The ‘chilling’ story of the making of Fridge Words featuring Thumbstar Game Designer, Matthew Dunthorne, Graphic Artist, Craig Anderson and Programmer Steve Robb.
Who within Thumbstar Studio has been the driving force behind Fridge Words?
I’m Craig and I am responsible for the art in the game. I had previously been working on one of our other titles, The Adorables.
I’m Matt, the designer behind Fridge Words. I came onto Fridge Words from The Adorables too.
I’m Steve, the programmer. This is my first published game for Thumbstar, so very excited, having worked on the technology behind the game.
The last Thumbstar developed title, The Adorables, was a gorgeous platformer. What made you want to enter the highly competitive world of word puzzle games?
Who doesn’t love word games? They have broad appeal and are infinite in variety. But Fridge Words is unique in its mechanics and theme, and is capable of being instantly understood by anyone of any age.
I play a lot of different games due to the nature of my job; because of this a lot of them are quickly forgotten as I move on to try the next. A good word game however will always keep me coming back, so I was keen to see if I could design one myself.
For me it was a nice visual change from the colorful world of The Adorables, certainly more design-focused.
Saying that it’s a very alluring and instantly recognizable game design and one of those ‘why wasn’t this done before’, so how did Fridge Words see the light of day?
We have our own office fridge and magnets, and everyone was always making their own words and messages every time they went for a cuppa. It just required someone to notice that there was a game to be made there.
I was trying to think of a good idea for an asynchronous multiplayer game we could make, and whilst looking at the kitchen fridge, I realised that when you give the same set of letters to a group of people and get them to form words, you get totally different results from each person. The idea took hold from there.
I think it’s one of those things that everyone has played on their own fridge by themselves, but now it’s time to all play together and finally settle who is best! (That would be me, incidentally)
Generally the best ideas are the simple ones and the game is a very simple competitive mechanic - get letters, make words, beat friends – did this offer challenges not to tinker, keeping it accessible to all? Are there updates down the line you can talk about?
My ultimate goal was to create a word game that absolutely everyone could play, as long as you can spell, you can play Fridge Words. It’s easy for new features to creep into a game design but with that goal in mind it was easy to stay focused.
A lot of ideas came and went along the way. It takes some discipline to say ‘no’ to perfectly good ideas in order to keep things simple so that it keeps people playing in the most streamlined way possible.
There is plenty of stuff we want to bring to the game over time - customization of the players fridge, new game modes, new power-up mechanics… we have a list as long as several fridges of cool stuff to add!
The game is freemium and one can buy coins if they wish. What advantages can the coins offer when playing?
Coins totally give you the edge and allow you to get words that might not be readily available on the fridge or give you the extra time to work out a heavyweight word with all of the shiny letters that will destroy your opponent!
One of my problems is spending too long constructing the perfect word, then having no time to get anything else onto the fridge, so the time boost comes in handy for that!
I think the extra letter is a must for producing that perfect word, when you’re halfway through building it and realise that you’re missing that one essential letter.
What have been the biggest challenges in bringing Fridge Words to life?
Fridge Words has been a series of firsts for me as a long-term console game developer: asynchronous gameplay, social features, cross-platform play, in-game purchases… Each of these brought its own set of unique challenges which require you to change the way you’ve been implementing things for years.
The main challenge for me was designing the Game Flow, I’ve never designed an asynchronous multiplayer game before and there was a lot of new stuff to get my head around. Nailing the feeling of moving the magnets around the fridge, making them feel as natural as possible was a big task too.
Keeping the interface clean and neat without it being too simple was probably the biggest challenge for me on fridge words.
Are the Fridge Magnets used in the game actual ones you can buy in the shop for my fridge at home?
Not yet but maybe we could make a set and have analogue fridge words tournaments!
I can imagine the tension in the room as the cat runs off with the shiny gold Z needed to finish the winning word in its mouth.
If we do, you can come to my house and buy bonus letters off my fridge!
Do you have any tips for players playing Fridge Words?
Don’t get in a match against Steve and you should be ok… he is a living dictionary. I tend to get obsessed with figuring out one long word which always saps my time, so make sure you have enough coins before you go in to a match!
Look at the multiplier letters first and try to combine them in a single word; that’s where a lot of your score is going to come from. Remember about your bonus letter if you’re having trouble making that word a reality.
Definitely get your multipliers into a single word, but don’t forget to fill out the fridge with other words too, even sticking ‘Dog’ up could net you the 10 points that will push you ahead.
Can you tell us a little about what the studio is working on next?
We will be supporting Fridge Words and working with the community to develop new features for it as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s always busy round here and we are constantly beavering away at things that we want to share!
There are so many ideas kicking around, it’s hard to say what we’ll be doing next. Fridge Words support is what I’ll be spending the foreseeable future but some of us have a plan to embellish a prototype which I knocked together a while ago. You never know, it might become our next big hit!
We have a few projects on the go at the moment, we have to keep them top secret for now.
Thanks for your time guys and look forward to hearing from you again soon.