Senior Production Blog 5 (2/17/2017)

This week, I was asked by the team to come up with some alternative game modes that fit a handful of categories:

  1. They had to be easy to implement (no building massive systems from the ground up)
  2. They had to be more fast paced than the main game
  3. They had to keep the educational aspect in some way 

In early discussions with the team before I knew whether or not Rhythm of the Night, my previous project, would get cut, I discussed interest working on UI and alternative game modes for them, so I was very excited when this assignment came across my plate. Educational games and educational practices fascinate me. A lot of theories and methodology of educational software and educational games rely on repetition, pattern recognition, and using things as examples. There's a reason why flash cards work so well: repeated quizzing of flashcards, recognition of images or phrases on flash cards over and over can help cement ideas in peoples heads. 

Language learning software like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo frequently use flashcard like methodology as well as sentence construction (either typing, drag and drop, or orally) to help repeat learned words and lessons until someone gets it. 

With this in mind, I came up with 3 game modes, though only one of which will be making it into the final game.

Kanji Drop is a play on flashcard methodology without being as boring as flashcards. Similar to a flashcard quiz, in which one word or phrase is on one side, and the definition is on the other, players must match the definition to the kanji. But there's a catch: the kanji are falling down at a rapid rate, and players must slash from the definition to the matching kanji (or tap definition and slash Kanji. Exact interaction to be tested in QA), to pair the English and Japanese together. These alternative game modes are placed in transitions between the game's levels, so it can be a great mode to help cement and repeat the learned kanji from the previous section to solidify those lessons. It also is quick paced and arcade-y, giving the player a break from writing kanji over and over. The slashing like motions of the main game are carried over to this game mode meaning that players won't need to learn another control mode for this mode as well. After team discussion, Kanji Drop will be the game mode making it into the full game. However, I came up with two others.

The current battle system has players finding the opposite kanji to the one that their opponent drew. For example if your opponent drew Fire. you would draw Water or Ice. This logical thinking, especially in it's largely unexplained state currently, is difficult for people who just learned the kanji to understand what is "opposite" or what words even mean. As a proposed solution we have Opposites Attract. Players are given a kanji, and a left to right swipeable menu of all the kanji that they have learned so far. Players need to find the opposite kanji in the list. You can see a bit of an internal debate in the above design sketch: I didn't know if it would make sense to have English definitions on either of the two kanji. If it was on both, wouldn't people just be looking at the English definitions of both and finding the opposites? What if it was just on the given one? Looking through a big list of all kanji with no context might confuse players. What about putting them on the list? Would that end up being too easy? What about making it a difficulty option? Wouldn't players just then always choose the easier option? There are too many questions with this one, and to be honest it's not as engaging as Kanji Drop, so I personally feel like it's the weakest of the trio.

Lastly, we have Sentence Sentience. I'm fascinated by how language learning software instructs users to put together sentences even early on from just a few words. Even my short try of my dad's copy of Rosetta Stone Italian pretty much started off with sentences, and used those sentences to try to define words. We write a lot of words in Kanji Samurai, but without sentence construction, there's not a lot you can do with just words. You don't learn a language by just learning the words for Drive, Car, Fish, Cat, Walk, etc, but rather you learn those words in conjunction with grammar, tenses, sentence structure, special punctuation and characters ( the German Eszet (ß), umlauts, and more), and how they all work in conjunction with each other. I wanted to have Kanji Samurai have it's own sentence construction section, where players apply what they learned into actually communicating, rather than knowing the word for "old". It is, however, similar to existing gameplay, not fast paced, and may require more back end systems, but I hope it ends up in the game somewhere. Maybe the final boss could have the player write out a sentence, who knows.

For this upcoming week, I've been tasked to write a whole new tutorial from the ground up. We've changed the core first lessons in the tutorial, and I've been handed a document by Glynis detailing the lessons we have to teach and in what order, and have been left to my own devices. The team indicated that they liked the tone in my earlier tutorial rewriting, so I plan to keep it in that voice, but write from scratch instead of building upon and changing existing dialogue.

Luca Hibbard-Curto