So, the game Draw Something from OMGPOP has made a splash. Not only for being a game people seem to enjoy playing, but for being the reason that Zynga bought OMGPOP for $180 million.
If you haven’t played it, the game goes like this: You challenge another player and are given three words worth 1, 2 and 3 coins with the idea that these words are easy, medium and hard respectively. You select a word and then try to draw it. Your turn ends when you submit your drawing. Your opponent then begins by getting to see your drawing as you drew it – this is key because you can make crude animation this way, but they also get to see your mistakes – and at the bottom they have a number of spaces (if you drew a five letter word, there will be five spaces) and a rack of 12 random letters. They have to guess the word you tried to draw. Then they get a turn to draw a word, and the whole thing goes back and forth like that forever.
The coins you earn can be used to buy more colors, because you start with a limited number – you don’t realize how important a color is until you can’t use it. The free game comes with a selection of words and ads. The paid version loses the ads and gives you 2,000 more words.
I really enjoyed the game at first, running through enough games to buy three extra color packs, but as time went on, I had to fight with myself to keep playing. I’d look at the icon on my phone and the only reason I’d end up playing is because I’m holding up someone else. I suppose I would play more if I was awesome at drawing, or if the people I played with were. But none of my games have had masterpieces like the ones in this CNN story.
I suppose if I keep playing Draw Something I can switch to spending hours on a drawing instead of just under a minute – but then it just feels silly since people guess the word quickly, the animation skips to the end and then rolls the picture away. At the very least, this game needs a way to stop and admire a drawing, and a built-in method for taking screenshots or otherwise saving drawings would be awesome.
The ultimate failure of Draw Something is the limited vocabulary. Running a dozen or more games, I quickly exhausted the recognizable words and must resort to either going to look up words I don’t know or drawing the same things over and over again. But what makes the limited vocabulary even more of a flaw is that, by and large, people draw similar things to picture the same words. So when someone starts drawing the state of Florida, which has a distinctive shape, I can look at the length of the word and the letters available and guess “Miami” long before they even finish. If they start drawing the entire United States? Chances are the answer is “Timezone”. And so on, and so on. The more you play, the less the game becomes about guessing than it is recognizing and remembering. “Oh, that looks similar to the picture someone else drew for ‘Dresser’ and I’m looking for a seven letter word and have all those letters, so it’s ‘Dresser’.” Of course, you can stop that yourself by simply trying to think of the least common way to draw your word. Like if your word is “Paris” instead of drawing the Eiffel Tower or other well-known images, you could draw Lieutenant Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager.
Maybe new owners Zynga will fix that, though, knowing Zynga, I expect new word packs to cost money, and the game just isn’t fun enough for me to sink any more cash into. Not when there are games like Drawception out there that are much more freeform, and thus has unlimited possibilities. Speaking of… this is my profile over at Drawception, so you can check out my games and drawings.