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#17 Milestone reached, Steam Community & Newsletter!

LUNA’s development is moving forward at a good speed in the past two months! We’ve accomplished a lot of work in the past month, now let’s break it down in details. 

First of all, we’re really happy to announce in this update that :

We reached our 2nd Milestone! 
ALL the level design and background art for each level have now been completed!

 

This is a great accomplishment in our development, it means no more temporary mock-up blocks or shapes lurking around in the game anymore, and for the first time in the last two years of development, we get to looking at LUNA in the way we imagined it should look like. In HD quality and vivid color! 

                                                       Here are some (sneak peeks) of few of background images

                                                      Here are some (sneak peeks) of few of background images

The other reason why hitting this milestone is so significant for us is, now that all the gameplay related objects have locked on their final position, we can then kick off the task of precisely tweaking all the animations/interactive movement for each level. Here’s one example of an animation - before we decided on the best position for the stool and the table in the house, the mouse move distance couldn’t be finalized. But now we can push with these types of jobs. Below is the final version for this small animation.

                                                                 Mouse jump animation from draft to final version

                                                                Mouse jump animation from draft to final version

Because we can now truly visually experience the game in the same way that all players will experience it, we can also start working on adjusting the storytelling part of the game design. Between animations and cut scenes, there will usually be a transition period. It might seem like just a simple fading in or out or 1-2 short pause, but in order to give the best storytelling result, we need to treat this timing as an “editing job” like in a post-production movie. eg. Inside a dark room, do we want the players to feel excited or a bit uneasy? According to that, should we then increase or decrease the time they remain inside the darkness? Many of these nano-adjustment might seem unimportant in a puzzle game, but subconsciously, what we see and hear for a split sec will influence our emotion at different gaming stages. We could only start to play around these adjustments once we got the final artworks and animation in place.

Last but not least, this is also extremely important to our Musician, Wang Qian and Sound artist, Mr.F - by looking at each level in full detail then they give the best SFX designed for LUNA. Here is another music demo piece from LUNA.

Next (few) months’ plans:

The next milestone we are heading towards is to build a complete beta demo. We will be aiming at two major tasks in the next few following months.

1) level gameplay optimization.

From all the exhibition experiences and a few private playtest results, we already gathered quite a lot of valuable feedback. That includes major bug reports/fixes and user experience improvements, so the characters can walk, climb, perform the way players think they should. Anything that’s confusing or leads players in the wrong direction will have to be taken out. This part usually takes a quite bit of back and forth, testing to get a perfect balance.

2) Cinematic production.

All cinematics need to transform from storyboard mockups to animated scenes with music. There’s really no shortcut for that, I just need to put my head down and start to draw. We’re planning to complete at least 80% of them by when we have our level optimization done. So when we send a demo for the formal playtest by professional QC and QA ppl, they should be able to have a very complete experience of LUNA.

                                                            Storyboard drawings are ready for animation

                                                           Storyboard drawings are ready for animation

Steam Community / Newsletter / more social media platforms are now available!

We can’t leave our marketing side-quest neglected. A huge thanks to everyone who has been spreading the word for us and please continue to do so if you can! Now, you can not only follow us on Twitter and Facebook, we’re also on Instagram and Tumblr!

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We’ve also set up a Lantern Studio Newsletter and Steam Community page, just choose your favorite media, we will make sure to update on all these platforms with our latest news! 
Sign up now and you’ll get some exclusive desktop/phone wallpapers to say thanks!

                                                                       Free wallpaper for desktop & phone when you sign up

                                                                      Free wallpaper for desktop & phone when you sign up

So that’s all for this update this time, we’re getting there slowly but steadily! 
See you guys very soon 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!

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 #9 Unity Event, Sound Design & Game Reconstruction Updates

One year ago, we launched our game  campaign. Since then, both LUNA and Lantern Studio have grown so much and became something more than we thought we could be! We surely could not have reached where we are now without all our lovely supporters. As we will be continuously working hard on LUNA, we’d like to say thank you again for being incredibly patient and understanding. Thank you for all the warm support we've received during the past year!

It has been a while since our last update, so here are the things we’ve been working on during these days.

Unity - Unite 2017 Shanghai

This month our team attended this great event where more than 4000 game developers could gather together, to meet up with the Unity experts and industry leaders to explore some of the new creative potential of the Unity engine.

We also met a lot of other local indie game teams during the event, shared our experiences and the challenges faced during the game development process and, last but not least, had a good peek at what other great new indie games are under development at the moment, and hopefully in the future we could give each other more help and support.

We have been introduced to a lot of exciting new technologies for the Unity engine by the Unity dev team, don’t wanna bore everyone with too much tech terms, but for example we’re thinking about using the new Unity Analytics tools for our upcoming Alpha demo, which could help us get the best of all the feedback and data received from the players in order to bring out the best gameplay experience.

Sound Design

It’s time for sound FX to be professionally designed and modified into our game. Together with our game reconstruction, we are now switching to a more effective way for our sound designer to work more closely with the level development. By using the FMOD sound engine, now the interactive parts of the level and its sound design / editing can synchronise much better than before.

Game Reconstruction Updates

Half of the existing levels’ reconstruction work have been completed. According to the plan, there will be 7 levels which is about 25-30% of the whole game content included in our Alpha release. We should be able to give a bit more information about it in our next update, so stay tuned guys!