Dear Zynga: Please fix Words with Friends

Vowels, vowels, and more vowels! Is anyone else out there noticing an increase in vowel-dealt hands in Words with Friends? I sure am, and so are many of those I play with.
Written by Stephen Chapman, Contributor


I'm a Words with Friends addict. Before it, I loved WordFeud, and before it, I loved Scrabble. Of all the years I've played these games, I've never ended up with ALL vowels on so many occurrences as I do now in Words with Friends, hand-after-hand. To be clear, when I say I'm a Words with Friends addict, I'm not getting kicked off of planes because of it, but I've got all slots dedicated to a game and I spend time (when not playing) looking up crazy words to use. That's 20 some-odd games going simultaneously, and right now, I'd be willing to bet that my hands in many of them are ALL vowels. To a far lesser extent, I end up with all consonants, but in discussing with my many worthy adversaries, they, too, are noticing what seems to be an algorithmic anomaly/fallacy where the game continuously sticks one person with all vowels or consonants. I'm talking about crazy things, too, like trading all 7 vowels and getting 7 more vowels in exchange, multiple times in one game. Now, I understand the mental fallacy that comes with the territory of our pattern-seeking brains, so I do understand that this may all very well be mere coincidence in a pool of the hundreds-of-thousands of games played per-day, but I didn't just one day think to myself, "Hmm, let me observe how many games I end up with all vowels in!" It was more like, "COME ON, MAN... AGAIN!?" And then again. And again! And again and again and so on and so forth until I've been mentally bombarded with vowel-ridden hands, turn-after-turn, that forced me to write this post. Perhaps it's all just a conspiracy by Zynga to get people like me to essentially market Words with Friends by writing about it... and with that said, my observation with vowel-ridden hands suddenly seems far less egregious! *Self-high-five!* Anyway, I don't like losing. Who does? But I'm certainly not a sore loser. Typically, if I'm losing, I'm also learning new words (like OXO, ADZE, SAJOU, BORTZ, ZOEA, CATBIRD, COLZAS, PYIN, FAQIR, QAID, GIGUES, SIMOOM, and other words I'll never use in my everyday vocabulary) and becoming a better player in the process, so I see a huge benefit in losing. No, it's not losing that motivates me to write about this, but rather, because Words with Friends is played by hundreds of thousands of people (maybe even a million plus?) every single day, I want to see if any out there have started noticing a similar shiftiness with the game's letter-dealing algorithm. I mean, the very hand dealt to me which prompted me to start writing this post consists of 5 As, an 'O', and an 'I'. And since I've started writing this post, I was just dealt 6 Es in another game. SIX. I mean, COME ON, MAN... AGAIN!? Hey, I've got three letters for you, Zynga, and not a single one of them are vowels: WTF I'm not hatin', though; just relayin'. And, while we're at it, how about the addition of some amazing functionality at some point consisting of some combination of -- but not limited to -- the following: 1 - Definition/synonym/antonym look-up: I know I can buy credits to have the game tell me how awesomely-advanced a word is that I'm throwing down, but how about adding the ability to look up the definition of a crazy word used against me, or of one that I just randomly pieced together? Additionally, a treasure trove of additional words to remember for later use might be found in a synonym/antonym look-up! 2 - Cheat-catching measures: This is shaky ground, I know, but I rarely ever play random opponents anymore because it's pretty clear to me when they cheat. 7-letter words I've never seen or heard of, every single play, which also happens to be in the highest-scoring spot on the board as per lexicalwordfinder.com when I reverse-engineer what's on the board? Come on, now. While it would be painfully easy to overcome simple cheat-busting methods, I can't help but think it would weed out people who clearly cheat with and unnatural frequency. A long and involved topic, I think Words with Friends is getting to the point where consideration of something like this is in order. 3 - Different board layouts: I think a great way to spice up this game would be to allow for different board layouts -- be it anything from different color schemes to choose from, to boards with the point modifiers in random/different locations. Could you imagine a board that randomly generated three TLs and two TWs, all next to one another!? That would take defensive playing to a whole new level. 4 - Custom rules: All I can say is that there are traditional Scrabble players out there who would love the ability to play Words with Friends in a completely different manner: to have the game accept every word a player wants to play so as to give them the ability to bluff, and by contrast, their opponent the ability to challenge. "Kwyjibo," anyone? 5 - In-hand letter manipulation: It would be great to be able to use the shuffle feature with selective letters. For instance, if you want to shoot for a 7-letter word that you know must end in the 'e' you have, you place the 'e' at the end of your hand and shuffle the other 6 letters around while the 'e' stays on the end. Between some sort of algorithmic tweak that prevents the seemingly unnatural deal-out of vowels hand-after-hand, game-after-game, and the suggestions above, I think Words with Friends can become the ULTIMATE word game. Of course, I'll continue to play it either way, but it would be nice to think Zynga is listening here. I would think their code gurus could have a quick look through the code to see if the randomness algorithm is actually showing favoritism to dealing out far more vowels than it should under certain conditions, perhaps. I probably sound like a clueless newbie by saying that, but you get the idea. Now, what about all of you, my fellow Words with Friends addicts? Are you experiencing what you would consider to be an abnormal dealing of all vowels, hand-after-hand? Or, perhaps you're experiencing some other Words with Friends funkiness that you'd like to chime in with. How about additions you would like to see to the game? Let me (and possibly Zynga, if they're reading) know your thoughts in the comments below! -Stephen Chapman
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