Lumini Q&A with Speelbaars MomoCon opened its showfloor to independent game developers from around the globe – over 130 applied and approximately 20 were selected to display their projects. Upon seeing Speelbaars game, Lumini, among the presenters I instantly knew why this title was chosen. Lumini displays a unique, vibrant aesthetic and even though the game isn’t completed it is already well polished, intuitive and fun to play. Lumini colors pop on the screen as the player controls a swarm of lumini who glide through the world in a zen-like state. The music perfectly accompanies the relaxing ambiance as Lumini is about exploration and absorbing the beautiful scenery as much as it is moving on to the next goal. Steven Honders, Lead Game Designer / Marketing, shared his insight into the process of making Lumini and what the future holds for the nine-man-team based out of The Netherlands who are about to release their first long-term project. Q: How do you describe your game to people who haven’t had a chance to play it? Lumini is a relaxing flow adventure game in which you take control over a swarm of creatures. It’s your responsibility to keep them safe and navigate them through the world to save their planet. It’s a game about exploration, emotion and adventure. Q: What is the inspiration for the game? We took a lot of inspiration from games like Flower and Journey. We liked the zen relaxing aspect of those games and tried to mold into a more traditional game concept. Besides that, we wanted to do something with being responsible of a group of creatures – instead of the traditional one character that you normally control. Q: More specifically, the artwork is striking and beautiful what was the initial idea for this? First and foremost we wanted to make a unique fictional world that is both strange and familiar. Generally we went with an underwater vibe even though the game doesn’t take place under water. Our own oceans are barely explored, the cool creatures we find there are nothing like anything on the surface. So we took a lot of inspiration from this aesthetic. In terms of style we made the colors and shapes a little more cartoony than real life to give it a positive feeling. Leaving out certain details can help to accentuate shapes and colors more. Q: The Lumini are restoring the planet to health. Is this a gameplay concept or is there some social commentary involved? We borrowed a lot of the initial reasons and motivations for the lumini from bees in our world. They are trying to keep themselves from harm and flourish as a species, they’re not really aware that this also saves the planet. They just do their thing and that coincidentally is what the planet needs to restore balance. The idea that another civilization used up all the planets energy and caused the imbalance is comparable to what we, as people, do to Earth right now. You could say it’s a social commentary, in the way that you need to give and take, instead of just taking. Q: What are the different gameplay modes available? You basically only have the single player mode in Lumini. But because you can split your swarm into two groups and control them both separately, you could play it with your friend and each be responsible for your own sub-swarm. Q: How do the multiple swarms concept come to be and how does it work within the game? The idea came from the question we asked ourselves, ‘what can you actually do with a swarm?’. Splitting up was one of the more fun and unique things we could mold into a gameplay concept. By using both analogue sticks on a gamepad (or WASD and the directional keys on a keyboard) you can split your swarm in two separate swarms and control them both to solve puzzles and make combat a little more challenging and interesting. Q: How was the reception on the show floor at MomoCon? A lot of people liked the game, especially the relaxing nature of it. People hated to see their Lumini die, so the fact that you needed and wanted to keep them alive communicated well. We were really glad with the feedback and reception of Lumini at MomoCon. Events like that gives us a motivational boost to make the game even better! Q: What is the balance between exploration, puzzle solving and fighting enemies within Lumini? Lumini is an action/adventure game with puzzle elements. So the focus is on exploration and ‘fighting’. Although you don’t really have to fight. The different types of lumini in the game are tied to your playing style. If you fight a lot you get red lumini which are better at fighting. If you dodge enemies and run from them, you get blue lumini which are faster and if you explore every corner of the game and find special upgrades, you get yellow lumini which make it easier to collect and explore in the game. So it’s really up to the player what the balance is between these elements. Q: What is your design philosophy? Create games that leave an impression on the players. We always try to create a game that does something different within a genre. We believe that creating a game, that already has been done in some way, makes your game obsolete from the start. As the risk that there is a better experience then your game on the market is bigger that way. Besides that, we try to listen to our audience and make the game something they expect and want to play. Who are we to decide what the player should enjoy and what not. Feedback from people is something we take very seriously and always try to incorporate in our design. Q: What was the most challenging aspect of working on Lumini? The fact that we’re still students, so we have little to no money, we have to balance school work with production (we don’t have a lot of other assignments, but still) and we have a strict deadline for the game. Besides that the most challenging aspect is to explain everything you can do in the game and it’s narrative without the use of cutscenes, text or voice overs. It’s a limitation that we’ve committed ourselves to, but it isn’t always easy. Q: What lessons did the team take away from Panda Pounce and did it help prepare for your second project? Panda Pounce was actually a side-project we did in a few weeks during the summer. We wanted to make a fun party game with a silly mechanic, just to do something else for a while. It didn’t really help us with Lumini in any way really, other than a distraction to recharge our Lumini battery. Q: What are your thoughts on Kickstarter? Kickstarter is an interesting and ideal concept to get exposure or funding for your game-project, however, since it exploded in popularity, it’s increasingly difficult to gain enough traction to meet your funding goal. What a lot of people underestimate is that it takes at least a few months of preparation and a dedicated marketing campaign to make it a success. This means you have little time left to actually work on the game and since time equals money, it also costs you money before you get anything. Before doing Kickstarter you have to ask yourself if you really do need the funding and how you are gonna sell the idea of your game. We talked about crowdfunding and decided not to do it, as we had different opportunities to get the money that we needed to make the game. Because we’re still in college, developing the game is cheaper in some ways in the Netherlands, because you get financial support and cheap loan options from the state. Q: For your next project, would you be more interested in a Lumini sequel or another new IP? We’d probably go for another IP as we’ve been working on Lumini for almost 2 years now. Doing something else will be refreshing and we’ve got tons of different concept and ideas that we want to try out. Lumini is currently scheduled for release on Steam (PC/Mac/Linux) on September 1st. For more from Speelbaars and the progress of Lumini visit their website. If you are interested in first hand experience with indie games, then be sure to attend MomoCon.