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Genre: RPG
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Languages: English
Players: Single-player
Tags: Education
Nov 27, 2014 @ 5:36pm
Nov 28, 2014 @ 9:13am
Recent Announcements View All (1)
Lingwall demo now available for PC, Mac, Linux
Lingwall is a roguelike RPG in which you must learn a new language to proceed. Conjugate your way through the harsh Martian landscape to survive!

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you know how difficult it can be. According to the Foreign Services Institute, the “easiest” languages, like French and Spanish, take over 700 hours to learn! And that’s a figure for diplomats, guided by a native speaker, studying full time. If you’re on your own, then even if you’re very disciplined, it’s going to be quite a task to force yourself to sit down and study grammar and vocabulary, day after day, for a total of 700 hours…

There are just too many distractions out there. Like videogames, for example. Of course, with videogames, the problem is sort of the inverse of the language learning problem: videogames are fun, so it’s very easy to let yourself play for hundreds of hours, but when you’re finished, you’ll have nothing to show for it.

So what if the two could be combined? If there was a video game that could teach you a new language, both problems would be solved. If it’s fun, you can play it for hundreds of hours with no internal struggle; and if it’s a complete and effective language course, you’re not wasting your time by playing it, since the hundreds of hours you spend playing it are actually spent studying language.

‘Lingwall’ is that game. It incorporates Foreign Service Institute language courses into a roguelike rpg. The FSI courses were developed by the US government to teach languages to diplomats, and represent some of the most effective language learning tools ever made. Roguelike video games are famously addictive–due to a feeling of constantly growing power as you gain experience and skill–and playable for years, due to their procedurally-generated content.

Why does constantly growing power make roguelikes (and rpgs in general) so addictive? Probably due to the feeling of *productivity* brought about by building up a character, and because this process is immediately rewarding. Suppose Gorgoth is a dungeon boss your character can’t beat. Play for one more hour and your character might advance three levels and find an artifact that slays Gorgoth with a single blow. The progress is obvious and unmistakable. Now suppose Juanita is a native speaker of Spanish who you can’t yet understand. Study Spanish for one hour–or ten–and there will be no obvious progress the next time you speak to her.

The difference is that the rpg tricks your brain into feeling more productive when you’re playing than when you’re studying. ‘Lingwall’ is a roguelike rpg that uses this ability to trick your brain into believing you’re being productive… to trick you into being productive.

The human brain is not well-adapted to controlling cybernetically-enhanced bodies. When the cybersoldiers first appeared, they controlled their ‘kit’–an internal network of bionic implants and prostheses–as one would control a body part. Accidents were common, but accepted as a necessary risk–“for the greater good”. As the field of bionics developed, the power of cybersoldiers increased exponentially, but the human brain remained poorly-adapted to directly controlling military grade hardware. The severity and frequency of accidents increased accordingly, until the USG Cybersoldier Selection and Assessment trial of 2071, in which 53% of candidates were lost due to failure to maintain control of their kits. Of the surviving graduating class of 24 cybersoldiers, 5 were decapitated in the graduation ceremony due to overly-emotional, bionically-enhanced farewell salutes to fallen comrades. Several bystanders lost their lives to the flying armor-plated craniums.

In retrospect, the solution was obvious: a switch from analog to digital. Second-generation cybersoldiers were required to control their kits via neuro-terminals–with commands entered by verbal thought–instead of tactile intuition. Accidents were dramatically reduced, but not eliminated. Occasionally, one’s thoughts would inadvertently mirror a command, as during the battle of 2121, in which a newly-minted cybersoldier, serving in the mountain division and half-frozen, thought “I’m going to turn up the heat,” thereby triggering his kit’s fireball attack and vaporizing the non-enhanced portion of his platoon. Such incidents taught the military that the language a cybersoldier uses in everyday thought–its biolect–and the language it uses to control its kit–its cyberlect–must be distinct. A cybersoldier must go through arduous training and construct a partition of its mind, one half running the biolect, one half running the cyberlect, such that both halves remain divided by a wall of language known as the lingwall.

It was soon discovered that cybernetic implants made soldiers much harder to kill, but much easier to control. If a cybersoldier came to identify the hundreds of pieces of machinery running through its flesh as “I”, then when some piece was hacked and compromised by a hostile force, the mind of the cybersoldier could be controlled. One would as soon grant administrator privileges to every account on a network. Again, the lingwall was the solution. The commands used to control the kit would no longer use “I” exclusively, but rather a variable pronoun chosen by an AI known as the lingwall assistant.

You are a cybersoldier training in the harsh, partially terraformed wilderness of Mars, fresh out of passing the USG CSA and preparing to enter the Lingwall Construction Course. Late one night your encampment is stormed by a team of heavily-armored cyborgs. Because you have not yet constructed your lingwalls, you and your fellow trainees are defenseless. You are taken captive and drugged. You wake up alone, somewhere in an ice mine. Can you reach the surface, constructing your lingwall along the way, and find out who was behind the assault?
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LogansAGamer Nov 30, 2014 @ 4:27pm 
This certainly looks promising! A pretty neat idea.