We're pleased to announce that the first chapter of our first text adventure game, Escape, is generally available.
Ready to make your daring escape?
Escape is an interactive graded reader that begins with the main character (you) trapped in a room for unclear reasons, and you must find a way to escape and avoid getting caught, all the while exploring the world of the game in Chinese.
Our goal in designing Escape was two-fold:
- Provide an interesting and entertaining narrative through which to explore and practice Chinese, thereby circumventing some of the boredom of typical learning materials.
- Keep the text accessible by carefully writing all the text to target intermediate learners of Chinese.
Try it out!
(You'll need to be signed up, which is free.)
We have made a short video to introduce the game:
How do I play?
The game consists of a series of choices that allow you to direct how your character responds to each situation.
As you make your way through the game, the "game conversation" will show descriptions of the scenes, describe the results of the actions you take, as well as show dialogs that occur in the game. Things you say or do are shown in green and appear towards the left, while things other characters say or do are shown in blue, and appear towards the right, kind of like a messaging app. Messages are presented one at a time so you can have time to read and digest each one.
You make a choice by tapping on one of the numbered buttons next to the choice. Some of the choices are clearly bad, once you understand the text, but others are more subtle, so read carefully.
Some parts of the game have a more linear narrative structure, while other parts resemble small puzzles with somewhat complicated logic that needs to be worked out in order to get through. So be persistent and keep trying!
The more you play the more practice you get
We encourage you to play the game several times, as the more you play the more practice you will get, and the more comfortable you will become with the language.
Even if you have already seen the description of a scene before, you may find it helpful to read it each time you see it, as language is somewhat of a performance art, and the practice will help increase your reading fluency greatly. You may also want to read out loud to improve your speaking fluency.
There are several routes through the game so see if you can find different ways to get to the end, as well as several ways your game can end prematurely, and often rather badly for your character.
The first chapter involves about 2-5 hours of game play. There are 411 distinct characters, and ~5600 characters of text overall.
You are given points as you make your way through the game, either when you do things that move the game forward or when you learn things important to the story. The points help you see that you're making progress. It is possible to complete the chapter without scoring all the points, but you may want to play again to find what you missed.
Is this game right for me?
Escape is designed for intermediate to upper-intermediate students of Chinese, although an even wider range of students may also find it fun and useful.
The game focuses on a manageable subset of Chinese (e.g., only 411 distinct characters), with the same characters and words appearing many times. Thus you will undoubtedly become an expert reading these characters and words as you explorer the game.
The game is playable if you know at least 200 characters, but you may find yourself relying heavily on the built in dictionary and other drill-down features. If you know closer to 500 characters the game is probably right in the sweet spot of what will be most interesting and challenging. Even if you know 1000 or more characters, the game will still likely be good practice and fun.
You can get a better sense of whether the game is right for you by having a look at our infographic.
All of the text has audio recorded, which is available for purchase as a media bundle. Some of the audio early in the game is free, so you can get a sense of whether you would like to buy it.
Adding audio to the game makes for a wholly different play experience and may be particularly helpful if you want to improve your listening comprehension or your character knowledge doesn't fully cover all the text in the game.
To purchase the audio, just tap the locked play button, and our media store will open in the drill-down pane.
After you purchase the audio, all of the game content will have play buttons:
In addition to getting tons of listening practice, by buying the audio you are able to help us support WordSwing and keep it alive and largely free.
Checkpoints and saved games
Your game is automatically saved after each choice. And so long as you haven't reached one of the terminal scenes, your most recent game will automatically be restarted when you come back to play again. If your game is over a new game will start next time you return.
There are also four checkpoints where a copy of your game is saved so that you can start again from that point. Thus, if you have thoroughly practiced the first part of the game, you can skip ahead and work on exploring the latter parts of the game.
We are aiming to encourage replay by not having too many checkpoints, but at the same time have enough that you can explore the parts of the game you want.
At present we have released one chapter of the Escape story. If enough students like this game we will release both additional chapters to this game as well as other text games with different stories. The possibilities are endless, so let us know if you like this and whether you find it helpful for practicing Chinese.