Spellirium Prototype 1

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In this example, you’re fighting a ferocious two-headed dragon. Your health bar is beneath the dragon. Each of the dragon’s two heads has its own health bar. Can you figure out how to defeat the dragon by using the SpellCaster?

note: once you defeat the dragon, it will keep attacking you! This is a very early proof-of-concept for Spellirium. Bear with us.


  1. Choose the default 7×7 grid and start the game.
  2. Move the mouse around the SpellCaster to highlight two letters.
  3. Click to swap the letters.
  4. When you see a word, click and hold the mouse button. Move the mouse to lasso the word. Release the mouse button to submit the word.
  5. Words can be formed across and down in any direction.


  • Rare letters like X and Z have higher point values.
  • Longer words score more points.
  • Circling words with a single solid colour earns you more points.


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24 thoughts on “Spellirium Prototype 1

  1. Jarrett

    Not sure if I’m doing this correctly, but I formed the words ‘soda’, ‘and’, and ‘see’, none of which seemed to cause anything to happen when highlighted.


    1. Ryan

      Thanks, Jarrett. i jumped into the game and spelled ‘and’ and ‘see’, each worth 4 points. Once you create a word, you have to hold down the mouse button and circle it, as if you were doing a word search puzzle. Try that.

      – Ryan

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  3. Kaolin Fire

    things were going well, but now it doesn’t recognize the word “have”? but other words are still working, so maybe it really just doesn’t have that word :heh: … and I can’t form the same word later with different letters, I think. Ah well :)

    within the constraints of left/right, I’d kind of like to be able to drag letters as far either direction as I liked (though I do see that conflicting with the click-drag to circle :/ but it takes a lot of clicking to move stuff not very far, sometimes)

    Certainly needs a lot more pizazz to keep attention, even just for the proof of concept. some fx, visually/aurally to let me know I’ve attacked or been attacked. Maybe make this level go quicker, too…

    And yeah, some sort of “you win!” (or you lose! — not sticking around long enough for that to happen).

    It does take a little mental refiguring to start “seeing” words based on the puzzle limits; worth it, but it’s a step.

    1. Ryan

      Thanks, Kaolin. As far as polish goes, i think you’re hoping for a much more developed game. This is just a proof-of-concept for the mechanic of switching letters, circling words, and interacting with some kind of side-panel story element. We don’t dream of even going so far as to add a “you win!” dialogue until we we’re sure the mechanic is fun enough. And it might not be.

      i hear you regarding the letter-switching. When we were considering how the game would work on the iPhone, we imagined a completely different scheme … one where you could actually pull a letter across the row, like you suggest.

      You bring up an interesting point about puzzle limits. i played a word puzzle yesterday that had hex tiles with Boggle-style rules. i’ve also played games where you can make words from any of the letters you see on the screen. To me, this is the equivalent of God Mode in a first-person shooter. There’s not enough gaminess to something that wide-open, you know? Gaming for me has always been about understanding the rules, succeeding within those rules, and then buying or earning items to break the rules.

  4. Dorian

    OK, concept = proven. I’m not experiencing any of the bugs the others have reported. It works and it’s kinda fun.

    I didn’t realize for a little while that I was losing some bar value every time I clicked for a swap – I was swapping around all crazy-like at first, not realizing it would harm me. I’m still not sure what the upper bars are tied to.

    Some comments:
    – the way the meter drains is not working for me… (this is after 5 mins playing, so take with mucho salt) but it seems to me that:
    – you are penalized by making a letter swap. I understand that the less swapping the better, but pplz gotta swap. This strategy means they are best rewarded by a lucky starting board.
    – you are penalized for attempting to lasso a word and then coming up blank. I’m not sure that increases the fun factor. I think letting people search around fruitlessly for words is ok.
    – seems to me that both of these could be solved if you made the rounds time-based. I know it’s cliche, but it would also compel people to study the board more intensely and consider the value of grabbing short words instead of planning out the big long ones. The time bar could drain, but making words could pump more seconds back into it so that better players can extend their round, but poor players still get the default 30-ish seconds to play. Both swapping letters and searching for words gobble up valuable time, so you’re still rewarding the astute player.

    I’d also like to suggest that since you can create words on both the horizontal and vertical that you allow swapping of letters on the vertical as well. I’m not sure what interface mechanism you could use for this… maybe a keyboard hit (spacebar?) switches the braces between h and v.

    Lastly I found the colours a bit confusing. Maybe they’re too distinct? I like the premise of adding an extra dimension of reward based on the tile colour, but it made the board harder to look at and analyze. I could be wrong about this, but I’d be interested to try out a monochromatic version to test that theory. Maybe housing the letters in slightly varied shaped containers? Or maybe tone down the colour diff a bit, making the backgrounds all slightly off-shades of grey. I also suggest rewarding not only uniformity but also maybe a reward for a “each colour represented” situation.

    Phew. That was a lot of suggesting! I think the concept is solid, tho, and I look forward to seeing where you take it in its next incarnation.

  5. Ryan

    Tremendously great feedback, Dorian. Thanks!

    A few of your comments are about polish, so i’ll save them for later (these are not final graphics by any means!) Good point, though, about colour saturation. We need to keep the colours because they are crucial to a big pile of gameplay that i haven’t hinted at here.

    The way the game works is that different modules plug into the game board, and they reward different actions. It’s all about building words, but the way you build words will be rewarded or penalized depending on the module. For example, some modules may require you to build words with certain colours at certain times. More on this in future posts.

    A lot of your comments about the gameplay are due to the fact that our temporary graphics are too … temporary. The way it would work if the dragon was nicely illustrated and animated is that one head would rear up, and if you didn’t damage it, it would strike and you’d lose health. That’s what’s happening when your bar goes down. You’re not losing health for switching – you’re losing health because the doodle dragon’s badly-drawn heads are attacking you.

    To damage the left head, you make 3-letter words. To damage the right head, you make 4-letter words.

    – Ryan

  6. wazoo

    Totally hated this game. I mean…having to *think*?! C’mon be reasonable!

    Just kidding, actually it didn’t take too long to pick it up, and it was enjoyable. Here’s some feedback / suggestions:

    1. I didn’t even realize that piece swapping or empty lasso’s cost me health. Hyuk. I was under the impression the dragon was overpowered. I don’t mind the fact that it’s done, but maybe give the player one or two “freebies” then warn them that in the future, this will cost you health.

    2. A lot of things cost you health, but nothing that I could see would help regen it. What about making the green colored tiles health regens? So if I make a word using a green tile, I’d get some health back.

    3. Although you’re probably scouting out some fancy, super slick dragon artwork, I really liked the sketch dragon…he’s cuddly cute and makes you go “awwww” even if he’s stomping your health bar.

    That’s about it…great concept!

    1. Ryan

      Thanks, wazoo! It’s a lack of audiovisual feedback that’s convincing people they lose health for swapping. The dragon is constantly, mercilessly stomping your bar. The goal is to defeat both heads by making 3 and 4 letter words, respectively. As i mentioned, there’s no prompt when you win or lose. That’s why we put this thing in the Rubber Room, and not on our Games page ;)

  7. David Williams

    Hey Ryan. It took till the third game for me to realise I could also make Vertical words, not just horizontal. I was, due to the horizontal nature of the flipping mechanic, of the mind that the words I could make were limited to horizontal also.

  8. David Williams

    Teach me for submitting my comment too soon – i also didn’t realise I could loop words in reverse, though it seemed a natural progression once I figured out words could be vertical (hey, I wonder if?) but other than that, it felt pretty good.

    I’m not sure if Sue means something, or if it’s a name – if it’s a name, probably a wise idea to remove it from your list. (especialy since S,u.e can make use anyway.)

    Didn’t mind the concept behind it, I can certainly see some potential with the colored tiles and such. Looks good.

    1. Ryan

      Thanks for your comments, David.

      To “sue” is to file a lawsuit against someone. It might not be in common use down under, but here in North America, the word is in regular rotation ;)

  9. Jarrett

    Hi Ryan,

    Just tried to spell ‘see’ again and still no dice. My apologies for not mentioning this before, but I am running from ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, Gnome 2.26.1, Firefox 3.0.14 with Canonical 1.0, and running Shockwave Flash 10.0 r32. Perhaps your intended audience isn’t linux users, but I just assumed it would work regardless. Maybe this is the cause?

    Also just fyi, from my error console I’m getting 27 css warnings, and an error stating ‘c is not defined’ on line 24 of what I assume is some javascript code(?).


  10. Michael

    It’s a good PoC, and I can see it becoming really entertaining once you get the polish in there and add the new features you’re talking about. Are you going to add a storyline, or just go arcade-style?

    I agree with Dorian’s comments on how the different colours makes it harder to analyse the letters. I read somewhere that we tend to recognise a button based on its shape before its contents, so perhaps you could make this easier by having a big chunky J-shaped red block, rather than a square red block with a J in the middle.

    What happens if you get a 5-letter word? :)

    1. Ryan

      Thanks, MJW. Spellirium is a very large game concept, complete with an overworld map and a cast of great characters, a really engaging storyline and a multitude of ways to play. We leverage the main game mechanic over and over to create all sorts of gameplay goals and combinations.

      Since the game’s pizzazz is so dependant on the core mechanic, i wanted you to try out the mechanic before i started on my usual merry road to scope creep insanity.

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