Interviews | Preferred Partner Feature

WordBox Interview: Oxygen Games on how it developed its hit puzzle game

WordBox Interview: Oxygen Games on how it developed its hit puzzle game
  • Learn about the road that led to WordBox's development
  • Why App Store Optimization has been crucial to its success
  • The importance of compartmentalizing your skillset

If you happen to be an aspiring developer or a hobbyist designing games on the side, then our latest interview with Oxygen Games’ solo developer, James Ormond, will be of special interest to you. The California native discussed the trials and rewards of developing his successful puzzle title WordBox, which recently achieved the notable milestone of having 1 million puzzles solved, and over 6 million words found by its passionate fan-base.

First off, can you share a bit about yourself?

My name is James Ormond, based out of Oakland, CA. I’ve been a software engineer since college and spend most of my time as an iOS engineer in the corporate world. I’m also into athletics and coach high school basketball. When I’m not writing code or playing basketball, you can find me hiking with my wife and dog, watching movies, or tending to my plants.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on
What inspired you to become a game’s developer and can you tell us a bit about the path you took to get there?

My whole life, I’ve always been someone who likes to build things. Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time playing video games but it wasn’t until high school that I started messing around with code. My first experience was a friend showing me how to program complex equations into our TI-89 calculators. I thought it was fascinating and decided I wanted to take it more seriously in college where I studied Information Systems. The summer before my senior year, during some down time, I took an online class on iOS development. I immediately fell in love and spent my senior year building as many apps as possible. When I graduated and started working in the corporate world, I initially didn’t have any time to continue building games but after a few years in, once I was settled, I was able to pick up my game development again, and started Oxygen Games.

WordBox achieved a significant milestone recently with 1 over a million puzzles solved. What do you think has been the key to its success?

One significant part of WordBox’s success has been the work I’ve done in App Store Optimization (ASO). It wasn’t until a couple years after launch that I started focusing more of my efforts on ASO and finding a place in the App Store where WordBox could get some visibility. Combine this with optimizing every corner of WordBox’s App Store listing, and I’ve been able to get WordBox to a place where the organic downloads are now consistently high.

What was the development process like? Were there any specific challenges you faced?

From a technical perspective, the development process was straightforward; WordBox isn’t a complex game, and thus doesn’t require complex code. The challenges came from the UI design process. The first iteration of WordBox was designed by myself, and it was terrible. I could see in my head what I wanted it to look like, but I couldn’t translate it into the app, and I realized that I’d need to invest some time and money into finding a good designer. The second iteration of WordBox was designed by a freelancer I found on Fiverr. The design improved, but it still didn’t meet my expectations, so for the third and final iteration, I utilized an amazing tool called 99Designs.

On 99Designs, I met a designer who was able to finally bring my vision to life, and the two of us have since started work on another game. The lesson I learned here was to compartmentalize what skills you can bring to the table and what skills you need to hire outside. For myself, I bring the game design and technical skills. To have a complete team, I need a designer.

How significant a role has the WordBox community played in shaping the game?

Without a doubt, the WordBox community has played a significant role in shaping the game, both directly and indirectly. First, throughout the whole lifecycle of WordBox, I have been in close communication with friends and family who have been valuable testers and provided copious amounts of feedback. At the end of the day, I made this game for my family, so any feedback they share, I make sure to incorporate. Second, I have leaned heavily into what WordBox players are telling me via their actions within the game. I am a huge believer in the power of data, and that any questions I have can easily be answered by testing different variations of a hypothesis. Every new feature of WordBox is born out of responding to what the players are telling me.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on
Is there any advice you would give to aspiring developers out there based on your experience?

Something that has worked for me has been to optimize every corner of the WordBox experience, from the top of the funnel in the App Store, to the bottom of the funnel deep within the game. Each step of the experience has an opportunity to be better, and you just need to test all possible variations until you find one that sticks. For example, if you’re trying to get more ratings / reviews for your game, there are so many ways to optimize this. Try different text, images, or buttons. Try different stages in the user journey. The possibilities are endless, and if you’re willing to walk down that path, you will find the optimal solution.

If you’d like to take on the challenging puzzles WordBox has to offer, or simply take a look at the fruits of a passionate solo developer’s efforts to craft a simple but ingenious puzzle title, then you can download WordBox for free right now from the App Store.