Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Scenic Routes in Plates Across America®

Plates Across America Scenic Route Sign
In the Plates Across America® game, you (virtually) travel across and throughout the country.  There are the country-spanning routes that serve as the main travel options, but as you travel these longer routes, you will unlock shorter ones, most of which are famous scenic routes and byways.

The Scenic Routes

There are over 180 different scenic routes in the game. These were chosen from some of the popular and most scenic highways and byways that exist across the United States.  Here's a sample of some of the scenic routes available in the game:

  • Beartooth Highway
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway
  • Connecticut River Scenic Byway
  • Country Music Highway
  • Dalton Highway
  • Flint Hills Scenic Byway
  • Going to the Sun Road
  • Great Basin Highway
  • Hamakua Coast Drive
  • Michigan Gold Coast
  • Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Ohio River Scenic Byway
  • Overseas Highway
  • Pike's Peak Highway
  • Red Rock Scenic Byway
  • San Juan Skyway
  • Selkirk Loop
  • Seward Highway
  • Texas Hill Country
  • Top of the Rockies
  • Utah Route 12
  • Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Scenic Route Signs

One of the main goals of designing our game was to instill a sense of traveling. One way we have done that is to reproduce the type of signs you would see along the way. We have a Blog Article that discusses the road and route number signs we added, but for the scenic routes and byways, they often have their own special sign designs. 

For example, the Texas Hill Country Trail scenic route includes these road number signs:

Plates Across America Texas Hill Country Route Signs

However, you will also occasionally see these special signs along the way which look like this:

Plates Across America Texas Hill Country Trail Scenic Route Sign

In the game, we reproduce this experience by also occasionally showing the special signs instead of the road sign numbers.

State-wide Scenic Route Signs

Plates Across America Colorado Scenic Route Sign

For many scenic routes, like the Texas Hill Country Trail, they are special enough that to have a dedicated sign, but not all scenic routes take this approach.  Many states will have their own scenic highway designation with a corresponding state-wide sign. For example, in Colorado, many of the scenic routes, like Top of the Rockies, will use the the same sign as shown at right.

National Park Road Signs

Plates Across America National Park Scenic Route Sign

Some of the game's scenic routes are road inside National Parks. These do not usually have any special designation along the road, but we did create a sign for them that fits in with the other signage you typically see along the roads in the parks (see image at right).


We hope this gives you a little extra insight into Plates Across America®.  There's a lot of game design work that went into creating these route signs and though this is not a prominent feature of the game, we feel that these subtle additions are important to give the players a better sense of the traveling dynamics of the game.

If you have not played our game before, try it out here for free:

Happy Travels!

Plates Across America Route Sign Collage

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Plates Across America® New Membership Levels

Plates Across America® membership badge

We recently launched a new multiplayer version of Plates Across America®. This new mode of playing is geared toward playing in groups be it families, friends or work teams. With that release, we also introduced new membership levels tailored for group play.

Membership Benefits

The "Plates Club" is our membership program that helps unlock additional game features. You can play much of the game without becoming a member, but membership gives you the following added benefits:

  • Premium vehicle avatars. As you earn points in the game, you can use them to upgrade your vehicle avatar and accessorize it. Membership allows you to choose from a wider range of vehicles and accessories.
  • Bonus routes. All of our major, main routes are accessible to all players, but many of the additional bonus and scenic routes you encounter along the way require membership to unlock. Traveling on these additional routes allows you to add to your collection and reach travel goals more quickly.
  • Additional daily group games. Anyone can play our multiplayer group game, but are limited to a few a day. With membership, you gain access to play more group games per day.

Individual Membership

Plates Across America® Membership

This is the membership level we have have always offered which is limited to one person sign ups.  We retained this for those that predominantly plan to play our single player travel game and are not interested in adding more members to their account. 

Friends & Family Membership

Plates Across America® group membership

This new membership level is intended for families and small groups of friends.  When you join at this level, you can invite your friends and family members to join your account and get the same member benefits.

Team Membership

Plates Across America® team membership

This level is aimed at larger groups including large families and work teams.  With this membership level, you are able to add many more people to your account to get the same member benefits.

Why is Membership Required?

We love creating Plates Across America® and want as many people to play as possible. However, to keep the game running requires us paying a service to host the game. The more the game is played, the more it costs us in hosting fees. For this reason, we have to put some restrictions on free playing. The membership program is how we allow more playing without the risk of going bankrupt.

Final Thoughts

Plates Across America® logo

Although we encourage people to sign up for membership to help support Plates Across America®, we also make a good portion of the game available to anyone. We hope that after playing the game that you enjoy it enough that you will want to access the extra benefits that a Plates Club membership offers.

Whether you are interesting in joining our Plate Club or not, you can play the game for free using these links:

Single Player Game

Multiplayer Game

Happy Travels!

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Multiplayer Word Game

Plates Across America multiplayer game  for online team building. Also for families and friends.

We've recently released a new multiplayer feature of Plates Across America®. Previously, we offered a two player, head-to-head version of the game, but we have now expanded this so that up to 10 users can play at a time.

Family & Friends

We had noticed our game being played as a group with multiple family members contributing answers to a single person playing the game. Everyone wanted to make their guess.  This made the group game seem such a natural and obvious feature that we are somewhat ashamed to have taken so long to get around to it.  All of our previous user testing was focused on one person playing the single player version. Naturally, this new feature is not restricted to just families as it can be just as fun for a group of friends to play. 

Inviting Players

Plates Across America: multiplayer game invotation.

When you start a multiplayer "group" game, you have two ways you can invite other players:

  • send them a link that allows them to join your game; or
  • have us send an invitation email.

The first one is best if you are all together at the same time and can easily share the URL with everyone. Depending on your perspective, it can be an advantage or disadvantage that anyone who gets a hold of that URL will be able to join.

On the other hand, the email invite option allows you to invite people and notify them directly about joining your game, even if they are not online at the time.  Another possible benefit of this approach is that the link they receive in their email only allows that individual to join. Even if they share the URL, it will not work for anyone else.

Warmup Puzzles

One concern we had with the multiplayer game is inviting new players into a game without their being familiar with the rules. No one likes to compete when they are at a disadvantage like that.  To help new players get over that uncomfortable feeling, we create a special practice "warmup" page that allows them to read the rules and try their hand at some puzzles before heading into a group game.

Warmup Puzzle Page

Plates Across America warmup oage

Two Player Game

Plates Across America 2 person race

The two-player game is not very different from a group game with two participants, though we differentiate this for one important reason. With a group game, you manage and invite the players, but with our special two player version, we will automatically find you a compatible playing partner.  We call these auto-assigned games a "Race" and use a checkered flag icon to help differentiate them from other group games.

For races, we use sophisticated, next generation AI to match up players...or really, we don't, it just seems the thing to say nowadays.  However, we do have a player matching engine that compares player skill levels to help pair them up so the games can be more competitive and fun.

Online Team Building

Plates Across America multipalyer game for online team building

Another good benefit of our group game is that it can be used for online team building. Remote working is here to stay and this means that more and more teams are looking for online group activities to help team members get to know each other better.  There is no shortage of articles suggesting activities for online team building, but frankly, we find most of them fairly corny, not universally applicable and often heavily skewed toward extroverted personalities.  

Though word games like Plates Across America® may not be everyone's cup of tea, we are confident that our game is far removed from the "corny" category, is more inviting than many alternatives and is a whole lot of fun for word game enthusiasts.

Final Thoughts

The group games are still a relative new feature, so we will be refining it as we get user feedback. Please have a try and let us know what you think and whether you have any suggestions to improve it. You can try it out here:

Group Game Page

Happy Travels!

Friday, March 10, 2023

Game Location Types in Plates Across America®

Location Icons in Plates Across America®

As you solve the word puzzles in Plates Across America®, you (virtually) travel along various routes across the country and visit thousands of interesting locations. In the game, we have created a number of different types of locations which have special significance. 

Some of the location types are the basis of the game's "Travel Goals" that help you win the game, while other types will unlock extra game features. Here we give an overview of all the various location types found in the game.

Collectible Location Types

To win the game, you must achieve 63 travel goals to complete building your flag (13 stripes + 50 stars = 63). Some of these travel goals require visiting a certain number of given location types. For example, visiting 25 state capitals, 10 caves, 5 ghost towns, are some of the possible Travel Goals. (You can read more in our Travel Goal Blog Article.)

Collectible Location Type Icons in Plates Across America®

Below are the 9 different collectible location types that serve as the basis for Travel Goals. The image to the right shows the icons we use to represent these location types:

  • Bridges
  • Caves
  • Ghost Towns
  • Mountain Passes
  • National Monuments
  • National Parks
  • State Capitals
  • Tunnels
  • Waterfalls

Remaining Location Types

There are dozens of other types of locations, many of which will unlock a "Lightning Round" when visited. (See our Lightning Round Blog Article for an explanation of that feature.)  A few of the more interesting ones and their icons are shown below.
Plates Across America® Location Type Icon Highlights

In all, there are 44 different types of locations in the game. Here's the full set of them along with the icons we use to represent them.
All Location Type Icons for Plates Across America®


We hope this gives you a little extra insight into Plates Across America®.  There's a lot of design and data work that went into creating these location types and though this is not a prominent feature of the game, we feel that these subtle additions are important in giving the game more visual appeal.

If you have not played our game before, try it out here for free:

Happy Travels!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Lightning Rounds

Plates Across America® lightening rounds
With the revised version of Plates Across America®, we introduced a new feature we call "Lightning Rounds".  This gives you 5 additional puzzles to solve to get some extra points, but there is a catch: you have a limited time in which to solve each puzzle. The effect of adding a timer changes the dynamics of the game considerably.  The brain is a funny thing: time pressure tends to reduce how well it works.  


Before we released the game to the public, the timed puzzle concept was in consideration for use in the entire game. We experimented with various timer durations and found as they got shorter, the anxiety it produced for players was sometimes overwhelming. Some people would get visibly upset and seriously stressed and this was just playing a demo of a game.

Plates Across America® lightening rounds
We eventually abandoned the timer for the main single-person game, though we retained it for the two-player game. A timer is necessary in multi-player games or else you potentially have one player getting frustrated with the slow play of the opposing player. However, with our latest redesign, we have re-introduced the timed feature for the single-player game, though in this limited way with these Lightning Rounds.

Lightning Round Triggers

The Lightning Rounds will show up when you reach some types of interesting locations: tourist towns, quirky roadside attractions, hot springs, etc. You can now choose to accept this adrenaline charged challenge, or decline it each time it is triggered. By playing the Lightning Round, you can accumulate more "ride points", which you can use to customize your vehicle. You can also choose to stop the Lightning Round notices from appearing to you.

Plates Across America® word game

Duration of a Lightning Round

You are given the choice of 3 levels for the Lightning Rounds from hardest to easiest, where the amount of time determines the difficulty.  The less time you choose, the more ride points you can earn.

If you have not played our game before, try it out here for free:

Happy Travels!

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Route Number Signs Add to the Travel Experience in Plates Across America®

Plates Across America® NM Route Number
New Mexico
In Plates Across America®, we want the game to give players a true sense of traveling. We've added a number of features and visuals to help achieve this, including the route number signs you would see as you traveled. This was a painstaking process of both creating the images and assigning the proper route numbers to each portion of each route.

Types of Route Number Signs

There are 3 main levels of route number signs in the U.S.

  • National - There are only a handful of these: U.S. routes, interstates and business routes. There are also a few miscellaneous ones for national park roads, national forest roads, etc.
  • Plates Across America® route number
    County Road Sign
    State - Each state defines their own route signage, so there are 50 variations needed. Some are elaborate, some very simple and many in between. And in some states, like Texas, they have a lot of variations depending on what type of road it is designated (e.g., ranch road, farm to market).
  • County - There is a county-wide standard for what county road signs should look like, though this has not been universally adopted. For the sake of the simplicity, in the game, we assume all states have adopted this standard.

Designing Route Number Signs

Plates Across America® FL route number

When considering national, state and county road signs, we ended up with 68 variations. However, this is just the number of different "styles" of signs and each of these can have hundreds of different route numbers appearing on them. If we were to create a different image for every possible combination of style and number, we would need to create many thousands of images. Just creating the 68 styles would be time consuming enough for us.

Our solution to reduce the number of images was to use a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) for the style and then use the SVG layering ability to drawn text characters on top of it for the route numbers. The route numbers could be anywhere from 1 to 4 characters, so the font size and position would need to be adjusted depending on the number of characters. Fortunately, the SVG format gives some help in allowing us to do this, so it was less tricky than it could have been.

The other big consideration that the SVG helps us solve is web site responsiveness. Scaling images and especially fonts to all the device sizes out there is important for the game's playability.

Assigning to Routes

Plates Across America® MN route number
Plates Across America® has nearly 350 different routes, however, these are the game's concept of "routes" which are not the same as real life routes. In fact, a single game route may traverse many different (real) route numbers. We needed to go through each of the game routes and find all the route numbers that have to be assigned for each segment of the route.

We used Google Maps to find the real-life route numbers and our internal route editing tools to encode them in the game. Interestingly, Google Maps has a similar problem in showing route numbers for states and counties, though they chose *not* to use different styles for each state like we do. When you look at Google Maps, round circles are state route numbers, while square route numbers are county roads: this is true for all states.

Plates Across America® CO route number

When we encoded the route numbers in our editing tools, we used a convention of combining the "style" (e.g., state) and the route number. For example, "i-95", "tx-2222", "ca-1", "county-34a".  Our software would then parse the style from the number, choose the right style SVG and then render it with the text of the route number depending on how many character were in he route number. In order to have the number fit into the image boundary, we have to scale down the font size more for a 4 digit route number than for a single digit one.


We put quite a lot of effort into these route number signs even though they are not a major part of the game. However, we felt that in order to recreate a real sense of traveling in the game, a lot of these small and subtle details needed to be included.

If you have not tried our game before, 

Happy Travels!

Plates Across America® Route Signs

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Plates Across Americe's® Badges and Achievements

Achievements Page
Achievements Page

When you play Plates Across America®, you will earn "badges". Some of these are directly related to the single-player game's Travel Goals, some are earned for achievements in the two-player game and a few others for players that make contributions to the game.

Since it takes a while to accumulate all the different types of badges, we thought it might be interesting for newer players to see the full set of our badges and to find out how each one is awarded. We add new badges from time to time, so there may be new ones by the time you read this article.

Achievement Levels and Coloring

For all the badge types, there is a range of achievement levels. These levels will correspond to some minimum value needed to earn the badge.  As you reach higher threshold values, the color of the badge reflects the increasing achievement level. The coloring scheme for the achievement levels is shown in the image below for the Miles Traveled Badge.

Types of Badges

Miles Traveled Badges

We start with the simplest one to understand: the miles traveled badge. This is based on the total number of miles you have traveled while playing the single player mode. The achievement level thresholds for this badge are 100, 250, 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 and 10000 miles.

Miles Traveled Badges

Collection Badges

The core concept for winning the single player mode is the "Travel Goal". You can earn Collection Badges as you reach travel goals. Examples of travel goals are:

  • states you have traveled through;
  • license plates you have collected;
  • scenic routes you have traveled; and
  • locations you have visited for the different "location types".

Here are examples of some of the badges you can earn as you achieve travel goals.

Collection Badges

Location Badges

As you travel in the single player game, you pass through (or near) cities, landmarks and other man-made, natural and geological places of interest. You can collect these places to reach different Travel Goals. The kinds of places you can collect include:

Location Badges
  • state capitals, 
  • national parks, 
  • national monuments, 
  • bridges, 
  • caves, 
  • ghost towns, 
  • mountain passes, 
  • tunnels, and
  • waterfalls.

Two Player Game Badges

When two players compete against each other, we call this a "Race". In a race, each player is given the same 10 puzzles. There is a time limit for each puzzle. The player that enters the best answers wins the race. You can get badges for competing in and winning enough races.

Two Player Game Badges

User Contribution Badges

The final set of badges we have are not for in-game achievements, but are for players that have helped improve our game. There are a few ways users can help to improve the game:

Dictionary Words

Dictionary Badge

It is more challenging than you might think to build a good dictionary, and even harder to get a large group of people to agree what should and should not be included in a dictionary. Therefore, we acknowledge that at any point in time, our dictionary will not be complete and it will evolve. Because of this, players can suggest words to be added to our dictionary.  

When your answer is flagged as being incorrect because it is not in our dictionary, we provide a link you can use to submit it to us. We review these submissions and if the word is accepted and added, we acknowledge your contributions with the "Pit Crew" badge.

City Facts Badge

City Facts Badges

As you travel in the single player game, your pass through and near cities, towns and other locations of interest. To add to the feeling of virtual traveling and to provide players with some interesting context on the places being visited, we have a "City Facts" feature that gives some interesting trivia, facts and history of the locations. 

There are tens of thousands of places across the country, so it is hard to know about each and every one of them.  However, if a player is acquainted with the area, they may know something interesting about it that we do not. In the game, we allow players to contribute and share that knowledge by sending it to us for review.  We will research the suggestion and if it is accepted, we acknowledge the effort with the "Historian" badge and also give attribution to the person that submitted it. 

Early Adopters Badge

Early Adopters Badge

Plates Across America® has evolved a lot since the early versions. We constantly iterate to make the game better and better. We can only do that by having real players try out the game and give us feedback.  Some give us explicit feedback, while others provide it indirectly by what they do and do not do as they play the game.  

To thank those people that have played earlier versions, we give them the "Trailblazer" badge.  The earlier a player joined, and the more they have played, the higher the badge level.

Closing Comments

We hope this overview of the game's badges was informative.  If you have never played Plates Across America® before, you can start acquiring badges by playing here:


Happy Travels!