Get in your prao (or proa) to find the qat (or khat)

What the heck is up with the words in this game? We’ve definitely been hearing feedback from players that “our dictionary is broken or that we have bogus words.” Not to our knowledge! It’s time to talk about our dictionary, word commonness, and where these came from.

There are lots of English language dictionaries in the world. The Oxford English Dictionary (EOD) is considered by many to be the premier dictionary of the English language, but there are many others. For word games, many consider the Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary (OSPD) to be the Gold standard. There’s also ENABLE—the open source word list used and distributed by games like Zynga’s Words with Friends. Depending on what word list you use, determines how many words you can find. For example, here’s the word counts across a number of different dictionaries/word lists:

Dictionary / Word list Word count
Oxford English Dictionary 616,500
SOWPODS 267,751
Official Tournament and Club Word List (TWL06) 178,691
Wordament Word List 177,140
ENABLE1 172,820
OSPD3 80,612

As you can see, our word list is unique. Where did it come from? Well, we didn’t just want a list of words. We wanted a list of words that were actually used. In fact, if you haven’t noticed, look closely at the “Words not found” list in the Your Score screen at the end of each game. You will see that the sort order shows “common words” first and “obscure words” second. We did this, because it always bothered us to see word games list all the words alphabetically and see “garbage words” there. We wanted the words you missed to be words you might actually know, first.

We did this by indexing hundreds of free, English language electronic books off of the internet, word breaking them and comparing the words found against a reference word list. The histogram that this generated, ultimately helped us vet all of the words in our resulting word list as well as inform us about how common words appear in actual usage. Unfortunately, many free fiction and non-fiction ebooks are also old, such as Classics, and what we’ve found is that our language has “moved” a lot since the 1800s. Even so, there’s a bunch of old English words that we call common (like THROES), which you may have never heard of.

Now for the controversy: What should we do? Where should we go? Our philosophy on our word list is that it should contain every word in the language, regardless of how obscure. This means you will see, and have the ability to play, words like QAT—an evergreen plant from the middle east with hallucinogenic properties—even though you may have never heard of it! This particular word is a favorite amongst Scrabble players because it is one of the easiest to remember Q-without-U words. My other favorites are QAID, QOPH, and TRANQ.

As we’ve been play testing, and believe us… we’ve played a LOT of games in there with you… we look up every seemingly bogus word we find. To date, we have not found a word in our game that did not have a proper definition. We typically look up “weird words” by going to Bing.com and typing “define <word>” such as “define QAT”. Try it. You may not like the fact that there are lots of words you didn’t know… but as far as we know—every word out there is real.

What do you think? Should we filter/censor the dictionary? Do you think we are missing words? Share your thoughts and let’s have a discussion!

“Black Snapper” – Engineer and Gamer, YouVsTheInternet

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About Wordament

Wordament is a fun and addictive word game from You vs. the Internet, a Microsoft Studio.
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15 Responses to Get in your prao (or proa) to find the qat (or khat)

  1. AlexS says:

    I would propose having 2 ‘rooms’, one with the giant list of obscure words and the other with a more limited set of ‘casual’ words. That way people could choose their own adventure word list obscurity wise and everyone is happy 🙂

    I would personally play in the casual room 🙂

  2. Mukesh says:

    There are words missing in the list. Is “leo” not a word? Some nouns are accepted and some dont… for example Honda is a acceptable word.

    • Wordament says:

      “Leo” is a proper noun. Some proper nouns are also words, like “tom”, a male turkey, so they are in the dictionary.

      Honda on the other hand is a word. Dictionary.com state that honda is a noun and is defined as:
      an eye at one end of a lariat through which the other end is passed to form a lasso, noose, etc.

  3. Chris Gomez says:

    So far I’ve had no problem with your dictionary. Some people seem to think if they’ve never seen a word before it must be fake, when most any dictionary would prove that wrong. Seeing that you filtered your list way down from a dictionary is heartening.

    I would like you to address the possibility of players using boggle solvers. There have been some games with obscene scores. As I’ve played I’ve begun to recognize who the truly great players are, and their scores are reasonable. But sometimes I feel like it would be impossible to spot and swipe 80 to 90 words. I just wonder if some people are ruining the game with solvers.

  4. Pingback: Solvers, Cheaters, and High Scores, oh my! |

  5. Dave Fischer (sucko) says:

    Hi Black Snapper!

    I hope all is well. I played a game this morning and was denied multiple times on the words “kick” and “kicks”. Just thought you would like to know…

    Regards,
    — sucko —

    • Wordament says:

      Hi Dave,

      Sorry to hear that! We have a very exciting plan that we are working on. We said at the get-go, that we could scale to 250 concurrent users, and we are there most of the time at prime time… We have a new plan for a much higher number. Bear with us please. We don’t like the number 250 either. 🙂

  6. skitzo (cheater | about to be banned) says:

    So I see that your LLC has decided to try to take action against my username/IP as I’ve obviously not been playing the game just using my fingers & brain. So, I’m writing to you all to explain myself and see what happens.

    I live in the area (I lived on the eastside up until about a year ago and move a little north of Seattle) and I’m a software developer for a living. Playing your game with my girlfriend was fun, and we would come in 1st place here and there, but I developed an urge to do something that is personally more fun for me, write an application. I took on the challenge of trying to write an application that could be as good or better than the best Wordament players. So, for the past month I’ve been working on my app, trying to compile words and see what I can do. Finding a good dictionary was difficult, and the one I managed to find is devoid of plurals and various word tenses, so I’ve had to try some interesting things to try to generate tenses of words.

    Now, reading your posts about cheaters and seeing you’ve decided to give me a Scarlet letter, I think I shoud clarify what my intentions are. I have no interest in people seeing my name at the top of the leaderboard, I didn’t even know you had cumulative/stored leaderboards until I started looking around in the app and on the website tonight. I had been assuming everyone would discredit my scores considering I rarely get over 20 words, yet manage to get 400-700 points out of the few words I get. I honestly want nothing other than to keep having a chance to improve my application, and build my own personal dictionary. I could scan all the books and articles on the internet and build a dictionary that way, but confirming/adding/removing words by using my app and playing the game in 2 minute increments is a significantly more entertaining way of doing it.

    I’m taking on a challenge of my own and playing the game in a way that is more fun for me, through writing an application that I can constantly tweak and make improvements with. If I just wanted to have everyone see me on the leaderboard I could modify my app to find tons of small words that are substrings or anagrams of eachother to simulate how a normal person finds words. I could have my app show the paths to 20 different words all on my screen at once, mixing in high and low scoring words, or do other things to disguise my scores. I could start messing with OCR and my webcam (which your game lends itself to incredibly well) to scan the puzzle instantly and get rid of the 15-20 second delay at the start of my games while I write the data into my app. I suspect that there is some date/time based randomized seed you’re using to generate your puzzles so I could devote time to saving puzzles and various other data and try to figure out the puzzle before it happens (I could be wrong, but I’m only tring to make a point).

    However, I haven’t done any of these things because I’m not trying to impress anyone or have anyone think that I’m good at this game (my skill level is slightly above average, but nothing special for sure). I’m sure you’ve looked at my data, and you can see that I’m very diligent and consitant at sticking to my app and trying to make it better, regardless of how few words I get, or how poor/good my score will be. The standard deviation in my word counts has to be one of the lowest of anyone in the game. I really do think any normal person could just ignore my score up there when they see how few words I get.

    My main point here is that I enjoy your game in my own way, and I have no interest in recognition or beating everyone in this game. If it helps, just no longer show my score on anyone else’s leaderboard (I really only want to know how many points I get and if my app is improving or not), or continue to label me a cheater so that people will discredit me if I have a higher score and be motivated and excited when they beat me and my application. Remove all my records from the db so that I don’t exist to anyone else, that’s fine with me, and I would actualy prefer it if it lessens the negativity associated with my account. But I don’t think banning me is the right thing to do here because I’m not trying to cheat anyone.

    I’ve managed to create a pretty efficient app thus far, and an increasing robust dictionary, and that’s just from my current motiviation to simply make a cool program in my spare time. What will banning me and preventing me from doing something I’ve enjoyed for the past month do to my motivation?

    I have no interest in ruining anyone’s time and don’t want any of the crazy good players to feel screwed over by what I’m trying to do. I’m really impressed with what some people can do on a consistant basis, I have a lot of respect for their ability to kill at this game.

    Personally, I’d be a little disappointed if despite all of your improvements and investments in this app, that you wouldn’t find a way to change your game to make brain-finger players score better than my app or these ‘boggle generators’ that you and other people have mentioned. That would be a challenge I would love to take on if I was a developer in your company, especially if you’re looking to develop more games in the future and really make your games interesting. Wouldn’t that be a more effective solution than banning someone who has no malitious intent and who isn’t just using some app he downloaded online to get as high a score as possible? Why ban someone who could be an ally and share the things he learns while writing his own personal application? I really don’t see the harm I’m doing, especially if you don’t display any of my scores to anyone else when I’m playing. I’m doing this only for my own enjoyment and have no interest in dedicating a huge amount of time into development or distributing a product, especially if I can just continue to play and have fun in my own way.

    I guess we’ll see what happens.

    • Wordament says:

      Hi there,

      First, thanks for the detailed post. I’m glad to see our anti-cheating system flagged you accordingly. 🙂

      Truth is: we’ve also had numerous reports about you cheating from other players too, so you are not simply being “ignored.” You are genuinely upsetting legitimate players and this game needs to be fun for everyone. I’m really torn as what to say or do here. You have clearly admitted that you are not playing “by brain” but by “machine assist” and that shows in the results. It’s not fair to the spirit of the game. The action we are going to take is simple: We are going to remove you from all leaderboards and player results. You will be able to continue to play the game, but you will never be able to contribute to our results list or leaderboards. You will be able to see your own result on your phone, but no one else will see you.

      — Black Snapper

  7. Pingback: Stats! |

  8. TheMeM says:

    In my middle eastern country (Israel), QAT is sold in the markets…
    BTW: it is similar to the coca leaves – very bitter and not more hallucinogenic than alcohol (actually, much less)

    I never knew it has an official word in English.
    It is funny to see how many Hebrew words exist in English. I was amazed the Quph is also included. Most of these words emerged from Bible translations, when the translators didn’t have an English word, they just wrote the Hebrew one in Latin letters. Very few catched up (e.g. Jubilee, Behemoth, Earth), most of them were left only to scrabble players…

    • Wordament says:

      Wow! Thanks for this comment! That’s so cool.

      Have you actually tried QAT then? What do you do with it?

      • TheMeM says:

        I tried it once and didn’t like it. BTW: It is legal.
        You just chew it. Same way they do it in south America with coca leaves.

  9. Jacob Klein says:

    I think Wordament should have an option to exclude the player from the results/leaderboards. That way, the skitzo guy who is using “machine assist”, could set that option, and exclude himself from the boards, which will allow him to continue on his challenge (ie: the game should still show him how he did, and still show where he would have placed), while keeping the players happy (because they will not see his score at the top).

    Win/win if both parties cooperate. Wordament needs the feature, and skitzo needs to use it.

    • Wordament says:

      We have a slightly different feature, called “banhammer” 🙂 that has been applied to skitzo (and a few others now). It basically allows them to play and see the leaderboards, but no one else sees them. So, the fact that you don’t see skitzo anymore is not an accident.

      The Banhammer

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