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Designing Anagrams

There are a lot of games using anagrams as their core mechanic and they are essentially all the same. You get several letters and you either have to a) use all of them to form one word or b) use any of them in different combinations to create as many valid words as you can. It’s an interesting mechanic, no doubt, but it’s the same everywhere.

We wanted to create something new, something that takes advantage of how cool anagrams are, but with a whole different perspective. This is how Anagrams was born.

Anagrams mini-game from Prototype to Final version
Anagrams mini-game from Prototype to Final version

Description

The game shows a word in the middle of the screen, and 4 to 8 additional scrambled words. Only one of the scrambled versions is actually an anagram of the original word and the player has to find it.

This provides a substantial twist: the original word is not hidden, it’s right in front of the player’s eyes. The challenge is to match that word with its scrambled version, among a bunch of other (incorrect) anagrams.

Difficulty & Progression

There are several factors that determine the difficulty of the game. Some scrambled words contain more letters than the original, whereas in others we replace one or more characters with new ones that do not appear in the original. As the levels progress, words become longer, the number of scrambled choices increases, the frequency of extra letters and replaced characters changes.

Mechanics

The game relies on pattern matching. Essentially each letter is a pattern. Our brain tries to do two things: match all the letters of the original word in each scrambled choice, and find no extra letters on the scrambled words that are not part of the original. If both succeed, this is the right anagram.

Judging solely by how I personally play the game, I believe the following process is the fastest for the brain: 

  1. Start with one of the scrambled words.
  2. Skim through the scrambled word and try to see if it has more letters than the original. There is no need to check each letter individually; just compare the total widths of both words, which is a lot faster.
  3. If this yields no results, try to detect any character that does not appear in the original word. Less common letters like K, X, Q are easier to detect than common.
  4. If you cannot find any flaw, this is probably the correct anagram. In later levels  you sometimes have to cross-check some or all individual letters of the word you believe is the right one, to make sure you are not making a mistake.
  5. If, on the other hand, you have rejected this word, move on to the next one and start over with Step 2.

Insane Round

During the Insane Round, words become even longer, which increases the total number of matching actions the brain has to perform. Since the words are longer, any extra (wrong) letters that are inserted in the scrambled words are now a smaller percentage of the total word length. Therefore, it is not as easy to detect the extra letter. For example, 1 extra letter in a 3-letter word is a 33% increase, whereas 1 extra letter in a 10-letter word is just 10%.

Dimitrios Bendilas
Lead Game Designer
Follow me at @dimitriosb

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