After a long time of long-term game development, yesterday I finally took some time again for a tiny, fun project. First, some background:
I’ve almost never been a fan of poetry. Maybe it’s because I was born in the wrong time for it, but all the poetry I’ve seen was terrible. Only in recent years I started noticing some other stuff (mostly the medieval ones) that I could finally relate to – poetry that was just a fun challenge, attempting to say something under various constraints (rhyme, meter, etc.). As I always look for ways to turn things into actual games, I started getting ideas about that in the past year.
The basic idea is pretty much a combination of poetry, Taki, and Once Upon a Time. Someone writes an arbitrary poetic line (or maybe the computer generates one). Then every player, in turn, adds a line that must conform to the appropriate rhyme and meter. Any player who fails to do that in the given time is out, and the last player remaining is the winner. Some things, like especially good rhymes, acrostics, or spoonerisms, give you powerups – either things that help you in future turns (like a “change meter” card, or a “change rhyming pattern” card, similar to “change color” in Taki), or things that impede your opponent (like “from now on, you can’t use the letter R”). Obviously it can’t be too competitive, as the computer can only judge grammar and technique but not content, but it might be fun among friends, similar to Once Upon a Time.
I didn’t think I was going to do anything about it in the near future, as checking meter and grammar for Hebrew or English is pretty difficult (not impossible, but not worth the trouble for now). However, I realized there was another language that might make it extremely easy – the very same language I’ve been learning lately, Chinese. Checking meter is simply a matter of counting symbols, rhyming is entirely dependent on the last character in each line, so no problem.
Then came the single player problem. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone interested in Chinese-poetry-related gaming, so I thought about having the computer give random lines automatically. Chinese’s almost complete lack of prepositions, inflections, and other complications means it might actually make sense. But then I decided there’s a better option – I found some actual Tang dynasty poetry around the web, and had the computer use random lines from actual Chinese poems. So here I am, playing a game with 8th century poet Du Fu:
Might not be as fun as playing with actual living people, but I also get to practice my Chinese a little (in case you can read it – you can probably guess which lines are his and which are mine. And yes, I’m not very good yet…). Not to mention I might end up unintentionally becoming an expert on Tang dynasty poetry.
 Apparently, I can probably blame Nathan Zach for that.
 A famous Israeli card game, which Wikipedia implies is actually a ripoff of an American game called UNO. Oh well.