in Language Technology, Our People

A photo of Jo Overline, creator of Wordicus and the Ugly Meter.

Jo Overline is a programming magician from Gilbert, Arizona USA. He began computer programming at the ripe old age of 15 and had his first big hit with the notorious iPhone app, Ugly Meter. Ugly Meter gained international recognition and was covered by MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, The NY Post, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail UK. Based on the popularity of the Ugly Meter, he has appeared live on several national news stations, was promoted by Jay Leno, and was a guest on the Howard Stern Show in New York.

As the smarter and obviously more handsome member of the two-man iPhone app development team known as the Dapper Gentlemen, Jo Overline is the developer behind several popular apps and has quite a few more in the works that will be released in late 2011.

Jo Overline was kind enough sit down with us to talk about the Dapper Gentlemen’s latest creation, Wordicus, the first multi-player, multilingual word game app of its kind. In our interview with Jo Overline, he talks about connecting individuals across countries and languages, finding language support during the software development process, and what direction he believes iPhone and smart phone apps are heading in the future. For more information and to check out more apps by the Dapper Gentlement, visit their website here.

And don’t forget to download Wordicus for free and try it out today!

Could you first briefly explain the concept behind Wordicus and what makes it different from other word game apps?

Jo Overline: Wordicus is a twist on classic word games like Scrabble. In Wordicus, the player shuffles tiles and selects words on a playing field of letters. The player has the opportunity to become “more powerful” by earning powerups, such as bombs, to explode more letters. Wordicus is the first word game in history where players can play in their native language against players who speak different languages on the same game board, essentially creating a global platform for gamers. Users can play up to 20 multiplayer games at one time, competing with players from all around the world, or as a single-player, against the clock or at leisure.

Dapper Gentlemen has created a handful of apps. Wordicus is the first that is language-based. How did you come up with the idea for this game?

Jo: We wanted to do something different. We have always liked puzzle games, and with the popularity of many of the word games on iPhone, we thought it would be a good market to get into. There are no word games available in any language except English; we saw a niche opportunity we could fill, and we went for it.

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Wordicus supports English, Spanish, French, and German. Why did you decide to make it so multilingual? Was it a decision from the very beginning of the development process?

Jo: The decision to add multiple languages was made later on in the development process. It actually began after I talked to someone who also works in the localization industry, ironically enough. Initially, the game was not even designed to be multiplayer. As I was listening to this guy talk about the localization process and why it’s necessary for businesses planning to launch into the global market, it suddenly clicked in my head. I thought, “Hey, there are iPhones all over the world. Why just make this game only in English?”

After we implemented the multiplayer system and had it underway, we decided to add multiple languages so people who speak Spanish, for example,  could play against English players. After doing a little research, we also included French and German because they all use a common alphabet.

An image of Wordicus screenshots, the multilingual word game application.

Were there any specific challenges you ran into regarding language support?

Jo: No, not at all. It was actually a very easy step for us to make. Every iPhone has language support for dozens of languages. We used the built-in iPhone dictionary so everything we needed was already there. Wordicus automatically detects what language your phone is in and changes the game to your native language. We had some translators test run the game, but overall, it was a very easy process.

We also made it easy for the player. If, for example, a Spanish player spells out a word, when the English-speaking player starts the the next turn, it shows the Spanish word, but adds the Spanish flag next to it so you know what language the other player is using.

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Do you think Wordicus is paving the way for future apps to become more multilingual, regardless of the app content?

Jo: It depends on the popularity. A lot of popular game don’t even use language, just animations, so they can be played by users in all countries, bypassing the language barrier. However, catering to a specific language is a model that we think would be more successful.

Mobile apps have exploded over the past few years. What do you think is the future of apps? Is it a fad?

Jo: Mobile apps are the future of portable video games. In the past, Nintendo owned the market with the GameBoy and Nintendo DS. This is no longer the case. Smart phones are a common sight in today’s world; with major games available for 99 cents, nobody is going to spend $40 – $50 on a single game that’s played on a traditional portable system.

It sounds like the Dapper Gentlemen are on their way to developing and producing some very exciting projects, and we look forward to seeing what you guys come out with next. In the meantime, we’ll be plastering “ugly” shots around the office and passing Wordicus around during our lunch breaks. Thanks again for taking the time to meet with us Jo Overline!

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