WordZap was first written for the Amiga in 1990 using C. There was an
earlier game, WordHai, which was inspired by the game Shanghai
which was a version of Mahjongg. A version of this game was commissioned
for the Nintendo GameBoy by Mitsubishi (no longer making games). Since
WordHai is a one-player game and the GameBoy can support two players,
they asked for a two-player version. I did not think this was practical
but I added a page on the back of the contract describing WordZap
(not yet named). So then I had to write it!
The first version on the Amiga went live on two Amigas on Christmas
day 1990. Our four children spent the next three days fightiong over
who would play so it was clear we had a winner. The children started
calling it WordZap and the name stuck.
Mitsubishi liked it so much they asked that it be a separate game and
that I write a one-player version. I did this by simulating a second
player. Both games were included in the GameBoy version which was eventually
published by Jaleco in 1991 under the name WordZap which by then had
been promoted to be the lead game.
Shortly after that a friend at Microsoft asked if I had any games for
Windows. I quickly converted the Amiga version and the resulting game
ended up in Microsoft Entertainment Pack III. Over the next eight
years they sold 800,000 copies without ever changing it.
The original WordZap allowed two-player games using a null-modem cable.
When the internet came along that seemed a better approach so in 1997
WordZap was rewritten in C++ and the word-length increased to six letters.
A few years later "motifs" were added and then seven-letter
words in ten languages and keyboard input. The English disctionaries
were enhanced to include legions of obscure words and definitions were
made available. When the graphics were updated the name was changed
to WordZap Deluxe. This new version I sold myself over the internet
In 2000, when the Microsoft contract ended it seemed time to clean
the program up a bit. The code was rewritten in C++ and various missing
words and other minor problems were fixed. I recoded the handicap system
with the help of one really good player. The handicaps were set so he
could get down to zero on a good day. The letter generation code was
changed to make sure that one could make at least three words. The idea
was to keep it very simple and small -- just one file of 160K compressed
-- and to give it away to recruit players for the WordZap Deluxe.
After 3 1/2 years it has become time to clean it up again. We have
a prototype version for mobile phones and hope soon to port it to WindowsCE.
You can download the new PC version here.