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The Grand Gaming Project

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Hi everyone! I've been thinking about my next Chinese learning project. My goal is to make video game that's much more...game-y than my last project, Inkstone, and I wanted to get some feedback and suggestions on a rough idea I have.


Inkstone is really just for training vocabulary. I want to create a game where language-learning is a central mechanic, and where new words and new grammatical constructs directly translate into new abilities. For this to be true, I probably want using language to be the primary mechanic of the game, as it is in Grant Kuning's game Sethian. I also want this game to focus on real-word use cases, like cooking, navigation, and shopping, as opposed to being restricted to the combat or to fantasy or sci-fi scenarios.


Here's an outline of an idea that I think could work:

  • Imagine a game where you have to accomplish several tasks - say, cooking different meals in a kitchen - and the faster you do them, the better.
  • You wouldn't perform these tasks directly. Rather, you'd instruct helpers to do steps on the way, like fetching an ingredient or chopping a vegetable.
  • There would be several units under your control, and they would work in parallel - think Pikmin or StarCraft, with only half a dozen units at a time.
  • Now for the language learning: instead of using a mouse or a controller, you would command yours units in natural-language, by writing Chinese!
  • Units could also ask questions of you. For example, if you told them to fetch the onions, they may ask how many to get or where to look.

Now, I have a background in natural-language processing and I think the NLP components of a game like this one are approachable. However, I'm not sure how much art I can do. Making that problem worse is the fact that for a game like this, the number of art assets required could be very large. There's a combinatorial explosion when you have to represent all the n foods and the m actions you might take with them (not to mention what happens if the domain expands beyond the narrow cooking one I described above).


I think the basic idea outlined above is a reasonable starting point, but here's where I could use help:

  1. Is there a way that you can see to naturally expand the domain outside cooking, while still having gameplay and a focus on real-world tasks? One thing I was considering was a "adult-life simulator" like The Sims where you'd have a long list of things to get done, like shopping. Another way might be to mix in some other, more game-y goals into these activities. For example, imagine having to get from point A to point B while also tracking some target as part of a surveillance mission. Both directions and the description of the target would be given in Chinese, and again, you could ask further questions of your handlers for more information.
  2. What would you think of such a game if the language mechanics were solid but the graphics were very limited? One way to represent the large number of items that might be necessary for such a game would be to use ASCII art, such as in a traditional roguelike, with further details provided by text. Another way would be to make the game text-only. Imagine having to wrangle a group of chefs where your only communication with them is over a messaging app!

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This might be better of as separate topic as this one looks more like discussion about existing games :)

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Wei-Ming 魏明
You can now find a short list of FREE text-based games in Mandarin at the Interactive Fiction Database. Type "language:zh" into the search box.

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Hey all, just wanted to ask does anyone have any recommendations for games with lots of audio and text dialogue? I'd like to start taking a more holistic approach to learning Chinese. I've spent a while trying to get the first two games in the beginning of this thread off the ground........ but it's difficult.

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@RichSI recommend Rimworld, only US$30 on Steam (still technically "Early Release", but very well supported), there is excellent Chinese language support through the mod community. They even have Traditional and Simplified for a lot of the best mods. Check out a few Youtube plays to get an idea if it is for you before you buy. Enjoy! (....and also, sorry, it is highly addictive. Think the Sims, meets Simcity, meets rpg combat. I don't know why, but for me the game is like crack).

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Can anyone help me, please? I'm using Chinese games to study the language, and I'd like to know if some Chinese site already has their full transcripts. It's quite a difficult process to create them manually, as hanzi-recognition software often makes mistakes. But I do not know how to say 'transcript' in Chinese to look them up, or what other word the Chinese might be using to designate a text ripped from the game.


I'm using Pokemon RPGs, Zelda games, and some occasional Harvest Moon thrown in. It's not that I'm a fan of Pokemon or Zelda, but I've heard that these game series have very simple language from folks who used them to study Japanese. It's possible that their Chinese transcripts exist, but my low level of Chinese language prevents me from discovering them. I tried to search, but all I come up with are walkthroughs... Just to clear it up: I have the games, I just want to find their texts separately, if possible. That would save me a lot of effort with hanzi recognition that I have to exert before I can look them up in a dictionary.

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are there any games that are the type were you are on audio chat whilst playing that Chinese people use, that seems a good way to practice listening and speaking!

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