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For the love of words

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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Rajendran Dandapani has created a game targeting word nerds

Words worth(From right) Rajendran with programmer Sandhiya and graphic designer Kumar
Words worth(From right) Rajendran with programmer Sandhiya and graphic designer Kumar

Rajendran Dandapani has spent summers keying in words from the dictionary into a document, all because of his passion for words. No it was not one of those strange fixations of the youth; it was all part of a word game he was trying to build called “Adventures in Wordlands.”

Though the game sunk without a trace in the late 90s when it was originally conceived, it has now been given a fresh lease of life under the title “StartsWith” and is now available in the Apple App Store for Rs. 55.

“The game was 15 years in the making. I like words and vocabulary games. So I was looking at creating an educational game, where one can learn while playing. By the time I was done creating the database, I realised I had over 30,000 words,” says Dandapani, who leads a mobile team at New Horizon Media (Chennai), over telephone.

Soon after, he began working and completely forgot about his word bank until a hobby project as part of his work culture gave him the idea of rekindling the game.

“Apple has a separate category for word games and it is a word game which won this year’s Apple Annual Design Awards. I got my colleagues to programme and design the game.”

StartsWith, produced under Jambav by New Horizon Media, is a game set in the year 48 BC when Julius Caesar sets fire to the Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt. So the player has to put together words in the dictionary with the help of clues, a starting letter and a genie lamp for hints. The player gradually progresses from “Zameen” (or “ground zero”), the beginner to “Acharya”, the expert or “the master”, which are named after characters from Indian mythology to offer an Indian connect.

“The game basically targets ‘word nerds’ or people who like playing with words. It also helps those preparing for the SAT or GMAT,” explains Dandapani.

“So there are four basic levels: easy, medium, difficult and insanely hard. But the game also comes with an adaptive play mode, where it throws you challenges depending on how good you are at it. For instance, if my son takes up the game where I have left it, the game will sense that he is not able to match up and will then throw up easier words for him.”

Dandapani is now planning to expand the ambit of the game by adding an educational angle or by widening the scope of the guess-the-word concept.

“I am looking at adding more width to the game, this means creating educational packages for SAT/GMAT candidates or converting the game into a celebrity hunt or a name hunt game because this is all about the sequence of letters, which can also include names not just words. So there is a lot of potential.”

As of now, he simply wants the game to reach out to more people, get their feedback and probably make it more popular.

“We are also offering bulk discounts of 50 per cent for schools which want to instal games for students on iPads, though not many schools in India offer this.”

www.Jambav.com. is now having an offer where visitors can drop in their email addresses and a few lucky ones will receive a free version of StartsWith.

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

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