Devlog#21 Hello 2019!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season, relaxed and well fed, and now fully boosted to welcome wonderful adventures in the brand new 2019! We can’t believe time passes so quickly - this year will be one of the most important for LUNA, because we are aiming complete production and deliver our final release!

Game production and level gameplay optimization

Right now, these pieces of work are all going ahead together. While Betty works on the last few bits of animation and UI design, Susie is beginning the musical composition for our cutscenes. Fox and Guan, meanwhile, are full on with coding and optimization. Aside from all this, we are also continuing to work on our own real-time gameplay tests for LUNA, before moving towards external QA. In a nutshell, we will play the completed 25-level game ourselves from beginning to end countless times, to ensure it is smooth and well balanced.

Gameplay testing is vitally important. Over the past few months of initial proofing, we received a great deal of important pieces of feedback. As a result, we rearranged some of the levels to make sure that the puzzle order is nicely structured. Our original design might have looked good to our eyes, but at the end of day your enjoyment of LUNA is the most important aim for us. Third-party viewpoints are incredibly valuable!

Some screenshot from the cutscenes animations

Some screenshot from the cutscenes animations

Susie’s working progress for one of the animation cutscenes

Susie’s working progress for one of the animation cutscenes

Player friendly hint and guide

We have thought a lot about how to apply a hint system in LUNA. Different games do this in various ways, so there is really no golden rule here. We don’t wanna take away the challenge and fun for puzzle lovers, but at the same time, we have to consider what will happen if players actually do get stuck.

The trend nowadays for many games is to rely on a step by step guide, which some say is helpful for players to understand quickly, but in our opinion, sometimes it dulls the experience of the game itself. LUNA’s fundamental core is point and click gameplay. The player explores their environment with the cursor. Above all, we really need to make sure when player focuses on an interactive area, they receive clear feedback that points towards the result, a direction or a solution. One of the key reasons we all love indie games is the freedom to break away from standard game industry design rules - if rules make our game less fun, why should we follow it.

In response to this, we’ve improved some of the mouse functionality and the appearance of interactive objects, so that the player doesn’t feel like they are just hunting for pixels! We’ve also designed a new loading UI/system to help people find their location inside the game better.

The improved cursor designs (arrow/hand/feet) for a clearer interactive experience in the game.

The improved cursor designs (arrow/hand/feet) for a clearer interactive experience in the game.

New loading screen, also serve the purpose as an in-game map, level selection page.

New loading screen, also serve the purpose as an in-game map, level selection page.

Colorblind friendly optimization

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In testing, we learned a very important lesson when we realized that one of our levels might appear to be particularly difficult for colorblind players or those with similar visual impairments. During the past few weeks, we redesigned some parts of the offending level to allow all players to see it clearly.

We also wrote a devlog about it, explaining what is the method we used to solve the problem. We’re now testing this level again with players who might have found it confusing before. If you’d like to volunteer to help with this, please contact us - it will be very much appreciated!

Next few weeks plan

Professional QA will be invited to help us debug, meanwhile we are working on ways to size down LUNA for final distribution. Last but not least, visual effects will help create an even better atmosphere for the game. How can magic be magic without pretty particle effects! *Lumos Maxima!*

By end of January, we’re aiming to finish all the cinematics and in-game animations. So the third milestone will hopefully soon be reached.

A new demo will be released soon in the first Quarter of the year, available for everyone to play. We will also be sending out a second round beta test after the debug is complete.

So that’s all for this update, LUNA will be waiting for everyone very soon in 2019! See you guys very soon with more news!

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.


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!


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!


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!)

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

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!