When I first met Gian Cruz -- one half of developer Feel Every Yummy -- he was sitting indian style on the floor of the Moscone convention center during Game Developers Conference. He had just finished showing an early version of Feel Every Yummy's upcoming iOS/Android game, Word Fighter, to Tara Long and Max Scoville of the Destructoid show.
"You should check this game out," Max tells me excitedly. "It's really cool."
Normally, I don't listen to that guy -- he absolutely adores Pokémon and dislikes Bulletstorm even though he's never played it. He's abnormally tall, and he has that thing going on with his hair. But I'm glad I did.
Gian hands me his iPad, loads Word Fighter, and starts telling me about the game as I play. Within seconds, I'm sure I've stumbled across my new obsession.
The easiest way to describe Word Fighter is that it's a mixture of Boggle and Puzzle Fighter. Feel Every Yummy describes it as "Street Fighter meets Words With Friends," which is just as accurate.
Each player gets identical 5x5 sets of word tiles, the goal to drag a finger across the letters to create words. The better the word -- based on variables like length and letter value -- the more powerful an attack you'll launch on your opponent. Throw in power ups like attack multipliers or letter shufflers, and you've got a set up for some heated word battles.
The mode I played utilized the big iPad surface for a real-time multiplayer battle against another human player. But Feel Every Yummy plan to incorporate turn-based multiplayer as well, along with cross platform play -- someone playing on the iPhone version of the game could battle someone on an Android phone, for instance.
Feel Every Yummy is currently planning on launching the game with six characters, each with their own set of abilities and powers. In this early version, the word fighters available were obviously influenced by Capcom's Street Fighter. But Gian tells me that could change before launch. In fact, the entire look and theme of the game could make a complete 180 depending on who they're trying to target as the audience.
As Gian puts it, it's possible the Street Fighter aesthetic may skew too hardcore; it might not appeal to players who generally gravitate towards word games. It's all about finding that happy medium, he says, seeing what works best on the market without sacrificing style and gameplay. He's open to suggestions -- a conversation with Tara and Max had them all discussing everything from pretty princesses to female authors. (My money's on Stephanie Meyer to knock out J.K. Rowling in the third round, if you must know.)
What may be most impressive about the game is that Feel Every Yummy is a tiny team of only two. Gian was a web designer who left his job at AOL not long ago to start the studio with his friend, Kris Zabala. It was a big risk: Zabala hadn't written a single line of Objective C before starting the company, learning iOS programming as they went along.
The fruits of their labor are already impressive, a simple idea that both looks and works well. If you're at PAX East this week, you can check it out for yourself: Gian will be roaming around the show floor with a build of the game, looking for everyone and anyone to give it a try.
"We're looking to get as much feedback and input as we can while we're still early into development," he tells me.
Word Fighter is scheduled for release on Android and iOS this summer.