Our text adventure, 火灾, now has audio

Stairwell
(photo by kyser sose)

Our text adventure game, 火灾, aka Burning Building, now has audio to go with it. If you've played it before, you might want to try it in audio only mode, or just listen along while you read. Or if you haven't tried it yet, now is as good a time as any.

Try it out!

For more about this game, check out our earlier blog post about the game. Also, our next game is nearly done, just finishing up the audio, which we'll release at the same time as the game.

Pepper & Carrot: Visual Context for Chinese Practice

Pepper & Carrot cover
(art by David Revoy)

Practicing a language through reading or listening is largely a matter of using what you know to bootstrap some understanding of what you don't know. One place to get the context for bootstrapping is through pictures and stories.

We are experimenting with a new activity format that leverages the delightful open source web comic, Pepper & Carrot, which was created by David Revoy, and is now supported by a vibrant community of artists of fans.

Pepper (小辣椒) is a young witch living in a magical world with her companion, Carrot (萝卜头). Together, they have many adventures and experience many surprises. The clever stories are only topped by the spectacular imagery.

We thought the Pepper & Carrot comics would be a great tool for practicing Chinese, as they provide rich visual context for reading and can go a long way to making study more fun. But the narrative of the comic itself is often rather sparse, and is not tuned to a learner's needs. Therefore we have written more narrative to go with the comics.

Here is what it looks like on WordSwing:

Every sentence has audio recorded so you can practice listening too.

Try it out!

The first episode we've added narrative to is Episode 5. We will try and release a new episode each week (though perhaps not in order), working our way through the available episodes. The most recent episode will always be free, while the back catalogue will be available to WordSwing backers.

David Revoy has very generously licensed his comic and artwork CC-BY, making it possible for us to build it into WordSwing as a language learning activity. If you like this comic, please consider supporting his efforts. And in the spirit of open source, we are releasing all of the narrative we write to accompany the comics, also under the CC-BY license, like the comic itself.

We hope you enjoy.

Cheers,
Kevin & Olle

PS: Please help us spread the word about WordSwing! It's only through your support we can keep WordSwing going and keep adding ways to practice Chinese.

You smell a strange smell...

We're now opening up our game, 火灾, aka Burning Building, to everyone.

You begin the game at home in your apartment when you notice a strange smell. A fire! Can you get out safely and alert the fire department in time?

Stairwell
(photo by kyser sose)

This is our easiest game yet language-wise, but we'll let you decide how easy it is to get a perfect score.

We had delayed this game because while we were performing final testing, the tragic fire in London occurred and we thought it would be insensitive to release the game at that time. We apologize for any similarities between this game any any actual events. It is entirely fictional and was written in its entirety before the London fire.

If you're not yet familiar with our text adventure games, they are like interactive graded readers, and similar to the adventure games of yore (e.g., Zork) or Choose Your Own Adventure books (though more choices and less reading).

How difficult is this game?

火灾 is our easiest game yet. It has only 399 distinct Chinese characters and 501 distinct words. And there is a built in dictionary to help with words you don't know. Furthermore, the vast majority of the text is composed of just a couple hundred characters.

Hint: There are multiple ways the game is configured and each time you play you may need to try different ways to get out of the building. But if you read carefully, there are clues that direct you toward the right exit. And by playing multiple times, you can try and find all the ways out of the building.

We also created a word list containing all the words in the game, which you can use to practice using WordSwing's activities or export to Anki or any other app. For tips about how to use word lists to prep for a text adventure, see Into the Haze is not as hard as you think.

How do I play?

Our text adventure games are a mixture of reading the game narrative and making choices about what your protagonist should do. See our recent blog posts for more detail on how to play and much more about our adventure games:

Let's go!

The games are free to demo (up to 10 choices), but you will need to become a subscriber to play the full game and restore from checkpoints. And as of now, we still have our Early Backer discount, so it's only $3/month.

Try it out!

We hope you enjoy, and please don't hesitate to let us know what you think.

Cheers,

Kevin & Olle

PS: While this game doesn't have audio yet, we hope to be able to make recordings soon.

Your new job at the zoo

We're pleased to introduce our newest text adventure game, 动物园, or simply, Zoo.

It's your first day on the job as an assistant zookeeper. Can you manage to follow the instructions of your boss on how to feed the animals and carry out other tasks around the zoo? Beware though, this is not an ordinary zoo!

Lazy tiger
(photo by Tambako)

If you're not familiar with our text adventure games yet, they are like interactive graded readers, and similar to the adventure games of yore (e.g., Zork) or Choose Your Own Adventure books (though more choices and less reading).

The games are focused on Chinese reading comprehension. And in this particular game there is an emphasis on following instructions.

You are asked to feed five of the zoo's animals. Since it's your first day on the job, your boss initially gives you instructions on how to feed one animal. If you manage that, then you are given more instructions and have more tasks.

Each time you play from the beginning, the details of how to feed the animals and the other tasks change, so read carefully! And getting a perfect score requires careful reading indeed!

How difficult is this game?

Zoo has 472 distinct Chinese characters and 620 distinct words. But don't let this scare you. There is a built in dictionary and the vast majority of the text is composed of just a few hundred characters. This puts it at about the same difficulty as Escape.

So if you know a few hundred Chinese characters, you can likely play the game successfully with the help of the dictionary. And along the way you will quickly become familiar with the core set of words used to navigate the zoo and carry out your assignments.

The game in its entirety is just shy of 10,000 Chinese characters. And although the full narrative is longer than Escape, there is more variation game to game, and so it's one successful path through would be about the same length.

How do I play?

Our text adventure games are a mixture of reading the game narrative and making choices about what your protagonist should do. The story is revealed line by line, giving you a chance to focus on each one before continuing.

You control the protagonist's actions by choosing among several possibilities at each juncture. When you get to a choice, these will be displayed below the narrative. Each choice has a numbered button and you tap the button to select that choice.

The game interface looks like this:

In the screenshot above there happens to be just one choice (you would select it by tapping the button labeled "1").

And as always, you reach checkpoints along the way that you can restore your game from later.

Please see our other blog posts about our text adventure games for more information about how to play and how to make the best use of the games for learning Chinese:

Let's go!

The games are free to demo (up to 10 choices), but you will need to become a subscriber to play the full game and restore from checkpoints. And as of now, we still have our Early Backer discount, so it's only $3/month.

Try it out!

We hope you enjoy, and please don't hesitate to let us know what you think.

Cheers,

Kevin & Olle

PS: While this game doesn't have audio yet, we hope to be able to make recordings soon.

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