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3D Dictionary 「SanJiten」's video poster

Level up your language skills by playing a video game! It's the most fun you’ll ever have learning a new language. Try the demo now! Read more

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This project was successfully funded on July 26, 2012.

Level up your language skills by playing a video game! It's the most fun you’ll ever have learning a new language. Try the demo now!

About this project

Meet Rob & Emily and learn more about the project in this new video!

SanJiten Facebook Page

SanJiten Subreddit Page (special backer subreddit to be made after deadline)

In a nutshell, SanjigenJiten, better known as simply SanJiten, is an interactive 3D Language Learning Video Game.

Take your character through an interactive environment, packed with tons of selectable objects. Learn words at your own pace, adding them one by one to your Vocab List as you go. Challenge yourself in Time Attack to improve your vocabulary, and try to beat your high scores and best times.

But why read about the game when you can play it right now!

A playable demo of SanJiten is available right here for PC & Mac. (mirror)

(PC version works on Linux with WINE -- UPDATE: Unity 4 to support Linux!).

But in case you don't have time, just check out the gameplay video here.

Hi! I'm Rob Howland (the guy writing this stuff). I am a research student living in Japan with my fantastically artistic girlfriend. Her name is Emily Olmstead and she's got mad skills yo!

You may already know this but... We're making a game!

I am just finishing up a two-year research project at the University of Tsukuba's - Entertainment Computing Laboratory. My research there focused on discerning what elements make regular video games fun and how they can be applied to making educational video games equally, if not more, entertaining and rewarding. You can read more about that here in our research paper, which was recently published by the Information Processing Society of Japan.

Since I was already learning Japanese on my own, I decided to design a game that would teach both myself and other players whatever language they were interested in learning. The game is loosely based on a method I used to teach myself the names of everyday things in my apartment by taping flash cards to various objects. I  had a bit of an "Aha! Moment" and realized the very same idea could quite easily be applied to a 3D game environment, where the system provides the names of Objects simply by selecting them, like so.

The game's working title is SanjigenJiten (三次元辞典), Japanese for 3D Dictionary. We've shortened it to SanJiten to keep things simple. It has all the elements one might expect from a standard non-educational video game including an item collection system (with hidden items), a player scoring system, a complex rewards system incorporating a game economy with unlockable content, and also some fun achievements. An in-depth storyline is in the works for the final version and will be completed and included if we receive enough support.

The game is currently in the alpha stages but we have many great improvements planned. We have a number of awesome redditors from the LearnJapanese subreddit currently assisting us by translating the game into new languages and giving good advice as the game grows.

You too can help us out by downloading and playing the demo! You can then upload any suggestions, ideas, or horrible bugs here. We also have a quick 10 question survey that will greatly assist us here.

We believe our game will have an enormous worldwide impact on both the serious games community and the language education community. SanJiten has been designed with the new "gamer generation" in mind, and is part of an attempt to really show the world that video games have some serious potential to bring about real change in the way we learn and acquire new information. This game is a first in that it really attempts to incorporate everything that makes a real video game fun into something with a real-life purpose beneath the surface.

We need your help with publishing our game. [$8000] < Updated

Although we've managed to create this game in its current state on our own with very little funding, we need your support with getting the its name out to the world. We have already translated the user interface into Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese and we would like to market our game to both Japan and China, as well as Spanish and English speaking countries. A rough estimate would be around 12 countries total.

Since we are aiming for digital distribution, this is really our only big hurdle in regard to publishing SanJiten. For North America and Europe, we'd like to focus mainly on Google and Facebook ad campaigns. For Japan and China, however, we aren't quite sure how to best reach our target demographic. We'd like to consult a professional and professionals can cost a pretty penny.

We also need to complete certain important aspects of the game before it's ready to be published. Some of these essential aspects include:

  • Adding More Words (Modeling, UV, Texturing, Translating)
  • New Mini-Games
  • New Languages
  • Recording New Audio (all languages)
  • Save Game Functionality

We need a Unity Pro Team license. [$2000]

We need access to all the features that the Unity Engine has to offer in order to make this game the best possible game it can be. Currently we have been using an Educational Pro License, which has allowed us to experiment with these features and get comfortable with using them. However, the game is currently watermarked and we are not permitted to sell the game under the educational license.

We also need access to the Unity asset server, a system for storing and versioning game assets (models, textures, scripts, etc), allowing us to actively develop the game and translate it into new languages with people all over the world. We see the Asset Server as the driving force that will help us take the game to new heights through overseas collaboration. Having the project stuck on one system has been very limiting and we really need to break free. Details on the cost of the engine can be found here.

We need a more powerful computer. [$1500] < Updated

Development has been a challenge. Currently I am using a second-hand Dell, kindly gifted to me by my Laboratory when they upgraded last year. This computer, while half-decent is not nearly good enough for game development on this scale. Emily is using an iMac she purchased back in 2009, which isn't bad but is noticeably starting to fail and often results in lost work when it decides to crash on her.

We need to give back. [$500]

We don't expect the cost of the prints and t-shirts to be through the roof but we also need to consider shipping expenses, most notably to international backers.


We have reallocated some funds from the "more powerful computers" section to this publishing section for a number of reasons. The biggest one being, after hearing comments from our supporters, is that they would appreciate knowing their funds were going toward helping with the actual project and not just a sweet new rig. Totally understandable and we agree $3000 may have been a bit too much to allocate for computers when we could cut that in half and just get new hardware (ram, video card, etc).

We want to go mobile.

We would also like a Unity iOS and Android Pro Licence, each of which cost an additional $1500. We would very much like to try and release a lighter mobile version of SanJiten on both the iPhone/iPad and Android platforms at some point in the future.

We want to take our game to the next level.

We would like to focus more of our time on SanJiten. After our research scholarship ended, we began working part time jobs to stay afloat. This has slowed development greatly and on the off chance that we actually receive enough money from this campaign, we would be capable of focusing more of our time on bringing SanJiten to new heights.

We could really use all the help we can get!

Although our campaign asks for a specified amount, we are indeed asking for much more. If you like the direction we are taking this and are excited about it, please tell your friends to tell their friends and hopefully we can get the whole world excited about our cause!

With any extra contributions beyond both what we want and what we need, we will continue to develop more episodes with more environments, characters, and story, all the while adding more languages to the game such as Korean, French, Italian, German, Bulgarian and Esperanto, just to name a few!

We also have plans for a fantastic story filled with interesting characters and plenty of hi-jinx! We want our players to be able to get lost in the story and focus on the other important parts of language learning like sentence construction and grammar. Our main focus now is a conversation system expressed through digital manga-style cutscenes sort of like this (really loud) one here from FLCL. We would also like these to have replayable dialogue, including interactive subtitles with individual word look-up functionality.

We would also like to hire on some extra help. As you may have guessed, this is a rather ambitious project and there are only two of us. We are confident that we can complete the first episode on our own, but we would like to make enough money from the sales of our first episode (and perhaps even this Kickstarter) to start a small studio here in Japan.

Even if you can't make a monetary contribution, you can still help us out by sharing our kickstarter campaign with your friends, relatives, language teachers, or anyone who might be interested! If you happen to have any ties to gaming news sites that might be interested in doing a story about our game or our campaign, please let them know about us! :)

Kicking It Forward

We are huge fans of the Kickstarter platform and we support the Kicking It Forward initiative started by Brian Fargo of inXile entertainment. What this means is that if we are funded, once we finish our project, we will use 5% of our profits to fund other awesome Kickstarter projects.

Thank You!

We’re passionate about making games and we’re excited to put the finishing touches on SanJiten and get it out to a wider audience. Thanks for reading our pitch and we hope that you’ll consider supporting our project.

For more information about us and SanJiten, our website is

You can like us on Facebook for development updates and other news. 

Email if you have additional questions for us.


-Rob & Emily


  • Currently the game supports English, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese. All languages in the game are interchangeable, meaning a native Chinese speaker can learn Spanish and vice versa.

    Last updated:
  • Currently the game is focused only around learning new vocabulary, however if we are funded we have plans to expand the project to incorporate grammar and sentence structure through the storyline using manga style cut-scenes such as this one from FLCL here:…

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    4 backers

    Thank you!! Your name will be included in the credits sequence for the final game, and you get the sweet reward of knowing you’re helping the world learn!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    783 backers

    A special "Kickstarter Edition" digital copy of Sanjiten with access to all target and user languages (Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, English). In the future, each language will be sold individually. Previous perk included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $15 or more

    124 backers

    Take part in the game's development! Not only will you receive exclusive access to video updates, but backers at this level will also be linked to a special SanjigenJiten "Development Subreddit" where both Emily and I will engage in an open dialog with backers regarding the game's future direction. Also includes the previous perks.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    74 backers

    You will receive the previous perks as well as a second (giftable) copy of the "Kickstarter Edition" of the game, which includes all target and user languages (Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, English). People will bow to your language giving powers!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    220 backers

    You will receive the previous perks as well as access to all future languages added to Sanjiten. We have plans for Bulgarian, Korean, French, Italian, German, and Esperanto. In addition, you'll also receive a special collection of digital works by Emily Olmstead (Sanjiten's Artist). Backers at this level will be added to a special mailing list that sends out key-codes to download each new language and will also be contacted and given a special link where they can download the digital works.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    13 backers Limited (87 left of 100)

    You will receive all previous perks as well as an Official Sanjiten t-shirt! Backers at this level will be contacted and asked to provide shirt size/style preference as well as an address to ship the shirt to.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    23 backers Limited (77 left of 100)

    You will receive all previous perks as well as an actual, physical print by Emily Olmstead (Sanjiten's Artist) to hang on your wall! Backers at this level will be contacted and asked to provide shirt size/style preference as well as an address to ship the shirt and print to.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    5 backers Limited (20 left of 25)

    You will receive all the previous perks and we’ll also put a specific item of your choosing into the game for everyone to learn! You want the world to know how to say “Litter Box” in any language? Well now you can! (let's keep this rated E people ಠ_ಠ)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers

    Educational License. Institutions only. Access to unlimited copies of the game for educational use within a school curriculum (limited to use by one branch of one institution). This is a Kickstarter special offer.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (28 days)