The classic formula
Besides Mavis Beacon, the most common (and only) reference players had when we first showed Epistory was The Typing of the Dead franchise. When Ettome (designer and developer of Typing Hearts) says he’s making a typing game, “for most gamers, [Typing of the Dead] still is the reference. I believe it’s the one that made the biggest impact on people’s minds.” Starting as a typing adaptation of The House of the Dead, a classic rail shooter, it is to the best of my knowledge the first typing game to be a “real game”. The first version in Japan was an arcade cabinet where the light guns were replaced by keyboards, but its popularity in the US comes from its console adaptations and PC sequels.
If you put aside the 3D zombies, the game plays in the same way as many other small typing games you can find on Steam or on browser games portals. The game gives you words that you have to type within a limited time. Often the words are linked to dangerous things moving towards you and you are expected to type them fast enough, starting from the closest one.
Fast Typing Master (2020) is the clearest example of this gameplay, which I call here the “classic formula”. This is the most basic way to challenge typing skills, and the most intuitive because, outside of video games, typing is measured in words per minute (or WPM) which is a measure of typing speed. Fun fact: by definition, a “word” in WPM is equal to five keystrokes, so WPM is actually keystrokes per minute divided by five.
Type Racer (2008)
Type Racer also simply asks players to type fast but adds a multiplayer component. It’s currently the most popular online multiplayer typing game, and it allows a large community (30,000 members on its official Discord server) to compete for free in typing speed competitions. It may not look like a real game but the community of players who want to show off their typing speed is not insignificant for a typing game. Typefighters (2016) features simple typing minigames that are also all multiplayer.
Typing of the Undead (2019)
Just typing words one after another quickly becomes boring (at least if you’re not a competitive player). However, with the right context and enough feedback, you can get into the flow much like you would with a rhythm game. Good contextualisation of the typing and variations in what you need to type are also very important. For example, Typing of the Undead sometimes uses single letters or long sentences. But to deepen the experience and be “more like a real game,” we need to give players more agency and meaningful choices to make. We’ll expand on all of this in the continuation of this article, starting by supplementing the typing with mechanics from other genres.