Luna The Shadow Dust developer interview: Lantern Studio

We interviewed Beidi Guo, co-founder of Lantern Studio, which developed the recently-released Luna The Shadow Dust. Here’s what we found out.

Last month, indie developer Lantern Studio released their debut game, the point-and-click adventure Luna The Shadow Dust. Described as a “picture book in motion”, the game features hand-animated graphics and puzzles that require you to switch between the two protagonists of the story.

We caught up with studio co-founder Beidi Guo to find out how the game was made, what it was inspired by, and what the development experience has been like.

Also read our interview with the game’s publisher, Application Systems Heidelberg.

Luna The Shadow Dust walkthrough

Luna The Shadow Dust is a totally wordless game, without spoken or written dialogue. What prompted this design decision?

Sometimes the meaning behind a text might be lost in translation. However, we can all understand emotions by looking at characters’ facial expressions and movement. It is the universal language we all share, like one of my favorites, the Oscar-winning animated film The House of Small Cubes by Kunio Kato, and The Arrival, a picture-only graphic novel by Australian artist Shaun Tan. Neither of these two works has dialogue, yet they can still move me deeply.

Last but not least, as a small team we have a very, very limited budget. Writing dialog is also not our biggest strength, so making a game that has no need to apply localization is definitely a better choice for us.

Luna The Shadow Dust concept art

What design challenges did you encounter in making a wordless game?

We tried our best to animate all the characters, and to edit the cinematic together with the music in order to deliver the exact emotion we’d like our players to feel. We hope it leaves individual players enough room to let their imaginations run free. Each player will have a very personal understanding of the game, and we want people to be able to interpret the mystery of the game in their own way.

Also, we need to really think about all the other elements in the game, like UI design, visual clues, mouse states; we need to think how will they function in order to deliver the right message to the player, all without text. Feedback design also plays a crucial part in this, as we combine different animations, effects and SFX in order to make sure players know what to do next, or whether they are on the right puzzle-solving track.

What were your inspirations for the design of the game?

The original idea was based on one of the student animation films made by Beidi years ago. It was a story about a man who pilots the moon around and his long-distance relationship with his family. The setting of that world inspired the making of this game.

The Ursula le Guin novel series The Earthsea Cycle inspired us to write a story about the balance between light and dark, rather than simply evil vs heroes. The 90s claymation game The Neverhood, games like Machinarium, Samorost 1, 2, and 3, and Gorogoa: these beautifully handcrafted puzzle adventure games gave us the motivation to make a puzzle game that is unique to us.

What was a key lesson (or two) that you learned from developing and releasing Luna The Shadow Dust?

1) Unexpected things will happen during indie game development and game development can be very costly. Always give double or even triple the time that you had in mind to allow things to go wrong. For example, if you think the game is gonna take 1 year to finish, in reality, it is very likely it’s gonna take at least two years. So it’s better to get 2 years’ budget ready.

2) Get things ready way earlier than you think. We started promoting our KS campaign really late. Luckily we reached our goal in the end, but if we had let people know about our campaign a month in advance, we could have raised a lot more money, and it would have been really helpful in our development as we really struggled in the end, financially. So when it came to the launch preparation, we started to prepare the launch almost 3 months in advance, in order to get everything ready on time.

What can you tell us about what Lantern Studio has in store next?

We’re currently working on porting LUNA The Shadow Dust onto more platforms, from Switch to iOS and Android.

Luna the Shadow Dust

For more information on Luna The Shadow Dust, check out the developer’s website here! Also have a gander at what we thought of it in our review of the game here. Finally, check out our walkthrough series for Luna The Shadow Dust, in case you get stuck with the game’s puzzles!

Thanks for reading our… , for more interesting articles on the indie games industry, check out the links below. 






This Article was written by: Rahul Shirke

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