Devlog#16 Steam Page, Indie Prize Nominees and recent development progress

Summer is near, I always love the summer. The memory of summer always seems associated with holidays, reading comics, playing video games, swimming pool trips and watermelons. The good old days without smartphones to tell you that you might just miss a million of fun things. Although we can’t really go for holidays in the middle of development, however with that uplifting summer spirit, we’ve got a lot accomplished during the past weeks.

Steam Page Announcement

LUNA's Steam Page is out! It's officially here! Now you can add LUNA to your wishlist and be notified with LUNA’s release news and other stuff! We’ll really appreciate that you help us spread the news, tell your friends, family, or anyone who might enjoy our game!

Speaking of which, we’re introducing our Lantern Studio's "No-budget-for-marketing-DIY-indie-style” promotion event. Every week, anyone who re-post news related to LUNA from any two of our social media account ( Twitter | Facebook ) will have the chance to win a free A3 poster or one postcard with hand-drawn doodles!! 

This event will start from June 16th till August 31st! Winners (two each week from each platform) will be announced on Friday! For example, retweet this dev update from Twitter or share it on Facebook will give you the chances to win these goodies! 
Our social media account:  Twitter  |  Facebook 
 

Indie Prize finalist and nominees

LUNA was nominated for Best Game Audio in this year's Indie Prize awards! It was a really great experience for LUNA to receive a music-related nomination, as we’re very proud of LUNA’s original music design. 

Here you can listen to one of our new demo music pieces written by our musician!  
You could also click our devlog to find out more about LUNA's music story.

                                                                                      Casual connect & Indie Prize Event 2018

                                                                                     Casual connect & Indie Prize Event 2018

Meanwhile, it puzzles us that LUNA has also been nominated for Indie Prize's Best Kids Game category (?) although LUNA is not really a game that is designed specifically for kids, so this is really a surprise for us…but we guess any compliment is a form of support, we're really glad to know that young players would also enjoy our game! 

During the event, we've also met a lot of other great indie teams, made some future business contacts, and hopefully, little by little, we are getting the hang of some necessary business skills. 

                                                                      Going to Game-Con require strong body and mental strength

                                                                     Going to Game-Con require strong body and mental strength

 

Level development updates

The library level is now completed with over 1000+ hand-drawn books (the pain...) to create the magical atmosphere and to tell the ancient stories of the LUNA world. One fun fact worth mention here is that the chapters on the book pages all contain real reading content. Although it was written in a made-up language that we created for LUNA, however, it can be totally decoded. By the end of development, we will release the decoded document on our website, so the hardcore puzzle players could use it as the reference to having some more fun on top of playing the game.  

                                                                                         screen shot of The library level

                                                                                        screen shot of The library level

          The two rising stars of the Lunallywood

         The two rising stars of the Lunallywood

Next, is the tower chamber level, which really challenged us on the shader techniques in Unity. Many shadow-related gameplay ideas have been put to test in this level. We can't talk too much about the gameplay but here are something else about this level that we’re really fond of, we give you the Mouse dynamic duo. ( See img. left)

We also worked on some in-between locations. The story did not only happen inside the tower. These outside platforms and balconies not only serve the purpose of extending LUNA’s world map but also are where our cinematic animation takes place.
Quite a few major cinematic animation storyboards have been developed in the past few months.

The music has also been created along their side. I have to admit, these will be the most challenging pieces in LUNA’s development for me, the reason is that there’s only one visual artist, AKA me, in the team. (sobbing) It would be a lie to say that I never had doubts about if I could really get them done, but thanks to my 3 years hard-core traditional animation training back in the Uni, I know that as long as you continue to work on it, with steady progress, things can always be done. Rome was not built in one day, it took years. So does hand-drawn animation. (Hopefully, they won’t take years!)

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Last but not least, the music hall level. Music puzzles have always been one of the classic elements in puzzle games. However, it could appear daunting to some players who think they might not have trained ears. So bear that thought in mind, we adjusted our music puzzle several times in order to make sure they can be enjoyed by as many players as possible. Musicians or not.

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Also, not to mention working closely with our musician. Based on the real instruments that she used in this level's music, we designed each kind of instrument with a fantasy new look that goes along with LUNA's world genera. They are all ready to play out one big enchanted piece of music when you pass this level.


Next month's plan:  

Steady progress is what we really need now. Once you've worked on something for a long time, no matter how passionate you were in the beginning, the reality always finds a way to beat it out of you. Now it's like heading towards the most difficult part of the marathon, you're past the middle point but you start to feel the pain all over the body, the finish line is nowhere to be seen yet, self-doubt starts creeping up and looking around there's nobody else, just yourself, doing it alone.  

We know this is the period of time that you really need strong mental strength, so we just have to focus on the plan and move forward. By this point, we can’t say enough how much we appreciate our backers who have been so patient with us throughout these times. In real life, we see so many great teams that could not continue working on their projects due to many different reasons, but we’ve made it this far and that’s really lucky. So thank you again!

How the theme song of LUNA was born

By  WangQian

When I started to compose for LUNA, things didn't go well in the beginning. We had to contact each other online, since Betty lived in London and I was in Shanghai. And that caused some communication issues, such as my failed attempt at making a song based on what I felt about the game demo before I even knew anything about the background story of LUNA. However the subject I wanna talk about here is how the music originally sounded like and how it became the music you hear in the game now.

The first try I made was actually not the theme song, which may be strange because usually people tend to compose a theme song based on the story at the beginning. However I made a song just based on what I felt after playing the first level of the demo. (see image on the left) And actually that doesn’t sound like LUNA at all if we listen to it now. Well, this is also part of music composition and I should accept it. As a result, that pushed me to talk to Betty about the background story of LUNA.
 

As you can see it is totally different from what LUNA sounds like now, because it doesn’t match the world of LUNA. So I learned more information about LUNA after I talked to Betty. In this game, the deeper the player explores, the more mysteries begin to unfold themselves, and the world of LUNA seems to start to reveal more of the dark side along with the magical atmosphere. And only when the player gets deep into the story, the true relationship between the characters can be truly realized. Without revealing too much about the story, I have to say, it was really the emotion and relationship between the characters, the trust and the conflict, that touched me. Along with this information, I made the first piano version of a theme song that matched the game more than the former one. Here it is.

Well, this sounds like Debussy, is it? Yes, I thought the story happened not so long ago, more like something that is magical and dreamlike. However Betty told me that this story should happen much earlier than this, even before everything. As for that, she gave me a suggestion that the music theme could just start from 29’’, which matched the game feeling very well and I definitely agreed with that. Later on Betty sent me a very early stage of a trailer video for me to compose with. I started  working on this video immediately without even finishing the theme song at that time. And that caused another problem as follows.

Thank God this is not the final version of the trailer. This is another exact example of composition for the whole video without finishing a theme song. Very wrong move. Since I just allowed the video to lead me without knowing what kind of song I wanted to compose. That, of course, was not approved. After many meetings and lots of discussions with Betty, we agreed that there should be a theme song representing LUNA. It should tell a story about this magical world. It should happen in a very early time, almost ancient, where magic would exist. It should pass the emotion of the close bond between the characters to the audience. So I slowed down, took a very careful thought about what I really wanted to express to the players about LUNA. And then a demo of piano version came out.

After that, things were getting better and better. Everything just took place naturally step by step. We decided to use this theme song in the trailer video. And finally here comes the real birth of the theme song.

It was born with rather cautious considerations than a glimpse of light. I never believed that compositions could burst out of inspiration. It never worked that way at least for me. It must always come out of hard thinking and long processes of polishing. The deeper you think, the more work you put on, and the better the composition will be. And please never make anything before having many very clear discussions with the creator! Or you would make something that you would rather bury at the bottom of the darkness until the end of the world.

Devlog#15 New artworks, Character animations & Finalists of the Indie Prize Event

Here comes another update from us!

It has been super busy for us recently, during the past month we’ve attended two BIG gaming events: EGLX in Canada and INSOMNIA 62 in the UK. During the show we received a lot of positive feedback, there were a lot of people who stopped and tried our latest demo. From couples to families, from elderly to youngsters. The youngest player who was able to complete 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. To be able to talk to the media and the players face to face was really an exciting experience as well. We’ve also met a lot of other indie teams along with their games, it was really nice to see this indie game circle getting bigger and connecting with each other!  

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Current Progress Overview:

New background and artwork
As towards the 2nd half of the game, all the levels are getting bigger, so far there have been 5 new levels that got their new makeover done. We’re really concentrating on these parts of the work at the moment, our aim is to have all new polished artwork/background replaced by end of May or early June.

New character animation
We also worked on optimizing some of the character animations. A few of them need to have different art sets in order to look good for some special levels. In this particular level, (see image below) the character no longer walks on the solid floor, so we designed a floating + walking kind of movement for it (a bit like a dog swimming), so it now looks more like it is travelling in space.

screenshot10.jpg

LUNA is not an action game but whaaattt? I can’t believe we already have these many sets?? We hope you guys get to experience them all during the game!

2018 APril02.jpg
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New Platform?
From both EGLX and INSOMNIA, there had been a very frequent question from the players who tried the new demo, asking about if we are gonna have LUNA on Switch. When we started LUNA the Switch was not even out yet, but now by studying many other indie games, and how they adapted to different platforms, we feel it is definitely worth looking into! Our first launch platform will still be Steam but we will try our best to cover as many as possible. 

The Indie Prize Showcase Event
Last but not least, earlier this year, we submitted LUNA to The Indie Prize Showcase Event in London. And very happy to announce that LUNA has been selected as one of the finalists! 

The 11 best games will be announced at the 22nd Indie Prize Awards. Nine nominations will be determined by Indie Prize judges and the Best Game in Show will be selected by audience voting during the first two days of the conference. If you will be free during May 29-31st, Come to the Casual Connect London 2018 at QEII Centre, you can try out our least demo and many other indie games!

And that’s all from us this time! See you guys very soon with more news! 

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)

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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.  

Levels: 
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

Cinematics:  
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.