Lost on Babel Game Design Document

By WordUp Games

2016-03-02

Category: Design

This is a piece of Ben Hafen, Trevor Clive, Camila Gormaz, and my work. WordUp Games did not end up successfully launching.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LANGUAGE LEARNING ELEMENTS

  • Tools for Learning
  • Measuring Progress
  • Rewarding Progress

CENTRAL PLOT

BACKSTORY

CHARACTERS

MINI GAMES AND THEIR STORYLINES

  • Life Stories Storyline
  • Card Game Storyline

MICROTRANSACTIONS

APPENDIX 1: Example Can-Do Statements


LANGUAGE LEARNING ELEMENTS

Learning Path

The backbone of the learning experience WordUp provides is the learning path, modeled after the American Council of Teaching Foreign Language ‘Can-Do Statement Framework’. (See Appendix 1: Example Can-Do Statements.) The learning objective for WordUp is to get every user to progress as many levels possible of the learning framework. WordUp has a number of ways to increase the difficulty of the language learning elements available to users as they progress in their target-language.

Tools for Learning

Playing WordUp is like going to a foreign country to learn a language except better. Real life immersion does not provide a natural solution to receive hundreds of hours of immersion from native speakers who treat you just the way they would treat their fellow native friends and family. Neither does immersion in real life settings allow you to review past experiences, slow or speed up the speech of native speakers, look up every word and grammar principle you would like to in real time with your native speakers waiting for you to do so. Real life immersion also relies on the creativity and personalities of people to form memorable and engaging interactions with each other. The majority of the time players spend in WordUp will be playing games that are calculated to build language mastery in a relaxed, organic interactions with fellow learners, proficient speakers, and native speakers. Even someone with zero sense of humor and nothing interesting to say will be helpful and fun for learners of their language and fellow learners of their target-language. This is because the curriculum needed to push learners forward on their learning paths is built into the game and because the game mechanics themselves facilitate the fun people need.

Immersive Script

WordUp consists of a script our users will follow much like readers of visual novels do, but with a few differences described below. Our script is the same for every user no matter if they’re a ‘Novice-Low’ or if they’re a ‘Distinguished’ speaker of their target-language. WordUp does not separate scripts for beginners and experienced language learners and this is actually best for beginners. In order to not discourage beginners, however, a number of tools are provided for them so that they can maximize their learning outcomes.

Interactive Fiction

Rather than just going through hours and hours of script, several questions throughout the story present themselves to ensure users have a say in the course of the plot. Their answers will make subtle changes to the plot direction.

Comprehension Tests and Scene Review

WordUp uses questions that are presented to player to test the comprehension of the users. This is done by including answers to questions that are clearly wrong in context. The language-learning purpose for these clear-wrong answers for each question are to measure the comprehension of the players. In the event that the player chooses a clear-wrong answer they will automatically be taken to revisit a previous scene where details present themselves that the player misunderstood or forgot.

Spaced Repetition System Flashcards

In the back-end of the code is a database of 100,000 words for every language provided by WordUp. For absolute beginners WordUp populates the most commonly used words used in their target-language at the front of their SRS queue. For language learners further into their learning path on-boarding procedures are used to determine their level of language proficiency. This determines what words are prioritized in their SRS flashcard deck.

In addition to those stand-alone features of the SRS flashcards, players are able to click on words they do not recognize in their script or in the mini-games and prioritize them in their SRS queue.

Google Translate

Google translate is integrated into WordUp. Users can get an immediate translation to any word they hear from other users while playing mini-games. This is particularly useful when users keep track of what words experts use or when they’re in the middle of saying something and are stuck unable to remember a word. This happens frequently and in real life contexts can cause an awkward experience. Google translate prevents WordUp users from ever having to experience this dilemma.

Mr. Tui

Mr. Tui is WordUp’s NPC that is exclusively committed to the purpose of explaining grammar principles and phrases specific to each target-language provided by WordUp. His classroom is where players can get automated training on any language principle they’re struggling on.

Mini-Games

Every mini-game is tied into specific characters and portions of the RPG storyline. They are not disconnected side-games. The description of each mini game can be found in this folder. Some games are focused exclusively on flashcards. These games are meant to improve WordUp players’ experience of memorizing their SRS flashcards since flipping through flashcards in typical fashion can get monotonous and most people do not have the patience for it. Other games are more communicative and require spontaneous interaction the way real world communication requires. Since every mini-game is built for a different language learning purpose and have significantly different gameplay experiences, elaborating on these games will not be done in this document.

Peer Pairing

When players play mini-games with people learning their same target-language and are at a similar proficiency level, they are able to engage each other in games with the least stress. They’re both experiencing the same challenges together.

Expert Immersion

When players play mini-games with highly proficient or native speakers of their target-language they receive the highest quality immersion.

Measuring Progress

A top demand language learners have is personal analytics. Seeing their progress is their most motivating factor for continued learning.

User Feedback System

At the end of every mini-game, an automated form displays on the players’ screens. They are rewarded when they fill the forms out about their partner’s language abilities. This is where WordUp measures each individual player’s ability to do each ‘Can-Do Statement’ from their learning path. The only way players can progress in their learning paths is if other people in the world verify that they, indeed, can do the statements they are working on.

Progress Bar and Avatar Stats

In various screens of WordUp, the player’s progress bar shows how close they are to completing their current language level. Additionally, when players are in the ‘lobby’ screen all of their user statistics are displayed - none of which are negative - and this acts as a system used when pairing players for the mini-games. (Players either choose each other or are automatically paired based on their statistics.)
Rewarding Progress
As players move ahead on their learning paths, new subplots of the story, new versions of the mini-games, entirely new mini-games, and new NPCs are introduced to the players.


CENTRAL PLOT

ACT I

Stage 1: Setup (Living fully within identity, Inciting incident)

1.1 Recently lost your job, you’re on a flight to a very appealing job interview with a company that is interested in your social app.

  • Choose your character name and avatar.
  • Your plane engine stops, the pilot tells you to prepare for a crash landing. You put on your lifejacket, which, oddly, has a neck brace. The plane glides low to the water, then pulls up, as the plane is vertical, the propeller starts again. The vertical plane slowly descends to an altitude of 12 meters, then the plane’s rear cargo door opens, your seat flips back like a trap door, and you are dumped into the sea. That was not an ordinary plane.
    You swim to shore, where Rei and Carlos are waiting for you. They are surprised that you are the only person who was dumped.

Stage 2: New Situation (Glimpse of Essence/destiny) (Turning point #1: Opportunity)

[Info to include: the island’s history and explore the island. It is emphasized that you can never leave, that Governor Banks will rule forever (basically), that Raz Raja will always be top dog (financially), and that the population is divided into little neighborhoods based on the languages they speak. These neighborhoods don’t always get along. All languages are represented on the island, but your target language is becoming the norm.]

2.1 Rei and Carlos explain that someone called The Maestro has dumped people and junk on the island regularly for the past 30 years, and despite endless speculation, nobody actually knows why. Nothing is taken from the island, and the people rule themselves, but the Maestro does enforce 1 rule: nothing leaves the island. Rei and Carlos have been appointed to be your welcoming committee, which is normal

2.2 There are 2 jobs you qualify for: Go to Little Jaipur to work for Raz Raja, playing the game that used to be “Guess What” (See “Guess What storyline” document), or go to Little Texas to work for the Governor by playing another game. You can do both Raja’s and Banks’s jobs.

2.3 You go home and meet Carlos, he says you shouldn’t even think about trying to solve the mystery of the Maestro until you have more influence on the island. You are an outsider, no one will trust you, and if you are suspected to be affiliated with the Maestro, you’ll be blacklisted.

2.4 Carlos and Rei introduce you to Harvey and Alina. You learn how to buy, trade, and build items for your apartment. (Play the Hub Game, see “Hub Game storyline” document)

2.5 Harvey explains why the people on the island are so divided: 2 years ago, 17 Babelians were building an airplane in secret. One night, they all disappeared, and the next morning the smashed pieces of their airplane were piled in the center of town for all to see. There was a note: “Rule #1”.

2.6 Alina explains: The loss of 17 people in a small town was a big deal. The people who knew about the airplane project were all suspected to be working for the Maestro. Any individual or group who had discouraged attempts to leave the island also became suspect. Any groups, neighborhoods, cultures, or political parties that advocated order were also suspect. Anyone with a security camera became suspect. Anyone who acted funny became suspect. Some neighborhoods seceded from the city government and refused to pay taxes. Businesses of those suspected were boycotted. The formerly harmonious City of Babel became divided into rival neighborhoods.

2.7 You go home after a day of work. Rei and Carlos ask you about the app you were working on before you came to the island. You pull out The Word (Life Stories). See “Life Stories storyline” document.

2.8 The Nose appears out of nowhere. He is interested in what you did before you came to the island. He asks about your motives for implementing your social app in Babel. He warns against making attempts to break the 2 rules, “that’s how people get hurt”.

2.9 You choose between Carlos and Rei. The one you do not choose tells you that they are trying to build a radio transmitter. The one that you do choose tells you that it’s better not to get involved with anything involving breaking the 2 rules.

ACT II

Stage 3: Progress (moving towards Essence/destiny without leaving identity) (Turning point #2: change of plans)

3.1 Rei or Carlos (whoever is the one you did not choose) disappears, and their radio transmitter is smashed and displayed in the town square. You and your buddy (henceforth your chosen guide NPC shall be called “your buddy”) decide to solve the mystery of the Maestro. You decide the best way to do this is to become an influential person on the island, this will help you become closer to 2 of your prime suspects: Governor Banks and Raz Raja. There is also the possibility that becoming prominent will draw the attention of the Maestro, and he will find you.

Stage 4: Complications & Higher Stakes (Fully committed to Essence/destiny but growing in fear)

4.1[make this more relevant to the player’s choices] At Raz Raja’s birthday party, a guest accidentally drinks from Governor’s glass and is poisoned.
While the guests all panic, the Nose leaves quietly with a furrowed brow.

4.2 Then NPCs say you should run for governor, since you know everyone.

  • (See “Life Stories storyline”) Governor Banks says if you want to get into politics, you must be able to tell when someone is lying. Life Stories becomes a game of telling lies or truths and seeing whether the other player can decide whether your story is true or false.

4.3 The Nose gives you proof that your missing NPC is still alive

Turning point #3: point of no return

4.4 A shocking newspaper headline says that you are Maestro. You must find proof of who the real Maestro is before the people tear you apart.

  • You must work on your public speaking skills (play more games) before you can calm the people.

ACT III

Stage 5: Final push (Living one’s truth, with everything to lose) (Turning point #4: major setback)

5.1 [Needs details] You find the real Maestro
5.2 [Needs details] The Nose sees that you are good and he saves you. You find out that 1 of the 17 missing airplane builders was an insomniac named Neil Scott, AKA “The Nose”. At 3AM on the night all were abducted, Neil was wearing a gas mask to airbrush something. The abductors’ sedative gas had no effect on him, so when the abductors came into his house he saw them, fought them, and escaped. He moved into a friend’s basement and spent his days doing detective work to find or avenge his lost friends by solving the mystery of the Maestro. His large nose is not real.

Stage 6: Aftermath (Journey completed, destiny achieved) (Turning point #5: Climax)

6.1 The Maestro is outed. He makes peace with the people of the island, he becomes your friend. He takes on a new role as Babel’s diplomat and international relations guy (depending on how we need to justify a minigame we invent later). You are now the governor of a new tiny nation, and you must play word games to make the nation prosper.


BACKSTORY

30 years ago

Before anyone arrived on the island, there were already 1 building (the equivalent of Maeser Hall, with a clock tower) and a garbage dump. In front of the building is a monolith with the following inscription engraved in 12 languages:

The Maestro of the island has only 1 rule:

  • No person, message, or object may leave the island.
    The Orchestra will enforce this rule strictly.

7 people were put on the island. 4 are relevant to the plot: Raz Raja, Ingrid Banks, Maximus Park, and Kim Flores. Raz was there a day earlier than everyone else. New people were put on the island every week or so.

56-year-old Max Park was the original leader. He created an island culture that revolved around creative problem solving. They used materials from the dump to create sleek, functional inventions to form a unique, modern civilization.

Max Park was an experienced sailor, but he stayed on the island until he had established a functional society and a culture of innovation, then he built a small sailboat. He swore he would return to get the others off the island. Then he attempted to break island rule #1. All the islanders watched his boat was torpedoed about 1km from shore.

Max became a martyr and a hero. Town square presently has a monument in his honor. The monument has his adage engraved: communicate, collaborate, innovate”.

Before Max’s boat sank, he fell in love with Kim Flores, a 27-year-old Filipino engineer. They were the first couple to get married on Babel. He encouraged her to build a radio to send for help. Soon after Max’s boat sank, Kim finished her radio, and everyone watched anxiously as she attempted to send an SOS. That night, Kim disappeared, her radio was obliterated, and a mysterious note was left by the smashed radio: “Rule #1”. Kim became another martyr and a cautionary tale.

Ingrid Banks was among the few African-American women with a law degree in Texas in the 1970’s. She was an active proponent of civil rights, but she thought her contemporaries were not aggressive enough. A glass bottle scarred her forehead at a sit-in.

Then she was brought to Babel. In the beginning, she wrote the laws and acted as arbitrator. As the city grew, she formed the government. She has been elected Governor almost every term for the past 30 years. Other governors have not been as effective and have made decisions she disagrees with, so she adamantly believes she should stay in power. She is creating the society she always dreamed of, and she has crushed all who stand in her way, using “regretted” methods: mudslinging, economic pressure, Gerrymandering, etc. Though she is the frontrunner, she is not universally liked. Now she is getting old and is secretly searching for someone she can endorse as the next governor.
Everything in the junk pile is, by island law, up for grabs. Raz Raja soon became prominent by building a warehouse to catalogue and organize the materials from the dump. He traded items in his warehouse for cowry shells, and he established a bank. This is how he implemented the island’s currency. Mr Raja employs junk miners, warehouse managers, bankers, and all sorts of workers.

Unbeknown to the people of Babel, Max was the original maestro. He wasn’t on the boat when it sunk. It was a hoax to scare anyone who might want to leave. Encouraging Kim to build a radio was so he could have an excuse to abduct her. He knew she would be onboard with his plan.

Originally, he built Babel because he was bored with finance and thought he could build a better society. Maximus bought an island in micronesia and paid the government to keep it a secret. He populated the island with specific people based on their careers and skills. He kidnapped them instead of inviting them partially so the island could stay secret–and thus unspoilt by the outside world–and so the inhabitants would have a common struggle, which forces unity. He knew Ingrid Banks was skilled but undervalued because of prejudice against her, so he abducted her and a few other choice individuals, including entrepreneur Raz Raja.

Soon Maximus realized that his island was generating a most valuable resource: ideas. He started plagiarizing and patenting these ideas for his company, Max Toro International, which owns many different kinds of businesses. He monitors the island with cameras and moles to steal all their ideas: inventions, art, business models, government policy, fashion, music, cuisine… everything. The people take care of themselves, and all Maximus has to do is dump a load of junk on the island periodically, find suitable candidates for kidnapping, and make sure no one leaves. Stealing ideas has become the main purpose of the island, the “better society” idea is just a way the Maestro and Orchestra justify their actions.

21 years ago

Maximus’ son, Julius Park, was born. Julius was groomed from birth to be the island’s next Maestro. Private tutors taught him about government, engineering, and economics. Julius never went to school or had a social life with kids his age. He lived in a luxurious underground bunker on Babel. Maximus spent 25% of his time on Babel with Julius, and 75% of his time in New York, working as CEO of Max Toro International.

6 years ago

Julius Park invented an algorithm to help the Orchestra be more picky about who they kidnap. In addition to people without strong ties (family etc), now the Orchestra kidnaps people who, if missing, could easily be presumed dead: people who have angered the mafia, and people with adventurous outdoor hobbies.

3 Years Ago

Maximus, age 86, died of a stroke. His son, Julius Park inherited the role of Maestro. Max’s wife, Kim Flores Park, took on the role of CEO at Max Toro International. She spent little time on the island after that.

As soon as Julius came into power, he received a report of 17 Babelians building an airplane in secret. Julius, who had been told what to do his entire life, had to decide how to handle the situation. Julius decided to have all 17 abducted.

One night, all 17 workers disappeared and the smashed pieces of the airplane were placed in the center of town for all to see. There was a note: “Rule #1”.

The loss of 17 people in a small town was a big deal. The people who knew about the airplane project were all suspected to be working for the Maestro. Any individual or group who had discouraged attempts to leave the island also became suspect. Neighborhoods, cultures, or political parties that advocated order were also suspect. Anyone with a security camera became suspect. Some neighborhoods no longer recognized the town government. They refused to pay taxes, and they created their own leadership. Businesses of those suspected were boycotted. The formerly harmonious City of Babel became divided into rival neighborhoods. Governor Banks lost power over most citizens.

The city used to have neighborhoods with undefined boundaries, populated largely by people of similar background. Now the neighborhoods had defined boundaries and more homogenous populations.

1 of the 17 airplane builders was an insomniac named Neil Scott, AKA “The Nose”. At 3AM on the night all were abducted, he was wearing a gas mask to airbrush something. The abductors’ sedative gas had no effect on him, so when the abductors came into his house he saw them, fought them, and escaped. He moved into a friend’s basement and now spends his days doing detective work to find or avenge his lost friends by solving the mystery of the Maestro. His large nose is not real, but nobody knows that.

Present

You arrive on an island descending into anarchy. A once unified people now associate only with their own kind.


CHARACTERS

REI YAMAZAKI

Female “Best Friend” NPC

Unique Traits: Only character (aside from male counterpart) to speak in player’s native language – this allows her to give tips, help, and tutorials in a way that is easy to understand. More and more dialog will be in target language as player progresses.
Age: Intentionally ambiguous. Seeming young enough to still appeal to teenage audiences, but still mature enough that she won’t seem like an un-relatable “kid” to grown players. 18 or so is probably a solid specific number for reference purposes, but shouldn’t ever be stated directly so as to leave thing open to player interpretation.
Theme Color: WordUp brand light blue, with orange highlights
Characteristics: friendly, energetic, a “go-getter,” competitive, somewhat accident-prone, easily flustered, often acts without thinking
Personality Quirks: Always supportive of the player, language skills start off humorously bad but improve as player progresses along learning path to reflect learning at the same time as the player, frequently gives poorly chosen words of encouragement (enough for humorous effect, never enough to actually be discouraging)
Appearance: Black hair, brown eyes, Asian ethnicity, usually sports signature baseball cap. Clothing choices tend to be more sporty than fashionable.
Storyline:
Character Introduction: Meets the player immediately as they arrive on the island, and mistakes them for a native, prompting her to stumble into a mess of unintelligible, humorously bad target language (bad enough that the player doesn’t have to understand any of the language to know it’s clearly wrong). Embarrassed to discover that the player also is still learning the language, and that they share a native language. Quickly takes a liking to the player, and they become fast friends. She is the one to show them around the island when they first arrive (effectively a tutorial on moving between locations and getting to know different scenes.)
Events:
Because she is at the same level as the player, frequently is able to invite player to activities that are just what they need to progress their skill level. Occasionally involved in major story events that take place during Learning Path transitions.

Catch Phrases:
“Ah! Sorry! That was an accident… I think.”
“I’ll… uh, I’ll pay for that.”
“Let’s try that again – one more shot!”

CARLOS AVELAR

Male “Best Friend” NPC

Unique Traits: Only character (aside from female counterpart Rei) to speak in player’s native language – this allows him to give tips, help, and tutorials in a way that is easy to understand. More and more dialog will be in target language as player progresses.
Age: As with Rei, intentionally ambiguous. Seeming young enough to still appeal to teenage audiences, but still mature enough that he won’t seem like an un-relatable “kid” to grown players. 18 or so is probably a solid specific number for reference purposes, but shouldn’t ever be stated directly so as to leave thing open to player interpretation.
Theme Color: WordUp brand orange and yellow.
Characteristics: Wise-cracking best friend. A tiny bit egotistical. Has a definite mischievous side. Great sense of adventure. Once he sets his sights on a goal, he doesn’t give up until he reaches it.

Personality Quirks: Frequently makes jokes that fall flat. Often ends up getting himself into trouble. Occasionally tries to show off “skills” that he doesn’t possess. Very kind-hearted and has a soft side for helping people, though he denies it.

Appearance: (Any or all aspects of appearance may be adjusted at the discretion of the illustrator) Wears thick-framed, rectangular glasses. Hair is short and dark, and in a “front spiked” style. Wears a thick-banded wristwatch and carries a crumpled pocket notebook containing his latest plans and schemes in his pocket or bag. Clothing ideas include cargo shorts, a t-shirt, and maybe a backpack or satchel of some kind.
Storyline:
Character introduction - meets the player immediately as they disembark from their flight.
Catch Phrases:
“C’mon! Don’t give up now!”
“Hold on. I think I’ve got something here….”
“Oh, that is the last straw! It’s on now!”



GOVERNOR INGRID BANKS

The Governor NPC

Unique Traits: Political leader, possibly the Maestro, possibly works with the Maestro
Age: 70
Theme Color: Turquoise, amber, black, at artist’s discretion.
Characteristics: She’s warm, witty, helpful, and politely aggressive–as you would expect from a skilled politician.
Personality Quirks: Loving and maternal demeanor, but always has a quick, biting comeback to any sign of disrespect. Offers counterintuitive wisdom. Basically, she’s like the Oracle from the Matrix, with the suppressed anger of Anakin Skywalker.
Appearance: African-American woman with white hair. She has a clearly visible scar on the side of her forehead. She dresses professionally, but also wears large, flashy, African bangles and necklaces.
Storyline:
Before Babel, she was among the few African-American women with a law degree in Texas in the 1970’s. She was an active proponent of civil rights, but she thought her contemporaries were not aggressive enough. A glass bottle scarred her forehead at a sit-in.
One of the first people on the island. She has been elected Governor almost every term for 30 years.
She is creating the society she always dreamed of, and she has crushed all who stand in her way, using “regretted”, unspecified methods. Now she is getting old and is secretly searching for someone she can endorse as the next governor.
She has made enemies on the island.
Events:
TBD

Schedule:
(I’ll work on this more once we’ve decided on a few of our specific locations.)
Catch Phrases:
“Just the person I need!” (means “hello”)
“Okay sugar, you be good now.” (means “goodbye”)
“I think it’s in your best interest for us to do this the easy way.”



ALINA IVANOVA

Clothing Store Owner NPC

Unique Traits: Owner of the clothing store in the mall.
Age: 29 or so
Theme Color: Black and grey with pastel highlights.
Characteristics: Very logical and straight-forward, often to a fault. Pessimistic, sometimes sarcastic, and with generally a pretty gloomy outlook on the world. Doesn’t really like people or social company, but takes a liking to the player character. The player eventually is able to get her to cheer up quite a bit as they advance her individual sub-plot and get her to realize that she really is pretty happy with her situation. Grows quite fond of the island despite its mysteries, and considers it a big improvement from her previous career as a model, which she strongly disliked.
Personality Quirks: Frequently gives the player awful tasting home-baked goods. Those who upset her (which is mostly everyone) receive a “death glare.” Somehow doesn’t pick up on Harvey’s frequent advances, despite his best attempts. Every once in a while, a repressed happy childish side shines through her mature, gloomy shell. Has a really weird laugh.
Appearance: Pale blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin. Clothing ideas include a scarf over a sleeveless shirt, a mini-skirt, and stylish, knee-high boots. Russian ethnicity.

Storyline:
Meets the player soon after they arrive. (More details to follow)
Events:
Converses with the player frequently as they come to make purchases in the store.
Along with Harvey, helps to fill the player in on backstory details and the goings-on of the island.
Schedule:
(I’ll work on this more once we’ve decided on a few of our specific locations.)
Catch Phrases:
“Oh, it’s you again. Welcome back.”
“I don’t think we should even bother.”
snrk …ha… Haha…. Hahaahahahahaaha - cough Sorry.”

HARVEY BALDWIN

Home Goods Store Owner NPC

Unique Traits: Owner of the home goods in the mall. Helps the player with customizations to their living place.
Age: 40 or so. Maybe a bit younger.
Theme Color: Brown and dark green
Characteristics: A man of few words. Began a career to become a British military officer, but left when he discovered his “true calling” - interior design, which he is very passionate about. Though he appears tough and even threatening at times, he has a definite quirky, almost motherly side. Skilled with his hands and able to repair most anything when it comes to cloth or carpentry. Not stupid, but sometimes a little slow to pick up new ideas. Fascinated with Alina, who owns the clothing shop next-door.
Personality Quirks: Tendency to give extreme solutions to simple problems without flinching. (“Looks like we’ll have to blow up the building.”) These may or may not be followed with an equally expressionless “Just kidding.” Has a couple of houseplants, which he has named and dotes over.
Appearance: Giant of a man (but not abnormally large) with scars and a stare as cold as steel. Large muscles, bald, goatee. Not sure about the glasses - maybe better without them, but they’re not bad. Clothing ideas include a knit sweater, an apron with a ridiculous cheesy phrase on it, and combat boots. British.
Storyline:
Meets the player soon after they arrive. (More details to follow)

Events:
Converses with the player frequently as they come to make purchases in the store.
Along with Alina, helps to fill the player in on backstory details and the goings-on of the island.
Schedule:
(I’ll work on this more once we’ve decided on a few of our specific locations.)
Catch Phrases:
“Do you need something?”
“Don’t buy that. It doesn’t match your curtains. Get this instead.”
“And here’s a drink for you, Leaferson Jr. That’s-…. Oh. I didn’t see you there. … Please come in.”

RAZ RAJA

Your Boss NPC

Unique Traits: Your employer. He sends you to do things. He was the first person put on the island, and he is the richest person on the island. He can speak every language. All of them.
Age: 67
Theme Color: Gold and white
Characteristics: He is firm but encouraging. He is decisive and charismatic, though sometimes he can be aloof or forgetful. He has faith in you, but he is not nice to everyone. You wouldn’t want to be on his bad side. In his spare time, he enjoys gossip and boisterous revelry. He well-informed about political and economic matters in Babel.
Personality Quirks: Spontaneously recites poetry. Makes fun of his servants.
Appearance: A big and tall man with a gold turban, white churidar kurta, black & gray beard, tasteful jewelry. East Indian ethnicity.
Storyline:
Character Introduction: Your first job is to be his errand boy. You must earn his approval.

Events:
Some believe he is the Maestro
Schedule:
(I’ll work on this more once we’ve decided on a few of our specific locations.)
Catch Phrases:
“Make it so!”
“Bah ha ha! Ho ho ho!”
“I am pleased”
Refers to Babel as “my island”


“THE NOSE”

Mysterious agent NPC

Unique Traits: A snoopy man shows up unexpectedly, seeking information. Possibly an agent of the Maestro.
Age: 34 or so
Theme Color: Black, dark gray
Characteristics: friendly in a false, salesman-type way. Often implies that you should not trust Governor Banks or Mr. Raja. Warns against breaking the rules. He is nosey and pushy.
Personality Quirks:.
Appearance: Caucasian, shady, tough, fashionable, hooded, wears sunglasses. The kind of guy women want to date, despite their parents’ disapproval. Has a large–but not freakish–nose.
Storyline:
Appeared on island recently
No one remembers seeing him before he adopted his role as The Nose.
He was one of the 17 airplane builders who disappeared, but he was not captured
He lives as a fugitive. His only goal is to find the airplane builders who disappeared, by any means necessary.
He makes contact with your abducted friend and will help you free him/her

Events:
Possibly involved in the attempted poisoning of Governor Banks.
Seeks information every time something dramatic happens on the island.

Catch Phrases:
“Stay safe.”
“Let’s not go looking for trouble.”
“What do you know about…”

Concept art:

NE’IGALOMEATIGA TUI (Mr. Tui)

Teacher NPC

Unique Traits: The most educational NPC. Has little to do with the drama on the island.
Age: 40
Theme Color: At artist’s discretion
Characteristics: The happiest guy on the island.
Personality Quirks: Loves surfing (though no one knows how this is physically possible). Has a supremely weird short story for every situation (e.g. Like the time my youngest brother was stuck in a coin-operated claw machine and my mother had to use the claw to change his diaper! Just keep putting in quarters, man!).
Appearance: Extra jumbo Samoan with beard and curly hair (in the drawing, the curliness would have to be more obvious than it is in the picture above, since he looks too much like Hagrid). Has the fashion sense you’d expect from a teacher.
Storyline:
He is friends with Governor Banks, who wants to unify the island by teaching everyone to speak a common language.
He gives free night classes in [target language] to help the governor. He does it for free because enjoys it.
Events:
He may give his opinions on current events or famous people on the island, but he is not part of the plot.
Catch Phrases:
“Like the time when…”
“What do you want to learn about today?”
“Take it easy, bro!”

Concept art:

THE MAESTRO: JULIUS PARK

Unseen Mastermind NPC

Unique Traits: The unseen mastermind behind the island.
Age: 21. He is the son of the original Maestro, who founded Babel.
Theme Color: Purple (there is no need to draw him for quite a while, since he doesn’t show up until the end.)
Characteristics: Unhappy loner. Highly educated but bad at making decisions because he has been told what to do his entire life. Doesn’t know how to handle his newfound power. Doesn’t want to be in power.
Personality Quirks: Often drinking, never drunk. Has angry outbursts.
Appearance: Looks like a teenager, dresses like a CEO. Ethnically ambiguous.
Storyline:
He has people kidnapped to populate the island. (To help the people who are already here? To make it big enough to be an official country? Gotta figure this out)

Events:
Because she is at the same level as the player, frequently is able to invite player to activities that are just what they need to progress their skill level. Occasionally involved in major story events that take place during Learning Path transitions.
Catch Phrases:
“I’m not my father.”
“.”
“… not that it matters.”

Concept art:


MINI GAMES AND THEIR STORYLINES

Life Stories Storyline

The story of how you become famous with your social app: the goals, obstacles, raised stakes, twists, and gameplay changes

LS1.0 Meet “The Word”, learn the game

LS2.0 Meet The Nose

LS3.0 Learn island background

LS4.0 Clues that The Nose works for the Maestro and clues that he is a goodguy

You become an important person on the island when you introduce your social app called “the word”. The app helps you meet people in person (usually the town square) and make friends (in other words, play Life Stories). After you chat with the person (play the game), they are added to your list of friends. The app also counts the number of times you have played with them. You gain influence on the island by collecting numbers of friends and/or strengths of friendships.
After the game, you evaluate your new friend’s personality by going down a list of 4-7 dichotomies and selecting either…
Ideas person ← → People person
Values achievement ← → Values enjoyment
Idealist ← → Realist
Humorous ← → Informative
Et cetera ← → And so on

After you rate the other player, you get to see a bar graph of how others rated them. This personality rating is “the word” on your new friend. If your opinion of that person changes in subsequent games, you can change your answers.
The purpose of this personality rating is to make “the word” unique among social apps (thus making it a believable plot point), to make Life Stories more fun, to make our version of the game more original, to make you really get to know other players, to influence how NPCs talk to you, and maybe—in version 3.0—to affect the course of the story line.

In addition to the personality test, you would also evaluate their language level.

Card Game Storyline

The story of how you become rich: the obstacles, triumphs, raised stakes, twists, and game changes

We need to think of ways gameplay will change, then base the story on that.

GW1.0 Meet Raj Raja, learn the game:
How you will earn Shells
How you will gain objects

GW2.0 Learn Raja’s Backstory

GW3.0 Get promoted

GW4.0 Clues that Mr Raja is the Maestro and clues that he is a good guy.

Card Game Mechanics

Game Flow
The game is played with Blue Team versus Red Team. Each team consists of two players. One team may be computer controlled. The objective of the game is to deplete the enemy player’s HP pools to zero. The game begins with the setup phase.

Setup Phase
The Game Board is populated. The Game Board looks like this:

Red and Orange are red team, and Blue and Light Blue are blue team.
The striped cards are the locations for the player’s Decks.
The dotted cards are the player’s selected Identities. This will mirror the chosen card on on the player’s Bench, represented by the thick-lined cards. The card chosen as the Identity will still be displayed on the bench. Players will not be able to see the Identity cards of the opposing team.

The player’s deck consists of 15 - 60 cards.
Two thirds of the cards are always Noun cards
One third is always Modifier cards

When the player first learns the game with an NPC during the introduction, they are given the choice of starting with one of three basic, pre-assembled decks (these are temporary options and can be changed later):
People
Fruits
Animals

As the players play the game and earn new cards, they will find cards in a much wider variety of categories, and be able to build their own decks.

Before the game begins, decks are automatically shuffled by the game engine. Each player will be give 5 Noun cards from their deck, determined at random. These cards are placed on the Bench.

Each player will choose one of the cards to be their first Identity.

All players begin with 20 Points in their HP Pool.

The two players on the Red Team and those on the Blue Team have their Diligence statistics added together. The team with the higher combination goes first.

This concludes the Setup Phase.

Team Turn Phase

The remainder of the game alternates between the two teams. A turn should take 45-60 seconds. If a turn takes longer than the maximum amount of time, the turn is forfeit, and it becomes the other team’s turn.

The following outlines describes the order in which a player’s turn takes place:

Draw a Card - each of the players on the team draws a card from their own deck or from their partner’s deck. This should be coordinated between the players via voice chat.
If no cards remain in the player’s deck, he must draw from his partner’s deck.
If neither player on the team has cards remaining in their deck, no cards are drawn.
If the card is a Noun card, it will be placed on the bench.
If the card is a Noun card but the player has no room on the bench, they may discard the new card, or any card currently on the bench. The player cannot discard their current Identity.
If the card is a Modifier card, it may be applied to the current Identity, given to the player’s partner’s Identity, or discarded.

Observation Hint - depending upon the team’s combined Observation skill, there is a chance that one player will receive a hint that one of the opponent’s cards is not their current identity. This is only shown to one player, and it is up to them to communicate it with their team mate.

Action Phase - each team may make 1-3 actions, depending upon their combined Expression statistic. The number of available actions are displayed on screen as Action Points, and are shared by the team members.
Each action will consume one Action Point.
For an action to take place, both players must make the same action - this must be communicated with the player’s teammate via verbal communication.
If the players make differing actions, the action is forfeit.
When the team have used all of their action points, the Action Phase - and the team’s turn - ends.

The following are the possible actions that a team may play. All actions consume one action point:

Change Identity - one player may change their identity to any card on either their own bench, or their partner’s bench. If both players change their Identity, this counts as two actions, and two Action Points are required and consumed. The other team is notified when one or both of their opponents changes identity.

Attribute Guess - the players may agree to guess an attribute of either opposing team member’s Identity. This may be a category (People, Fruit, Animals, etc.,) or an adjective-attribute (color, etc.) Cards from the opposing player’s benches that do not apply are automatically discarded according to the guess.

Single Guess - the players agree to guess a specific card that is one of the opposing team member’s Identities. If the guess is not successful, the guessed card is discarded from the opponent’s bench. If the players successfully guess an opponent’s Identity, that opponent’s HP Pool loses value equal to the combined Offense Values of both team member’s Identity cards minus the Defense Value of the guessed player’s Identity card, plus a random modifier of -1, 0, or +1. Additionally, a value of (1 * number of successful guesses in a row for this Identity -1) is added, penalizing players who do not change Identities when theirs is guessed. When either player from the opposing team has their HP Pool reduced to 0, the game ends immediately.

Card Design

Cards will be designed with the following six values:

Name - this is the name of the card
Image - this is the image of the card. This should accurately reflect the card’s attributes. (If the card is an animal, for example, and has “Has Long Ears” as an attribute, the image should have clearly visible long ears, etc.)
Rarity and Language Level - this is the rarity icon for the card. This has no effect on gameplay. Within the icon is a number, signifying the language level of the card. (Cards with more advanced vocabulary have higher language levels.)
Description and Attributes - this summary box will list the attributes of the card, including its category, and all adjective-attributes that apply to this card. A short description - ideally a witty one-liner of some sort - is also given.
Offensive Value - This is the card’s offensive value.
Defensive Value - This is the card’s defensive value.

Modifier Cards

Modifier cards have special effects that mix up the regular flow of game play and keep the game a new and exciting experience every time. When a modifier card is drawn, it is played immediately or discarded. Modifier cards give various effects to the current game session. The player’s current Modifier cards are displayed to the side of their chosen Identity cards. Players are only able to see the Modifier cards of their own team - cards for the opposing team are displayed as question marks, meaning that the player is able to see that their opponent has a modifier card in place, but does not know what it does.

Some possible example effects of Modifier cards are:

Aggressive - the player’s offensive value is doubled, but so is all taken damage to his HP Pool.
Feeling Lucky - the player receives an extra action point every turn, but there is a 30% chance than any action will fail.
Calculating - +1 is added to all Single Guess action offensive values, but the random modifier is removed, making it easier to guess the player’s Identity based on the value.
Defensive - +1 is given to the chosen card’s Defensive value, but the new minimum HP Pool damage from an opponent’s Single Guess action is increased to 2.
Turtle - the incrementing Single Guess counter now increases at only half the rate for the opposing team when making Single Guesses (+1 every two turns instead of every turn.) However, switching identities now takes two Action Points rather than one.
Fair Play - Remove any of an opponent’s Modifier Cards. This card is played immediately upon being drawn.
Clean Slate - Remove all Modifier Cards from all players. This card is played immediately upon being drawn.

We will come up with more modifier actions as necessary. There will not be nearly as many modifier cards as regular noun cards, and they will be significantly more rare.

Level-of-Play Adjustments

In order to make the game easier to learn at low levels, certain adjustments are made to game mechanics at lower levels of play. Additionally, this allows higher level teams to participate against lower level opponents without putting them at too severe of a disadvantage.

Maximum Card Level - The level of played cards cannot exceed the Language Level of the game session. If a deck contains cards of a higher level than can be played, the player is given the option to have these cards automatically, randomly replaced by cards from their possession prior to the start of the game.
Modifier Cards - At lower levels of play, Modifier cards are automatically removed from all players’ decks, and are not part of play.
Statistic Balancing - When playing against players with an Experience Level difference of 2 or more, the player’s statistics will be auto-balanced to be roughly equal to their opponents in order to preserve game balance. The proportion of points distributed will remain the same, so players with most of their points in Expression will still get more action points, etc.
Turn Time - At lower levels of play, more time will be given per turn to each team to account for taking longer to communicate due to lack of language skills.
Interface Language - At low and intermediate levels of play, the card descriptions and user interface are in the player’s native language. At advanced levels of play, they are in the target language.

Glossary

Action - Decided by both players on a team, these coordinated actions are what move the game forward. The three possible actions are Change Identity, Attribute Guess, and Single Guess.
Action Point - Determined from the players’ Expression statistics, these represent the number of possible actions that the team can make during their turn.
Adjective Attribute - An adjective that applies to a noun card, such as “red.”
Attribute Guess - An action in which the players guess an attribute of the opposing team’s Identity.
Bench - All Noun cards currently in play.
Category - The base category of a Noun Card, such a Person, Animal, or Fruit.
Change Identity - An action in which one player is able to switch their identity from one card on their team’s bench to another card.
Deck - All of a player’s cards brought to the game that are not yet in play. Contains between 15 and 60 cards.
Diligence - A player statistic that influences which team goes first.
Expression - A player statistic that influences how many Action Points a team receives.
HP Pool - How much longer the player is able to remain in the game. If any player’s HP Pool reaches 0, their team loses.
Identity - The Noun card chosen by a player to represent them in game.
Modifier Card - A special type of card that adds additional effects to game play.
Noun Card - A regular card portraying an object.
Observation - A player statistic that may give their team a hint during their turn.
Single Guess - An action in which the team guesses the Identity of either opposing player.


MICROTRANSACTIONS

Microtransaction Philosophy

Microtransactions should remove periods of waiting in the game. They should add additional convenience for players. Microtransactions should never give one player an unfair advantage over another. Microtransactions should not allow players to skip or trivialize gameplay. WordUp should be both fully playable and fully enjoyable without microtransactions.

In-Game Microtransactions

WordUp will contain three forms of micro-transactions (all names are temporary.)

1. Mini-game Tokens

Every time a player plays a multiplayer mini-game, one token is consumed. These regenerate over time, with a new token appearing every 20 minutes, up to a maximum of five tokens held at a time. For a small price, players are able to pay to have a token added instantly, without having to wait. Purchased tokens can exceed the normal maximum of 5.
Even when the players have no tokens, they are still able to participate in all other aspects of the game outside of multiplayer games, including participating in Story Events, SRS flashcards, crafting, home customization, etc. Tokens only apply to regular mini-games, and not mini-games with a native partner from the Native Queue.

2. Crafting Tokens

Normally, at various stages of crafting an object, the player must wait a certain amount of time for the object’s construction to complete. These purchasable tokens allow the player to instantly complete the object’s construction without waiting. All regular ingredients for the object are still required, and still consumed normally during the object’s creation, just as they would be if the player did not use a token.

3. Native Queue Tokens

When playing mini-games with native speakers of the target language, players must wait in the Native Queue until a Native Speaker is available. These purchasable tokens will allow players to skip instantly to the front of the queue, bypassing the wait.


APPENDIX 1: Example Can-Do Statements

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal Communication Levels

Novice Low

I can communicate on some very familiar topics using single words and phrases that I have practiced and memorized.

Novice Mid

I can communicate on very familiar topics using a variety of words and phrases that I have practiced and memorized.

Novice High

I can communicate and exchange information about familiar topics using phrases and simple sentences, sometimes supported by memorized language. I can usually handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions.

Intermediate Low

I can participate in conversations on a number of familiar topics using simple sentences. I can handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions.

Intermediate Mid

I can participate in conversations on familiar topics using sentences and series of sentences. I can handle short social interactions in everyday situations by asking and answering a variety of questions. I can usually say what I want to say about myself and my everyday life.

Intermediate High

I can participate with ease and confidence in conversations on familiar topics. I can usually talk about events and experiences in various time frames. I can usually describe people, places, and things. I can handle social interactions in everyday situations, sometimes even when there is an unexpected complication.

Advanced Low

I can participate in conversations about familiar topics that go beyond my everyday life. I can talk in an organized way and with some detail about events and experiences in various time frames. I can describe people, places, and things in an organized way and with some detail. I can handle a familiar situation with an unexpected complication.

Advanced Mid

I can express myself fully not only on familiar topics but also on some concrete social, academic, and professional topics. I can talk in detail and in an organized way about events and experiences in various time frames. I can confidently handle routine situations with an unexpected complication. I can share my point of view in discussions on some complex issues

Advanced High

I can express myself freely and spontaneously, and for the most part accurately, on concrete topics and on most complex issues. I can usually support my opinion and develop hypotheses on topics of particular interest or personal expertise.

Superior

I can communicate with ease, accuracy, and fluency. I can participate fully and effectively in discussions on a variety of topics in formal and informal settings. I can discuss at length complex issues by structuring arguments and developing hypotheses.

Distinguished

I can communicate reflectively on a wide range of global issues and highly abstract concepts in a culturally sophisticated manner.

Novice Low Can-Do Statements

I can communicate on some very familiar topics using single words and phrases that I have practiced and memorized.

I can greet my peers.
I can say hello and goodbye.
I can ___.

I can introduce myself to someone.
I can tell someone my name.
I can ___.

I can answer a few simple questions.
I can respond to yes/no questions.
I can answer an either/or question.
I can respond to who, what, when, where questions.
I can ___.

Intermediate High Can-Do Statements

I can participate with ease and confidence in conversations on familiar topics. I can usually talk about events and experiences in various time frames. I can usually describe people, places, and things. I can handle social interactions in everyday situations, sometimes even when there is an unexpected complication.

I can exchange information related to areas of mutual interest.
I can ask for and provide information about specific events.
I can ask for and provide information about a hobby or lifestyle, such as bicycling, vegetarianism, video games, or sports.
I can ask for and provide descriptions of places I know and also places I would like to visit.
I can talk about my family history.
I can talk about jobs and career plans.
I can __.

I can use my language to do a task that requires multiple steps.
I can give the basic rules of a game or sport and answer questions about them.
I can ask for, follow, and give instructions for preparing food.
I can ask for and follow directions to get from one place to another.
I can tell someone how to access information online.
I can explain basic rules, policies, or laws that affect us and answer questions about them.
I can __.

I can use my language to handle a situation that may have a complication.
I can arrange for a make-up exam or reschedule an appointment.
I can return an item I have purchased to a store.
I can plan an outing with a group of friends.
I can _____.


Comments: