Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More My Japanese Coach news

At the time of this writing, My Japanese Coach is currently ranked #6 in DS games on Amazon.com. It is currently behind Mario Kart and New Super Mario Bros., but ahead of Brain Age and Spore Creatures.

There is also a video review, as well as lots of game footage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JLRjHRsDbs

After reading through the message boards at GameFaqs/GameSpot, I found a few more issues I'd like to talk about.

  1. A lot of people want to know if there's a cheat code so they can skip ahead to some new material they don't already know. Others just want to skip to lesson 30 to get away from romaji. I can tell you that there is a cheat (I programmed it), but it's up to the publisher, Ubisoft, to decide when/if that ever gets released. I'd suggest contacting them. Perhaps I can post it here when they give the OK.
  2. The vocabulary lessons (after lesson 100) are not grouped in any meaningful way. I agree that it would be better if they had been grouped with similar words, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to do this. The words were randomly assigned a lesson, in groupings of 10.
  3. Just as a clarification (many are confused in the posts I've read), the game defaults to romaji until lesson 30, at which point it defaults to kana (for features that don't require romaji.) The toggle in the options stays gray until lesson 30, at which point you may re-enable romaji.
  4. Some of the characters require more strokes than the actual number of strokes. As I mentioned before, with a dictionary of 11000 words, some incorrect characters may have been overlooked. If you finish writing a character, but the game doesn't accept it yet, you can press the A button to check it. This is the easiest way to get past these.
  5. On a related note, you can clear the current character by pressing the B button. This is an easy way to start over on the current character if you mess up.
  6. The highest lesson you can unlock with the placement test is 11. For non-beginners, the cheat might be your best option (again, you'll need to contact Ubisoft).
  7. Unfortunately, there is no verb conjugation game. We had one in My Spanish Coach, but it didn't translate as well to Japanese. However, you can go into the dictionary and click on the "V" next to verbs to view a conjugation chart.

A lot of these are valid complaints, and, if there's ever a sequel to this game (Ubisoft decides), then these things will definitely be taken into account. Unfortunately, play testing only gets us so far before the game is released. It's great to see all the things many of you would like to see changed to make this a better product. Perhaps Ubisoft will do an Intermediate version, but the ones that I see on GameSpot for the Spanish version are foreign to me. I don't know anything about them. Perhaps Ubisoft has another developer making those.

42 comments:

Kurisogenumu said...

Enlightening! Thanks for clearing some things and shedding some light on the A, B, button features.

syun_ukiya said...

will this game reach advanced japanese? coz the early levels bore me i wish i could have the cheat. its taking me hours to unlock other lessons. my email is syunukiya@gmail.com

thegameprogrammer said...

It seems to get into some pretty advanced stuff. I'm no expert on Japanese, but there's plenty of kanji, and lessons on particles, among other advanced topics.

Christopher Reeve said...

just curious, did you consult a real japanese for the game? or you just placed stuff found in books (eg. minna no nihongo)

thegameprogrammer said...

Our Japanese expert wrote the lesson content. He can answer your questions better than I could. Go to his site at darkeneddreamsgame.blogspot.com.

syun_ukiya said...

do you have a particle game? will the choices be replaced with kanji as i unlock lessons? since i already unlocked kana, and kana doesn't help me much because its too elementary.. i also can't wait to write kanji i hope this game has it. btw, the spelltastic and word bridge, the words will be romaji forever, right?

thegameprogrammer said...

Yes, there are some games that are built on romaji, and will never change, like Bridge Builder, Word Search, Spelltastic, and Fill-in-the-Blank. There are some that are built on kana/kanji only, like Fading Characters, Write Cards, Yomi and Scrolls. Then the other 4 (Multiple Choice, Flash Cards, Hit-A-Word, and Memory) use both romaji and kana/kanji. So really, at lesson 30, these last 4 are the only ones that will switch from romaji to kana/kanji.

Al said...

Hiragana yo and na have incorrect stroke order. So does katakana ka. Why didn't a Japanese person do the character drawing?

I have more thoughts on the game on my TravelJapanBlog.com

Alexxx said...

Dear Programmer.
I' like a lot this game.
Because is good for pratique.
But at what lesson will start the kanji game?
How many kanji does it teach?

But anyway looks like you missed two things:
1) we western people learn japanese as the Proficiecy tell us.
so JLPT 4 level 800words 100 kanji
JLPT3 1500 words 300 kanji and so on.

so was usefull have some quiz about the Proficiency exams.
(testing the words, kanji and sentences)

SECOND:
you should put a kanji dictionary (as the game "Tadashi Kakitori kun") with writing onyomi kunyomi and words.

but also a review only for katakana and hiragana.

and also a specific game just for kana and kanji

Alessandro

thegameprogrammer said...

I like all the ideas people are leaving here. I'm not a designer, but I'm sure that if there were an opportunity to make a sequel, we would take all these things into account. This has been a great learning experience, to see what features people want in a Japanese game.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I have been waiting for a long time for an English DS games to help me in my study of Japanese. While I can understand the criticism concerning certain aspect of the game. All in all this game is amusing. While I could go on and on about things that could be improved, I believe that the game in itself does what it's meant to do. That is help you memorize some new words. I wouldn't buy this game to actually learn the language, but anyone having a decent knowledge of the game and seeking to learn some new words on the fly, should look to it. If you happen to be interested in a more detailed analysis of the game on my part I would be glad to be of help. you can contact me at: chichikodomo@gmail.com

have a nice day!

Peter said...

Hey thegameprogrammer, this is thegameartist...why haven't you put up a post telling everyone about the team mascot "Charlie" as appears in the "My Japanese Coach" credits?

Anonymous said...

Hi. Thinking about picking this game up to use with my Nintendo DSi. Wanted to ask though, since the DSi supports a SDHC memory card, might there be a patch/update to the game that you can download that will update the game to correct issues and add new features?

thegameprogrammer said...

I don't anticipate that happening, but in the end, it's up to Ubisoft to make that call.

Anonymous said...

Reason I thought about it was because a few people were talking about a new advanced version being made, but would be cheaper to patch the current game to update the features and correct some of the issues. The memory card slot in the DSi supports SDHC cards up to 32GB from what I understand, so there is more then enough room.

Steve said...

This is ridiculous why can't you just tell us the "cheat" to get to level 30? Why do advanced learners have to plough through all of these pointless lessons to get to where they need to be??

stevesayskanpai@hotmail.com

thegameprogrammer said...

I can't tell you because I'm not Ubisoft. Go picket in front of their office until they give it to you.

Steve said...

You can't tell us yet you insist on telling every website around that "there is a cheat but I can't tell you". This is even more infuriating!

Shoddily made game thats of little use to even an intermediate learner because of the ridiculous time it takes just to get to valuable content.

Mandolin Bee said...

Regarding the cheat for skipping lessons: Ubisoft support gave me the code and didn't say anything about not being allowed to share it with others, so:

"You must hold L+R for five seconds in the dictionary after you find the verb conjugation screen for the word "to cheat."

You'll here a sound effect confirming the activation of the cheat.

You must then go into the sound options menu and press up to skip 1 lesson and down to skip 5."

thegameprogrammer said...

Well, as long as Ubisoft is giving it out, I might as well help spread the cheer. They gave you mostly correct information. You still need to press L + R for five seconds in the verb conjugation chart of "to cheat" in the dictionary. But then you have to go to the Sound Options and press R to advance 1 lesson and L to advance a whole group (usually 50 lessons). Now beware, once this cheat has been activated, it can't be turned off. And there's no way to go back to previous lessons that you skipped over. Sure, you can visit the skipped lesson from the lesson map, but there's no lesson map once you get past lesson 100. This cheat also works in My Chinese Coach.

One last caveat...the cheat has always functioned properly in all testing that I have done, but, as Game Informer magazine says in every issue, "Cheat codes are buggier than Virginia in August." Although I don't anticipate any problems (other than the aforementioned permanent unlock), use the cheat at your own risk.

Mandolin Bee said...

Whoops! Yeah, I know it was wrong -- spent a good hour trying to figure out why it wasn't working today before I hit on the answer. :P

It was my fault for not making sure Ubisoft knew what they were talking about before running here and posting. I wasn't sure if you were still active on your blog, btw, or I wouldn't have tried to tell you something you already knew. :P

Good work, by the way. Even with the errors in the game, it's still worth the price tag. You've done some excellent work, IMHO.

thegameprogrammer said...

Thanks. That means a lot. A lot of people only want to focus on the negative, so it's good to hear positive comments occasionally.

electrohaze said...

I think Japanese Coach is the best thing since sliced bread, sure it has some flaws. But, it's a step in the right direction. If another title like this one is released I will be sure to buy it.

I agree with a lot of what is said here: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/tag/my-japanese-coach/

One thing I would really like to see in another release is some pictures or illustrations as some kind in reference to the japanese you are learning.

Thanks for the first of it's kind product!

I am currently on lesson 86!

Philippe said...

First of all, I would like to tell you that both games "My Japanese Coach" and "My Chinese Coach" are really first rate for a beginner just like me. It's true that the kana's stroke order isn't always correct but I can cope with it !

Last week, I’ve purchased from Amazon.co.uk "My Japanese Coach" , having in mind the European version with an interface in French, as it was already the case with "My Chinese Coach" game which I have also purchased from the same merchant site. With regard to this last game, what is curious is that the box is in English and the manual too, whereas the game’s interface is in French ! Moreover The reference code on the back of the box is : NTR-CJCP-UKV whereas the card game’s reference ends with “EU” !
Therefore I’ve decided to purchase from Amazon.co.uk "My Japanese Coach", thinking that the game would be also in French. I’ve received this game yesterday but, alas, the interface is in ENGLISH :( ! I was very disappointed ! I've lost my bet !

So I watched the card game and I’ve found that the reference code is: NTR-CJCP-UKV just like on the box !

Besides, this game is of no use for me because I’ve already the US version which I have purchased from Play-Asia.com a couple of weeks ago !

I really wonder if the European version does exist. Actually I have much doubt about it !

Studying Japanese with a French version would be nevertheless much more convenient for me than an english one, even if my english is not too bad ! Would you confirm to me if the european version of the game does exist ? I cross my fingers ! Many thanks in advance for your answer.

thegameprogrammer said...

Philippe, I'm glad you like the game so much. From what I can remember, we only made an English version of Japanese Coach. However, we made a full European version of My Chinese Coach, changing languages depending on your DS's language settings. In the end, it was Ubisoft's decision for which languages the game should be in. I was also surprised that they only wanted My Japanese Coach in English.

NapoleonsOwner said...

I'm addicted to My Japanese Coach!

ahhhhh!


you have created a monster... and I think it's impressive... I love this game... it has helped me alot as a beginner Japanese speaker.. I must admit though.. I needed to know some hiragana and katakana before I started most of the games though.. but apart from that I'm your number one fan.. I might have a look at my chinese coach a little later on... looks awesome

Linda

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nya nya said...

I use My Japanese Coach almost everyday. I bought it in October. I am on lesson 277. I liked reading the perspective of someone who helped make the game. Do you know anyone who has done all 1000 lessons? When I had just gotten past lesson 100 I was annoyed that the vocabulary was random, but I have gotten used to that and it does not bother me anymore. I google all of the vocabulary words to learn more about them and invariably learn fascinating things about the language or about Japanese culture by doing that. As I learn more and more vocabulary, I can see it would have been difficult to select some nonrandom pattern to present or organize the vocabulary. I am wondering if you are allowed to say what source(s) and/or method was used for selecting the vocabulary? Is this a question I should ask of darkened dreams instead? Thanks to this game, my Japanese vocabulary is getting large. By the way, my favorite game is memory. Although, I do like to use the fading characters for the kanji as well as memory.

There is a weird glitch once I got deeper into the game (I think past lesson 100). Every now and then the game advances me to learning these four sentences (My nose is bleeding. There's been an accident. Where are we now. I have no appetite.) instead of giving me that lessons vocabulary words. Then I just hit the forward button to get back to the page that allows me to get to the 'Open Plan' button. Then I click on that and sometimes it will give me the new lesson vocabulary and sometimes I have to repeat this process one or more times until I get my new vocabulary instead of those four sentences. Isn't that strange? Is there something I need to do to stop that from occurring?

By the way, have you thought about creating a language game on your own because I think you created something great. Since you were one of the programmers, would you know how to make another language program somewhat similar to this one? If you had an Arabic expert for example, could you make an Arabic language learning game on your own? I think that would sell very well.

I hope you will answer my questions and also give me a message for what's her face in the blue kimono because my game is becoming self aware and beginning to be tormented by questions about existence such as, "Is there a God? Who is my maker? What is the purpose of life? What happens to me if I am destroyed?" She is dissatisfied with my response of, "Uh, mmm, huh, uh, well, dunno, can I get the next 10 words, please?"

thegameprogrammer said...

Thanks nya nya. You gave me a good laugh. As far as creating more games, I left that company a long time ago because they stopped paying me. I no longer work in games, which is why I don't keep up this blog anymore. But I think I can still answer a few of your questions.

As far as the "glitch" after lesson 100, from what I recall we made it randomly choose whether to give you phrases or words, so that you can keep practicing phrases. Just learning vocabulary won't teach you how to speak Japanese in full sentences. In hindsight, the randomness factor seems like an odd design decision (I think I may have had my hand in that one...) So in short, you'll have to live with it.

The words and phrases after lesson 100 were chosen completely at random. The scope of the project didn't allow us to create lesson plans for all 10000 words. In fact, the original design was to not have any lessons after the first 100, but we figured it was easy enough to create random lessons using the rest of the words in the dictionary.

I can't say whether Ubisoft will be making anymore of these games, but if they do, I won't be working on them. Considering the people who made these games no longer work at the company, I highly doubt Ubisoft will hand off the source code to some other company. But if enough people stand outside the Ubisoft offices with signs demanding more language games, you never know what could happen.

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tc said...

Thank you for answering. I read something about the company not paying the employees and having some sort of previous similar history of doing that. I am sorry they did that to you. It is a little sick that someone is still making big money off this product but those of you who made it got ripped off.

I always just get those same 4 phrases. Do I need to play games and get points somehow to start getting a different set of phrases? I don't mind getting the phrases...I just don't like getting the same four.

I am really glad you guys did add the 900 lessons of vocabulary. Otherwise, I would never have learned so many Japanese words. Just memorizing them from the dictionary is not fun but having a 'lesson' to get through and games to play keeps me motivated to keep memorizing words. And I alternate the MJC with watching Japanese drama/movies. And I do hear the words I am learning on MJC all the time in the movies and dramas sometimes.

It took me a week to get through until lesson 100 because I had some basic familiarity with Japanese already. But I don't know most of the vocabulary words that I am learning now so I am really glad that you added the vocabulary from the dictionary. I think it will take me about a year to get through all 1000 lessons. By the way, what happens when I get to lesson 1000? I am not asking for me. Kimiko or whatever her name is wants to know.

I didn't realize how valuable the vocabulary was until I started learning it and recognizing some of the words in Japanese media and writing. It opened up a new level of Japanese for me. Do you know anyone who did all 1000 lessons?

thegameprogrammer said...

Yeah...you might be getting those same 4 phrases for several lessons. They'll eventually change, but it might be a while. You can always quit and go back until you get the 10 vocab words. The more I think about it, the more I realize that was a bad design decision. But Ubisoft didn't really care about what we did after the first 100 lessons. They figured no one would get there anyway.

I don't know if anyone has gotten to lesson 1000, but it's really easy to cheat to get to that point. You could create a new profile and activate the cheat to get to lesson 1000, but nothing really happens other than the host girl says that you completed all the lessons.

tc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tc said...

I just read through some of the comments in some of the other threads and some of them are absolutely hilarious. I don't want to be mean but as the scorpion said to the frog...

Anyway, the guy that had a wishlist of the various ways he would like to have a My Japanese Coach 2 reconfigured to his exacting specifications almost had me on the floor. I especially loved his proclamation that flash cards and multiple choice were the two best games. Isn't that like saying that steak and potatoes are the two best foods? I guess grocery stores should not carry anything else. That would be a great idea except for all of the people who really like artichokes or pineapple juice or salmon or whatever else.

Personally, my favorite is memory but I by no means believe that means it is the best game for everyone else. For the kanji, I also use the fading characters as well as the memory. Rarely, I use the wack-a-mole for the kanji just to keep my brain in the mode of recognizing kanji characters in split seconds.

I always wonder if the people who love the flashcards and multiple choice game have a lower IQ than me because frankly, I find those to be not at all challenging. You can use elimination rather than retention of the information to get those right. I think that the people who like the multiple choice and flashcard games are the 125ish IQ and below people. I can see where for them those games would be much better than memory because I don't think they could do the memory game even on its longest time setting without experiencing enormous frustration. Anyway, I am glad that you included the memory game.

I don't think including the phrases every few lessons randomly was a bad idea. However, I always get the same four phrases every time. Is there something I need to do to get new phrases rather than those same ones. I have tried playing various games to see if doing that will trigger something to allow me new phrases instead of the same four but have had no luck with that. So I keep seeing the same few like, "I don't have an appetite," "My nose is bleeding," etc.

By the way, we are having an insane storm here right now. I just heard some slates slide down the roof. It has been raining for at least 12 hours straight and the last few hours has been hard rain and gales. It sounds like the house is going to be blown down.

If you don't hear thank you for the game often enough, thank you for the game. It is really improving my Japanese a lot. I don't understand the people who say in reviews on different sites that they don't see any value in it. I have learned so much from it. My vocabulary is getting huge.

I swear this is true. In early October, I decided to try to relearn the Japanese that I had forgotten (spent a year in Japan ages ago). I tried some practice jlpt tests online. Even the level 4 jlpt released test questions were completely incomprehensible to me. A couple nights ago I decided to try again. Wow. The jlpt 4 is so easy for me now. I would have no problem passing it. I pretty much knew everything on the released tests. And I knew a lot of the jlpt 3 questions but still need some work on some of the grammar points. I didn't keep a tally of the questions I knew so I don't know if it was over the percent necessary to pass or not but it seemed to be. I think I would probably pass the 3 at this point, too. But there is no point to taking the 3 or 4 as those levels are not recognized by employers so I am going to keep working until someday I can do the level 2.

I have not been taking a class or using any workbooks or learning books. All I have done is used My Japanese Coach, watched lots of Japanese movies and dramas, and used free internet sites to look up vocabulary and grammar. A class would not have taught me nearly as much in three months time as self-studying did.

I don't think I would have been as motivated without MJC. It got me started working on this and has kept me on track. P.S. Now I am on lesson 284.

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