Letterpress lighter 2

Loren Brichter is well known in the app development community. He is the man behind Tweetie, the Twitter app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. He has led many an inspirational path for next generation developers and is the man that introduced the swipe-across menus and “pull-to-refresh” that led to the development of Path and Sparrow. In fact, Brichter was a Sparrow adviser until it was acquired by Google.

Impending app co-founder Phil Ryu stated that “He (Brichter) has influenced the way apps are designed more than anyone I can think of outside Apple.”

Letterpress is Brichters latest innovation and is a hybrid word game that takes Word with Friends and Scrabble to the next level. Letterpress is an addictive word game that takes some of the strategies from Reversi and the cunning tactics from Scrabble and melds them into one very interesting app game.

Brichter Time

Brichter was not only working on letterpress during the time he was relaxing from Twitter, in fact.Brichter told the Verge magazine that “Twitter clients took up all my life, so I had this backlog of ideas and things to do, but Letterpress wasn’t even one of those ideas! I started building a totally different game that I spent two months on — it was an arcade spaceship flying around thing. There was a ship and two thrusters: left and right.”

Brichter stopped the development and didn’t release it. Instead, he wanted to develop a mind game, something that could be played by two or more players. He told the Verge that “I’m not in this to have a billion people playing it or to make a billion dollars. My wife and I were out to dinner; both pulled out our phones since our table wasn’t ready, and were both playing SpellTower at the same time. ‘This is silly,’ we thought. We should be able to play each other.”

The need to fill in a gap in life, when you have no words or are waiting for an elevator is what moved Brichter to develop the game. It’s also another way to create a more social environment, where two people sitting together are not lost in their own worlds but are working together in a socially interactive environment. Such as waiting for a meal in a restaurant and don’t want to talk.



SpellTower is a wordy modern take on Tetris, where you clear out words using adjacent letters instead of clearing out rows of blocks. Just as in Tetris, you strive for either a high score (Tower Mode) or try to build the longest word (Puzzle Mode).

Brichter stated that “I was also hooked on Words With Friends back when it came out, but then I got tired of it. I tried similar games but conceptually they were derivative, and at some point, all my friends were better than me, so it got tedious.”

Brichter wanted to create an exciting game that did not bore you after time; he also wanted a game where you had a shot at really winning because you played against another human opponent. The Letterpress way is to form words using letters from anywhere on the game board. When you form a word, the letters of the word turn blue. Now it’s your opponent’s turn (Red color), and they can steal letters. Basically, you can use your opponent letters, and flip them from their color to yours. If a letter is blocked in, it cannot be used or changed. The winner of the game is the person with the most colored letters when all the letter pieces have been used up.


Brichter wrote 6,346 lines of code to make this game, and that’s shorter than what he used to make Tweetie 2, which is significantly lower 50,000 lines of code. The game is minimalistic, designed to be fast, not a resource hog, and uses a simple GUI.

Brichter’s thoughts on the design are “I suppose it’s an evolution of my own personal aesthetic, but it’s not 100 percent flat. If you look at Windows Phone 8’s interface, which I love, everything is super flat. Here, if you tap a drag a tile, there’s a drop shadow. You have the affordance of millions of years of evolution. Your eye has to pick up certain visual hints.”

A Brichter Evolutionary Step

Letterpress is free to play and has a 99 cent in-app purchase that gives your new color themes, as well as the ability to see previously played words. The paid version also lets you play more opponents at the same time, which is the big plus for heavy gamers.

Brichter told the Verge that “It’s ironic that I would come up with a word game, given how bad I was at English in high school. But if it does turn out to be a new idea, that’s pretty neat.”

What Letterpress does is show us how Brichter thinks, he likes to minimalize and use simple effects and simple processes that do not clutter vision. This is perhaps his genius, the ability to take something to its core and bring it back in a natural and efficient manner, focusing on the process and not what’s around it. We expect that we will see something more from Brichter in the future, the question is not what, but when.