A few years ago I wrote up my impressions of 4thewords after using the site during NaNoWriMo for the first time. Last year I realized I should post an update at somepoint, because the site had changed so much (all for the better). It’s taken me a bit, but here it is!
So, first of all, the things that have not changed: the goal of the site and the basic mechanics of the monster battles. The goal is, of course, to give you extra motivation to write words. It’s always been good at that and continues to be so.
The monster mechanics are still basically the same: each monster has a target word count and a time limit. If you hit the word count before the battle timer runs out, you win! Some monsters are more difficult because they have more words, others because they have less time. There’s a pretty good balance for the most part.
What has changed, however, is the addition of a world and a wrap-around story with more RPG elements.
This was an excellent addition. As much as I enjoyed the site before, the monster battles really weren’t connected to anything. Now there are quests to complete and in-game goals to accomplish. This provides more motivation on the days you might be inclined to brush it off.
The site also now tracks your writing streak and provides in game rewards as your streak grows. Sometimes it’s an in-game item useful for questing, sometimes in-game currency, and on rare occasions wardrobe items.
With the site redesign to the new world and game our avatars also got a boost through the addition of the wardrobe. This gives us greater customization as we gather items and, of course, additional goals. Wardrobe items can be purchased using the paid in-game currency (which can be dropped occasionally from quests or streak rewards as well) and can also come as quest rewards, especially during special events.
The largest events on the site are NaNoWriMo related. 4thewords remains a NaNo sponsor, so they time a month-long event during the main event. This opens a special area with event specific monsters and rewards that vary each time as a new in-game story is told. There are also smaller events at different times during the year. There is currently a mini game for Halloween, which will lead into the main NaNo event. There is also Love Week around Valentine’s Day in February and we had Tico Week for Costa Rica’s Independence Day in September.
One of the fun parts of the most recent events has been world bosses or global challenges. Sometimes it’s everyone working together to hit a word count, or gather a specific number of items, or defeat a bosses battle monster a specific number of times. It’s a great way to get the community together. It’s also a good reason to hang out on the forums, because we can co-ordinate and encourage each other as the event continues.
Adding an extra shout out for the forums here. I can’t remember what the system was like in the earlier versions, but the forums have prove useful, not only for getting help from the community, but for getting help from the Devs. While they sometimes go quiet to focus on the final push before an event, they are incredibly responsive and check in with the user base often. I’ve been impressed at the speed with which issues get solved when they come up.
New Read Feature
As well as improving the platform, there is also now a Read feature that allows people to share their work with the 4thewords community. I haven’t used this much, but it’s an easy system for posting and commenting. They have also started to run some mini contests, which can give wardrobe items as rewards, which encourages people to use it. I’d like to read more of the work posted on the site, but I’ll have to talk about it more once I’ve played with it more extensively.
In my last post, I had two things that bothered me. One was that the site is entirely online. They’ve done a lot to improve the connectivity and to ensure there are auto-saves. This has largely taken care of the problems I had with this aspect. Since the redesign I haven’t lost any work from anything site related. (I keep forgetting that backspace can make my browser go back when I’m on my PC, but that’s my problem not theirs.)
I still make sure I have an offline copy, but I think that’s more for my own peace of mind and because sometimes I like writing in Scrivener first. Since the platform and stability have improved, I no longer consider this a downside.
The other problem I had was that we couldn’t set our times zones. You can now do this, so the site reflects the time for where you are in the world. It means writing late no longer throws things off for me.
It is an RPG
Much as I like them, this is now an RPG, there are in-game quests, there’s a bit of a grind. I don’t think there’s much that can be done about that, really. I will say, however, that the most grindy elements are in optional quests, not really in the main story-line, so they can be skipped if you want. It’s worth a mention though, as I sit with only about half my Seven Moon Scrolls collected.
It has been interesting watching 4thewords grow and change, even from the time I started using it. (I wasn’t even in the earliest version!) While they are still making changes and improving things, the site now has a strong identity and a solid platform. I can see myself using it for years if things keep going the way they have. The world they’ve got prepared is still developing (I’m not even half-way through the map yet) and I am interested in seeing how the site story develops, even while I’m defeating monsters by writing my own.
They’ve also got a referral program now, so if you’re curious enough to check it out and feel like tossing us each some bonus core crystals, my referral code is CKQSD51974.