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Hexiled's frantic race to fame

Ideas

HEXILED is web designer Triplezero's first foray in to game design - and it has been an overnight success that the South Australian company could never have predicted.

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“We didn't expect it to go crazy straight away,” says Isaac Forman, one half of the Triplezero team, “we didn't think we'd need everything ready to go straight away – we had a site up but no support page, no sort of press kit.”

The game, which Isaac describes as a frantic, addictive word puzzle, has players swiping hexagonal letter tiles to form words in an effort to race to the far edges of the field.

Hexiled has been played more than two million times since its release on July 17th.

The success of the free to download game comes down to its addictiveness – the 'one more try' mentality that it instils in players. After each round the time limit is adjusted based on how well the player did – getting harder as the player gets better and forcing them to improve their times and scores.

Isaac and his colleague Quentin Zervaas started with a soft launch of the game, tweeting a download link to friends and contacts. A few hundred early adopters jumped on board, and early feedback was good.

“I was pretty happy with that starting point. A week after that we put our first update out and woke up that Friday morning to being listed in the Best New Games feature on the App Store,” recounts Isaac.

“It's funny because it's this really tiny little feature. You have to scroll so far down and to the right – I think we were the third last out of twenty games. We're technically below the fold – or below the scroll you could say.”

The game was featured in a multitude of countries and it wasn't long before they surpassed their previous week's numbers – a matter of minutes at most.

Hexiled reached #1 word game in 35 countries App Stores in its first week.

It was a frantic week for Isaac and Quentin. Their soft launch wasn't meant to take off like it did, so the early version of Hexiled was less than polished – but the players who understood the concept loved it.

“There were a few people that would play it and despite the tutorial they'd miss a couple of key things and they'd give us a one star review. That was the big thing we were scrambling to fix,” says Isaac.

Triplezero set to work on updating the tutorials, leaving no room for player confusion.

“The first reaction is to blame them for getting it wrong and not understanding the game – but you quickly understand that that was our opportunity to get the tutorial right, to explain it better and make it more obvious.”

The launch has been a great learning experience for Quentin and Isaac. There are a few 'What Ifs' that linger in the team's minds, but ultimately they've done their best to react to feedback and streamline the game.

They've since updated the dictionaries, compressed the game's download size, smoothed out lag on older devices and are in the process of adding more languages and features.

Additional features like secret colour schemes for the best players, or those who like the game on Facebook are aimed at increasing their player retention rate and social presence.

One thing is for sure: it won't be Triplezero's last game.

“Down the track we'll work on an Android version, and probably at the same that Quentin is doing that I'll start working on the next game,” Isaac explains.

“That's the funny thing – you just end up with everything turned in to a game idea. Previously I was a web developer and everything was a web app idea. This is the new fascination, and it's a pretty intriguing process too.”

Triplezero started life in 1998. Isaac had sublet office space to Quentin for a couple of years before pitching the concept of an app and a game they could work on together.

Isaac was cheering for a straight app, but Quentin, whose specialty until now has been in public transport apps such as the well received 'Transit Times +', wanted to make the game.

“I was badgering him that we should collaborate on a project. We'd never made a game. He'd certainly never built one and I'd never designed one.”

It's still early days for the team. Players are pushing the limits – achieving Escape times under 15.5 seconds, which Isaac admits he never thought would be possible when designing in, and more people are downloading the app day by day.

“This was the first effort. If this wasn't successful the next one might be. We figure it potentially has a six-month lifespan. Word games don't really come and go with trends – people have been playing Scrabble for decades,” says Isaac.

“It's hard not to want to make more.”

Click here to see and download Hexiled on iTunes.

Hexiled on Twitter

Hexiled

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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