Factsheet

Developer:
Losswords
Based in Brooklyn, NY

Founding date:
2015

Website:
losswords.com

Press / Business contact:
info@localno12.com

Social:
@LocalNo12 (#Losswords)
facebook.com/Losswordsgame

Description

Losswords is a mobile word puzzle game where players unscramble passages from classic literature. It’s the most fun you have ever had playing with Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland, and Pride and Prejudice.

  • Losswords turns classic literature into an addictive word puzzle game. Players unscramble passages from famous literature, and as they advance, they unlock new puzzles and add books to their library—from Pride and Prejudice to Pygmalion. Losswords lets you curl up and play your favorite books.
  • Losswords includes hundreds of literary classics from public domain book collections like the Project Gutenberg library. As far as we know, this is the first game where you can dive in and play with the actual written words from so many classic books.
  • There are dozens of different kinds of word puzzles players unlock as they progress, from filling in blanks to rearranging lines of text.
  • Designed by Local No. 12, the team that brought you The Metagame - the card game about cultural debate.

History

Origin Story

Losswords began life as a failed experiment. On Twitter.

We had experimented with Twitter games before. A previous game called Backchatter let you bet on words you think people would tweet most during a live event. The original idea of Losswords was that the game would tweet a passage from a famous book. You and a friend would compete to find the most “words within the words” of the quote.

We evolved this initial idea for Losswords through a very long process of playtesting and iteration. We prototyped the game first on paper, then by “faking” computer output (one of us typed text, pretending to be the program), and finally through a series of extremely ugly-looking prototypes. We enlisted friends, students, and fellow designers to play the game and begged them to give us their harshest feedback. What did we learn from all of this playtesting? Designing a game for Twitter was a terrible idea.

But maybe it could work on smartphones. So we evolved the game to have a graphical interface. Along the way, we added a story about players being members of a secret literary underground, amassing hidden libraries of contraband books. The gameplay evolved to include both taking apart and putting together passages from famous works of literature. And to compliment the book-centric theme, we developed a visual language that was an homage to mid 20th century book design.

After all of this creative fermentation, we are finally ready to bring Losswords to the world! We have a working Alpha version, and with the help of Kickstarter backers, we will complete the game’s production and launch in the spring of 2019.

How does it work?

Losswords turns classic literature into an addictive word puzzle game. Players unscramble passages from famous literature, and as they advance, they unlock new puzzles and add books to their library—from Pride and Prejudice to Pygmalion. Losswords lets you curl up and play your favorite books.

Losswords includes hundreds of literary classics from public domain book collections like the Project Gutenberg library. There are dozens of different kinds of word puzzles, from filling in blanks to rearranging lines of text. As far as we know, this is the first game where you can dive in and play with the actual written words from so many classic books.

And it’s fun! After playing a prototype of Losswords, Michelle Ehrhardt of Kill Screen wrote, “As novel as the game is, it plays with the same confidence as a 100-year old classic.”

Losswords is the latest creation of Local No. 12 - the folks responsible for The Metagame.

What's so special about it?

Gaming literature.
Losswords uses actual passages from classic literature as the raw material for the game. As you play, you collect books like Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland and play with the actual text from the book.

Algorithms for Austen.
The core of Losswords is procedurally generated puzzles that use existing literary texts as their raw material. It has taken us years to figure out exactly how generate these puzzles in a way that consistently results in great gameplay while also remaining true to the original works.

Literary Curation.
To help us curate the hundreds of books in the game, we have enlisted the help of “literary curators” Mehak Khan and Carlos Hernandez, as well as guest curation from cultural figures writer Douglas Rushkoff, Chris Suellentrop of the New York Times, and Julia Kaganskiy from the New Museum.

Culture!
The fact that game players will be paging through sections of Virginia Woolf or Shakespeare as they play thrills us on the level of cultural innovation. Our design goal was to enable a pleasurable reading experience while also providing challenge that would increase as the player levels up through the game.

New gameplay.
The ways that we select and present text are a combination of designer curation and machine algorithm. The 24 unique kinds of word puzzles are the result of constant iteration and playtesting. While the puzzles vary considerably, in general we have tried to steer the game design towards gameplay that requires the player to become a reader - to understand not just the grammar, but the meaning of the text.

Leveling up through Literature.
The structure of the language plays a strong role in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Playing through Alice in Wonderland is considerably easier than Beowulf! The text becomes a kind of terrain that you move through - and the texture of each work is considerably different. Combined with the 24 types of puzzles, the dozens of books provides a tremendous amount of variety.

The creators.
Losswords is part of Local No. 12’s mission to make games that engage with culture at large. Our other project, a card game called The Metagame, encourages players to discuss and debate everything from Big Macs to the Mona Lisa. By leveraging public domain literature as the raw material for the game, Losswords makes a statement about what games can learn from other forms of human expression - and vice versa.

Amazing visuals.
Inspired by Swiss Modernism and mid-century book designs like Penguin Classics from the 1960s, the clean visual style of Losswords is a treat for the eyes.

Who made it?

Local No. 12 is a game design collective that loves making games about culture. Our most recent title, The Metagame, turns cultural conversation into a card game. In Losswords, we take on word games and literature.

  • PETER BERRY is a principal of the digital studio Supercosm and has built several game titles for iOS/Android, including the literary platformer Stride & Prejudice.
  • COLLEEN MACKLIN has made games about everything from activism to the federal debt, to disaster preparedness for the Red Cross and founded and co-directs the PETLab game design lab at Parsons School of Design where she also teaches.
  • JOHN SHARP is a former DJ and art director who teaches in the MFA Design & Technology program at Parsons School of Design. His new book, Works of Game, tackles the intersection of games and art.
  • ERIC ZIMMERMAN is a 20-year veteran of the game industry and has created titles like Diner Dash and SiSSYFiGHT 2000. He is a professor at the NYU Game Center.

    Videos

    The Losswords sneak-peek trailer: Vimeo


    Images

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    There are far more images available for Losswords, but these are the ones we felt would be most useful to you. If you have specific requests, please do contact us!


    logo

    Team & Repeating Collaborator

    Peter Berry
    Programming

    Lucy Bonner
    Community liason

    Colleen Macklin
    Interaction design, narrative design

    John Sharp
    Art direction

    Eric Zimmerman
    Game design lead


    presskit() by Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) - also thanks to these fine folks