Week 3 – Game Research

In today’s world, the boundaries between the three major industries of film, animation, and games are becoming increasingly blurred. Many styles, design techniques or technologies are no longer exclusive to a certain industry.

Under this trend, it not only brings a more diverse visual experience to the audience but also derives composite and excellent creative works.

I discussed 5 design elements from the perspective of movies before, and today I want to introduce a very unique game.

The name of this game is: “Lumino City”.





Lumino City is a BAFTA award-winning handmade puzzle adventure game. By exploring the city, and using your ingenuity piece together all sorts of puzzling mechanisms to help the people who live in its unique world. Discover gardens in the sky, towers marooned high on an immense waterwheel, and houses dug precariously into cliffs. To create the environment, a ten-foot-high model city was built by hand and by laser cutter, with each motor and light wired up individually, bringing the scenes to luminous life.

Lumino City continues where we left Lume. As Lumi welcomes Grandad back at the end of Lume, she is swiftly catapulted into a new epic journey and a hunt for Grandad. Explore the unusual dwellings beyond the city gates and finding out more about her Grandad’s intriguing life along the way. Is there more to him than first appears?

A cross-disciplinary team worked on the Lumino City State of Play collaborated with award-winning architects, fine-artists, prop-makers and animators, each discipline brought something unique to the design and execution of the finished game.

1) Concept and story

First of all, this game has a very warm and clear story script: grandpa is gone, granddaughter is looking for grandpa.

You are in control of Lumi, who is on a journey to find her missing grandfather. Granddad is the caretaker of Lumino City and since his disappearance, the city has really fallen apart. Lumi meets townsfolk along the way and helps them fix things, find things, and build things.

2) Design

This game is not an RPG or a horizontal game or a very lively roguelike game.

With this clear and clear game script, the production company designed it as a puzzle game. In other words, the story is about searching, and the player’s perspective is solving puzzles.

And a very special point is that all the scenes, characters, mechanisms and special effects in the game are completely implemented based on manual models.

Therefore, the player has an extremely realistic visual experience at the beginning, because almost everyone will think it is a 3D game, but soon you will continue to refresh your own perception-this is the 3D effect, especially the light and shadow texture. It’s so realistic.

And when you know that the entire game is built by a physical hand-made model, the player will get a second surprise outside the game. This experience is not available in many games.

The graphic design of this game is outstanding. Every object, every frame, every puzzle, was first handcrafted out of paper, miniature lights, motors, and more. Then, the objects were digitized and added into the game. Everything you see has a physical model somewhere in the world right now (I believe the models are in a museum).

The graphics add warmth and level of depth that is impossible to describe, but easy to understand when you play the game. Although we are playing on a two-dimensional screen, the world seems to pop out in 3-D right before our eyes.

The character’s design style is obviously a cartoon style. This makes the characters appearing in all games have a uniform appearance. For example, withdrawing and hands are small dots and are completely disconnected from the body, which forms the unique role setting of this game.

3) Play

The game is made up of a series of puzzles. Some of them are fairly easy to figure out. While others most certainly require the use of the included Handy Manual, which in and of itself is a work of art. Although the guidebook only has a few dozen pages intended specifically for the puzzles, it is 900 pages long. The in-between fodder is mostly schematics and repeating text copied from some dictionary or something. However, I did come across a recipe for, what appears to be some sort of biscuit. I can’t wait to try it out.

In another area, you must help a half dozen residents to get what they want before they will help you with your task. However, even after you’ve done the leg work to get the team behind you, there is still another puzzle to complete within that same go around.

Funnier still, adventure games are always about things. Inventory. Clicking on everything everywhere not bolted down, then the bolts, because you might need them later. But Lumino City doesn’t necessitate bringing things with you, it’s about getting things working. Or, perhaps more aptly, trying to make things work. Putting gears in the proper sequence. Constructing homemade batteries. Assembling a darkroom.

Then again, it’s not a huge surprise that Lumino City is about stuff: That’s all it is. Dispensing with pixels first, Lumino City was almost exclusively built by integrating physical objects into the game. The designers literally constructed a world out of cardboard, glue, and miniature electric motors. You can see nails in wood. Fabric with actual wrinkles. All I could think while playing was: Pepperidge Farm.

In Lumino City, it’s theatrical when you click around even to the side of a building and there are a big push and zoom to reveal it. It never gets old. Why? My best guess is because, unlike Fez —which has the closest approximation to this sort of perspective-shifting as a core principle —this is a world that humans built first with their hands, not hands dragging and clicking things attached to computers. You have to make sure things like your shot compositions and framing are solid when you’re using real cameras on real scenery and sets.

It must be said that the manual left by the grandfather in the game is another excellent and profound design. The manual itself is the only clue left by the grandfather, and it is also a breakthrough in solving the mystery of layers of institutions. Instruction manual for the question. On another level, it is even a concept atlas for game development, because you can see a lot of design manuscripts on kraft paper.

4) Experience

As you play, there are no time limits, there’s no way to hurt yourself and for better or worse – there are no voiceovers. It’s just you controlling your flat avatar in a not-so-flat world.

With each newly discovered area, you’ll be given a puzzle to solve that’ll help the city or NPC characters around you. There are no instructions so you’ll be incorporating trial and error to learn the rules and make things happen.

So you can stay in a scene long enough, spend enough time, without setting progress or mission goals, so that different players have their own play plans and schedules.

Of course, if you are really stuck in a certain scene, you can try it from the beginning for an unlimited number of times, or you can go back to any previous scene and find the connection between each other through the development of the story.

5) Evaluation

The Good

As a fan of puzzle adventures, I can definitely say that this one is a winner. The puzzles are hard enough to be real head-scratchers, without being so confusing that you give up in frustration. Even if you do find yourself at wit’s end with a puzzle, the Handy Manual is there to get you out of a jam.

The Bad

I noticed a few touch screen problems. Every once in a while, I’d tap on something with no response. A second or third tap would finally register and the character would move.

Similarly, on Apple TV, the Siri remote would sometimes not work smoothly. It was difficult to use the touchpad in spots where complete control was needed.

6) Value

Lumino City costs $4.99. Considering this BAFTA award-winning game will set you back $20 on Steam, you are getting more than a bargain, especially when you consider that you can play the game on Apple TV. There isn’t much replay value, since a solved puzzle can’t be resolved, and why would you want to anyway. However, the developer claims it has eight to 10 hours of gameplay, so it is a real deal.

On the other hand, the design and creative value of this game itself, I think, is far greater than its commercial value. Just like stop-motion animation or clay animation, with the rapid development of 2D and 3D technology and computer software technology today, choosing to use hand-made models to build game scenes and use camera studio shots to obtain graphics materials is itself full of love and challenges. 

7) Other

In addition to the game itself, the production team also designed another application: “The Making of Lumino City“.


In this App, there are all detailed production and development processes and design plans for each stage. As well as the personal descriptions and answers of the production staff, this is a rare learning template for the portfolio outside the game.

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