Devlog#19 October Update

With the leaves slowing turning to yellow, we thought it was about time to give you guys another update on LUNA! Can’t believe these two months have flown by like an arrow. We’re heading closer and closer towards our production deadline. The past few weeks have been intensely busy for us (as usual) so let’s see what we have accomplished so far.

The walking System Optimization

We’ve been focused on optimizing the walking and interaction system recently and have upgraded it to a better, smoother one with some improved new animation sets.

Instead of doing it the most common way, by moving a flat character walking animation between two spots, which usually might appear like sliding/floating on the floor while moving, we have built our walking system with a more realistic, handcraft look.

We added more frames between the idle post and the walking cycle to give it a nice transition. With the variation of 8 different set of walking animations, our character is now able to stop on a very specific spot to interact with an object, each step firmly on the ground without sliding when walking.

This has been one of the most challenging things we've worked on since the beginning of LUNA. It is time-consuming and quite difficult to do. During all this time we couldn’t help thinking, "no wonder most developers choose not to do their walking system in this way!". This is the kind of challenge that makes us really grow and learn from the journey, and it is one of the the few precious moments of pride in indie gaming, knowing we stuck to our unique approach and it worked!  Together with our characters’ cell animation and the 2d draw backgrounds, the world of LUNA now feels both magical and also has the tangible feeling we hoped to achieve.

We wrote a dev log about this issue, if you’re interested in the details you can read it here from our website.

Cinematic Production


Knowing the storytelling will largely rely on the cinematics, we’ve been working on the story for a long time before finalizing our storyboard. Even so, there're still many details, the motion design of each scene that needs to be done along with the animation.

Background - draft animation - line drawing - clean up - coloring. This was and still is the ONLY way for traditional 2D animation nowadays. The magic button I am ever longing for to automatically create the in-between frames still waits to be invented. Until then, keep calm and keep animating.

We have in total about 15-20 min footage of hand-drawn animation in LUNA. Now we've done half of it, basically, 5-10 sec per day is our aim. Our plan is still to finish all the animation before the end of this year. It is a very tight schedule but we intend to keep up the pace! We’re really excited about it and can’t wait to have them all in the game as a whole.

Here is some sneak-peek footage of the animation we’ve done so far.

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Music and sound Fx

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Two thirds of the levels now have music. We have to tell you, the music adds so much more emotion immediately felt when you play the game. It makes a huge difference.

Instead of each room having an individual background track, our music composer Wang Qian took a broader approach. Each character/chapter has its own melody, each with a distinctive emotional tune. By changing the instruments, key, or tempo, we apply subtle variations that blend nicely with each level or cinematic music track. So the overall album of the soundtrack of LUNA will sound more like one big complete work.

It’s not always a straightforward production process on the music side. Music is such an abstract form of art that within the team we had many differences along the way, sometimes even arguments! But the final result you’ll hear in LUNA is the best that came out of us. (some clips of LUNA’s new music below)

Adventure X and Weplay 2018


As some of you might know already, we will be attending this year’s Adventure X  in London on Nov 9-10th, the game show will be held in one of my favourite place in London, the British Library! If you already bought the tickets please do come around and say hi, ask us questions or just chat around! For those who can’t be there in person, please follow our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we will have the live updates during that weekend to make sure to share our moment with you all!

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Players will also be able to try out LUNA at Weplay 2018 in Shanghai on Nov 3-4th. Some of team members in China might be there to great you too!

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Next few weeks plan:


From now till the end of this year we will be aiming to complete 90% of the animation ( if everything goes super smooth we might even finish all of them, fingers cross), then complete ¾ of the music and soundtrack. Meanwhile, we will continue to have industry internal gameplay testing and debugging. We’re also about to start preparing the marking job and publishing / legal business.

We're also thinking to update a new free demo for everyone on the website by the end of the year, we’d announce it in all our social platforms when it’s ready. We’ll soon be back with more news!

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!

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.

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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!

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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

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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 #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