Friday, 22 February 2013

Luminesca now available for Linux

I'm very pleased to announce that Luminesca is now available for Linux operating systems! You can pre-order it directly from the website to get instant access to the pre-alpha builds. It's also available on Desura and Indievania.

Important note: Unity3D's Linux support is still in very early stages, so several features simply do not work yet. These are trivial issues for the most part, but please be aware of them before purchasing! I apologise for the shoddy nature of this first release but please remember that it is a work in progress and any issues will be fixed in subsequent builds. Read on for a full list.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Update 0.1.4 Released

Luminesca has just been updated to version 0.1.4, which you can download from the same place you purchased it (Desura, Indievania, or direct download).

It's a little later than I had hoped, but it's a much bigger update than 0.1.3 with some significant changes. Read on for an overview of the main features, or view the full release notes here.

  • Characters & Story
    The 'story stuff' I mentioned in my earlier blog post is now in. As you explore the world of Luminesca you'll find people going about their business. You can see what they have to say simply by approaching them.
  • Acrobatics
    You can now jump above the water surface. This was a feature from the old prototype which was quite popular with early testers. I left it out of the recent builds because it's not integral to the gameplay of Chapter 1 and took a little bit of time to get working again, but it's pretty fun so now it's back! Have a blast leaping out of the water!
  • Pipes & Water Jets
    There were one or two areas in 0.1.3 where water currents would push you around. I decided to make this feature more widespread, so now various pipe outlets have currents that propel you at high speeds if you swim through them. There's also a 'soft puzzle' involving one towards the end. See if you can spot any jet-propelled crabs too...
  • Planktid A.I.
    The improvements I mentioned earlier are now in place. Planktids are now a little bit smarter when it comes to navigating around corners, and they can follow you over greater distances with less trouble. There are still some small issues which I'll work on in the coming weeks, but generally it's much less stressful! Note: most planktid problems can now be resolved by shining your light on them again. This resets their pathfinding and they'll come straight to you.
  • Linux
    I've got a Linux build ready and waiting. I'm going to run a few more tests and devote a blog post just to this though, so please be patient! It really is very close this time!

I hope you like the new additions! I'm pretty excited about moving on to Chapter 2. Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet @Luminesca!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A.I. pathfinding update

A lot of players have reported problems with the pathfinding of the creatures in Luminesca (I call them planktids, but you can call them jellyfish, squid, glowing blobs, whatever you like).

In the current public build, they just swim towards you in a straight line. If there is an obstacle such as a rock in the way they will just bump into it and keep trying to push straight through. Obviously, most rocks are static, so they don't get very far and players have to keep backtracking to allow a clear line of sight for them to catch up.

The next build update (0.1.4) will include improvements to their navigational skills which should prevent problems like these. Planktids will now remember the route you took and use it to follow you, even over long distances and through complex, winding pathways.

Check out the video below to see this in action.

When this is released, as with all updates, it will be available automatically and at no extra cost to anyone who has pre-ordered the game. Head on over to to try it right away!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Saying more, writing less

My primary focus over the last week or so has been story and exposition. I've put a lot of thought into the kind of world Luminesca takes place in and what its denizens think about it. In fact, conveying these ideas is one of the primary reasons I'm making Luminesca at all. It's a project with which I want to say something and there are specific messages that drive everything in the game. The current build merely hints at these underlying messages, so I'm developing them further for the next update.

Ever since playing Ico, and seeing Fumito Ueda's efforts to strip out many of the superfluous elements that have seeped into convention in modern games, I have understood the value of minimalism in game design. This design by reduction approach is applied to Ico's story exposition and the result is a game that drip-feeds just enough ambiguous plot detail for the player to grasp what is going on without resorting to heavy-handed verbosity. It is this level of elegance that I want to achieve in Luminesca.

I've long believed that video games are at their most elegant when they convey their core ideas via interactive systems, so at first I was averse to using text. I was adamant that I could communicate all my ideas through interaction and imagery alone. I've come to realise that certain ideas are best expressed with words, strung together by a loose interactive framework, but to avoid the aforementioned verbosity trap I've restricted myself to a very simple dialogue box system (shown below).

These dialogue boxes pop up when the player approaches another character, and disappear again when they move away. They can be displayed repeatedly in case they were missed the first time, and the player is still free to move around, unhindered, while they are being displayed.

While this maintains a lot of flexibility in the player's experience, this is actually a very inflexible system from a development point of view (the text boxes are a fixed width and do not support multiple pages). I've built them that way for two reasons: firstly, it is technically more simple to implement but, more importantly, it forces me to condense my writing into smaller chunks. These small snippets of characterisation tend towards quick adsorption by the player, which is crucial if you want to attract their attention and discourage them from skipping through lengthy dialogue.

But this is not the only advantage of concise writing. There is a gap between what stories say and what the audience hears. The more a game withholds such information, the more players must step forward to bridge the gap with their imagination and personal reflection. Players must engage with the text if they want to make sense of what's going on, rather than just sitting back to be spoon-fed messages. Will players want to make sense of it? I hope so, as this desire ties closely into the central themes of the game.

So what are these messages in Luminesca I've been referring to? You'll have to play (and read) the finished game to find out, or pre-order now to get a sneak peak of it in development!