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Hi all, welcome to the Kana Quest devblog. For those who don’t know Kana Quest is the game I’m making. It’s an educational puzzle game that teaches Japanese. And because to be making a game about learning Japanese, I do need to be reasonably proficient at you know… speaking Japanese.

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And so a few folks have asked me what my top tips for studying Japanese are (excluding Kana Quest of course). So, today we going to go over my top 5 tips for learning Japanese.

And just a quick run down about my experience with speaking Japanese. I studied Japanese during high school, and did it in my graduating year. From there I studied it at university. And then I went and lived in Japan for a year as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). In terms of JLPT, I’ve only done 4 (second lowest). But these days I would put myself somewhere in between JLPT2 and JLPT3. My vocab and Kanji being the things that are probably JLPT 3. But my speaking, listening and grammar are closer to JLPT2. So if you are JLPT2 or higher, maybe take everything I have to say with a grain of salt.

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5. Know Your Resources

The first bit of advice I would give you is to have a good knowledge of the resources available to you. But beyond knowing what resources are out there, when and how to use them. So some resources you will absolutely want to know are…

  • jisho.org – Jisho literally means dictionary in Japanese. It’s probably the best Japanese-English dictionary available to you online. It has lots of alternate translations for most words you search. But it also often has example sentences. Example sentences are so valuable, so pay attention to them whenever you can.
  • Google Translate – This is a little controversial, but if you are using this exclusively to look up one word, usually its pretty good. Not as good as jishi.org, but it is faster. So if you’re trying to remember a word you’ve already learned, or check the kanji for a word you know, its great. Just be aware that google translate can mess up, and can easily lead you astray especially if you are in unfamiliar territory.
  • Kodansha’s Essential Kanji Dictionary – If you are studying Kanji… this is going to be your best friend. I got mine in high school and I love it dearly. This probably isn’t something you want to get if you are a complete beginner. But if you are starting to read more manga or light novels and you don’t know a character and it doesn’t have Furigana, this will save your butt.
  • Dogen’s Patreon Series – This is here for one function and one function alone. If you want to improve your pronunciation, there is no better place to go. I do have some caveats. Dogen emphasises studying exclusively pronunciation above all else. I personally do not recommend this. I personally think you need to study grammar, speech patterns, vocab as well as pronunciation. And becoming aware of the nuances of Japanese pronunciation when you start learning is much better than after you’ve picked up a bunch of bad habits.
  • Textbooks – Personally I only really have experience with the Genki Textbook series. Personally I really liked it, I think it does a good job of explaining Japanese grammar. But I really like studying grammar patterns a lot, so if you don’t… your mileage may vary.
  • Japanese Ammo with Misa – If you hate textbooks, give this youtube channel a go. She covers a lot of the basic grammar very well, as well as vocab. Though she certainly more focused towards beginners than more advanced learners. She also does a good job covering a lot of common beginner mistakes.
  • Nihongo no Mori – Another youtube channel. This one is much better for learners who are comfortable with listening to Japanese with very limited English. They also do excellent grammar, kanji and vocab recap video’s to help you prepare for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, I cannot recommend this one enough.
  • AnkiApp – Sooner or later you’re gonna have to do a flashcard. Anki is probably the best flashcard app. So why not use it? It’s free, its really flexible and it does a good job of tracking your progress. But just be aware that flashcards are only really good at getting a thing in your brain. Not how to use it. Make sure you give yourself the chance to apply the words you use with the flash cards.

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4. Avoid “Learning by Anime”

This is not a hard and fast rule, but 95% of the time, when I see/hear someone say I’m going to learn via anime, it usually ends with them either A. not really learning any Japanese, or B. learning to speak “Anime Japanese”. Both are problematic. This is not to say you can’t use anime as a learning tool. But like all tools you have to know how to use it.

If you want to include anime as a part of your study regime, good! Do it. But operative word there is “part”. It can’t be your only method of study. And remember, while it is probably more enjoyable than normal study. It is should still be study.

So lets go over how you actually use anime to study. The first thing you need to do is pick a show. And there is a wrong answer to what show you pick. Do not pick something that doesn’t depict daily life or lots of average conversations. That means you should avoid most shonen anime. The reason is, a lot of shonen anime involves a lot of fight scenes and magical terminology. This results in a lot of characters using language you just will not use in real life. For example in almost any shonen anime, someone will use the word “kisama”. Which kinda means bastard. But you do not use that in real life. Even if you wanted to insult someone, you would not use kisama. You would use “temee”. Which you still wouldn’t use because you don’t want to lose all your friends. You see my point here right. Often times anime uses highly stylised language to add to the drama, this is great for theatrics… but terrible for you learning. So stick to anime that focus’ on daily life interactions. Or better yet, drop the whole anime thing and just watch Terrace House. It’s basically ALL daily life interactions and you get a much better idea of how people ACTUALLY talk in Japan.

So now you’ve found a suitable show, you are going to want to turn off your English subtitles. You heard me. There have been quite a lot of studies based off watching TV and movies if foreign languages, and if you have subtitles in your native language turned on, you’re going to learn basically nothing. Instead, you want to turn on Japanese subtitles. This will give you a visual, as well as audio ques to each word you are listening to. Another reason Terrace House is amazing is that because it’s on Netflix, you can turn on Japanese subtitles REALLY EASILY. Finding Japanese subtitles on CrunchyRoll or Anime Lab is just not going to happen.

Now… Finally you have a show, you have Japanese subtitles turned on. You can finally start watching. Wait did I say watching? I meant studying. You are going to listen to each and every sentence being said, and you are going to stop every time someone says a word or a sentence you don’t understand. You are going to write down each word you don’t know, find out the meaning, re-watch the sentence again and again, until you get what is being said. I also recommend parroting back one characters lines as you do this. Try to copy their inflections and speech patterns as much as possible. This is good for your pronunciation, as well as your ability to understand. Turns out the brain picks up language faster if you speak it out. Keep doing this till the episode ends.  When you start doing this, a 24 minute episode will have taken you about an hour. You will get faster the more you do it, but this is not clean uninterrupted viewing. You’re not going to be able to binge watch a show because you’re concentration is going to be shot by the end of one ep.

And remember, this is not a beginner friendly study method (in my opinion). So if you’re struggling with it, maybe give this another go when you have a bit more practice up your sleeve.

And sides….

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3. Why Watch Anime, When You Have JPOP?

Seriously though, this is my secret technique for getting better at Japanese. You do everything I just explained for anime, but you do it for a song. And its so much better for a bunch of reasons.

  1. Songs are way shorter and require much less of a time and energy commitment.
  2. You can find kid’s songs that are way more beginner friendly than most anime. And even if you found a kid’s anime that was at a beginner level, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it. But you can find some Japanese kid’s songs that are honestly really listenable.
  3. Music helps you memorise things better, especially if you are an audio learner.
  4. Singing along is lots of fun, and when you go Karaoke, you get to impress people by the fact that you can sing in Japanese.
  5. Because the language in songs is poetic by its very nature, it exposes you to non typical sentence structure. This is good because it allows you to comprehend and parse more complex ideas, and grammar structures when you encounter them outside of the song.
  6. Finding the Japanese lyrics is way easier than finding Japanese subtitles for an anime.
  7. WAAAAAY more choice of stuff you can listen to that will suit your taste. If you watch anime, you are basically forced to watch stuff that focuses on daily life. And if that isn’t your cup of tea that sucks. But with music you can listen to whatever genre you like.
  8. You can listen to music on the way to work/school so you can listen to it and revise things while just listening to music.

The main drawback from listening to music is that you can’t expect to use phrases you learn in song in daily conversation. But I promise you it will help in so many other ways.

But as much I’m raving about using music as a study tool, once again. It is one thing you should do as a part of a good study regimen. And while you can use it to practice many key language skills (Vocab, grammar, pronunciation, listening) and adapt it for whatever you’re weak at. You do still need to spend time speaking, reading and writing in addition.

 

2. Find a Way to Speak Japanese

I mean, I know this is a bit of a no brainier. But the ability to speak with other people in Japanese will help so much. But finding a place to speak can sometimes be challenging. So here are some ideas of places to look for a conversation group.

  • At a local university. I know my uni has a Japan Club and they do a weekly conversation meet up. From my experience of university clubs, they usually don’t care if you don’t attend the university. They mostly care that you pay a membership fee which is once per semester. While I can’t tell you how much every club would charge, but at mine it was $20 per semester.
  • Try to find people in your area who want to practice. This option I would usually only recommend for folks who are more experienced because non native speakers can’t correct your speaking like a native can. So you will pick up bad habits if you do this too early. But if you’re an intermediate learner this can absolutely be a valuable tool to help you improve.
  • Conversation Classes. This is an option that is only really available if you have the cash to do it, but it is a really good thing to do. Even going once every two months is better than never speaking at all.

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1. Consistency is Key

Yeah, yeah I know this is an obvious one but get over it because you need to hear it again. Doing 5 minutes of study a day is better than 35 minutes of study once a week. Yeah that 35 minute study session would be good too, but consistently getting your brain to process the language you want to learn is the most important thing you can do.

And that word, process is the important thing to remember. Often you hear folks say “Oh you need to immerse yourself in a language to truly learn it”. But honestly immersion is overrated. When I was living in Japan I didn’t have time or the energy to listen in and process everything that was being said around me. So I didn’t improve all that much. Certainly my speaking got better, but my vocabulary and the grammar patterns I knew, stayed mostly the same. Whereas when I was consistently processing new words and grammar patterns and then applying them back in Australia, I improved a lot more. Maybe you’re lucky and you can pick up meanings and grammar from context really well… But that ain’t me.

So for the end of studying consistently, find the study that you enjoy most. If you like reading, buy some Japanese novels on your phone or kindle. And use that as your study tool. I’ve told you the study tool that I like the most: Music. But that’s only the tool I like the most because its the tool I can engage with most consistently.

Maybe the thing that gets you going is performing. If that’s the case, maybe doing speech contests (a lot of Japanese embassies have annual speech contests) could be the thing that motivates you. Maybe you like drawing a bunch. Then you can do calligraphy to learn kanji as a tool to motivate you. Or you could order some Japanese art magazines (and boy howdy do they have some amazing art magazines) and the desire to learn new techniques is what pushes you to translate each page. My point is, find the thing that allows you to practice as often as possible, that you enjoy, and use that to keep you going.

And it is with this principle in mind, that I made Kana Quest (That’s right we are bring it home). I know a lot of folk hate learning the Hiragana and Katakana because the only way to really learn it at the moment is a lot of rote learning. Which is boring and hard to do consistently over a long time. So I figured, what if I made something that people could do consistently until they knew Hiragana and Katakana, and that way they can start doing these other forms of study which while are way more fun and interesting… are also not beginner friendly.

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A drawing of the shrine entrance next door to where I lived in Japan. (Kanji says Yanagihara)

Wrapping Up

Anyway, that’s this month’s devblog. I hope you enjoyed it. If you found these tips helpful, please share the devblog and wishlist Kana Quest on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/725850/Kana_Quest/

Here are all the relevant social media links if you feel like following.

Until next time, hope you have a great month. Happy holidays, and a wonderful new year.

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Hi all, I’m Theo, the lead designer of Kana Quest. I’d like to introduce/reintroduce you to the Kana Quest DevBlog.

Why do I say “introduce/reintroduce”? Well the answer is this is the first Devblog I’ve done for Kana Quest in a while. And Secondly this will be the first Devblog that I will be sending it to everyone who has signed up to the Kana Quest mailing list. Which is something I am going to be doing from now on. And because I am going to be sending these blogs out on the mailing list, I am going to be making a few changes. Mostly being that I am not going to be posting these weekly like I used to. I don’t want to spam the inbox’s of people, and doing one a week was too much for me. So from now on, there will be a new Kana Quest devblog on the second Saturday of each month.

So for those who are new here, what can you expect in these devblogs? You can expect updates on how the game is coming along. Bits of news, interesting things that I’ve learned from making this thing, new features, and my general process.

So I’d like to start with the news. Lets get the bad news done with first, unfortunately Kana Quest will not be exhibiting at PAX Aus this year. Which to be honest is really bumming me out. What happened was that I was waiting for an inflow of cash before I booked a booth this year. And by the time the money came in, all the spots had been taken. If any of you were looking forward to playing the game there, I’m so sorry to have let you down.

But with the bad must come the good! And the good is that Kana Quest is no longer a solo project! I have my team member to come onto the project and I couldn’t be happier. As of this week the wonderful Reuben Covington is now the lead programmer for Kana Quest.

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Here’s Reuben helping me set up for AVCon (Anime Vid Con in Adelaide) earlier this year.

Reuben is an incredibly talented designer and programmer whospecialises in Collectable Card Game designs (and is also currently working on Infinity Heroes which you can check out here –> https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/elphie/infinity-heroes-competitive-card-game-for-mobile-p ). The reason why I think was my choice was because he has an incredible knack for bottom up design work. This is the sort of design that starts with a mechanic and iterates onto it to create great gameplay for the player. Whereas I am a Top Down designer. I start with a desired end goal and create mechanics to achieve the desired end goal (e.g. Wanting a puzzle game that teaches Hiragana/Katakana without any rote learning or pop quizzes). Both of these approaches I believe are super important, but they both have their drawbacks and strengths. Because of this, I am certain Kana Quest will be a better game with Reuben’s input. And hopefully, with his help, Kana Quest will hopefully be finished far sooner than later.

Speaking of Kana Quest being finished, when is that going to be? Well I know at PAX Aus last year I said that it would be in 2018. Sorry that’s not going to happen. But I wasn’t far off. The plan is to essentially finish the game in the first quarter of 2019. And now with Reuben’s help, I’m more than confident we can bring the game to you then!

What makes me so sure I hear you ask? Well for one thing, in terms of art assets, the game is a little over 80% complete! And for me, the most time consuming art assets to produce are by far the world art that go behind the puzzles. As of this week I have finished 11 out of 13. At my current estimates I am planning to have finished all the art by the end of October, or by early November at the latest. Speaking of art, here’s the world art for worlds 8-11.

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This one, was inspired by John Brack’s Collins St, 5pm. And you know… rush hour in Japanese train stations.

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Oh and this one is of the main street in Akihabara (The nerd capital in Japan). Along with some not so subtle Vaporwave jokes.

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This one I mostly wanted to capture the feel of how lights reflect at night in big Japanese cities.

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And this one is the obligatory reference to Hokusai. Fun fact, all games set in Japan by law legally have to include some reference to the Great Wave. *previously stated “fun fact” is in fact a fabrication*

I’m really proud of all the art that I’ve made for Kana Quest so far and I feel like I’ve come a LONG way as a pixel artist since I started. And I can’t wait to show you all the last two worlds. I am going all out for them.

But speaking of my pixel art coming along a long way since I started. For some of you who might have seen Kana Quest at PAX last year you might not have seen that I have changed the logo. Why is this? To those of you who’ve seen the game at an event this year, this will be the same logo that you’re used to. And if that’s the case, no I’m not going to upload the old logo because I don’t like it, and I like this new one much more.

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See, isn’t it pretty? I know I should be humble, but this logo was a lot of work and revision and I’m still kinda amazed I made something this cool.

This basically all I wanted to share with you all today. If you have a question about anything to do with the development of Kana Quest, please feel free to ask about it. I’d love to answer your questions. If you’d like to see more regular updates, you can follow the development on these social media channels:

Until next time, take care and have a wonderful day.

 

Hi all, and welcome to the Kana Quest Dev-Blog for this week. This week I am going to show you a small part of Kana Quest’s pipeline. Specifically, the process I have to go through to add new world art onto the previous world. Which, full disclosure, is terrible. When I was making my parallax system I did not consider the fact that someone would have to use said system. And that someone would ultimately be me. How that slipped my mind as a solo game dev, I don’t know but here we are.

With that said, what do I mean specifically when I say I am adding the new world art onto the previous? Well a few weeks ago I talked at length about the process for creating the background art for the 6th world in Kana Quest. Isn’t it nice? But unfortunately I now have to get this art from Photoshop, into Unity.

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Legit, still really chuffed with how this art turned out. I would give myself a pat on the back if it weren’t for the horror I am about to inflict on myself.

And then once into Unity, get it to connect onto the previous world’s art. You would think this is easy. And it should be. But then you know… my coding exists sooo guess we can’t have nice things.

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I remember when I thought getting this world to connect was going to be easy.

See I can’t make them connect by putting the two finished images side by side and creating some transitional artwork. Because of one thing. All these environments use a parallax effect, so the point in which each part of the world will end in different places. And the only way for me to know exactly where that is, is to make a world’s art, implement it, then figure out where the end of that world will be, and finally create an end point for the art. But then we have to start worrying about the game objects that handle the parallax effect for the art, as well as trying to make the transition seamless by making transitional art. Like I said before, this is not a great pipeline. But on the bright side Franz Kafka is incredibly proud of me.

So let’s look at what everything looks like at the start of this “process”. This is the level select scene before I add any of world 6’s art.

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As you can see in the first image the foreground images extend way further than the sky does. This is to compensate for the parallax effect moving these images faster than the ones in the background.

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As you can see in game, everything lines up and looks nice, unlike how it does in their initial placement. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist.

 

So the first job I need to do is figure out the point that the transitional art will start. This is pretty easily figured out by scrolling to the end of the world and seeing roughly where the camera ends.

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The arrow is pointing to the effective end of world 5 because it is the point where the last level button appears to the player. So everything beyond this point will be used to transition to the next world.

So now that we have our end point we have to start making transitional art. I start with the sky because we want it to the first to change. The sky moves the slowest and thus will be the last to finish switching over to the new pallet (even with a head start). Making the transitional art is also really easy as it just involves dithering between the original colours to the new colours, like so. It’s vital to give yourself easy goals to score. This will lull yourself into a false sense of security, and get you thinking “Surely its not as bad as I remember”.

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As you can see here, the transitional sky image cuts a little bit into world 5. 

Then we repeat this process for each layer in the world. So for this world we do it for the buildings, the park, the stalls, the lanterns and finally the ground. Each layer should be staggered a little bit so that the final result should look something like this.

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You can see how the off screen starting point for the transition art is staggered so that the foreground images start further away. But by the time the player scrolls past they will all line up and look great. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist. 

But this is just for the transitional art. Once we have the transitional art in place we have to position the world 6 art to line up properly. But because the parallax effect is handled by different objects for each world, you can’t line up the images in the inspector and call it a day. I have to figure out where those images have to be so that once moved by the parallax script in game, they line up. But in the scene viewer, the final positions overlap and look pretty awful. This step is the most time consuming and irritating as its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle except all the pieces are moving and you don’t get to see their true position when you want to place a piece. But at least the result is a nice clean transition. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist.World6ImplementedGIF.gif

So how would I improve this pipeline? Well I would start by improving the parallax script. If I had designed the parallax script to handle all the worlds at once, a lot of this irritation would be improved. Because then I could simply place the transition images where they need to be in the Scene Window and not have to switch between running the game to figure out the placement and then back to the Scene Window to position things correctly.

Secondly if I had fixed world lengths for each world I would be able to standardise the interval between each world’s images and thus be able to immediately place new world images by entering that interval into the Transform component’s X value.

Thirdly I could make the parallax script run in editor so that wherever the Scene window is looking at, the script will get that X value and parallax as if the camera was in that position. But once again this relies on there only object that handles the parallaxing.

Anyway I hope this this been an “fun” look at Kana Quest’s pipeline and hopefully it inspires you think about your pipeline and the inefficiencies built within it before you start production. Because that is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with Kana Quest. Ensuring quick and easy implementation of things is something worth spending a fair amount of time to work out. If you don’t get it sorted it can and will cost you days, weeks and even months of development time. And if you are really careless, you could end up writing a Dev-Blog about “The World’s Most Irritating Jigsaw”.

Until next time, have a great week.

Good morning all. Sorry I missed last week. I was mostly still working on the new logo still and I didn’t want to publish the final finished version until I had bought my trademark for it.

But this week I’ve started work on the next world for Kana Quest. w3WIP2

So this week we are gonna look at some of the techniques I use when making these background, the way I set these things out and the inspiration for this one.

So right off the bat you will notice the biiig blank space in the second half of the picture. why is that there and what am I using it for? Well the backgrounds in Kana Quest have to repeat seamlessly. But they also have to transition nicely from the previous world. So what I’ve done here is I’ve drawn the connective tissue first but leaving a lot of room in the document so I can then draw the repeating part of the art.

Another thing about the setup of this image that you cannot see is the layer structure. Because the backgrounds will be parralaxing I need to choose what part of the background goes on which layer. And then work from the furthest back to the closest. The reason I do this is so that if there are any variations in a foreground layer’s height I can make sure the background layers still have stuff there so we don’t get a big gaping hole.

So now onto the techniques I use to make this a lot faster than hand placing every pixel. Whenever you are doing dithering (the process of creating a dot pattern to create the illusion of shading) in photoshop the paint bucket is your best fried. Let’s say we were going to make a bunch of autumn trees like in the background.

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The first thing we would do is jut get some flat base colors like this. Looks pretty nasty right? But once we add some shading everything will look great. The only problem is no one wants to sit around and place all those pixels by hand.  So what we are going to do is select the areas we want shaded and use the hue saturation adjustment layer to alter those selected areas. Then we fiddle around till we have a shading color that we like. And we get this.

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Then we will make a selection were we want the “in-between” of the two tones to be. I like to select the shade color with the magic wand and go to Select –> Modify –> Expand and expand an appropriate amount.

Then once we have that selection I go to my paint bucket and switch the mode from Foreground to Pattern. Also make sure you define a dither pattern beforehand (this is done in basically the same way you define a new paintbrush). Then just fill with your bucket and it will look like…. trash. But that’s ok.

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What we are going to do with this is use it to create a selection that will allow us to immediately fill up the black pixels with the chosen shade color and then delete the white pixels leaving us with a perfect dither pattern. Like so.

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This is great because we get to have dithering in our piece without having to do any of the laborious pixel by pixel shading. Then for the final step we just repeat the previous steps for the highlights and we get this.

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Seeing as these are supposed to be trees I would recommend adding some irregularity to the shading. But adding that is much faster when you have a good guide ready to go.

Finally I’m going to talk about the inspiration for the art for world three.

I wanted the first four worlds to follow a full year season cycle to begin with. The world one starts with spring and the world two is summer, so world three is of course autumn. What this means for the art is there needed to have Japan’s stunning autumn colors on display. But I also wanted to shift the perspective of the art. Spring and summer are both warm and optimistic times. Autumn is a shift, so while the color pallet is still very warm but I wanted it to be more introspective by bringing the focus to the foreground. As a result I have the brilliant red of the Japanese Maple trees the closest thing to the player. This way when we transition to world four when the mise en scene is even more cramped it wont be as much of a visual jump.

Anyway, there is still a lot of work to be done on the background before it’s finished but I’m sure I’ll get to show you the finished thing soon!

Till then, take care and have a great day!

Hey welcome to this week’s Kana Quest Dev Blog. Where I get to talk all about what I’ve been doing for the last week. What I achieved, what problems I had and how I solved those problems for my game Kana Quest (A Puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match three game that teaches the Japanese phonetic Alphabet).

So PAX Aus is now less than a month away. This means most of my energy is being spent preparing for that. As a result very little new content for is going to be made for the game. I’m patching bugs certainly, but making new content will have to wait for now.

KanaQuestPAXBanner180dpi.jpgKanaQuestPAXBanner280dpi.jpgSo what sort of things are taking up so much time? Well mainly getting my booth ready. I learned from AVCon earlier this year, that your presentation matters. It matters a lot. Thankfully PAX provides printing of artwork included in the booking of the booth which will improve my baseline presentation a bunch. But I do need to make the artwork for those posters. As of this week I can officially say that I have been given grant money by Creative Victoria to attend PAX Aus which is amazing and I of coarse can’t thank them enough. And that bright pink banner topper is part of the conditions of the grant. I have to display the Melbourne International Games Week branding on my booth. Which I am more than happy to do. I also made an English version of the Kana Quest Logo as at AVCon I realized that most people had to ASK what the name of the game is. I want my players to know the name of the game without asking so it was a natural addition.

One big achievement this week was this little beauty (please imaging me saying beauty in a really strong Aussie accent).

TaxAccept.pngTurns out getting my tax information verified by Valve turned out to be a bit of a headache. I’ve been trying to get it done for last three weeks and its been very frustrating to do. I do need to give massive shout out to Carmine Fantarella at Games of Edan (Link: gamesofedan.com/icebox-speedgunner#_=_ ) . He provided a bunch of help in this department. So I do want to give thanks where thanks is due. If you like fast paced action games go check out his game ICEBOX: Speed Gunner, its really sweet and just plays amazingly.

So now that Kana Quest is on Steam what’s the next step? Well the next step is setting up my Steam Storefront. This means I need to make a trailer, prepare some HD screenshots and once again make sure my presentation is top notch. Once I’ve done that I’ll submit the game to Valve, they will review it and it will go onto the Coming Soon section.

 

Finally for this week we have the tutorial. For as long as this game has existed teaching players how to PLAY the game. Which is saying something as the first people to ever play the game were two native speakers of Japanese. This week I finally got sick of my tutorials not working so I sat down and made a list of skills the player needs to have to play the game.

  • Know how to flip the Kana to see the English
  • Know how to move the Kana.
  • Know how Kana match with each other.
  • Understand the win state of each level.
  • Know what the undo and restart buttons are.
  • Understand that Stone Kana can’t be moved.

So I went off and made the following tutorial level.NewTutorial5.gif

So this tutorial level does a few things differently to all previous versions. Firstly this tutorial takes place entirely on only once scene. This means I can add new concepts one at a time and those additions will be the focus of attention. It also is much harder to sequence break than previous version. Actually I specifically made it impossible to do so. I can’t afford players who just skip the tutorial as they will be lost. Anyway I need to now playtest this new tutorial to ensure that it’s up to the task of teaching everyone at PAX Aus.

And with that, another Dev Blog comes to an end for another week. If you are interested in Kana Quest please follow me on twitter @notdeaddesigner or follow my blog here on WordPress. I hope you all have a great weekend, till next time.

 

Hey, so you’ve stumbled onto my blog somehow. And probably you landed on a page about my game project Kana Quest. This is because for as long as I’m making Kana Quest I will be uploading a devblog of my process. However most of the devblogs are not great for anyone who doesn’t know what Kana Quest is…. which is you know…. most people.

SO! This is a quick primer on what Kana Quest is, and how it works.

KanaQuestTitleScreen.gif

So what is Kana Quest? Kana Quest is a puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match-3 game that teaches the Japanese Alphabet (Both Hiragana and Katakana). It will be released on Mac, PC, Linux, Android and iOS.

It is an educational game, but it is being designed to be a fun puzzle game first. This way, people who already know Japanese can still play and enjoy the game. Another key feature of Kana Quest is that there are no pop quizzes. A lot of educational games lean heavily on game-ified versions of school tests in the hopes that no one will notice.
KatakanaDemoThe main gameplay of Kana Quest revolves around Kana. The word Kana comes from the names of the two Japanese Alphabet; Hiragana and Katakana and basically means letter. In Kana Quest, the Kana have been brought to life and want to make friends. Its the player’s job to help them find their friends. Two kana that are next to each other will be friends if their names/pronunciation share a sound. So for example か (Ka) and な (Na) will be friends because they both have an “a” sound. The same is true for か (Ka) and く(Ku) because of the “k” sound. Once you know which Kana can be friends, you need to make a friendship group that includes all Kana in the level.
LevelDemo2For example. This level starts off with every Kana having at least one friend. But because these friendships don’t connect all the Kana into one group the level is not complete.

This gif also shows a couple of other important details. The flashing lines between Kana show that they are friends, and a sound matches between them.

 

Finally a quick description of the different mechanics currently in the game.

Blank Tiles: These can be seen in the above gif. These cannot match, but can be moved freely.

Stone Kana: Stone kana will match with other kana and must be included in the final friendship group but can not be moved. They have been turned to stone, you see.

MysteryTileDemo2Mystery Kana: These enigmatic Kana are hiding their true face. But their true identity is given away by who they become friends with. Unfortunately Kana who are hiding their true identity are not truly happy and must be unmasked before the level can be complete.

Slime Kana: Slime Kana do not have any consonants in their names. Slime tiles cannot move.But they can merge with other Kana. When they merge they change the vowel of any Kana they merge with. Slime Kana cannot match, but they are happy to help other Kana find their friends.SlimeTiles

And that about covers it. This primer will likely but updated over time as new content is added. If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I’ll get back to you asap!

 

Hey, Welcome to this week’s Kana Quest Devblog where I talk about all the work I’ve done during the week.

So this week has been mostly about getting elements of the second world working ASAP. With PAX Aus fast approaching there are three major things I need to get done before then. First is World 2, second is getting it working on IOS and android and third is putting in some sound.

So most of implementing World 2 is done, the only tasks left on the plate is a tutorial for how to move to World 2, a tutorial for the mystery tile mechanic and finally all the levels. I’m trying to finish working on World 2 by the end of August so I have plenty of time to get the other things on my list done.

So I have two GIFs to show off this week. The first is a lock out screen if the player tries to move to World 2 without meeting the requirements.

World2LockedScreen

The other GIF for this week is a quick demo of how Mystery Kana work. So mystery tiles, cannot be moved and you cannot see the actual Kana. But they will match like normal Kana do. Using that information the player has to figure out what Kana is hiding behind that disguise. In this gif you can see the mystery matches with Ki and Na but not Ko.  This means that the Mystery tile must have the vowel “i” because if it was matching with the consonant Ko would match.  Then since we know that the vowel is “i” when we see Na match we know that the consonant is “n”. Add those sounds together and you get Ni. MysteryTileDemo2.gif

So there are a few things to keep in mind about Mystery Kana. Even if all the Kana match up if there are any Mystery Kana the level will not be complete. Secondly once you figure out the sound of a mystery tile, it will become a normal tile that you can move freely. This is great because it allows more interesting levels. For example you can make levels that are impossible to complete without unmasking all the mystery tiles.  This definitely increases the design space of Mystery Kana a lot.

Anyway that’s the devblog for this week. Hope you have a good weekend, and I’ll see you next week.

Before we get into the meat of this week’s update I just have some big news about Kana Quest. Officially Kana Quest is going to be heading to PAX Aus this year! If you are planning on coming come say hi and give the game a go! I would love to hear your feedback! And if you have any friends going tell them to check Kana Quest out! Anyway with that done, onto the week’s work!

So this week I’ve been working on implementing the second world into Kana Quest. I’ve known for a while that I want to transition between worlds by clicking and dragging the screen. And for the background art to join up seamlessly. So what’s the process of doing this involved?

world2MoreCurrent Step one was making the background art for world two. This was the easy part. All I really needed to watch out for here was to make sure that all the layers are repeatable so I can make the world as long or short as needed.

 

The next step was ensuring that the two worlds can transition into each other. This step will be easier in the future thanks to more planning in the world two art but no such planning was done for the first world’s art. As such the seam is a little abrupt. But its not an immediate shift so its better than nothing.

World1to2

MovingToWorld2

Part three was bringing the assets into unity and getting the camera to move when the player clicked and dragged. One small bug occurred with this though. I made my camera a physics object. Turns out any child object of a physics object loses its ability to know if the player is clicking on it. This caused some of my menus to stop working.

 

World2WithParallax.gif

Once we had the camera moving we had to get the background parallaxing with the camera. This means that the foreground art will move more than the background art to create the illusion of depth. This turned out to be troublesome as I kept being able to make my world two art not line up with the first world art. Thus forcing me to find a way to ensure that the art would always come back to the right position. This took half a day. It was not fun.

So here we have the last part of getting this whole thing working. The transition. This gave me the most trouble out of everything and is what I spent most of this week working on. The reason is for the first world I had used a static overlay that would fade in OVER everything in the scene. This overlay would work fine as long as the overlay was the exact same as the background. But once you add a variable camera position you no longer can guarantee this. So things had to change. So now, what is happening is I have a script that finds all the visible parts of the background, and prevents them from being destroyed when a new scene is loaded, then it moves those objects into the same relative position as they were in the previous scene. This is important as the camera’s position changes scene to scene so if this didn’t happen the art would be misaligned, or not in shot at all. Then would take all other objects in the scene and fade them out. Once the new scene is loaded it would get all the new non-background objects in the scene set the transparency to full and fade the new objects in. The result is what you can see below.

FirstWolrd2Level

 

And that was the process involved in adding the second world to the game. All subsequent worlds will be easier as I won’t have to worry about making the last three steps all over again. It will be set up for me already! Anyway I hope you all enjoyed learning about my process.

Till next week.

Another week another Devblog.

This was an ok week for productivity. Some stuff got done but not as much as I know I can get done (I spent most of Wednesday practically falling asleep). But three big things were done this week!

The first thing is that I have officially started working on Kana Quest’s audio. Well more like the background music for the game. Now when I knew I was going to have pixel art for the visuals of Kana Quest I knew that chip tunes were going to be used for the music. So this week I did my research of what were the best programs for making chip tunes and landed on FamiTracker (the visual fustercluck you see below). Then I spent a little bit figuring out how to use the thing. Thankfully there were some really well made tutorials on youtube that sped up the process. Now that I’m used to the software its not so bad to work with. Although if you look below you can see that I kinda ended up with a piece of music which has 5 frames to a crotchet for some reason. This is great if I want to you know have quavers (sarcasm). Regardless, progress on the theme song for Kana Quest is progressing nicely.FamitrackerScreenshot.png

The second major achievement for this week was the implementation of an options screen. Last week I talked about how the player can now switch between Hiragana and Katakana. The options screen is how the player is going to do that, so it is pretty important that I get the options screen working. I haven’t got all the controls on it working yet but we will get there soon enough. At the very least its really nice not to have one grayed out button on my main menu screen.Options Screen Demo

Finally, saving the best till last, we finally have world 2 implemented into the game! So the way you get to the world 2 is by click and drag the screen to move over. I’ve put a ridgidbody2D onto the camera so that when the player lets go of the camera will continue moving for a moment. It just feels a nicer to do doing it this way. Another thing to notice is that the menu button changes color when we move to world 2. One of the things that is a big part of making the art for a new world is making sure the colors of the UI matches the new setting. So, although you can’t see the extent of this in the gif below, a large part of putting this into the game was recoloring all the UI. One last small detail in this gif is the title screen. I’ve changed the image used for the stars in the background. I’m much happier with where they are now and the new stars look great!MovingToWorld2.gif

Anyway. That’s all the major and interesting stuff I got done this week. I’ll see you next week where hopefully we will be able to show off some levels for the second world! Until then, take care.

So this week had one task. One job that had to be done. It was long, it was boring, it was tedious. It was implementing Katakana into Kana Quest.

Why is implementing Katakana such a chore I hear some of you wonder. Well simply because implementing each Katakana has a bunch of steps that are not at all interesting and when you times those steps by 46 (the number of kana) things get very boring very quickly.

So the pipeline is as follows.

  1. Create the sprites. (We talked about this last week as I was most of the way through making the Katakana Sprites at that point.)
  2. Set the image setting for each sprite.
    1. This isn’t too bad what I have to do is tell unity how it should process each sprite. How big the image is (pixels per unit), its filter type (point filter as bi-linear and tri-linear make pixel art look awful) and if its a single or multiple sprite image. Now all of the above I can do all in one go by selecting all the files at once, but below I have to do one by one, because Unity wont allow me to do this in batch. Finally I have to set the sprite size for multiple sprite Kana. So for each Katakana I had to go into the sprite editor and tell it to divide my sprite sheet how I wanted it divided.
  3. For each kana make an animation using the unity animation system.
    1. For the stone tiles this is easy. They are just one frame so its just a matter of dragging and dropping the image into a new animation. For the normal tiles this takes a while longer because I have to copy the animations seen on the Hiragana Tiles. But the big annoying part of this step is that I have a LOT of animations on the one object now. So much so that they don’t all fit on screen so adding a new animation took about three seconds of scrolling down the animation list before I could get to the “make new animation” button.
  4. Add those animations to the animator of the tile object, and then set up the logic of when to play those animations.
    1. So putting the animations into the animator is easy. Select all the files you want and drag them onto the animation screen. Setting up the logic has to be done one by one and is really tedious. Right click from where you want the tile to transition from and to (from all to each individual animation in this case). Then click the arrow that comes up and create the parameters controlling the animation. In this case, what is the tile’s hiragana number? Is Katakana enabled? And is this a stone tile or a normal tile. Rinse and repeat 92 times.
  5. The last step is to add a control for turning Katakana off and on. This was the last and easiest step. Now if the player presses ctrl+shift+k in game katakana will be toggled on and off.

And that’s the process. Since you got through all the technical stuff your reward is some gifs! Enjoy!KatakanaDemo

SoneKatakana