Why Words With Friends Is Making An Enemy Out Of Me

Words with Friends is the most popular app, ever, for iPhone.
Words with Friends is the most popular app, ever, for iPhone.

There’s probably only two people left on planet earth who haven’t played this ridiculously addictive version of Scrabble on their smartphone. For years, I resisted. But, now that I’ve recently jumped on the WWF bandwagon, there’s probably only one. And, God help him/her. For, I’m now addicted to a game I’ve actually grown to hate.

Words With Friends, the hugely popular app which many tech writers credit John Mayer for popularizing with a shout out from his Twitter feed back in ‘09, gets more than two billion ad impressions a month, has tens of millions of players worldwide, and, surprise, is now owned by gaming powerhouse, Zynga.

Yet, in just about a week’s time, I went from loving the app to pretty much despising it. My personality is one that, if I see something that can be made better, I have to seek out the designer(s) and let them know the problem(s) I have with their product. However, when it comes to WWF, there are so many design flaws, I had to write an article about them all, as it’s driving me nuts and I need to know if I’m the only one.

I was able to find several absolutely ridiculous “bugs” in this monster of an app in just a few days. Which makes me wonder why, with all the millions of people playing for over seven years now, no one’s called them out on these things? Perhaps no one cares? Or, maybe they’ve tried to say something and their cries have been ignored? Who knows? I’ll say this much, though. Considering I’ve reached out to the folks at Zynga several times, and was nicely sent on my way each time, with pretty much nothing more than the “Thank you for your input” kinda deal, I’ll go with the latter.

Perhaps when Zynga gets wind of this little piece, they’ll implement a few changes that will make everyone’s experience better, for this, as well as other apps. Perhaps not?

Either way, whether the things I’ve found are actual “bugs,” or just really poor design flaws, doesn’t matter. What matters is, I can’t believe an app this popular has so many issues and no one seems to be in any hurry to correct them.

Below is my list of the top five design flaws in Words With Friends:

1. “Rematchfeature

At the end of each game, you’re given the option to hit the rematch button. Problem is, this annoying glitch sends a request for a rematch to both players, simultaneously, without alerting either to the fact the other may have already hit the button. Thus, most players end up starting two games instead of one. Is it really that hard to design a simple feature that whites out the rematch button after the other player hits it? I mean, c’mon.

2. “Resign” button

If you’ve experienced glitch #1, odds are you’ve also fallen prey to glitch #2. If, say, you’ve inadvertently started two games and wish to play only one, your only option is to resign. However, WWF does not view a “canceled” game - be it for 2 games at once, or simply wanting to leave before a tile is played - as a draw. Whomever hits resign, gets credited for the loss. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty competitive and, while I don’t mind losing, it infuriates me to see my loss column filled with more losses than I actually have, simply due to canceling a game or refusing to wait four freaking days for some stranger in Prague to take his/her turn. Beyond that, the app’s entire design is built around badges, stats, and competition. So, why attribute false stats to players for simply trying to deal with your design flaws? Why not take a day, throw a bit of code up, and allow players to cancel a game before a tile is played - without “losing?!” Duh.

3. Fast Play

Personally, this is my favorite f’d up feature of the app. Looking for a fast game? Select this option and you get fewer tiles and up to - get this - 12 hours to make a move! Yes, you read that correctly. I’m sorry, perhaps those players out there who take a turn each time the Hale Bop Comet appears think a twelve hour window is “fast,” I, however, have a better idea. Scrap the above option and redesign it for those of us who want to play an actual fast, regulation game - with all the tiles - in, say, an hour? Or, even less? A half-hour? How about both options? Give each player a choice of a 30/60 minute clock at the start and a regular board. None of this “only 20 letters in the game” b.s. Just because you want to play fast doesn’t mean you want the game itself to change. The clock begins from the first move. If, from there, a player takes 10 minutes for one move, he/she has, 50 minutes remaining for the rest of the game, etc. etc. If a player is winning but his/her clock expires, he/she loses. To me, not only would that be more fun, it is the definition of “Fast Play.” Otherwise, the current option could see you involved in a Fast Play game that literally lasts three weeks.

4. “Solo Play

This is, hands down, one of the dumbest features I’ve ever seen on any app, anywhere. The idea is that, if you lose your internet connection, or simply wish to practice, you can play against the computer. Great. But, here’s the kicker: the computer only goes once every two minutes. WTF? Someone please explain to me why, if I’m on a subway commuting to work, and the entire trip takes 20 minutes, I will only get to go about 10 times? Why on earth would they design a solo play feature that makes the live player wait for the app? Does the computer need a bathroom break? Is it phoning a friend? Am I nuts to think the computer should make a word immediately after you? Am I nuts for even writing this article in the first place? Don’t answer that. What a joke.

5. The App Hates Me

Don’t try and talk me out of it. I’m absolutely convinced the app knows I hate it, as it routinely gives me nothing but vowels - all game, every game. Okay, almost every game. Beyond that, 99 percent of the time I swap out shitty tiles for new ones, it gives me the same shitty ones back. I’m dead serious. Happens almost every time I play. If I have 10 games going, I’m guaranteed 8 of them will be nothing but vowels. This particular type of glitch makes me want to rip the hair out of my head, or, better yet, John Mayer’s head, as it’s practically impossible to beat anyone with “i i i i e e u” for half the freaking game.

6. (Bonus) ADS

It’s bad enough they make you pay ten bucks to remove the incessant pop-ups that accost you after every turn. But, these greedy mothers expect you to fork over an additional $9.99 for each and every platform. Sorry, but that’s highway robbery. If I pay $9.99 to remove ads, the ads should be freakin’ removed anytime I play under my account, and on any device. To have them disappear on your iPhone, only to reappear with a vengeance anytime you play on your laptop, is simply pathetic.

You may be asking yourself, if all of the above frustrates you so much, Dave, why not just stop playing?

Answer: I can’t. I’m addicted. And I need help.