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!)

2018 Jue update03.png

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.

2018 Jue update04.png
Clarinet-animation.gif

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!  

Untitled-1.png

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
pet-ladder-drop.gif

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 #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.  

update dec 2017. 01png.png

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!

2017 Oct update03.png

 

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