‘Scribblenauts’ DS Developer Consults Spreadsheet To Sell Me On His Game

I like game designer Jeremiah Slaczka. I like his team’s games (“Drawn to Life,” “Lock’s Quest.”)

And I believe he’s an honest man.

But I’ve never had such a hard time believing a game developer’s hype as I did last week when I talked to him about his team’s latest project in the making, “Scribblenauts.”

He wanted me to believe that the team that’s working on this game at 5th Cell is really making a game that will render any object you write down on your DS touch screen, and that each object will be usable in the game world.

We were doing the interview on the phone. I asked him to load the spreadsheet he has that lists every object planned for the game.

I started looking around my office and naming stuff, trying to stump him:

Cake mix? (Because I have “Portal” cake mix from Valve)

Slaczka did a search and said that the game can render a cake mixer, cake mix and pancake mix — all different objects with different properties.

Hourglass? (Because I have a “Phantom Hourglass” from Nintendo)



Of course.


Yes, the game will make the same object whether you write “briefcase,” “suitcase” or “case.” They would be classified as containers. Dragging something else to them would put that something else in the container.


Sure, that’s classified as kindling. Combine it with a match and it’ll burn.

I stopped naming things. Slackza swears that they’ve thought of everything. Exotic foods may not make it. Don’t expect “some eastern mountain Bolivian dish,” he said. But do expect… “dialysis machine” to work.

The “Scribblenauts” game is set to be comprised of more than a hundred “casual” and “core” level. “The premise behind the design is that casual levels are life situations,” Slackza said. “Like a piñata hanging and you can hit it with a bat.” Or you can take down that piñata with whatever else you can imagine and write into the DS. The core levels, he said, would be tailored to gamers, involving switches and spike pits and stuff like that. In those levels too, the player would write in whatever objects they want to use.

“Scribblenauts” doesn’t have a publisher yet, though Slaczka says publisher reaction has been good. He says that the reputation and revenue earned from the 5th Cell’s “Drawn To Life” game has helped strengthen his team’s business position.

But there’s no firm release plan yet. Just an in-development game based on idea that partially came to Slaczka in a dream — this evolution of a Mad Libs-inspired game and life-situation puzzle game — that was birthed in 2007.

Can you believe it’s for real? Do you think 5th Cell can pull it off?

For more details, check out the official “Scribblenauts” site.