Use of a Second Language in Game

acardilini

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G'day All,

I am very new to RPG Maker, but am really impressed with what I have seen.

I am interested in using a second language within a game and am wondering if it is possible. I would love any of your thoughts and feedback on the idea. I want to caveate that I don't know what I am talking about so I apologise if the language I am using is wrong, I would be happy to be corrected.

Second Language in Game
  • Players start in an area where there is a mix of languages, i.e. 95% english and 5% target language.
  • They aquire target language vocabularly through conversations and adventure.
  • They USE target language vocabularly to speak with specific people, access specific options, do certain things.
Second Language Game Mechanics
  1. When a new target language word is encountered it enters a COMPENDIUM.
  2. Words in the compendium are KNOWN, they have an english translation, or UNKNOWN, there is no english translation yet.
  3. Known words can be used in the game in order to access answer certain questions or achieve certain things.
  4. Players must search for the definitions of unknown words so that they can start to use them in game.
Technical Stuff - The following questions are really just to feel out whether something is technically feasible within RPG Maker.
  • I have searched for bilingual, multilanguage plugins but have only found things for changing the entire game to a different languange. Do you think it would be technically possible to write a plugin that handles two languages in game?
  • Alternative to a bilingual plugin do you think it would be feasible to create target language vocabulary and compendium entries as items?
  • Do you think it would be possible to create a plugin that would allow users to 'look up' words during conversations, e.g. search their compendium for word meaning.
These are just some thoughts based on very little knowledge of the platform and not much success finding answers through google. I would love any of your thoughts or alternative suggestions.

Thanks for you help and thoughts.

All the best,
Adam
 

Kes

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Your general questions are fine, but please bear in mind that Game Mechanic Design is for looking at aspects of game play at a more conceptual level. "How do I...? (implementation) questions belong in the Support forum for the engine you are using. Therefore you should start a Support thread when you have enough general feedback on your base question, not discuss them here.

Thanks
 

MushroomCake28

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So is that like a real second language, or a made-up language that is part of the gameplay?
 

gstv87

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I remember playing a mod for Minecraft where the villagers would have their own language, and it would progressively translate as you dealt with them.
things like "hello", "thank you" or "welcome" were easily identifiable, because they would often say your name in the same sentence, so you knew they were talking to you.
the problem, as I see it, is not really implementing the *language* but the *grammar*.
the grammar would cause your translations to have to be applied per individual sentence, rather than per individual word, so it would be useless to know the meaning of one word if the player doesn't know how to modify that word according to the words that should go around it to convey the intended meaning.
 

mauvebutterfly

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As a language instructor I would recommend against doing word for word translations (unless you were only teaching nouns for some reason). I am actually developing a language-learning game in RPG Maker myself, and what I've chosen to do is have two separate game modes: class and adventure. Class is 100% English, and once you've unlocked all vocabulary used in an adventure that adventure unlocks and is 100% target language. Obviously early adventures are fairly basic in plot (Bad man takes apple; find bad man's house; lots of early enemies are just common animals etc.) but the idea is to build things up as you go.

There are several ways you could implement a compendium, but looking up specific words within textboxes doesn't sound like something you can do easily without scripting/plugins. I guess you could do images for text boxes with each word being a mouse-activated button to its translation, but that seems like a lot of work.
 

kirbwarrior

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A game that did this in a simple way is FFX; There's the main language and the "Al Bhed" language. For simplicity, it's actually a cipher* and learning the language is learning how each letter transfers over. Get all (for english speakers) 26 pieces and you can understand the Al Bhed. As for mechanically do that, you could simply have 26 actors that never show up, start with a single letter for a name, and get that name changed as you learn letters to the "correct" one.

*A cipher is basically a code for hiding words. The most well known cipher, ROT-13, is moving 13 letters ahead in the language; "znlor" becomes "maybe".

Now, for an actual language, the differences are complicated between any two languages, even ones with similar roots (such as the Romantic languages). For implementing a learning system, you could do as @mauvebutterfly does (awesome idea!) but for a more simplistic approach you could break down the language into certain "parts" that can be learned;
None (you don't understand anything)
Broken (you get certain words and phrases)
Accented (you can understand sentences, but sometimes there is grammar or hidden meaning you don't get)
Full/Native (you understand everything)
And right up each conversation four times to allow for those groups of learning. That still is setting things up for ease rather than the player learning, but if it's supposed to be merely a feature rather than a large part of the game, you might not want to focus on getting the player to actually learn things.
In fact, this works well when there isn't actually a second language to learn but instead is merely a barrier. At "None" it would just be gibberish, Broken and Accented would show what you do understand (as the character), and Native would show it fully, likely all in a different color to make it obvious it's another language.

Now, mind, FFX worked well with this since it was technically all optional (and there's a new game-ish option for having all at start). You don't need to understand Al Bhed, and sometimes you can understand anyway from just hearing it and body language. With your 5% amount, that's similar. If it was something like 50% (say, you have to go to another country where they entirely speak another language) you might need something different.
 

acardilini

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Thanks everyone for your feedback and thoughts, it's really appreciated. I am not sure if this is proper etiquette but I thought I would respond to the comments so far in one reply.

Your general questions are fine, but please bear in mind that Game Mechanic Design is for looking at aspects of game play at a more conceptual level. "How do I...? (implementation) questions belong in the Support forum for the engine you are using. Therefore you should start a Support thread when you have enough general feedback on your base question, not discuss them here.
Thanks for the clarification. I wasn't quite sure where the question belonged. I appreciate your help and will move the more technical questions to the other thread.

So is that like a real second language, or a made-up language that is part of the gameplay?
Yep, this would be for a real second language. We are thinking of trying something very small and simple for learning a few words in German to start with.

the problem, as I see it, is not really implementing the *language* but the *grammar*.
the grammar would cause your translations to have to be applied per individual sentence, rather than per individual word, so it would be useless to know the meaning of one word if the player doesn't know how to modify that word according to the words that should go around it to convey the intended meaning.
Yep, great point. Grammar is the hard stuff and the mechanics of introducing it and using it would need to be thought about carefully. We have thought that maybe small sentences could be learnt, e.g. 'I want X', 'Can you...', etc. The trick I suppose is having them repeated in the game and searchable if the get stuck. And by repeated in the game I mean opportunities to read them but also use short commands to acheive things in game.

As a language instructor I would recommend against doing word for word translations (unless you were only teaching nouns for some reason).
Thanks for the tip. We have thought a few words could be learnt in isolation or in word associations, e.g. green frog jumps, but the intention certainly wouldnt be word for word translation. It would require scaffolding the learning and using scripted second language. What are your thoughts on small scripted sentences as useful tools for helping to aquire vocabulary and grammar usage?

I am actually developing a language-learning game in RPG Maker myself, and what I've chosen to do is have two separate game modes: class and adventure. Class is 100% English, and once you've unlocked all vocabulary used in an adventure that adventure unlocks and is 100% target language. Obviously early adventures are fairly basic in plot (Bad man takes apple; find bad man's house; lots of early enemies are just common animals etc.) but the idea is to build things up as you go.
That's a really cool idea! Will it be something you share in the future? I would love to check it out once there is a version ready. Out of interest do you feel comfortable sharing what language(s) you teach?

There are several ways you could implement a compendium, but looking up specific words within textboxes doesn't sound like something you can do easily without scripting/plugins. I guess you could do images for text boxes with each word being a mouse-activated button to its translation, but that seems like a lot of work.
We have a programmy type of person in our little group who might be able to impliment scripts/plugins, so knowing that word lookup might be possible is promising. To keep to the theme of this thread, do you have any gut feeling about whether word lookup would ruin the flow of a game or have thoughts on alternative mechanics?

for a more simplistic approach you could break down the language into certain "parts" that can be learned;
None (you don't understand anything)
Broken (you get certain words and phrases)
Accented (you can understand sentences, but sometimes there is grammar or hidden meaning you don't get)
Full/Native (you understand everything)
And right up each conversation four times to allow for those groups of learning.
This is a nice idea. We had the thought that the player would be working towards the centre of a language culture and as the move closer the mix of english-second language changes. The key will be scaffolding the language aquisition as the game progresses and make an interesting/enjoyable game!

That still is setting things up for ease rather than the player learning, but if it's supposed to be merely a feature rather than a large part of the game, you might not want to focus on getting the player to actually learn things.
It is meant to be a large part of the game but not the central focus of the game. There are a lot of language platforms that bolt on game stuff and it isn't particularly fun. We are just playing with the idea that, what if you had a fun game and learning small parts of a language was just part of what you had to do to get through it...
 

kirbwarrior

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We are just playing with the idea that, what if you had a fun game and learning small parts of a language was just part of what you had to do to get through it...
If that's the goal, then you could focus on teaching the player enough to use and give them a taste if they want to fully learn it in real life. Optional conversations where others speak German, key German words used as passwords and proper nouns, etc. You could set it up so the player "accidentally" learns some vocab and can use that to get, say, 100% completion.

Side note, for some reason I had far more typos in both this response and the last one than usual and probably more than the amount of writing I've done this year. Don't know why.
 

acardilini

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...you could focus on teaching the player enough to use and give them a taste if they want to fully learn it in real life. Optional conversations where others speak German, key German words used as passwords and proper nouns, etc. You could set it up so the player "accidentally" learns some vocab and can use that to get, say, 100% completion.
I like that idea of providing a taste of a language, especially to start with. It would be a good way to stay focused on story first and foremost, and would allow for experimenting/testing second language mechanics. Then if things worked they could always be expanded if there was interest and energy. Thanks for your thoughts. :)
 

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