WriteCloud :: The Collaborative Writing Game

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So I have a new game experiment up and running. You should go check it out. The more people who play, the more interesting it’ll get.

It’s called WriteCloud and it’s a collaborative writing game.

Here are some details copied from the longer FAQ on the WriteCloud page:

What is WriteCloud?

WriteCloud is an experiment with useful gameplay. What is useful gameplay? It’s gameplay designed to, though the act of playing, leave some useful or interesting artifact. In WriteCloud, players play a social game about writing and letters, and the end result is an actual piece of text which will (hopefully) make some sense and be completely determined by the gameplay itself. Get it? Sort of?


Well, as noted above, I’m intrigued right now by gaming systems that produce useful or interesting results or artifacts. I’m coining the term useful gameplay, although I’m sure someone already has either used that term or coined something better. Some easy examples of this are Google Image Labeller and GalaxyZoo. These are games (or game-like), but the end result is a valuable piece of analysis.

So, yes. This “useful game” is about collectively writing text. Almost like an exquisite corpse or a predicitve text system like Dasher — but a bit more collaborative. Or like an extreme Wikipedia entry with no particular topic. Will something coherent come out of this, or will it always just be a kind of semi-random mess of boringness? I really don’t know. I hope that I get enough people rolling on it to at least get a few hundred characters — if that happens, I think some pretty cool trends will begin to emerge. If that happens, I also hope to be able to develop this idea in a few new directions…

Any comments you may have, please post below. I’d really, really love to hear what people think of this.


Just getting started...

Posted Sat, August 11, 2007, 5:58pm EST by Josh

WriteCloud is just getting started, so the result isn't yet just the most exciting thing imaginable. Give it a few days or weeks...

We'll see...

Posted Sat, August 11, 2007, 6:17pm EST by Chris K

If enough people were using this that I could actually watch the sentence grow in real time.... That'd be cool. Right now, not enough payoff. Hopefully if we all Digg it then it'll get some players.

I agree

Posted Sat, August 11, 2007, 6:22pm EST by Josh

Yeah, it's pretty lame right now. Needs to get a bit more flow for people to actually stick on the site for more than a few seconds.

Another thought I had was about having the site reach out and contact people at certain points. Like a feed or update. But you get, say, an e-mail if ten letters have been added since you last voted. The idea would be to help recycle players more regularly.

Diggs help, though. Digg! :-)


Posted Sun, August 12, 2007, 7:46am EST by elliston

Would adding words instead of letters and spaces be faster and give quicker feedback?

Not words...

Posted Sun, August 12, 2007, 3:04pm EST by Josh

Well, I think there are too many words -- everyone would vote for something different and it'd be hard to decide which to choose as the next follow up... Unless you have some suggestion as to how to do it?

get it...

Posted Sun, August 12, 2007, 6:45pm EST by elliston

I get the problem with words...Forgot it was a vote...Guess there are too many involved to just accept the next suggestion of a word, space or punctuation mark and create a long story.

What about timed rounds?

Posted Tue, August 14, 2007, 11:13pm EST by Matt

It seems to me the biggest problem is that there aren't enough people to easily get to ten guesses each time. What if there was a timeout of (say) 30 seconds from the first guess, after which the round ends with however many guesses are currently there, and everyone moves on to the next?

The problem there...

Posted Tue, August 14, 2007, 11:38pm EST by Josh

Seems like the problem there would be that when the site doesn't have much traffic, one person may be able to just write and write without any other players participating.

You're right, though: There could be a better way of handling the guesses. The only fix in there right now is if over 50% of the total guesses go towards one letter, the game doesn't wait for the rest -- it just adds the letter.

I'm losing!

Posted Wed, August 15, 2007, 10:10am EST by elliston

I went to the game this AM and many players have lots of points! How did that happen?

Traffic surge // Dreamhost down

Posted Thu, August 16, 2007, 11:31am EST by Josh

The points came from the traffic surge that hit Tuesday night. It was actually pretty cool: letters coming in faster than you could guess. Nice.

Until Dreamhost began to suck. The site became unbearably slow and then Wednesday Dreamhost seemed to go completely down -- all sites broken most of the afternoon.

If it were another host, I might be pissed and surprised. With Dreamhost, I'm just pissed...

Almost 200 users...

Posted Wed, August 22, 2007, 1:45pm EST by Josh

Wow. In ten days. Not back...


Posted Fri, August 31, 2007, 7:52pm EST by jared

This is cool. Maybe you need some kind of starter engine thingie, something to retain people in an entertained idle while waiting for critical mass to happen. A chat or mini multi-user Flash distraction that related to Writecloud thematically. I don't know, I just want to play and get some points! ;)

Fewer than 10 guesses?

Posted Sun, September 16, 2007, 5:45pm EST by John

The game seems to have slowed down a fair amount. Perhaps you could require as few as 5 guesses before a new letter was generated.


Posted Mon, September 24, 2007, 6:23pm EST by Jared

"the most stupid thing i have ever done was to startt to play this gameee! i think i am a dork. what is the point of this game? i can't wait until i"

Why is the current story 'i', 'i', 'i'?

It's 'we'! As in "i can't wait until WE play again". :)

Play WriteCloud by email?

Posted Fri, September 28, 2007, 3:08am EST by John Maxwell

I really like this game, but I think I'm gonna have a hard time remembering to come back periodically. You could consider setting up some sort of infrastructure that would email players when a new letter was up. I would sign up.


Posted Mon, October 1, 2007, 6:14pm EST by Josh

That's not a bad idea. Might also take some of the load off of the server...

Can we move on now?

Posted Tue, October 2, 2007, 8:31pm EST by laura

Looks like "WE'VE" been stuck for a few days? Glitch or no interest?

Game on?

Posted Wed, October 10, 2007, 4:41pm EST by Mike

Or not. I strangely miss it.

Game still on...

Posted Fri, October 12, 2007, 6:15pm EST by Josh

It's just slowing down...