"Why arenâ??t publishers jumping to sign Quarrel?"

By Billy Thomson

May 24th 2010 at 10:14AM

Ruffian Games' creative director Billy Thomson bamboozled by publishers' reluctance to back the quirky

What would you say if I offered you a game that had squads of troops engaged in constant battle, fighting to dominate entire islands and hidden fortresses? Set in a land in constant turmoil where monolithic structures rise and fall, and ancient monuments loom over battlegrounds with imposing menace.

A game where only the sharpest reflexes, quickest minds and strategically adept can hope to survive intact. A game with a bevy of carefully crafted and wickedly sharp opponents who constantly test your abilities to attack, parry and defend. Where captured prisoners are forced to fight for you and where only those who truly master the cornering of opponents or setting cleverly baited traps can hope to wipe-out all comers and assume control.

I’d expect that you would be intrigued and instantly want to try the game out, I know I did when I was offered the opportunity myself.

For argument’s sake
After reading that high-level summary of the game, most people would expect some form of action based FPS game, but the fact is this game is more akin to a combination of Hangman, Scrabble and Risk. There are no weapons, vehicles or alien enemy forces in this game, or any need for ninja skills. This game is all about using the old noggin to beat your challenger, which is a refreshing change from the endless list of sports and FPS titles that are saturating the charts.

Denki, a local, independent Dundee based game developer, has created this fantastic little word game named Quarrel.

As I mentioned Quarrel is, quite succinctly, ‘war with words’ and playing it is simplicity itself. There are just three key steps to playing which anyone can quickly grasp.

Step one – choose one of your squads. Step two – pick a neighbour to fight. Step three – make the best word fastest. Making a higher scoring word than your opponent triggers a frantic battle where their lands are taken from them, their troops crushed and even prisoners can be captured. Engage in frequent conflicts to improve your word-making options, tactical and strategic skills and take on cleverer and more devious opponents.

The game is complete and it’s great fun to play. It’s a really well structured, tight design with a beautiful, playful art style and it’s fiendishly addictive. On top of all that, it also has the potential to help kids learn genuinely useful problem solving and language skills that will benefit them in everyday life. Something that I would imagine none of the current Top Ten selling games can boast right now.

Cross words
You would think publishers are climbing over the top of each other to sign this game, yet incredibly it hasn’t been snapped up by any of the top publishers in the industry.

Apparently, the general publisher opinion is ‘gamers don’t play word games’. So, from the publisher point of view there is no viable market for the game, putting any money behind this already complete and well-polished game would be too high risk. I’d be able to accept a certain amount of scepticism from people who hadn’t played the game, but not from anyone in the industry who had sat down and played a few rounds. It’s such a simple yet compelling concept, and you always want another go whether you win or lose the last round, which is a difficult balance to strike in game design.

I’ve asked every developer and gamer I know about this game and they all believe that there must be a market for it, primarily because they’d all buy it themselves. I can see it doing well as a fun teaching aid in primary schools because it manages to do that incredibly difficult job of educating, without you feeling like you’re being patronised. Something I’d imagine teachers across the country look upon as the Holy Grail of education.

Maybe I’m getting too old and responsible, but I think having games like Quarrel, to mix in with the mindless fun we have in the countless number of shooters, sports, platformers, fighting and driving games that are out there, is a welcome addition.

Isn’t gaming all about choice and variation? I believe this game has incredible potential on Xbox Live, PSN, Nintendo’s Virtual Console, Facebook, iPhone and PC – especially for school classrooms. Hopefully I’m not alone in that respect.

Visit www.denki.co.uk/quarrel to get more information on the game and give your support.