02 January 2009

Review Chinese

In school, overall my 8-year-old Son is not doing as good as he used to. I suppose as one grows older one gets distracted by other things in life. In his case it's probably video games and TV.

It is not that he is failing at school or anything. Except in Chinese school, that is. He got a 45 on a test then jumped to 55 - alas that is still a failing grade.

To help Son know his Chinese better, I enlisted the help of Mahjong Towers Eternity (MTE). There are many mahjong solitaire games out there but the special thing with MTE is that not only you can design your own layout you can also make your own tile set. I used Art Text to create the fancy-looking Chinese characters, 36 of them, based on what Son is learning in Chinese school. The thing I like about the particular layout shown, called Monky (sic) Balls by Donnell in Nanas House (wherever that is), is that it is one-dimensional, i.e. no tile lays atop another. I hope Son will enjoy playing it on the computer but if needed I can even print it out for him to play during the subway ride to Chinese school on Saturdays.

There are actually two stories behind MTE. The first is that it is the first software that I actually bought twice. I hope it is the first and only. Few weeks ago I came up with the idea of using MTE to help Son with his Chinese school. He somewhat enjoyed playing the demo of MTE with tiles made from faces of cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. When I bought the software and copied it to the Games folder, I discovered that I already had MTE. When ran from that copy, the game was fine even though the demo period had expired. I happened to visit my purchase history in BigFishGames.com, where I bought the game, and sure enough I bought it around the same time in 2007! Maybe there was a 50% sale then, too. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it is also so annoying to be forgetful.

I noticed that the activation code for the game, both for the 2007 and the 2008 purchases, are the same, so I wrote to BigFishGames tech support asking if I should have gotten a different code. I resigned to the fact that it was my fault for not remembering that I already bought the game. I was ready to give the second copy away. I don't want to help pirate software and try to be honest as much as possible. It turned out the kind folks at BFG decided to give me a coupon for a free game anyway. Nice!

The other story is the bug with custom tile set. I bought MTE mostly for its ability to import images for use as custom tile set. I was much frustrated as the game would gleefully create the tile set but upon exit and returning it would not find the newly made set. BFG tech support was of little help, only advising that I should re-install the game and even try disk repair ect. Luckily at about the same time that I contacted tech support I also posted the question on the MTE forum. Someone actually gave me just the answer needed, namely the filename for the custom tile set has to be renamed to .cct from whatever it was. Wow, must be some kind of bad port of the game from Windoze to Mac. I informed BFG tech support of the fix and the good chap gave me coupon code for yet another free game. Talk about good service! BFG sure has a loyal customer in me now.

By the way, if ViquaGames has those nice user-made Hide-N-Seek games, is there a similar service elsewhere to create mahjong solitaire games, playable on the web, with custom-made tiles?

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