WordsAmok 2

Building WordsAmok! sparked a desire to make more word games. There are a lot out there, but of course there’s plenty of room to make stuff that’s different.

So I wrote WordsAmok 2, which is much more addictive than the first one. WordsAmok 2 is based loosely on the gameplay of Boggle – you get one set of tiles and you have to make as many words as you can from adjacent tiles in the allotted time. The big difference here is that the tiles are laid out in 3 concentric circles, rather than a grid, and each time you make a word, the circles rotate independently of one another, one position in a random direction, so the adjacent tiles shift every turn.

The other big difference is that words are scored both on their length and on the relative rarity of the word. I scoured multiple wordlists from the internet and wrote a program in Node.js to sort them in order of how frequently the word appears in Google Books’ English Fiction corpus over the past couple of decades – the rarer the word, the higher the value, so a really odd 3-letter word is worth as much as a routine 6-letter word. It’s not perfect, but it adds a level of flair to the game, at the same time as it flatters the egos of word nerds like myself.

And if you’re on a desktop or laptop, you can play it here!


Uncharted Words

Uncharted Words is a twitterbot that digests the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary, invents a new word and a definition for it, and then tweets it out, every ten minutes.

It’s come up with some pretty strange and interesting stuff, as well as plenty of detritus.

Some random samples:

EXTIMALING, n. — The act of apprehending any object whatever; an act of one who blesses.

BLOTTONESS, n. — The part of it; one of the mind; propensity; as, the goodness of timber, of a gun; to depress the eyes.

CRUPATED, adj. — Having the tail set low and buttocks that fall away sharply from the base; as, a crabbed author.

BROITY, n. — Sincere affection and kindness; warmth of disposition and manners.

BLATE, v. — To wash, as the face, with a cosmetic water, said by some to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; as, I abide my time.

Cheapo 3D

The challenge: take a cheap generic webcam and make something interesting with it.

After a few strange experiments pulling the lens off and painting directly on the sensor, which looked like this:


I decided to try something a little less esoteric, and create the cheapest 3D camera I could.

I began by purchasing another super-cheap webcam, stripping the housing from both cameras, and mounting them in a sheet of cardboard – in keeping with the shoestring aesthetic, I harvested the cardboard from an empty box.

I then plugged both into my computer.

Unfortunately, getting the computer to recognize them as separate entities was a technical nightmare, but I learned a lot about hardware in the process. Eventually I had to take ownership of my registry key (scary!) and change the IDs of the cameras in the system.

That accomplished, I wrote a sketch in Processing that streamed both cameras live and took and saved a picture when the user pressed a key. After a short period of tweaking the positions and angles of the cameras and playing with the specifics of each camera feed to match color, brightness and zoom level (the two webcams, in spite of having identical names and outward appearances, took wildly different pictures), I was able to shoot a number of fully functional (if not terribly beautiful) 3D photos, all for a cost of around 16.00 (including the original camera).


WordsAmok! is a fairly simple game that blends elements of Scrabble and Tetris. Seven letters fall slowly from the ceiling – your goal is to make the longest word you can from the letters before they hit the ground or the piles of rubble (i.e. unused letters from previous rounds) below. Long words clear away rubble, and there are special characters that clear away rubble in specific ways (e.g. a pink “e” would clear away all the “e”s in the rubble if you used it in a word; a green letter shears off the top of the highest rubble column).

You can play WordsAmok! here.