Scrab again: Wordscraper

OK, forget what I just said. Scrabulous is back! Well sort of – Scrabulous v2.0 is rechristened Wordscraper, and boasts just enough design changes to throw a wrench in Hasbro’s case for infringement. Behold:

Scrabulous 2.0: Wordscraper. Looks familiar... but not too familiar.
Scrabulous 2.0: Wordscraper. Looks familiar... but not too familiar.

The differentiation has both superficial (circular tiles, random/userdefined placement of the bonus squares) and game mechanical (tile point values, tile letter distribution) elements. Whether that’s enough to keep it alive from Hasbro’s lawyers is an open question. I love the fact that you can define your own board, however. My only gripe is that they didn’t save any games from Scrabulous, but I suppose that was necessary since doing so would require the “Scrabble classic” board, whose layout is probably part of Hasbro’s copyright. I’d like to have at least had the chance to restart games in progress, though.

I guess the appeal of Scrabulous was indeed the wordplay and not any actual loyalty to Scrabble per se. It’s like you’ve driven a Ford Mustang all your life and then one day you try a Corvette – if you like Mustangs, then you won’t like the Corvette. If you like driving sports cars, though, then it doesn’t matter how you get your fix[1. I am sure that people who actually know something about cars, or mustangs or corvettes, are gasping in horror at the sacrilege of my analogy].

So, lets scrape!

scrabble fabulous

It was inevitable that Scrabulous would get yanked off of Facebook eventually, so I didn’t even rouse myself to note the fact of it when it happened a couple of days ago. I admit that I was rather peeved at Hasbro, mainly because I was doing rather well on the games I had in progress – including a bingo I had spent over a month nurturing towards revelation. Still, I don’t exactly have any loyalty to the brother Ajarwal, who were making a comfortable $25k a month for their (obvious) copyright violation (moral soapbox: when I violate copyright, I don’t profit off it!). So, I figured I’d give the Official Scrabble App a try. Here’s a screenshot of my game in progress:

the official app
the official app

Overall, it’s a slick application, with everything that Scrabulous had except for support of the alternate dictionaries and Challenge mode. I did prefer Scarb’s less-flair aesthetic, it was a cleaner looking app, this one goes for a lot of the 3D tile effect which makes the screen look too busy. The focus should be on the grid, not the tiles or the players etc.

Also somewhat irritating is the fact that the game is segmented so that only US/Canada players can play each other, and international players can only play themselves, with no crossover. This may be due to some licensing thing but it really is a drag. I don’t know if its a limitation most people will chafe under, but it’s something that does affect me, and feels really arbitrary. This sort of limitation is why sometimes it’s better to go the unofficial route.

Anyway, if you need a fix of Scrabble, you can still get one, and that’s what matters. I do wish they’d tone down the interface a bit though. They should hire these two brothers in India I know about who have some experience in that regard…

still scrabbing

The deadline came and went and Scrabulous endures. Logging in this morning, scrabbers see the following message:

Hi folks 🙂

We are really grateful to the entire Scrabulous community for the exceptional support that has been provided. It is amazing to see that a small application has touched so many people across the world! There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Scrabulous and it is currently impossible for us to comment on this matter. However, like always, we shall update you as soon as we can.

In the meantime, please click here to enjoy a song created by an anonymous Scrabulous fan. 🙂

Best Regards,
Rajat & Jayant

Since they haven’t ceased and desisted as they were ordered to by Hasbro, one assumes that they probably have sold out, and that the game will either be rebranded as official Scrabble. The alternative, that they are planning a less-infringing skin for the app (along with some changes to game mechanics, the way the analogous boggle-clone bogglific has recently done), is also possible, but means that Rajat and Jayant have probably invested in a good (expensive) lawyer who is engaging in delaying tactics. The latter strategy is actually the better business one, since rebranding the site somewhat to evade the infringement attack preserves their hefty income stream. In that regard even an expensive lawyer is still an investment in securing the future of their business model.