Textfyre and Dictionaries

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ChicagoDave

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May 7, 2008, 12:33:10 AM5/7/08
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Hey everyone,

I'm looking for some advice on something.

I've been in touch with one of the larger dictionary presses and I can
added mouse-over definitions for every word in the game for about
$1.50 per game (with a cap at some level). This is likely to be a
sizable chunk of sales (5% or more) and I was wondering if anyone had
any thoughts on whether it was worth it.

Remember, to get into the institutional market, this may be an
important selling point.

It would also allow us to show the trademark of the press, which would
add legitimacy to our games.

Thoughts?

David C.

Aaron A. Reed

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May 7, 2008, 12:40:02 AM5/7/08
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This reminds me of being 8 years old and getting stuck on the first
puzzle in "Hitchhiker's" because I didn't know what either "buffered"
or "analgesic" meant. (Or, for that matter, "hangover.")

Adventure games certainly contributed to my vocabulary and ability to
spell as I grew up. I think it would be a great feature to add, but
the cost does seem fairly steep.

Setting aside the perk of featuring a recognized dictionary logo on
the package, are there any open source dictionary packages that could
provide this functionality?

--Aaron

S. John Ross

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May 7, 2008, 12:47:31 AM5/7/08
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I don't imagine I'd use such a feature, but at the same time I'd
probably enjoy pointing to it and saying "see? and it does this cool
thing! Isn't that neat?" 'Cause it would be very neat.

Just in terms of raw numbers, though, it doesn't sound like a feature
that would increase your unit sales by an amount that would justify
the cost, unless there's some hidden wellspring of dictionary
fetishism out there I'm unaware of (and if there is, I'm willing to
bet they've already got dictionaries ... perhaps slightly sticky
dictionaries ... nearby at all times, anyway).

So, if you're just polling for votes, I vote a tentative yes on the
coolness factor, but ultimately abstain as a note of business caution.

Jim Aikin

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May 7, 2008, 1:10:19 AM5/7/08
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ChicagoDave wrote:
>
> I've been in touch with one of the larger dictionary presses and I can
> added mouse-over definitions for every word in the game for about
> $1.50 per game (with a cap at some level). This is likely to be a
> sizable chunk of sales (5% or more) and I was wondering if anyone had
> any thoughts on whether it was worth it.
>
> Remember, to get into the institutional market, this may be an
> important selling point.

You know the "institutional market" (whatever that is) infinitely better
than I do. My main question is, is your primary intention to make games
that are educational, or games that are fun?

If the feature can be turned off (God, I hope it can) then there's not
necessarily a conflict. This feature wouldn't detract from the fun.
However, it might well detract from the PERCEIVED fun (which does
matter, I think). If kids get the sense that the game wants to lecture
to them, then it stops being quite as much fun. It starts being
something that Mom and the teacher think is good for them. Like
homework, for instance.

That might not be a good thing at all for your product line.

Caveat #2: I also don't have any kids.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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May 7, 2008, 1:16:15 AM5/7/08
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Here's another thought -- or maybe two of them.

First, publishers of books for kids have, I believe, some pretty
concrete guidelines on vocabulary (and sentence structure, and subject
matter) for various age groups. If you're writing games for, let's say,
a fifth-grade audience, you don't need an expensive software widget, you
just need to get the guidelines from four or five publishers and study them.

Second, if you're planning to toss in words that may not be known by
your target audience, why not write your own 'dictionary' code directly
in I7? The kid types 'word' and gets a scrolling list of all the words
that you feel may cause trouble. The kid clicks a word and sees a
definition. This is cheap, it's unobtrusive, the definitions can be
tailored to make sense in terms of the game, and once you've written the
code module once, you can stick new words in it and re-use it in every
project.

You can send my $5,000 consulting fee to ... oh, never mind. This one is
on the house.

--JA

ChicagoDave

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May 7, 2008, 1:29:55 AM5/7/08
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On May 7, 12:10 am, Jim Aikin <midigur...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> You know the "institutional market" (whatever that is)

School districts, library systems, and educational publishers like
Scholastic.

So instead of selling a copy here and there, I lease 8,000 copies to a
school system annually for 3 years at $x per seat.

On the other hand, I can always add the feature when I start getting
into meetings with the education sector. It's more of a "nice-to-have"
for the public sector, although I think a lot of parents would see it
as very important.

I'm getting test data and we're going to do testing at the local
middle school before school is out. I'll get more data in whether
anyone thought it was useful or not.

David C.

jon.i...@gmail.com

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May 7, 2008, 2:15:40 AM5/7/08
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Are there not any open-source online dictionaries that you could draw
data from?

jon

JDC

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May 7, 2008, 2:49:37 AM5/7/08
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OS X has an integrated dictionary (well, it's available to Cocoa
apps); you can either hover over a word and hit ctrl-cmd-d for a brief
definition or right-click on a word to bring up a contextual menu
which has a "look up in dictionary" option. So if you want to get some
feedback on whether your audience finds this to be a useful feature,
you might test this with (say) Zoom. I don't know anything about the
educational market, but as a child I would be suspicious of something
marketed as "educational" myself, and I'm not sure that having a
specific brand-name dictionary attached would be any more appealing to
parents or schools than creating your own (as others have suggested).
But I also don't have children (other than the small furry kind with
claws and whiskers) and, again, I know nothing about the marketing
aspects...

-JDC

Victor Gijsbers

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May 7, 2008, 5:55:27 AM5/7/08
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I know that dict.org, a fantastic site, uses the databases of (1) The
Collaborative International Dictionary of English, and (2) WordNet. The
first is distributed under the GPL, the second under a very permissive
license. Check:

http://www.dict.org/bin/Dict?Form=Dict1&Query=00-database-info&Strategy=*&Database=*


Regards,
Victor

mikegentry

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May 7, 2008, 8:57:23 AM5/7/08
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Would it really be every word in the game? Like "the," and "go," and
"you"? Or would there be some sort of filter to only tag the words
above a certain reading level? And would that filter make the feature
cost less, or more?

Christopher Armstrong

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May 7, 2008, 9:18:00 AM5/7/08
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Hear hear. To heck with the language fascists who want to charge you for
their words; use any of the free databases. I would also just consider
opening up a browser pointed at the dict.org definition when a word is
double-clicked.

--
Christopher Armstrong, International Man of Twistery
http://radix.twistedmatrix.com/
http://wordeology.com/planet-if/ - Planet IF blog aggregator

Al

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May 7, 2008, 10:28:45 AM5/7/08
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On May 6, 10:33 pm, ChicagoDave <david.cornel...@gmail.com> wrote:

Mac OSX already has a built-in dictionary.


Conrad

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May 7, 2008, 11:18:27 AM5/7/08
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On May 7, 1:29 am, ChicagoDave <david.cornel...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On May 7, 12:10 am, Jim Aikin <midigur...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
>
> > You know the "institutional market" (whatever that is)
>
> School districts, library systems, and educational publishers like
> Scholastic.
>
> So instead of selling a copy here and there, I lease 8,000 copies to a
> school system annually for 3 years at $x per seat.
>
> On the other hand, I can always add the feature when I start getting
> into meetings with the education sector. It's more of a "nice-to-have"
> for the public sector, although I think a lot of parents would see it
> as very important.

I know that I, and most people I know, would find that feature
incredibly irritating. I don't want to have to be too careful with my
mouse, on threat of it doing something weird. Right now, it's "on"
the word "although" in your quote; I just want it to stay put and be
quiet until I have need of it.

But, I can see that if you're angling for an entry market, who haven't
played text games and maybe don't read much, it'd be a good thing.
So, it'd be a priority to me to be able (as someone mentioned) to turn
the damn thing off.

If I can go on a micro-rant here: I use Open Office, and I basically
like it: but I want to use it as a simple, plain flippin' editor,
without it putting all these weird squiggly underlines when I write a
proper name or use "moustache" rather than "mustache;" I don't want
animated flippin' light bulbs to pop up on the screen when it thinks
I'm writing a letter; I fought tooth and flippin' nail to get all
those goddamned toolbars off the screen (and one of them returns
Lazarus-like every time I start the program); I don't want a print
preview, with my train of thought broken by an inch and a half of
space, an imaginary page end, and another inch and a half of space. I
just want a damn editor. JEsus.


> I'm getting test data and we're going to do testing at the local
> middle school before school is out. I'll get more data in whether
> anyone thought it was useful or not.

Yeah, I was going to say: test it against your audience, which it
sounds like you're doing: but also test it against your clients. The
people making the purchasing decisions aren't necessarily the ones
who'll be playing the game.

If you're marketing to schools, I'd say it'll be a great feature. I
guess I'd ask myself, what unit price is that $1.50 on top of? $7
plus $1.50 is a different animal than $22 plus $1.50.


Conrad.

ps - You might consider doing it in-shop. Especially because you
don't need an entire dictionary, but only those particular words,
which are at a challengening reading level, that you use in that game.

Also, frankly, if you do it in-shop, it'll give you the opportunity to
ensure that your games use the words correctly. Just this weekend, I
was thinking of buying _Love in Goon Park_. In the introduction, the
author writes: "...looking lost in his ubiquitous lab coat..."

Man, that's some lab coat! (Where were the editors?) Needless to
say, I didn't buy it.


C.


ps2 - You might consider a future expansion into teaching English as a
second language; the pop-ups could translate the English back into the
user's mother tongue. Anyway, good luck with it!

C.

Adam Thornton

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May 7, 2008, 11:15:14 AM5/7/08
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In article <c9bf3207-4be9-4620...@26g2000hsk.googlegroups.com>,

ChicagoDave <david.c...@gmail.com> wrote:
>Hey everyone,
>
>I'm looking for some advice on something.
>
>I've been in touch with one of the larger dictionary presses and I can
>added mouse-over definitions for every word in the game for about
>$1.50 per game (with a cap at some level). This is likely to be a
>sizable chunk of sales (5% or more) and I was wondering if anyone had
>any thoughts on whether it was worth it.

You know your market better than I do; do you think moving your price up
to accomodate, cutting your profit margin, or some combination of the
two, is worth the benefits you get?

*I* don't find it a compelling feature, but I am not your target market.

Adam

Message has been deleted

JDC

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May 7, 2008, 12:42:33 PM5/7/08
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On May 7, 11:54 am, Andreas Davour <ante...@updateLIKE.uu.HELLse>
wrote:

> Conrad <conradc...@gmail.com> writes:
> > I just want a damn editor. JEsus.
>
> You're not using the right tool then. OO is a big honking lump of
> functionality mimicking MS Word. Try downloading a simple programming
> editor instead. I suggest emacs, YMMV.

Obligatory:
http://www.gnu.org/fun/jokes/ed.msg.html

-JDC

Jim Aikin

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May 7, 2008, 3:02:11 PM5/7/08
to
Christopher Armstrong wrote:
>
> Hear hear. To heck with the language fascists who want to charge you for
> their words; use any of the free databases. I would also just consider
> opening up a browser pointed at the dict.org definition when a word is
> double-clicked.

I basically agree with you ... but there's such a thing as online
fascism, or at least online arrogance, too. IMO, it's a very bad idea to
just assume that anyone's computer is connected to the internet. 'Tain't
necessarily so.

--JA

Christopher Armstrong

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May 7, 2008, 3:20:14 PM5/7/08
to

ZOMG! I have been dissed.

Great. If one wants to allow for offline lookup of words, one can include
a free dictionary, as I _first_ suggested (or, rather, concurred with the
previous poster). You don't have to give in to the language fascists in
order to have free dictionary lookup. The fact that I am a part of the
online nobility who spit on the offline peasants is unrelated.

Jim Aikin

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May 7, 2008, 4:08:23 PM5/7/08
to
Christopher Armstrong wrote:
>
> ZOMG! I have been dissed.

I hope you're kidding. I'm sometimes taken aback by how people overreact
when I make what are meant to be simple factual statements.

> The fact that I am a part of the
> online nobility who spit on the offline peasants is unrelated.

I would include myself among the online nobility, but what I said
applies to me as well. I have a very nice laptop, but I don't happen to
have a wireless router. So if I'm in the other room, sitting with my
laptop on my lap (what a concept!), I can't click on any links.

AFAIK, my favorite local coffee shop doesn't have wi-fi either, so I
can't hook up while beveraging myself.

That's all I meant by it. I meant "arrogance" not to refer to the
_users_ of wireless connections or the Internet in general, but to the
programmers (and they are legion) who make bad assumptions about what
their end users will be equipped with.

I see this a lot, because I write reviews of software for magazines. The
programmer has a 21" monitor, so the program is a display hog. The
programmer has 4GB of RAM, so the program is a RAM hog. The programmer
has a quad core processor, so the program gobbles up machine cycles and
grinds to a halt on most people's systems. The programmer has a massive
system hard drive and always installs new programs in C:\Program Files,
so he writes an installer that will ONLY install on C:, not on F: (which
is where I have a lot of programs because C: is full).

I have had music software that wouldn't run on my machine because I
didn't have the latest game-friendly graphics board. This makes no sense
whatever, because the translucent graphics offer no functional
advantages to the audio performance -- but that's how they wrote the code.

If you never encounter any of these little annoyances, count yourself lucky.

--JA

Christopher Armstrong

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May 7, 2008, 4:23:11 PM5/7/08
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On Wed, 07 May 2008 13:08:23 -0700, Jim Aikin wrote:

> Christopher Armstrong wrote:
>>
>> ZOMG! I have been dissed.
>
> I hope you're kidding. I'm sometimes taken aback by how people overreact
> when I make what are meant to be simple factual statements.

Don't worry, I was kidding. I only use Internet slang when I'm being
ironic. It's lame, sorry.

>> The fact that I am a part of the
>> online nobility who spit on the offline peasants is unrelated.

> [programmers shouldn't assume net connectivity]

I agree with what you said. I am also regularly offline. However, I
wouldn't be particularly offended if I couldn't use a "lookup word in
dictionary" feature while I was offline, as long as the game itself still
works. It depends, though: clearly Chicago Dave should take a look at his
target audience and see if students will often be playing these things
offline when they want to look up a word. Even if they're not at coffee
shops, school networks are often really demented, so I wouldn't be
surprised at all if this is a common use-case.

Gerald Aungst

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May 7, 2008, 9:14:39 PM5/7/08
to
Conrad wrote:
>
> Yeah, I was going to say: test it against your audience, which it
> sounds like you're doing: but also test it against your clients. The
> people making the purchasing decisions aren't necessarily the ones
> who'll be playing the game.
>
> If you're marketing to schools, I'd say it'll be a great feature. I
> guess I'd ask myself, what unit price is that $1.50 on top of? $7
> plus $1.50 is a different animal than $22 plus $1.50.
>
> ps - You might consider doing it in-shop. Especially because you
> don't need an entire dictionary, but only those particular words,
> which are at a challengening reading level, that you use in that game.
>
> Also, frankly, if you do it in-shop, it'll give you the opportunity to
> ensure that your games use the words correctly. Just this weekend, I
> was thinking of buying _Love in Goon Park_. In the introduction, the
> author writes: "...looking lost in his ubiquitous lab coat..."
>
As an elementary school teacher, I'd echo several of these. I've been on
enough purchasing committees to know that the teachers and
administrators will go for what they're comfortable with and what they
think will make their jobs more effective (read: easier). The kind of
"whiz-bang" features like a built-in dictionary will definitely give you
an edge. Anything that you can market as legitimately educational is
good. Beware of tacking an "educational" label onto a feature that
really has little value, though. Publishers do this all the time, and it
annoys the purchasers!

A few other tips: things that schools look for are typically things that
will (a) raise test scores and (b) appeal to every single parent and
community member at the same time. So if your games are designed to help
students learn to read (for example), you should simultaneously load
them up with multicultural characters, mild positive themes, and
curriculum-related tidbits.

As for the dictionary feature in particular, I know as an educator I
would love it, with a few caveats. I'd like to be able to turn it on and
off as a few other people mentioned, or make it something that only
happens when the player specifically requests it (e.g. right-clicking on
the word, for example). I also like the idea of you developing your own
system in-house as opposed to using a commercial one. That way you have
total control over the content, and you can fine tune it for the
specific audience. If I'm using something like this with my students, I
want to know that it's not going to launch an ad-filled website every
time the child clicks to find the meaning of a word. I also want to know
that the dictionary is going to be developmentally appropriate (and not
give middle-school definitions to a 3rd grade audience, for example).

Of course, if those concerns can be addressed by the dictionary service
you're using, by all means consider paying for it--at least that saves
you the cost of developing it yourself. Just consider all the possible
consequences before jumping in.

--
Gerald

ChicagoDave

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May 8, 2008, 11:18:10 AM5/8/08
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On May 6, 11:33 pm, ChicagoDave <david.cornel...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hey everyone,
>
> I'm looking for some advice on something.

Thanks everyone. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

I'm probably going to look at developing the content internally, but
will also look at free resources that allow for commercial re-use.

I may still partner with a 3rd party when and if there's a request for
that type of content and regard that as a cost of doing business, but
until then it doesn't seem cost-effective.

David C.


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