared empire, which looks something like a satellite image of Mexico City if it were made out of scrabble. Click to see DevJoe's full-sized image, keeping in mind that one pixel equals
one letter-tile a 14-by-14 square of tiles!
While the game uses a very simple ruleset, turnless and with minimal player interaction, it still manages to feel like a multiplayer competition over limited resources -- even though the board seems effectively boundless. The first word you lay down must branch off another player's tile, Scrabble-style; but thereafter, you can only build off your own words. Other players' tiles become obstacles to build around. They are prone to appear in your path as your opponents make their own moves, like very slow and lexicographically driven Light Cycles. If you get boxed in to the extent that you can't make a legal play with your racked tiles, you can swap them out at the cost of one "life". Lose all your lives and your game ends; you must start again, from zero points.
Devjoe's avoiding such shocking permadeath for so long brings to mind carefully cultivated weeks-long Angband campaigns from my own gaming history. I don't know how this challenge pans out over long-term play -- whether, for example, it ever becomes truly difficult to break away from a multi-player gridlock with a fresh new letter-isthmus to branch freely from. But regardless, Wordsquared seems an intriguing take on the browser-based multiplayer game with a limited but carefully defined sense of inter-player interfacing.