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wibr

Pinzi - Chinese Character Puzzle now available for iOS

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wibr

Hey everyone,

this is something I have been working on for a while. It's a little puzzle game with Chinese characters for iOS called Pinzi (拼字). You start with 24 components and three minutes. Then you try to find as many pairs of components as possible which form a character. Depending on your level and the frequency you get a number of points for each character. If you try to combine two components which can't form a character, you'll get -15s off your countdown.

 

post-40751-0-33098100-1446270289_thumb.pngpost-40751-0-63809600-1446270300_thumb.png

 

Here's my homepage with an animation which shows the basic principle quite well. More information is available on the App Store page.

The whole idea is really to give us Chinese learners of all levels (>50 characters and you're good to go :-) ) a relaxing way to interact with characters, something in between a normal casual game and flashcards. When you wait for a bus you can make use of the time and let your mind wander along some characters. It's not as easy as it might look, but if you don't know a character, Pleco is just one tap away ;-).

If you like the app, I would appreciate positive ratings and reviews on the App Store as well as some help spreading the word. Critical feedback is also welcome, maybe via less public channels :-).

Android users: Sorry that it's iOS only. Currently I don't have any plans to develop a version for Android, it's just too much extra work right now.

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imron

I did some beta testing for this, and it's a fun little game.  As the above post mentions it also turns out to be much harder than you would first expect.  It's also a nice fun way for people to explore how characters are made up, and conversely how to break them down.

 

@wibr, did you manage to get promo codes yet? :mrgreen:

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wibr

@kawakusong Don't worry, you will get better with a little bit of practice. It's also difficult for native speakers in the beginning. Thanks for giving it a try!

 

@imron No, I just tried. They actually called me out of the blue, just to tell me that they are "on it", but so far nothing has happend. Will update as soon as I get some.

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Shelley

I don't know how these things work, but can't you get someone else to do an android version? Presumably you have all the data and have done some of the hard work already that can be transferred (game concept and character building block data).

 

As I say I know nothing about these things, just trying to encourage you to do an android version, it looks like fun :) . I and other android users are missing out :(

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imron
but can't you get someone else to do an android version

You can, and it will cost you several thousand dollars.

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wibr

Yeah additional platforms etc. would have to be justified by good sales on iOS first...

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Shelley

Ok, fair enough, will wait and hope it happens.

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wibr

PROMO CODES! First five people who send me a PM with at least five characters you can combine using pairs of components in the screenshot in the first post get a promo code (= free app)

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daofeishi

I was lucky enough to get a promo code, and I've played a little bit through the day. My initial impressions:

 

UI:

  • Generally a very nice, clean design. I wish more designers could keep to the KISS principle.
  • The start button could be labeled better. The small arrow can be hard to notice the first times you open the game. 
  • Slanting a selected tile works really bad if you're on a bus or in a car, since the vibrations makes it difficult to notice. It would be nice if selections were indicated better. 
  • I didn't like that the timer gets hidden. It's nice to see how you are doing and how long is left of a game. 
  • You should indicate which characters have already been found by the player, e.g. by graying out components that have already been used in conjunction with the selected one when a component is selected.
  • Progress and time should be indicated better. There is not much game-play feel to using the app. 
  • Why is the bottom-right square jumping up and down during the gameplay? It's really distracting. 

 

Game-play:

  • There is no clear progress to the game-play. E.g.:
  • Scoring: You say that you get a different score for different characters based on the difficulty, but to me the scoring system was really opaque. E.g. 咋, 呣, 彷 and 昕 give 1 point, but 吧 gives 4, 喜 gives 5, 决 gives 7, 刚 gives 8, 送 gives 9 and 流 gives 10? 倠 was recognized but didn't give any points at all. That didn't make much sense to me. I don't get a feeling that the score reflects the difficulty of the gameplay. Maybe a revamp is in order? And put the score on a scoreboard afterwards. 
  • It's not very intuitive to me that the game starts with the high-score in the score counter the way it does. 
  • Purpose: There is no purpose beyond finding the characters, but it becomes tedious and repetitive after a while. There should be some staging involved, e.g. larger and larger grids, the option to combine more than two components, and/or a minimum number of characters found to progress to the next level. Maybe there should be a differentiation between common and less common characters. Maybe there even should be a hard mode where the user has to enter the pinyin and/or use the character in a word before (s)he gets points. 
  • Indicate clearly when the game is over. Right now you can play past the timer without realizing that the game is actually over. 
  • It would be nice if characters could be combined in more ways, e.g. by reduplication (木 to 林 and 森) and more complex combinations (口 and 日 to 唱)
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wibr

Thanks for the detailed and honest feedback! I think some things would become more obvious if you play it a little longer, though.

 

UI:

  • Generally a very nice, clean design. I wish more designers could keep to the KISS principle.

Thanks! Although I think some usability issues you mention below are kind of related to that.

  • The start button could be labeled better. The small arrow can be hard to notice the first times you open the game. 

Because there's just two buttons, so I thought that's obvious. But ok maybe it's too small...

  • Since it matters what order the characters are pressed, that should be indicated to the user. A tutorial that explains that the entry follows the stroke order (left-right, outside-inside, etc) would be helpful. 

There is a small tutorial in the beginning and I think you learn that pretty quickly after a few tries? If you've ever written Chinese characters the order should come quite naturally...

  • Slanting a selected tile works really bad if you're on a bus or in a car, since the vibrations makes it difficult to notice. It would be nice if selections were indicated better. 

It used to be some shaking animation, but then it's too annoying. I could change the color maybe to the darker tone.

  • I didn't like that the timer gets hidden. It's nice to see how you are doing and how long is left of a game. 

Not sure what you mean...sounds like a bug? Can you send me a screenshot? Which device do you use?

  • You should indicate which characters have already been found by the player, e.g. by graying out components that have already been used in conjunction with the selected one when a component is selected.

That's actually not a bad idea, maybe I will do that. When I play I usually remember the ones I already tried and if not I just play it again, no harm done.

  • Progress and time should be indicated better. There is not much game-play feel to using the app. 

Yeah the game-play feel might be something I could improve on, but honestly I am not sure how. Ideas are welcome :-).

  • Why is the bottom-right square jumping up and down during the gameplay? It's really distracting. 

Very weird, can you send me a screenshot?

 

Game-play:

  • There is no clear progress to the game-play. E.g.:
  • Scoring: You say that you get a different score for different characters based on the difficulty, but to me the scoring system was really opaque. E.g. 咋 and 昕 give 1 point, but 吧 gives 4, 喜 gives 5 and 决 gives 7? That didn't make much sense to me. Often the game would start with 27 points  and not change when a new character was found (a bug?). I don't get a feeling that the score reflects the difficulty of the gameplay. Maybe a revamp is in order? And put the score on a scoreboard afterwards. 

Haha, yeah the scoring might seem a little weird. It's sketched out in the manual but I guess nobody reads that, and to mention the details in some kind of tutorial would be too boring. So basically you get points according to frequency, 0-100, maximum for >5000 in the frequency list. Also, the app tries to determine where on the frequency list your level approximately is. That takes a few (sometimes more) games to collect data. So if you play rare characters you will move to rarer parts in the frequency list. If you play characters which are above the determined level you only get one point and if the character doesn't appear in the frequency list or if it's simplified and you are playing traditional you don't get any points but also no time off the counter. This is so that beginners don't get points for randomly trying out characters that they are not supposed to learn yet.

The number in the beginning is the highscore, which will show the actual score as soon as you get points. I tried to find better ways to show that within the available space, currently it's only indicated by underlining it.

  • Purpose: There is no purpose beyond finding the characters,

True, that's the purpose of the app and I think that's pretty clear?

  • but it becomes tedious and repetitive after a while. There should be some staging involved, e.g. larger and larger grids,

Why tedious and repetitive? I mean that's the whole point, the spirit of the game is supposed to be similar to Threes/2048 etc., which is basically the same thing over and over again, you just try to get a better highscore. So maybe this kind of game is not for you? In Pinzi you actually get new combinations each game, so each game is unique (with some probability) and combinations you played previously are blocked for a while. Some character can be played quite often, like 休, but there is no way to avoid that and basically you can just ignore those.

  • the option to combine more than two components,

I tried that in the prototype before and the gameplay is definitely worse, always combining two components creates a nicer flow.

  • and/or a minimum number of characters found to progress to the next level.

In earlier prototypes I had levels, but I had the feeling that they are more overhead than motivation.

  • Maybe there should be a differentiation between common and less common characters. Maybe there even should be a hard mode where the user has to enter the pinyin and/or use the character in a word before (s)he gets points. 

As mentioned above, basically you move up (to the harder parts) the frequency scale the more you play. That takes a while, though. And then you will also get more points.

  • Indicate clearly when the game is over. Right now you can play past the timer without realizing that the game is actually over. 

Not sure if that's another bug in your case, but the whole game should shake from left to right, that's pretty obvious I think? I intentionally let people play a little longer if they want to try more combinations... also you get some hints for the characters you didn't find.

  • It would be nice if characters could be combined in more ways, e.g. by reduplication (木 to 林 and 森) and more complex combinations (口 and 日 to 唱)

That won't work because if you see the same characters twice you know you can combine both. If you can include one component more than once the whole card metaphor wouldn't work and the gameplay would have to be totally different. I tried it, didn't like it, but maybe there are better ways.

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