Interview Swamp Talk Creator, Chris Hancock

We thought that it might be a good idea to let our fans and followers (and new-comers to the game) get some insight into how Swamp Talk came to be and to get to know our founder, Chris, a little better. Below you will find an interview with Chris that answers some of those questions you may have had about Swamp Talk Game! Please read on and enjoy!

1). How did Swamp Talk (and your Swamp Talk team) come to be? How did you get the idea for this kind of game?

Swamp Talk was Tertl’s first foray into iOS. Although we usually focus on math and computing, we wanted to start with a straightforward concept that we knew plays well. Swamp Talk was a concept that I actually dreamed up with my longtime design partner Scot Osterweil more than 15 years ago. It was actually provoked, at the time, by a different new gaming platform–the world wide web! We thought of it as a good casual game with potential for multiplayer play. I made a prototype that played great, but at the time our work went in other directions. Dusting the idea off for iOS, we realized that it’s even better suited for a touch interface. So now is really the right time for this concept.

2). Did you have a particular demographic in mind when you created it?

We always thought of it as a casual game, meant to appeal to a broad range of players, including kids 10 and up, word game enthusiasts, and just about anybody.

 3).  Do you envision Swamp Talk as an educational tool? Or simply a fun word game? Or both?

The fun comes first, but we’ve talked with teachers who see learning value in the game. Swamp Talk gets you thinking in a different way about spelling in patterns in words. We’re open to adding some features to support classroom (e.g. bonus word lists), as long as it stays fun.

 4). Why did you choose iOS over any other platform?

The iOS ecology is a great way to go direct to the customer.

5). Is your company Tertl Studos thinking of developing any other games soon?

Thinking–yes! But we’re not ready to announce anything. Stay tuned!

 6). What advice would you give someone trying to develop their first application?

First, I’d say start with a concept that is really simple. As you get deeper into it, you may well find, as we did with Swamp Talk, that there are lots of subtleties that go into really making the game play right. Second, your user interface needs to be really well thought out and look good. The standards for polish have gone up and up since the app store began. Third, you are unlikely to make money on your first effort. Learn all about app marketing, and plan on making a few before you start to see significant revenue.

7). What is you favorite iphone game that is not your own?

“Tiny Wings”. It is a work of art. The visuals, music and gameplay all work together beautifully.

 8). Why the name Swamp Talk?

It starts with our frog. We felt it was important to have a character taking part in the game action, speaking and celebrating each word that the player plays. The frog needed a place to be, so we put him in a swamp. Some people say the name “swamp talk” sounds like talking dirty. To us, it’s more that the swamp is like a poetry slam scene, where the frogs are laying down their best words to see who’s king of the swamp tonight.

T-shirt Competition!

Hey all. So, left over from our 2-day stint at Tech Jam, are a bunch of Swamp Talk T-shirts (in particular a large number of XL’s–our founder, Chris, seems to think that everyone his his size 🙂 ). We have decided to have weekly competitions for the left over T’s. This week, we are starting with a basic High Score competition. So send us your high scores (and information) and we will send you a T-shirt. Good luck!

To Shrink your App, Rearrange your Frogs

We know we’ve got to reduce the Swamp Talk app size to under the magic 20Meg mark, so that people will be able to download it over phone networks. One angle is to optimize the visual assets. We factored the lilypad out of all our frog frames, which reduced each individual frame by 35%. Imagine our surprise when we built the sprite sheet file (a single file that combines all the frames in a sequence) and got almost no reduction in file size. Uh-oh: we were really counting on saving some substantial file size here! Eventually we figured out that file size is surprisingly dependent on frog layout. We got our 35% by arranging the frogs wide instead of narrow, using Zwoptex’s “shelf” algorithm.

Naïvely, I would have expected .png compression to reduce essentially the same pixel data to the same size. But apparently it’s quite orientation-sensitive.

Swamp Talk – 4 1/2 stars on AppAdvice.com!

The single-player version of Swamp Talk has been on the App Store for about six weeks, and it’s getting great reviews. We just got four and a half stars on App Advice! Read the entire review here. AppAdvice.com calls it a “must-have” word app for iPhone – and we agree!

A multiplayer version that connects to GameCenter is in the works now. Subscribe to this blog, friend Swamp Talk on Facebook or follow on Twitter to be the first to know when you can play Swamp Talk with your friends.

Swamp Talk as Word Study

Swamp Talk is a fun word game that’s full of potential as a learning tool. Swamp Talk can be played on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. When playing Swamp Talk, students…

  • Activate their word knowledge to construct words from a constantly-moving letter stream
  • Use common consonant blends and vowel combinations
  • Think about word formation in a different way than is common
  • Strategize and plan ahead to make longer, higher-scoring words

Playing Swamp Talk is one way students can use word study knowledge without feeling like they are “studying.” Meanings of 60% of mulit-syllabic words in English can be inferred by analyzing word parts.* When students form these word parts during the game, they demonstrate that they’ve learned the word part’s meaning!

Teachers, click to learn about the Swamp Talk Teacher Ambassador program.

*Bromley, K. (2007, April). Nine Things Every Teacher Should Know About Words and Vocabulary Instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(7), 528–537. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.50.7.2