Pongratz, Alexander; Kempf, Anja Kerstin; Öztürk, Ilcin
Supervisor:Prof. Gudrun Klinker
Advisor:Plecher, David (@ne23mux)
Submission Date:30.09.2021


Augmented reality and serious games are still being evaluated as a useful combination for interactive and digital game-based environments. DragonTale supports this idea and attempts to teach topics playfully without causing frustration or loss of motivation. The 3D serious game for learning the Japanese language has been in development since 2015. In the game, players must complete story-centric tasks, learn different kanji and kana, and face challenges to prove their knowledge. In preparation for future user studies, existing levels were reviewed and revised. A quest and dialogue system developed in previous research on this project were integrated. Typical game elements, such as collectibles and side quests, were added to strengthen the gameplay aspect. The implemented battle system offers engaging content that helps to memorize kanji through repetition. In addition, old assets were replaced with new ones to achieve a convincing atmosphere. It is now possible to save and load game states, which should improve replayability and the motivation to engage in the game longer.

Additional Material

Demo Video:


First created in 2015, the serious game supporting AR developed at TUM named DragonTale has been worked on continuously during various student projects.

During the last few years, DragonTale went through a major redesign. A lot of the core systems, like the menu, dialogues, quests, inventory and battle system, were completely reworked.

Project Description

About the game:

DragonTale is a single-player role-playing adventure and a serious game in a Japanese fantasy setting with an open-world feel. The game aims to teach the Japanese language to the players and no prior knowledge in Japanese is required. The game can be played on mobile devices that have a display with touch input. The AR version also requires a camera. The setting is inspired by the image of an old Japanese fishing village and the surrounding nature. It forms a land where dragons once existed, but have disappeared. The player's goal is to find the dragons, who were thought to be extinct long ago, after a dragon hatches from an egg washed up on the shore.

About the project:

The goal of this project is to create a foundation that can be used to delve into different research topics, such as augmented reality as a learning tool or serious games in language education.


The game has been developed in Unity. During the redesign, the Unity version has been updated to Unity 2020.3.18f1 and the game is now making use of the universal rendering pipeline (URP).

In adjustments made in order to improve the game's core mechanics were largely based on Game Design theory. The focus was on the playing space, the ability to find and interact with objects, actions that can be performed, rules the player needs to abide by, goals that can be reached, the element of chance/randomness and the user interface (UI). The primary goal was to create an immersive game world that minimizes interruptions for the player. An overview of all the improvements can be found below.

Story - Rewritten

The story was rewritten completely. It now consists of a new main story line that supports an overarching plot and impacts the life of the characters in the game. Side quests add extra opportunities to explore additional story lines. All characters were given more depth they now have their own backgrounds, behavior, and quirks. Our protagonist's - Yuni's - relationship to her parents was given more importance, which offers possibilities to add to the plot in the future. The player is now also able to talk to the NPCs outside of the quests, which makes the world feel more alive. A dialogue system was integrated into the game to facilitate the creation of all the new and adapted dialogue.

A hundred years ago, the humans lived in harmony with the dragons. In a small village by the sea, two boys were born, Aiko and Aku, and they were inseparable. They were also fascinated by the mysterious creatures known as dragons and spent most of their time with them. This allowed them to quickly pick up the dragon's language and soon they could communicate with them. It was only later that they learned that this language grants immense power. It was Ryujin, the alpha dragon and queen of the sea, who taught them to control and use these powers. She always urged them to help each other and anyone in need. However, one brother had different plans. Blinded by greed, the older of the twins, Aku, abused his power to bring fortune to himself. Aiko tried to stop Aku, reminding him to stay faithful to the promise they made to Ryujin.

But Aku continued to abuse his powers and soon humans started to resent him. Sadly, their hatred was also directed towards the dragons. To save their reputation, the dragons tried to take Aku's magic. In the ensuing battle, the dragons had the upper hand and Aku panicked. In fear of losing his powers, he resorted to magic so powerful and frightening its use was strictly forbidden among the dragons: “Seishin” (精神). He turned the dragons into small spirited animals, sealing away their powers forever, so they would never take his own. The only one who could resist the spell's power, to an extent, was Ryujin. Aiko, who could not raise a hand against his brother, cursed himself for his weakness and fled with the spirits to a nearby forest. With her remaining power and life force, Ryujin laid seven eggs into the depths of the sea, unsure whether they would ever hatch.

Aiko promised he would wait for the eggs to emerge and protect the dragon's home for the rest of his life. When the dragons were gone, Aiko finally found the strength to fight his brother. Aku, who did not come unscathed from the last battle, could only flee and would never return to the village. Years later, Aiko became the village eldest and secluded the village from the outside world, protecting it like he promised. He never gave up the hope that the eggs would appear, but they never did. The people forgot about the dragons and their language. Aiko never shared his knowledge. Hundreds of years later, the current village eldest, a descendant of Aiko, does not believe in the stories about dragons passed down in his family. Until he sees Yuni with a small dragon. He tells her all about the past events, and Yuni, being a young and adventurous girl, decides she wants to look for other dragons and help the little one, whom she names Ryuu.


Level - Redesigned

The previous game world was very limited in regards to both design and visuals. There were no means of interaction outside the main quest line and nothing for the player to discover. Each object had a specific meaning and was directly linked to the main story line.

The revision offered the opportunity to visually spice up the world and breathe some life into it. Small areas that the player can explore help the world to come alive. As with the original design, the landscape is inspired by an old Japanese fishing village. However, the level now includes a lot more details and natural borders like mountains, bodies of water and trees.

Meanwhile, the added quest system made it easy to integrate the new main and side quests  into the reworked game levels.


New Assets - Created and Added

During the redesign of the levels, many new assets have been created and added to the game. Since the game is developed with mobile devices in mind, it is important for the performance of the game to not overload the levels and optimize whenever possible. For instance, the use of quadmesh-to-billboard shaders for foliage saves processing power compared to 3D meshes. Dynamic GPU-instantiated grass, newly created 3D props, and the addition of characters and animals create a vibrant world. Especially minor details like barrels, carts and boats give the game a more holistic and finished feel. Switching the lighting to a mix of dynamic light sources and baked lighting makes night scenes seem much more believable.

Game Menu - Adapted

The new game menu resembles a book, which fits well with the role-playing aspect of the game. It can be opened as an in-game overlay whenever needed without interrupting the gameplay. The player can easily switch between different pages in the book by clicking on one of the bookmarks. Each page serves a different purpose, which is explained below.

Main Menu - Settings
Here the player can adjust settings, change the language and save or load the game.

The map provides an overview that helps visualize the game world. It also allows players to track their current progress and presents hints.

The inventory offers the possibility to view the collected items and everything there is to know about them.

The kanji inventory provides an overview of all the kanji that the player has collected so far. Clicking on one of the kanji in the overview page, leads to a new page with all the important information for the selected kanji. This includes the English translation, Japanese pronounciation and compound words. By clicking on a kanji in the compound words section, the player can cross reference that kanji. This should help build associations between different kanji.

Battle System - Ready? Fight!

In the new battle system, the player has to fight dragon spirits to revert the curse that traps them in the body of an animal. The fights against the spirits take place as turn-based battles, where both parties can choose to either attack, defend or make use of items and special skills. In order to launch powerful attacks and defenses, the player needs to correctly answer Japanese tasks. This allows the player to memorize the kanji through repetition. Winning the fights awards them with experience points and useful items.


DragonTale offers an interesting story, a game world that is much more alive and useful tools for the addition of further quests, kanji and dialogues. The game can now serve as solid framework and foundation for future research.