Watch the skies…

by ChrisLumo on September 19, 2012

18th October.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that it sounds like any other date, but oh no. This date is special.

Important things have happened, and do indeed happen, on this date. Earth-shattering things, things that have changed the world as we know it. It’s International Neck-tie Day for one. Charles Babbage, inventor the programmable computer sadly died upon this day in 1871. It’s also the day upon which Jean-Claude Van Damme and Zac Efron were born (not in the same year obviously, that would be just weird). In fact, it’s often been said* that Lumo has the good looks and charm of Mr Effron (naturally) combined with the general ass-kicking awesomeness of Van Damme. Who are we to argue?

Anyway, the point is that another wonderful, amazing, very important thing will be happening on 18th October 2012.

Our gallery event is going to be awesome, and yes, we’ve got the ticker tape parade, dancing elephants and brass band at the ready, not to mention the flying monkeys too!

So tell one, tell all! Kumo Lumo is very soon to be with us. You’ll find the event flier in our previous post, and we’ll be reminding everyone as the time draws nearer. If you can make it we’d love Love LOVE to see you there.

Watch the skies, Lumo is coming!

 

 

 

*It’s never been said. Yet.

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The Graffik Gallery and Team Lumo presents…

by ChrisLumo on September 17, 2012

You may have noticed that we’ve been rather quiet of late. After our very successful beta test (many thanks again to everyone who participated) we’ve been busy beavering away fixing bugs, tweaking features and trying to make Kumo Lumo the very best game it can be.

As well as all this, we’ve also been busy organising something rather exciting…

We’re super excited to be able to tell you that we’ve partnered with the Graffik Gallery in Notting Hill, London to present Game Art vs. Street Art, a gallery event where we’ll be showing off Kumo Lumo alongside amazing artwork from some of the biggest and best street artists in the UK, as well as exclusive artwork created especially for the event by Team Lumo themselves!

The gallery event is running during Thursday 18th October, which opens from 10:30am and with the evening event starting at 5pm. You’ll find all the important details in the digital flyer below. Everyone is welcome, come one, come all. We hope to see you there!

 

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Lumo Cake

by Jogolumo on September 12, 2012

Now, the process of making games is a wonderful, iterative journey. Every day, the game improves in some tiny, marvelous way. At least most of the time. Sometimes you get a new version of the game and everything has gone disastrously wrong.

For example, this…

Now, Simon claimed that this was all to do with the renderer not having the right bits or some such wild technical babble that made our heads hurt. But we all instantly knew the true story. Artist Daryl had eaten too much battenburg cake and had crept into the studio that weekend and changed all the textures.

Thankfully the game got better, but we did learn a valuable lesson about letting Daryl have too much cake and now we make him share it with the whole team. You might think it is dangerous to rick the whole of Team Lumo OD’ing on weapons grade battenburg cake and, to be honest, you’d probably be right.

If it happens, we’ll let you know.

 

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Martian Invasion

by Jogolumo on September 11, 2012

Today we have the grim task of bringing you some shocking and potentially world-altering news!

As many of you will be aware, Mars Curiosity Rover has been doing an incredible job of analysing rock samples on our nearest planetary neighbour. However, using special data-filtering techniques we have been able to identify and remove a number of unusual anomalies hidden in the data beaming back from the Red Planet. These techniques have revealed previously unseen details with the images. Although NASA are remaining tight-lipped about our findings (well, they haven’t responded to the postcard we sent them) we believe that the truth is too shocking NOT to share with you.

We hope you do not find this image disturbing.

 

This shocking, SHOCKING revelation led us to run a similar analysis on the data sent back by Curiosity’s predecessor, Spirit. Sure enough the results were, if anything, even more mind blowing. We will let the evident truth contained within this next image speak for itself, but we think it’s only to fair to warn the whole planet that invasion is now a sorrowful inevitability. We hope that the knowledge and training contained with Kumo Lumo will be of some assistance to planet Earth during the dark days that lie ahead.

We will leave you with this thought.

The invasion is now mere days away.

Watch the skies…

 

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Beta test news

by Jogolumo on September 7, 2012

So the Kumo Lumo beta test is in full flow and we are getting some excellent feedback from the testers. We are at once thrilled with the quality of the comments and (quietly) a little bit chuffed with ourselves for the careful selection of testers.
But to be serious (for a very fleeting moment) the quality of feedback we have already received has been excellent. The questions you have raised have been thought provoking, whilst the criticism has been entirely constructive. If you still have feedback for us, please send it via email – you should have the feedback address as part of your beta invitation email.
We’ve been collating and assessing the response for a few days now and we ‘ve already seen some very valuable observations coming through. Most excitingly we have already been able to make some big improvements and fixes to the game. Here’s the headlines.

  • The Case of the Missing Stars - Several of you reported this problem. We are happy to tell you that it is now FIXED! Somehow the exact build that we sent out had an issue with remembering star ratings. That has been found and fully fixed.
  • The Mystery of the 3-Star-Rating - We’ve made some big changes to the flying scores that you get when you rain on anything. Because several people didn’t understand the relationship between raining on stuff and earning your 3-Star rating, we’ve replaced the flying numbers with… yep, flying stars. So now earn your Star rating by making lots and lots of stars! Hopefully this makes things clearer, it certainly makes the whole game much, much prettier.
  • The Disappearance of Kumo Lumo - We’ve spent a long time chasing the random crash bug that a few people reported. We’ve made some changes under the bonnet and everything is looking much more stable now. Phew! Thanks for the reporting everyone!
  • The Case of the Retry Button - Several people explained that they’d love to be able to simply retry a level, even if they succeeded at the challenge. Sounds simple enough. DONE!

So as submission looms like a gigantic Icelandic volcanic* dust cloud, we’ve been able to make these final few fixes to our game before releasing it into the wild. It’s still well worth sending any further feedback if you have not done so already. We might still be able to squeeze in a few more improvements before launch, plus we have every intention of giving Kumo Lumo a lot of support after it reaches the App Store so now is far from the last chance to help improve our game. And it is our game now that you’ve become a part of the process.
Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for your help!

*That sentence actually made our brain hurt but once it was out there was no way we were going to try and change it.

 

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How To Get a HUD in Game Design

by Jogolumo on September 6, 2012

If you’ve ever made a game, you’ll be familiar with the thirty thousand iterations of the HUD through which you inevitably travel. This happened with Kumo Lumo and the HUD changes reflect many of the varations that the actual game went through.

This first set of images show our very first designs. The black and white version was created before we actually had the game even remotely playable. The colour image to it’s right shows the first HUD we implemented in a playable version of the game. Both of these images show the presence of several special weather powers, an idea that we moved on from because the amount of work to get two or even three special powers really honed seemed like trouble. Plus we were already discovering usability issues with having several important buttons on the HUD. We may return to some of these ideas in future, but in a new form that solves the problems we discovered earlier on.

At the bottom of this first image we can see our first ‘finished’ HUD. At that point everything was displayed as numbers and  uncapped numeric counters felt like the right direction in which to go.

This version of the game was based on a single, procedurally generated level, replayed indefinitely. At this point we realised we were on to something good!

Reworking the HUD and the mechanics that lay behind them was a task and a half. We decided to go for capped resource limits represented by meters instead of numeric values (see the next image set, below). This gave a better relative description of how well you were doing – a full gauge means a lot more that the number 125. Capping the limits also meant that the game retained a better dynamic of tension and safety. With an uncapped water limit you could just fill up to several hundred drops of water, which meant you didn’t really need to protect Lumo from damage or use your judgement about what to rain on. The capped limit is meant to the game was less exploitable and hold the player in a more interesting gameplay scenario.

Another factor from this era was the desire to put a live count of the remaining challenge objectives on the HUD. You can see some early iterations of that feature in the examples above. This proved to be an important addition. The constant feedback of what you had to do and how close you were to success made the game a far more robust and understandable experience.

Digging deeper – oh look, we found a problem!

The live challenge counter also unearthed a further problem. If you had to save six whales to complete the level, then most of the other mechanics felt irrelevant. We tried to solve this by making it so the more things you rained on, the better star rating you got at the end of the level. This was fine if you were the designer and actually KNEW all this, but players had no clue so we can’t really blame them for not caring as much.

To solve this we created the World Happiness Gauge. The premise is simple, the more stuff you rain on, the more forests you grow, whales you save, bad-guys you fry and Grumbleebees you gobble up the happier the world gets. Make the world super-happy and you get 3 stars at the conclusion of the challenge. This meant that everything you did in the game now made sense. You might still need to save those six whales, but every city you grew, mountain you raised and volcano you blew to smithereens helped save the world and earn those stars!

The World happiness gauge went through a LOT of development as we tried to balance the game feedback with a sense of narrative balance. We focussed on the world face because seeing the little guy smile as you made him happy has the right emotional and narrative context for the game. We want you to save the world. If you won’t do it for us, do it for him!

Ready to Launch

And this is where we ended up. The world happiness gauge is bright and colourful. The lightning and rain gauges became circular, saving lots of space and looking like buttons and which both function as buttons too – you can rain by tapping the rain gauge OR by tapping Lumo himself. The gauges increase in length as you upgrade them and the button icons also indicate how well you have upgraded your powers. Importantly you can also see instantly how much gold you have found since it is the only numeric counter on the screen (Score having been plugged into the World Happiness gauge as the only meaningful metric of success across a given level).

Is it the final ever version? Of course not. Kumo Lumo will certainly be updated as  features and mechanics are improved, based on the player feedback we get as we go on. With the Beta test in full swing the first changes are already starting to come into focus!

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The History of Design (According to Lumo)

by Jogolumo on September 5, 2012

These days, Game Designers spend a lot of time talking about the design document and just how worthwhile such a tome actually is. Many modern devs (Team Lumo & Blitz Games Studios included) don’t think that the stereotypical game design document (GDD) is actually much use any more.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re all in favour of the design being tracked and mediated in a useful way, it’s just that writing a document so heavy it would actually kill a pig is probably not the bestway to go about it.

So here’s a little look into the sort of design documentation that Kumo Lumo used.

Visual Design

Writing massive amounts of words is brilliant if you are writing a story, but a bit rubbish if you are describing how lightning works. NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW HOW LIGHTNING FEELS. WE UNDERSTAND THE MOTIVATION OF VOLCANOES! So we tended to not bother with too much wordy stuff and stuck to pictures instead.
The first page of formal, proper, grown-up Kumo Lumo design looked like this.

Sometimes we had to get REALLY technical to describe how the design actually worked.  This didn’t stop us from using Lumo’s lovely smiling face though. You can only be SO functional before life stops being fun.

Not everything we designed made it into the final game. There are no weird wriggly things in the mountains. Nor, thanks to the Facebook voters, are there burning sheep. It’s not that we ended up thinking that some of this stuff was a bad idea, we just had to be very careful about which good ideas, and which “right” ideas we took forward.

Actually seeing that sheep, perhaps some of them were bad ideas. However if you DO want to see burning sheep in the game, let us know. There’s enough of you on Twitter to convince us if you kick up enough of a fuss. Over to you!

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The History of Art (According to Lumo)

by Jogolumo on September 4, 2012

By now, the unique art style of Kumo Lumo will be familiar to you all. So far the feedback about the visuals has been incredibly encouraging and very flattering. But we didn’t just pluck the art style out of the air. Even though Lumo and his world were initially developed in just a few weeks, we spent a lot of energy developing the visual presentation of the little fluffy guy and his cheerful world.

Click to see a GIANT version (opens in new window)

From humble beginnings. Kumo Lumo started out as the “cloudy rain game” mock-up (top left in the above image). Thankfully, the art department soon got involved and Lumo himself started evolving. Those early illustrations used a really loose, painterly art style. Even Lumo was a loose, sketchy character before we really settled on the Stickerbomb art style we’ve used in the finished game. Pirate Foxes were not always red. Perhaps this meant they weren’t foxes. We’re pretty sure they were always pirates, though.

You can read about the art influences and the artists who inspired us here.

 

Click to see a GIANT version (opens in new window)

As you can see, some of the secondary characters had taken shape before we’d quite settled on a look for Lumo. Those early successes helped us find our feet and by week 2 Lumo himself had gained his neat, sticker outline and halftone texture. You can see more of Lumo’s development sketches here.

The first two images in this set (immediately above) show the Grumblebees going shopping! (or coming home from shopping.) Grumblebees carrying bags of pick-ups were just one of many ideas that flitted past but didn’t make it into the final game.

The picture in the middle of that image looks a bit boring, but it is from the first playable version of the game (you can see our debug data along the bottom of the screen). Shortly after that Lumo’s world got a lot more colourful – although you’ll noticed that the grass was slightly over-mown in those early days before we added the nice jagged edges.*

Finally we had the visual style nailed. There was still a lot of work to do, but we had a good grasp of the heart (and the limits) of our beautiful art style.

We have no ideas what Lumo is doing in that last screenshot… It just doesn’t make any sense.

 

*Veteran game developers will remember the amount of time and effort to which we all had to go in order to remove jagged edges. It’s ironic that we had to go through some much effort to get jaggedy grass back in. 

No, we don’t miss those days.

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Lumo brings you the Truth!

by Jogolumo on September 3, 2012

Today’s news, brought to you by Kumo Lumo, is that everything is generally excellent and wonderfully exciting. Now, that’s probably much better than you’ll hear on any of the “proper” news at the moment so tell your friends that if they want to be cheered up, don’t follow the crowd, follow the cloud.

As you may have seen from the @KumoLumo twitter feed, our closed beta test is almost ready to launch, with emails to those participating going out tomorrow. Meanwhile, we have been proudly inducted into the Cloud Appreciation Society. An ancient and noble group, we are certain that our new found union will prove powerful and beneficial, especially amongst cloud circles.

And Finally…

Police in Warwickshire have not yet passed any comment whatsoever on reports of Pirate Foxes escaping the confines of Blitz Games Studios and hanging around in creepy alleyways. We would like to point out that Pirate Foxes almost certainly don’t pose any danger to any members of the public, but if you do feel uncomfortable in their presence, don’t forget the bacon.

Pirate Foxes in Warwickshire, yesterday

 

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Calling all Lumo Bros and Sistos…

by ChrisLumo on August 31, 2012

By now you’ll have watched our announcement trailer a million times, looked at the spiffy screen shots and character art and read all about some of the game mechanics. You’re thinking: if only there was a way to play Kumo Lumo before it’s released on the App Store…

WAIT JUST A MOTHER-FLIPPIN’ MINUTE, THERE IS!

We’re very, VERY excited to announce that soon we will be holding a closed beta test. The lucky participants will be able to play the game waaay before it’s available anywhere else, and will get to play an active part in making Kumo Lumo the best game it can be!

You may be wondering why on earth would we want to open the game up to players? Surely we know what we’re doing? Indeed, we’ve already carried out a whole heap of usability testing in the studio and used the results of those sessions to make changes and improvements to Kumo Lumo. We’re confident that the game we have at the moment kicks all kinds of behind already.

What we’d really like now is uncompromising and honest feedback from players like you who have never seen the game before.  We want to know what you like about the game, what you don’t like, what you’d like to see more of; basically anything constructive and insightful that will help us make Kumo Lumo the best game it can be.

So Give Us a Copy of the Game to Play Already!

In order to sign up to be part of our closed beta test, you’ll need the following:

  • An iOS device running iOS5
  • An email address
  • An enquiring mind and a daring spirit

The only other caveat is that you MUST either be following Kumo Lumo on Twitter (@KumoLumo) and/or have liked our Facebook page. Once you are, simply send us a DM or private message with your email address. We will then contact you with full details of what we need you to do next!

We’ll be sending out these details at the beginning of next week, and places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Places on the closed beta are limited, so get your details to us quick sharp to be in with a chance of joining in!

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