Aside from the bigger games I’m working on, I’ve also been making the smaller game Kana Master. It’s a simple-ish game to help learners of the Japanese language master read and recognize kana, the Japanese syllabary.
While I didn’t struggle too long learning the kana, I know others that did. As a Japanese tutor during university, I saw countless students coming in needing help with the kana. What makes language so difficult is that everything builds on everything else. In our university, Japanese classes phased out the use of romaji, the English-character-equivalent of the kana, after the first few weeks. If you didn’t have it, you’re basically left behind.
Even forgetting university students for a moment, lots of language learners are self-taught. Having more good tools available is never a bad thing.
So I decided to start working on a game to help teach the kana, Kana Master.
Kana Master is a game to help Japanese learners learn and apply the kana. In the beginner levels they’ll learn about what each Kana looks like and play small games to reinforce their understanding.
After the beginner levels, intermediate and advanced levels focus on recognizing words and sentences, respectively. So while beginner might teach み and ず, intermediate teaches みず (water) and advanced teaches みずをのむ (drink water).
And then, in the story mode, players will have access to a mini text adventure in which they have to deal with enemy encounters by typing out actions. When you see a businessman, you could attack him like a standard RPG or you could negotiate (こうしょう) or maybe even go out for a drink (びーるをのみにいく).
The game is coming along, but the more I delve into it, the bigger it becomes. Feature-creep. Am I happy with having 3 games to test knowledge? No! I’m looking for 10-15, minimum, but each one requires making a new, separate game, essentially. And while I want the text-adventure to be fun and help give people practical experience with Japanese, it also seems like it’s going to be more than I can handle by myself. It’s one thing to write out everything. It’s another to implement. Doing one or the other could take a lot of time. To do both is going to be… difficult.
That said, I think it’s worth it. Not only is it a game to help others learn, but it’s also forcing me to experiment and consider new ways of doing things. Not to mention that if it’s successful, it could be a chance to earn a living.
As it is, I’m expecting the game won’t be done for another few months, minimum. All my estimates push its release into the winter, but for the first time, I’m considering this for Early Access. While The Many Sides of Ball isn’t a good game to release before it has everything, Kana Master seems like it might be a good fit.
But, before even that, it needs to get into a good state. It still isn’t quite there.