Use Your Words is a Party Game for Funny People and Their Unfunny Friends

22 0
Use Your Words is a Party Game for Funny People and Their Unfunny Friends

“The only honest art form is laughter, comedy… you can’t fake it.”
-Lenny Bruce

In 2015, my friend Julian and I set out to create “a party game for funny people and their unfunny friends.” He had developed plenty of games up to that point, whereas I had developed exactly none. Today, we’re preparing to finish Use Your Words on PS4. And we’ve learned more along the way than we ever imagined.

I should explain how Use Your Words works: in short, the game sets up a joke and you produce a punchline. If another player chooses your answer as their favorite, you get points. Players typically gather around a TV and use their smartphones or tablets for input (rather than traditional controllers). Nowadays, playtesters usually start laughing early on and keep laughing throughout the game. But it took us a while to get there.

Funny Like Batman

For most people, “competitive comedy” is an intimidating prospect. We think of it this way: it would be easy for Batman to play one of the Arkham games. It’s his job. In the same way, it would be easy for a professional comedian to score points in Use Your Words.

But the Arkham series made it fun and easy to do the hard work of being the Dark Knight; similarly, a comedy game “for unfunny people” must create a fun environment where it’s easy to crack off hysterical, gut-busting jokes.

The Illusion of Safety

Anxiety has a way of locking up the “improvised comedy” part of the brain, so we paid attention to the places where players got anxious. They didn’t like to be rushed in writing their punchlines, so we fiddled with the timer. 60 seconds felt too rushed, but we didn’t want to slow the overall pacing too much, so we raised it to 90 seconds. Suddenly, with the perceived safety of extra time, most players finished their answers in under 60 seconds! We continued finessing the timer, but the big lesson was that additional writing time creates the illusion of safety, which allows a player’s sense of humor to come out.

Another part of our safety net is what we call the “House Decoy.” In our original prototype, players who couldn’t think of an answer simply didn’t get to participate. This made some players feel left out or even stupid. So we created a system where a player can use one of our prewritten “house answers” as a decoy and receive half-points if other players vote for it. Many players never even use this feature, but again, the perception of a safety net gives many players the confidence to take a big leap and write their own original answers.

Open Mic Playtesting

Comedians sometimes test out new jokes at open mic nights. If a new joke kills, it stays; if it flops, it gets thrown out. At a certain point, we began treating prompts this way. Some of our prompts immediately “killed” and, for whatever reason, inspired funny answers. Other prompts left players stumped or led to bland answers. We made a rule that once a prompt flopped twice, it would be cut forever. Because of that rule, we’ve only kept a few hundred of the more than 1,000 prompts that we’ve produced. But every time we cut a lackluster prompt, the fun becomes that much more consistent.

Opening Night Approaches

As we put the finishing touches on Use Your Words, our little dev team comes closer and closer to the day when a total stranger will boot it up and experience a little show we created — a show which happens to put that very stranger in the starring role.

And if all goes according to plan, they’ll step into the spotlight, grab the mic, and kill.

Comments are closed.

22 Comments

  • Sold! Any idea when you will release it?

  • ..So a jackbox games clone?

  • Are you allowing players to add their own prompts like Quiplash 2? Seems like a fun game but I could see my friends and I exhausting the included prompts pretty quickly. A few hundred only goes so far when you have gamenight every other weekend.

    • We’ll release with 12-15 hours of non-repeating content. That said, I’ve played about 200 hours of the game and I can confidently say our prompts have excellent replay value :)

  • Could be fun. Will need to see price point because games like these I typically only play once or twice for kicks when have right company over and then forget about :)

  • Might be fun but will depend totally on the price.

  • So you guys played Quiplash, changed like one thing in the rules, added in less prompts and are releasing it as a game! I LOVE board/card games. But I’ll be passing on this one, the originality just isn’t there.

    • Fun fact: We completed our concept pitch about a month before Jackbox announced Quiplash. If you give us a try, I think you’ll find we’re a very different experience from Quiplash… maybe even more different than Fibbage is from Balderdash ;)
      Thanks for reading the post.
      -Brent

  • This looks totally awesome, I’m in!! As a big fan of the JackBox games, this looks like a great addition to the “Party Games” on my PS4. Additionally thank you for including a kids/parent/family filter, this is something the whole family will enjoy!

  • Brentalfloss! Will probably buy this!

  • Looks really Fun! Would like to play, but what about different languages? Will there bei a german release?

  • Stellar! Could see this being a hit with the family (we are oh so very inappropriate!). Looking forward to it!

  • I love playing other games in this genre with the right crowd. How many players can participate at once? Any special considerations to playing remotely while others are livestreaming? I’ve played some Jackbox games that way with folks on twitch and have had a generally great time (even won a few times! :-), though the input lag can be a bit problematic at times.

  • As I’m a big fan of the Jackbox games, this looks very fun and different enough that I will be buying this. I really wish there were more party games that incorporate phones/tablets, so I’m very excited to see this.

  • SOLD!!! LOVE THESE TYPES OF GAMES… KEEP THEM COMING!!!

  • Super excited about this game, I’m just wondering, can we make YouTube videos on this game, do we have to credit anything if we can?

    • You will be able to make YouTube videos of your gameplay! We built in a “Let’s Play Mode” that changes the soundtrack so that it’s Content-ID friendly (Read: won’t get you a copyright strike!) and it also adds an extra 30 seconds if you’re streaming the game to account for potential lag.

  • Very nice! Seems like a fun time I can have with some good people. I’ll give it a try! Maybe. Cool game, but oh sweet mercy that trailer is not good. Like at all. Almost makes me lost interest in the game. But I can see that you put effort into it, so your heart was there at least. Party on, dudes.

  • Maybe is too much to ask, but consider adding languages, like… SPANISH… If you do it, for sure you will sell more and that includes me !!!

  • This concept sounds like a lot of fun – I’m wondering if it could be done online as an alternative option to locally? I have a buddy in Texas that gets me crying laughing, I would love to play with him!

Please enter your date of birth.