Devlog#14 A weekend in EGLX – an experience of Canada's passion for games

By WangQian

eglx marketing use.jpg

The three days of EGLX have officially ended. I was exhausted. However, I was also completely overwhelmed by the undeniable passion, love, and support from Canadian game lovers. To my great surprise, almost everyone who stopped to check out LUNA had given us a clear thumbs up. Despite a few bug issues, receiving a mostly positive compliment like this was really unexpected, regarding how under-decorated our stand was - no divider boards, not enough flyers to hand over, and no wall to hang the only one poster we had (which was given away at the end to a game poster collector).

But thank God the people who came to the show really didn’t bother too much about those decorations. There was a lot of people who stopped and tried our latest demo throughout the three-day event. From couples to families, from the elderly to the youngsters. The youngest player who had completed the demo properly was only 5 or 6 years old. It was really nice to see the diversity of our potential players cover such big age gaps.

Also, it was totally worth the hard work when you see the story, the gameplay, the plot and the music really moving and affecting your player the way you designed for. Seeing their first-hand expression while playing was truly rewarding as a game developer.

We had a wall painting level (included in the free demo, which you can try from our website now) that brought out the most from people. It is designed to be an enchanting moment, we know it, but still when you see those vivid, excited eyes, raised eyebrows, opened mouths, you finally know that the design has worked. Yes. The artwork and music, together with the characters' animation performance, have come together as a whole, delivering a story that doesn't have any dialogues.

Of course, many pieces of advice and suggestions have been given to us gorgeously by the players, and that's the other great outcome from attending a game expo, the valuable feedback which will only make LUNA better.

We have also had the chance to expose ourselves to the games industry media people. Even though the show was finished and the computers were about to be switched off, sadly I didn't get a chance to let them play the demo at that time, but by their reaction from watching LUNA's trailer, I could still tell that this short piece of LUNA had delivered something out. One of the girls was holding back tears, I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the dramatic ending, the music or it had reminded her of something else...

There was a little Asian girl who had been waiting for about a whole hour just to try the demo. While waiting she had already seen the tricks and clues worked out by others many times, however, when finally was her turn, she still played the whole demo from the beginning towards the end, and didn't skip a single level. In the end, she came and hugged me with joy when she finished. This might be my most memorable moment of the whole event.

We were proud to let people know that our little team came from China. All over the world, game lovers, indies or not, are doing what they love, everywhere. Next month Betty will be attending UK's INSOMNIA 62 game show in Birmingham, so we hopefully see more of you there!

Games connect people. We make games. How wonderful is that?

Devlog#13 2018's first update & some personal notes

Hi there,

This is Beidi, the visual artist of Lantern Studio, I do all the art in the game and I'm also in charge of checking emails, posting some updates etc. This time for LUNA’s updates, I decided to use first person writing, it just seems more personal and relaxed. ฅ( 'ㅅ' ฅ)


Most of the time I work at home in London and talk to my teammates via Skype every day about LUNA. In the morning with two of the guys (Fox and Guan) in China, then in the evening with our musician Qian in Canada. After I go to bed, people in China will be up and they will continue discussing stuff in the chat group until I get up again, to read the (usually 100+) messages left from their discussion. Lantern Studio is a team where there's always someone sleeping while others are awake. It’s sometimes difficult to get our best as a team. And I often envy the teams that can work side by side. 

There was a time last year that I felt a bit depressed, maybe due to the solitary working environment, maybe the heavy workload and pressure. Especially when you see other great indie games get finished and launched, or when people ask "When will LUNA be finished? You seem to have been working on it forever?" But luckily by talking about these worries and stress to my teammates, no matter how hard the day has been I will still have the courage to wake up the next day, sitting in front of the computer by myself, and start to draw and write. 

Then at some point by the end of last year, LUNA seems to have passed an important milestone, the whole progress was finally closer to the end than from the start. For the first time, I actually do believe we can not only finish it but finish it well (thank god the rest of the team usually is more optimistic than me). So this is where we are, we still got a lot to do but I am feeling optimistic too and I'd like to share some of these thoughts with you and thank you.

24 hours finish.png

Current Progress Overview:

Okay, back on business, it has been a while but we had a lot done, so let’s see what we have accomplished in these past two months.  

Almost every single level now has its basic functions working and mock-up graphics implemented. We've got just one left to be done due to it being half finished from the pre-reconstruction. And it is not an easy level to code because we put a trampoline in the game and we want the character to bounce on it. Sounds fun, right? But apparently, technically it’s quite difficult and it will be a tough cookie to bite.  

The most important achievement last month was finishing the foundation of the biggest level, it will happen inside the clock tower which has three mini levels within itself. Now as we got the whole set of levels put up, we’re looking at at least 3-4 hours gameplay time. It will have a good story/emotion build up and enough puzzles to fulfill puzzle-loving fans' appetites.

                                                    Images from some of the newly developed mockup levels

                                                   Images from some of the newly developed mockup levels

We’re now back to working on some more cutscenes. As we don’t have any dialogue, the music and cinematics have to work hand in hand in order to deliver the right emotion. The storytelling is entirely relying on these parts. While I am working on the animatics, Qian will be writing the music along the side.  

One good thing about a very small team is that you get to speak to people very closely and learn from them. Discussion of the direction of music can be very abstract: what exactly is “a little bit sad but still has hope within oneself, and needs to sound ancient but not modern” piece of music supposed to sound like? It really challenges my expression vocabulary when I communicate with Qian. But amazingly she usually gets it right even from the first demo test.

                                                Storyboard of one of the cinematic I've been working on right now

                                               Storyboard of one of the cinematic I've been working on right now

Getting out there  

As LUNA is heading to the 2nd half of the development stage, we are planning to attend a couple of game exhibitions this year. INSOMNIA 62  in Birmingham/UK on March 31st - April 2nd and EGLX in Toronto/Canada on March 9th have both been put on the calendar, we will have another update with detailed time and location very shortly! We are also trying to submit LUNA to the Indie Prize London this year, hopefully, we will get ourselves more noticed! 

Recently I read about an indie game’s update on Kickstarter which I followed from years back. The developer single-handedly created a marvelous game called: In the Shadows. I personally loved it. As one of their backers, I waited and finally got to see its launch last year. It’s beautiful, and it's got a charming atmosphere with some really cool gameplay puzzles! I thought it was gonna do really good, but to my big surprise, this game has got very little notice from the game world since its launch. So due to this unexpected reaction, the developer does not have enough income to complete its PS4 and Xbox version and has to go back to work to earn some extra cash.

I really felt for him and it also reminds me the tough, cold side of the indie games industry. It sometimes seems like you can be reached by the whole world via the vast internet effortlessly, but in reality, you will be noticed by no one if you don’t shout out loud enough. We do have strong faith in LUNA, however, we're also aware of our lack of budget on the marketing side, we’ve put everything into making this game, and I really hope when the time comes, there will be people out there waiting to play.

We got incredibly lucky to have a successful KS because of our backers, so we hope this luck can be with all of us throughout LUNA’s journey and share with other indie developers. I am thinking about being more active on our social network, sharing more images and fun stories behind the scenes with everyone. And dear backers, please do also help us retweet or share news about LUNA to anyone you think might interested. We really really cannot be appreciated this enough!

Follow us on: Facebook / Twitter

Last but not least, next month's plan:  

From next month we will start improving each individual level’s gameplay, testing and adjusting the details, replacing the mockup graphics and adding polished animation.


Devlog #12 2017 Overview

Can’t believe the year has almost passed, we know that we were behind our original scheduled release date, but we had a lot of great progress and improvements done for LUNA in the year as well! After the crucial and difficult restructuring job was finished, we were then able to work on the new levels properly from this summer. We had also released an Alpha demo for selected KS backers as promised and researched for our future publisher in order to start preparing a bit early on the business side.

By now, we can finally confirm that LUNA will have in total:  

- 21+ puzzle game levels  
- 34-36 locations (game backgrounds) 
- 6+ cinematic animations
- 30+ original soundtracks

The overall weight, complexity, and the number of levels of the game have been almost doubled compared to LUNA’s original design. These expanding decisions do cost a lot more workload, delays, and challenge. We do hope in each Kickstarter updates we’ve shared our dev news with everyone clearly and honestly, no matter good or bad. Because we really believe they are worth the time to improve. More so, we deeply appreciate everyone’s patience and advice. We know it won’t be easy to make the game the way we want with very limited resources and money, and yet your support has helped push us to keep moving forward.

From the image below we can see that only 2 mock level to be designed, then the level design will head into the next "polish and debug" stage. Meanwhile, the remaining cinematics will be the next development focus point.

                                                    LUNA's visual thumbnail of development progress

                                                   LUNA's visual thumbnail of development progress

Current Progress Overview:

During these couple of weeks, we had a great chance to work as a whole team in Shanghai again! But sadly the good times always fly by, due to the work-related issues, our music composer Wang Qian will be moving to Canada with her husband from this month (of course, the team will still be working together on LUNA as usual), but in the future, we will need to consider another time zone to arrange the internet meetings. But on the bright side, we will be able to attend more game expos and meet more indie fellows in America and Canada in the future!  

Okay, back to the dev progress, since these few weeks we were able to work closely, it has really increased the development speed. We have only two more mockup levels left to code (hopefully to be done by end of the month) and 3 existing mockup levels’ gameplay to be polished. Also, we started adding freshly designed sound effects, finally we can say goodbye to free sound libraries.  

Next month’s plan:

Followed our previous plan, we will be focusing on polishing all the mockup levels’ art material and interactive animation in early 2018 while debugging all the levels. Meanwhile, we will carry on working on the remaining cinematics, sound design, and music for these animation shots.  

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Thank you, everyone who has been supporting us all along, see you in 2018!

Devlog #11 Classic or Cliché?

Current Progress Overview

During the past 2 months we’ve got 4 more mock up levels developed, including one of the outdoor levels as our adventure mostly takes part inside the tower, which can be bit restricting. We have also been working on another cinematic cut-scene which has (spoiler alert) a new mystery character in it who might play an important role in the story.

                                                               screenshots from some of the mock up levels

                                                              screenshots from some of the mock up levels

                                                                                          the stories from the past...

                                                                                         the stories from the past...

We are now aiming to finish all mock up game levels by the end of this year, then focus on polishing the art and remaining features programming from early next year. 

Also during the last weekend we participated in the 2017 Weplay game exhibition in Shanghai, China. Quite a few people experienced our latest version of game and we received some great feedback (and bug reports of course). Thank you all for coming!

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Classic or Cliché?

Now, here are some dev thought + design challenges we’d like to share with you. When we're frustrated and feel some design is heading towards a dead end, our friends and family always comfort us by saying: one door closes but a window will open, don't give up! But during Halloween we might say: if this happens, your house is probably haunted! 

During our game play development, there has been an issue we always seem to be struggling with:  When does a puzzle routine become Classic or Cliché? 

In the early developing days, we were deliberately trying to avoid the puzzle routines which can be found in most puzzle games in order to achieve a higher overall level of uniqueness. It worked for a couple of levels and did give people a wow factor, but then during the further game tests we realized this could develop into a new issue: once players figure out the logic behind, it becomes very fun and challenging to play, but if the logic is too exclusive, has no continuity with the previous level, or is simply by its own and totally isolated from the story, in another word, just trying to be clever, then most of the players will find it less enjoyable and don't feel the sense of achievement we hoped for. 

So we relooked some of the ideas we once put aside just because we thought they were not original enough, re-valued the design and took out the core goodness of it, analyzed why people enjoy these type of puzzles over and over, and why some continue to give us a fresh feeling but some failed. It also reminded us to re-play some of our favorite games and pick up which one element that touches us the most from it.

We realized that it's really down to how one puzzle design plays along with your game's atmosphere and storyline. The logic tricks could be so clever but if that has nothing to do with the development of the story, it could be dull or leave people confused. 

Here is one example: 
As some of you might remember one of the very interesting puzzles from Samorost 3, the one that you need to arrange the cards in the little box to complete a story.

                                                                 The Mushroom picker's puzzle from Samorost3

                                                                The Mushroom picker's puzzle from Samorost3

It was no doubt many people’s favorite puzzle in the game, it was very neatly designed, easy to understand, yet quite challenging (it's not a short progress) but you never felt a dull moment because even by making the wrong choice, you still get to see some super fun animation showing random results. However, we find it’s a shame that such a brilliantly designed puzzle had almost nothing to do with the storyline whatsoever! It was so isolated from the whole thing that it left us a bit disappointed. Otherwise it may be an unlimited puzzle design people could look up to all the time!

So after all these adjustments, we picked back some ideas we previously threw away and looked for a good place for them again in LUNA. These include: a music puzzle, a cooking challenge and two maze designs. We wish they will appear to be some familiar elements to puzzle game lovers but will still have LUNA’s own twist, as we tried to blend them more into the environment and story. Have we achieved what we expected? That will need more tests to tell.

                                                                      design sketch of the cooking puzzle in LUNA

                                                                     design sketch of the cooking puzzle in LUNA

Devlog #10 Artwork optimization, Admin work & New designs sneak peek

It has been a while since our last update, dated by the end of May, which sounds almost like 3 months ago. So it's really about time to share some news of the game with everyone again!

Game reconstruction updates

We have made great progress on the code rebuild, 85% of the existing code has been rebuilt, which includes another 3 extra new levels that we haven’t fully tested yet. Also we’re still busy working on preparing the Alpha Demo ( for exclusive backers ). It is going to delay a bit ( at first we thought we could have it released by this month), and this is due to the extra time we need to apply for debugging and testing before we send it out to the players. As a very small team, we can honestly say that we are lacking of almost everything, including game testers but we are tying our best to get help from everywhere we can. It's a bit slow, we know, but never does a day goes by without us working on LUNA.  

Artwork optimization

Game development takes time, and as time goes by, some of the old graphics in the game might have looked good enough by then, but as we learn and grow, as the game gets proper, you can’t help to think “it’s not good enough now and it needs replacement to match the new quality”. But if we continue replacing everything all the time like the ship of Theseus, the game will take forever to finish, so we are still trying to keep a balance. And here is one updated graphic comparison from before and now.

                                                                           A shadow crow animation. Before & After.

                                                                          A shadow crow animation. Before & After.

Admin work, marketing meetings & other “I have no idea” stuff

To be honest these are sometimes the hardest parts in indie life because they have almost nothing to do with game development, and we’re all newbs when it comes to “terms and conditions”, “marketing strategy”, “legal knowledge”... stuff like that. But sadly this is also an important part that goes along with game development. 

During the past few months, we’ve been busy arranging meetings with some potential publishers and media, in order to help us find out what’s the best way for LUNA to be introduced to market in the future. Recently we’ve been given a chance to broadcast our game on a live stream in the popular Chinese gaming website VG Time, as well as taking part in the ChinaJoy games festival. In the future we will also be preparing in advance for attending game festivals like GDC, PAX, TGS and game competitions such as SXSW etc. 

Additionally, by sharing problems and struggles with people in the game market, it has also helped us gain a broader view of the indie game market. This has and will continue to affect certain decisions during the game production, such as adjusting the length and difficulty of the game. 

All these preparations will eventually take up some game dev time, but it is needed and even crucial in the long term.  

New level designs sneak peek

Back to the more important things, we are also working on some new level designs. These are the precious happy times which really make us feel rewarded as indie game developers. So less talk, more pictures. Here are some graphics from some of the new levels that we really like, and hopefully they will be enjoyed by players later. 

                     More information about space, dimension and background story to be revealed soon

                    More information about space, dimension and background story to be revealed soon