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I am addicted to Facebook Scrabble. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing I do on Facebook, as I’m allergic to proper socialising, and prefer to sit there giggling at CUNT and QUIM.

By "Facebook Scrabble", I do of course mean SCRABBLE® Worldwide (excluding U.S. and Canada) - yes, that really is the application's official title. Scrabble is owned by different companies in different countries; Hasbro in the US and Canada, and Mattel elsewhere. Unfortunately, both companies seem to be unaware that Facebook is a global website; hence there is an entirely separate application for our American and Canadian friends - friends that I might, for instance, want to play Scrabble with, but currently can't. C'mon guys, try working together - this kind of thing just makes you look really stupid.

Scrabble application screenshot showing forfeit

That's just one of the criticisms of the app that seem to pour forth with remarkable strength; partly because of the whole Scrabulous debacle, but also because the application is - despite itself - nearly really, really good. And yet things keep preventing it from being a truly lovely experience. Server problems that cut you off and make you miss your turn. The fact that there are no unique URLs for games, meaning you can't specifically link to them - and also breaking back button functionality. Annoying ads that make fucking awful sounds when you rollover them - and placed where you're ALWAYS going to accidentally hit them. (There's an entire article to be written about how shitty net adverts - and placed on major websites, too, like Facebook and YouTube - have serious implications for how much people actually pay attention to ads on the net.) And then worst of all: the constant forfeiting, in a three or four player game.

The interesting thing is that Scrabble has no rules on people forfeiting in the official rules that come with the game. Which means that the developers of the application have to take a sensible decision here - dealing with a problem which is unique to this form of Scrabble. You're playing with two or three other anonymous people, who aren't in the same room as you - forfeiting is clearly going to happen more than in, say, a four player game with your friends. It's a social problem, rather than a technical one.

Well, you don't deal with it the way they've decided to. Which is, erm, end the game, and have all three people who didn't forfeit win. Meaning that at any one time, somebody can give up on the game - and ruin it for everyone else. Meaning much recriminations in the chat column of the game, where that BASTARD who is a BASTARD gave up because he's a BASTARD.

In fact, this is a recent rule change. It used to be that when somebody forfeited, the game ended, and the person with the most points at that time won the game. This led to outcry from players - it wasn't fair, as the people who had a serious chance of catching up didn't get to do so. But the new rule change is hardly any better - all it does is make the entire game feel like a waste of time.

The solution is absurdly obvious - if somebody wants to forfeit, fine. They can leave the game. But for God's sake, let the people who still do want to play the game carry on until the end. I can't see any reason why one person forfeiting a game should end it for everybody. As it is, the app's developers seem to have no idea about how people actually use their application. It's verging on the bizarre.

But then what do you expect from a company which doesn't understand that somebody in the UK might occasionally want a game with someone in the US?

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The answer is to only play Facebook Scrabble against people you know. The problem is that for an addict, such as yourself, this won’t satisfy the craving. I play my turns most nights, but I can’t access it at work during the day, so I’m never going to be suitable for a rapid game. But that’s ok. I quite enjoy logging in every evening, having had 24 hours to think about the letters I’ve been given. I’ve got a 72% win record as well!

By Ben
March 03, 2009 @ 11:49 am

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And in another stunning piece of user interface design, they’ve introduced a new “feature”. Once a game is over - won, forfeited, or cancelled - you can no longer speak in the chat window. Because, y’know, NOBODY would want to ever say anything once a game is over, such as to congratulate the winner, or arrange whether to play another game…

They really don’t have a fucking clue.

John Hoare's picture

By John Hoare
March 17, 2009 @ 1:26 am

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