Text Adventure Game: Wandering Cat

Silhouette of cat
(photo by Sai Mr.)

Our latest text adventure game is now available

In this game, you are 奇奇 (qíqí) a school-age girl who lives with her mother. Your mysterious uncle shows up and asks you to watch after his cat for a few days. But after an unexpected encounter with a fortune teller, you realize there is a lot more at stake to this task than you thought.

This adventure is titled, 小女孩寻猫记 (xiǎo nǚhái xún māo jì). This roughly translates as "Diary of a girl searching for her cat", though we have used a shorter English title, Wandering Cat.

Let's go play!

This game differs a bit from our previous games

We recently surveyed WordSwing students about their experiences and attitudes toward our text adventures. We got a huge amount of insightful and helpful feedback. Thank you!

One of the themes was that the games had many dead ends (sometimes literally), and these felt a bit punitive to the reader. Another theme was that the games involved lots of backtracking and replaying the same scenes to get through. While repetition can be a great form of language practice, we also want to be sure it's not drudgery, and so we have written this game in a slightly different style.

We have built this game with a more linear narrative structure and less free choice, though there are two main puzzles embedded in the game.

The opinions in the surveys were quite diverse, and so with this game we hope to diversify our game lineup with one that is a bit different. Going forward we'll continue to experiment with different game styles so that there is something for everyone, including your future self. After all, what is best for your Chinese practice today, might not be best a few months from now, after you've made some more progress.

In the near future, we'll share more about the surveys, as there's too much for this post.

How difficult is this game?

This game is certainly easier structurally than many of our other games. Language-wise, the difficulty falls somewhere between Escape and Zoo.

There are 578 distinct Chinese characters. This is not a very big number, considering the full game narrative is over 9,000 characters long.

To think about how the game relates to HSK levels, we can perform the following analysis:

  1. Assign HSK levels to characters based on the HSK level the character is first used.
  2. Examine the full text of our adventure game and consider two aspects:
    1. What fraction of the text is is composed of each HSK level?
    2. What fraction of all the HSK characters at each level appear in the game?

This character-wise analysis gives us the following picture:

HSK plot

The first orange bar suggests that 60% of the game text is composed of the 173 characters in HSK 1. And the first blue bar shows that the game contains 80% of those 173 HSK 1 characters.

But perhaps this is what you might expect from the observation that the bulk of text is made up of common characters, and HSK 1 is a bunch of common characters.

However, based on the frequency distribution of Chinese text in typical text, you would expect only 82% of the text to be characters introduced in HSK levels 1-4, while in our game, 95% of the text is introduced in HSK 1-4 (you get 95% if you stack the first 4 orange bars together).

Instead of 1 in 6 characters being outside HSK 1-4, in our game, only 1 in 20 characters are outside HSK 1-4.

This is the very definition of a graded reader, and it's part of what makes our text adventure games more accessible than most of the Chinese you might encounter in the wild.

Plus it's packaged in an engaging game with an interesting story, and you need to pay attention to make it through.

Let's go play!


Kevin & Olle

Pepper & Carrot: Episode 1

Pepper & Carrot cover
(art by David Revoy)

Episode 1 is here!

Today we're releasing narrative to go with Episode 1 of Pepper & Carrot, complete with audio. Although we started off with episode 5, going forward, we'll go through them in numerical order, aiming to release one per week.

If you're not familiar with this comic, Pepper & Carrot is an open source web comic produced by David Revoy and collaborators. We have added narrative in Chinese to accompany the original artwork. This enables you to practice your Chinese with the help of the rich visual context of the world of Pepper and Carrot. You can read more in our earlier blog post, Pepper & Carrot: Visual Context for Chinese Practice.

This episode is free until we release the next episode (at which point that will be free). And as always, our back catalogue is available to our much appreciated WordSwing backers.

Go read!

We have also published word lists to go along with episode 1 and episode 5.


Our text adventure, 火灾, now has audio

(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.

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.

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