All artwork in the video is placeholder, and will be completely revamped. Even though we've hit our goal, all pledges past the goal amount will allow us to make Koe an even bigger and more engaging and beautiful game. Thank you so much to all our backers, supporters and friends!
Current PayPal total: £1980
Update #1: Plans are underway to implement a move editor system where you can add your own Japanese words and create your own moves post-game! This was due to the amount of feedback we got from supporters who were already passed the beginner stage. I've gone in to this in a little more detail on the update so go take a look!
Update #2: We've reached our funding goal! Thank you to all our supporters and backers who will make this project possible, let's make an amazing language learning RPG! To learn more about the PS Vita/PS4/Wii U/Xbox One version, as well as the Akihabara zone and content we have plans for, go take a look at the update!
Koe（声）pronounced “ko-eh” is a role-playing game in the style of traditional JRPGs such as Dragon Quest, Pokemon and Final Fantasy and is influenced heavily by them. Koe will be released for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux with plans for it to be released on Playstation Vita. The special edition of Koe will only ever be available through this Kickstarter campaign!
Essentially, what I want to do in the game is give you an introduction to the Japanese language within the game itself. I know people who are interested in this style of gaming, as well as Anime and Manga, and who have wanted to learn Japanese because of it, but have no idea where they should start. So why not a fully-fledged story-driven JRPG that gives you a nice start with the language itself?
Before I lose you with the education side of things, I want to tell you that the game itself is a game before anything else, not a flash-card application nor a voice recognition translator, but rather I have put the game, and therefore the gameplay, before anything else. This means it plays like a JRPG, there are random battles, bosses, a story, pets, wizards, cities, houses as well as cats and you will play through collecting items, experience points, weapons and everything else that comes with a traditional JRPG.
What people are saying about Koe
"Those of us who enjoy RPGs but don't speak Japanese have missed out on some solid games due to the impenetrable language barrier, and this seems like a fun way to learn at least the basics of Glorious Nipponese." - Jason Schreier, Kotaku
"What is truly brilliant about this mechanic is that the player is constantly repeating exposure to the appearance and the meaning of the cards used in combat" - Gaijin Goomba
"As someone who initially struggled learning Japanese with little more than a notebook and Hiragana Mnemonics, I am jealous of gamers who can begin their long quest with Koe." - Sam Worboys, The Otaku's Study
"Not only does Koe teach players a new language, but also enables them to enter into a whole world of JRPGs that have never been translated into English." - Springwise
Also featured in Wired (UK), Wired (Japan)[日本語], BitPulse, TheVitaLounge, BPA Japan[日本語], Japanator, psfk, NewSphere[日本語], Japan Daily Press, Hardcore Gamer, Technology Tell, Inside[日本語], Gigazine[日本語], Rocket News 24, ゲーム渉猟記[日本語]
Who is it for?
It's for you! No, really, whether you have zero experience with the Japanese language or you are well versed and looking for a supplement for your studies, or just want to play a JRPG for old times' sake, then this is for you!
I'll give you a short synopsis of what happens in the first few minutes of Koe.
Following JRPG tradition, you'll get to pick whether you are a boy or girl and name your character. You're then sent on your trip to Japan and begin your adventure at the airport. However, this place isn't what you expected it to be. Shortly after arriving, you'll be sent in to a world of castles, cities and dungeons, while making friends and companions along the way.
I'll get straight to the point, I absolutely love the Japanese language. I've been studying it for a few years now and the biggest hurdle for me was when I was starting out. I didn't know where to begin, or what to use because there are so many tools and reference materials out there, and I had no idea which one would be the most approachable. Koe is everything I wanted help with starting out in the form of my favorite gaming genre and brings together not only the technology, but also the culture behind the Japanese language.
Well then, how does the Japanese language exactly fit in to Koe? Well, it comes in the form of items. All items in the games are basically Japanese words that are initially taught to you using communicative language teaching techniques, which is easier said as “you don’t really have to be taught anything, you’ll learn the words from using the items” but, obviously, most of the game and descriptions will be in English because this is an introduction to the language, so the game will help you every step of the way, though don’t expect any help when you’re out of cures and almost killed by a 2-headed dragon.
Koe features a traditional turn-based battle system, where you are given Japanese words from various sources (NPCs, chests, monsters, shops etc) and you use these words as moves in battle, you can even combine them to make sentences for better moves! For example, you may get the Japanese word for the traditional Japanese sword, katana/かたな as the item below.
You can then select this word in battle to vanquish enemies.
Whoa! See what happened there? You just summoned a sword from the word itself!
If you’ve never dabbled across Japanese before, the big character, 刀, is a Kanji, a character adapted from Chinese, and the characters on the side are in Hiragana, a syllabary in Japanese. In this case, the Hiragana is basically the way to read the Kanji.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand this here, Koe will have a great introduction to this, and you’ll be able to revisit it as much as you like! For now, let’s look at the characters on the side か, た, and な which are ka, ta, and na, respectively. See what that makes? Katana! In Koe, these characters are the very soul of battle, so the more you use your moves, the more you will power up those characters.
As you power up the characters, your moves will get stronger, become more useful or change completely! You will need to power up all of them though, there are dozens of moves, and 3 different charts! If you’ve never seen Hiragana before, the charts look similar to this;
Obviously, all of this will be taught to you, and you will start off with only a few characters, and earn others along the way.
One other way the characters you level up are used are through something called avatars, which are monsters you can capture and fight alongside. For example, if you capture a cat (neko/ねこ) then you need to level up ne and ko to level up your avatar!
Avatars can use their own moves and learn new moves from watching you use Japanese words in battle.
What you will learn
- The Japanese syllabaries, Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ) so you will be able to read basic Japanese.
- Kanji (漢字) and their readings, as well as their use in words and sentences.
- Japanese words. This will include nouns, verbs as well as some basic conjunctions. Most of these would be words you would find in everyday life, such as words for various food, animals, transport, locations, directions, etc.
- Japanese phrases. This will include introducing yourself, various ways to end a conversation, asking for items and will cover conversational language.
While these are the current focus of Koe, I am currently researching the ability to acquire grammar in an engaging way.
Education in gaming is a very controversial issue. Video games in society have a varied range of opinions, what I want to do with this is prove that traditional games can be educational too, without squeezing the fun out of them.
However, I've been spending roughly 6 - 8 hours every day working on Koe by myself, researching and implementing new ideas and mechanics, creating artwork, programming and marketing, while at the same time working on my assignments for University for the past 6 months. This has given me virtually no time for anything else, and I could use some help.
What I need from you
Your support means I can replace a lot of the placeholders, polish up and continue development on the game. RPGs take hundreds of people many years to make a polished and refined product, and my project is a notch of ambition above that. I've been working on Koe with every bit of free time I get, to show you how serious I am about this project, but I need some help from you guys. Your contribution to this project will be used for the following things:
- I can commission 3D character and environment artists to help me completely change the artwork for Koe, so it looks like a JRPG. [£20,000]
- Licenses for software and tools I need. This includes Unity Pro, Autodesk Maya, and Adobe Photoshop, which would help with making the game look a lot better, and speed up a few tasks on my to-do list. [£5,000]
- A composer will be needed to make the soundtrack for Koe, I've been currently using royalty-free music and I'm looking to recruit the talent of a professional video game composer who has worked on previous AAA titles to replace the placeholder music. [£2,000]
- Voice acting from native Japanese speakers to sound out the characters so you can get a feeling for how a native speaker would pronounce them. [£3,000]
- Kickstarter fees and taxes [£5,000]
- PS Vita support, which will require a lot of the assets to remade as well as recreating the game in PSM should the Unity version not get released. [Stretch goals]
- Languages (UPDATED) Due to the level of interest by the community, we have since decided to crowdsource the translations. The languages available to translate in to on release will be German, Dutch, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Korean and Russian. If you are interested in translating to your native language then please contact us. Click here to sign up!
What your support will bring to Koe
Currently, the game is at a prototyping phase. Funding this game would mean I get to create a project that would revolutionize language acquisition, as well as create a story-driven traditional JRPG set within Japan.
The current art assets will be completely changed to be much more interactive and detailed. All characters, NPCs, monsters, environments and menus will be replaced with detailed models and graphics.
£35,000 - Initial funding goal. At this point, the game will get made. - COMPLETED!
£50,000 - Playstation Vita support, including touch screen support and Vita-exclusive UI. While we can't guarantee this (it's up to Sony in the end to accept our game) we've laid out the plan and how much extra work is going to be needed for this, and we've decided to go ahead with it! If we do reach this stretch goal, you'll be able to pick digital access on this platform or PC and we'll send a message out to ask which platform you want it on.
We have also applied for PS4/Wii U/Xbox One licences and will update on this page once we've heard back from them.
Please note that this stretch goal is not solely for Vita support. Instead, there are a few things we want to possibly add to the game (handwriting support, voice commands, UI art) which fit in to this goal, but will be available for all platforms. - COMPLETED!
£60,000 - Akihabara battle zone. An almost endless procedural battle zone set on the streets of Akiba to test your strength during the story and post-story of Koe! There's a lot of work that will be needed to be done to add this and make it look true to the source (except, you know, with monsters). We'll also add some specific vocab for this area. - COMPLETED!
£70,000 - An increase to the world map size which allows us to add a new dungeon and city which will also be useful post-game. We will also add two new restaurants to the game, an Izakaya (Japanese-style pub) and a Sushi Bar. A lot of socializing in Japan takes place in restaurants, so we hope these will allow us to add more vocab specific to these areas, as well as introduce you to new words for various food. - COMPLETED!
£80,000 - A new "super-boss" which is something we've been very interested in adding for people who are really looking to use as many words as possible in a battle. This will be similar to the "secret" bosses found in Final Fantasy and will be based on a Japanese god of your choice. This also allows us to create a place where we can really bring out the culture and religion of Japan, something Dan has been interested in for a long time. We'll also add one more thing with this stretch goal, which is an onsen (a hot spring) within the main story, which again will serve as a place where you can just relax and pick up some new vocab.
£100,000 - At this goal, we'll focus on adding some more vocab-building areas for those who are interested in the city lifestyle of Japan. Particularly, we'll add a shopping district and train stop based in Harajuku! This area will have new vocab related to shopping and travel, as well as a maid cafe that happens to teach you a few formalities.
Who are we?
Jitesh Rawal is a student at the University of Derby, studying Computer Games Programming and is researching the use of language within video games. Jitesh has been the lead programmer on 3 indie games from start to finish at Pillowdrift. He has been studying Japanese for a few years now and uses it daily.
Sayuki is a native Japanese speaker, currently living in Tokyo, Japan and will be responsible for all the words and phrases that go in to Koe, as well as writing the scenario and story. She has been studying English since elementary school, and speaks English at an almost fluent level. Sayuki has since started development.
Dan Tsukasa is a 3D Artist with a background in the film industry, recently deciding to go full freelance he has since worked on projects such as Primal Carnage, A Hat in Time, Influent & Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Dan will be the environment artist for Koe, and will be revamping the current placeholder art.
You're helping me fulfill a project that I'm very passionate about and I'm giving everything to right now. No matter what contribution you give I'll be extremely grateful just to know there are people who believe in this project just as much as I do, and that means so much to me, so thank you.
Follow the project on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit to keep up to date with the progress of Koe.
Are you a Japanese language teacher/researcher? Do you want to talk about language acquisition theory or about potential reading material? Consider getting in touch! (click the chain link at the top of the page)
The audio used in the video is "Perspectives" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Risks and challenges
Language design: This is one of the largest challenges that comes with making this type of game. Where do I draw the line between it being an educational tool and a video game? I want it playing as a JRPG, but I also want it to teach you the Japanese language.
Time: RPGs are huge and take hundreds of people years to get them polished and playing properly. I have around a year to finish the design and completely change the artwork, while at the same time I have to research and implement the language acquisition part. I've already written all the code I need to write for the core gameplay, and after breaking it down to how long the design would take, June 2015 is what I'm aiming at for the release of Koe.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)