An Architecture of Love, Obsession & The Crystals of PHERAFeatures
A mythological spin on the often interdependent sentiments of friendship, love and betrayal built on an action-adventure RPG core, LUCID is a platformed, exploratory quest of the last of the remaining Sentinels to hunt down every LUCID Crystal fundamental in the reconstruction of the LUCID Giant’s heart, his eventual resurrection and the restoration of spiritual balance to the planet of PHERA.
Currently at a stage that sees the core of its mechanics developed and functional, young architect Eric Manahan’s first solitary voyage into game development is now part of the Higher Eclectic network as of the 19th of April this year, wherefrom it will now be documenting the entirety of its journey to final release.
A letter to Manahan’s childhood, LUCID is set to be your typical fast-paced 2D platformer that necessitates all the mid-adventure management and utilization of stamina, skills and attack strategies amid the vividly pixelated world of PHERA; The plot that surrounds both its own lore and that of its creator’s though, isn’t so ordinary.
The Crystal Energy permeated universe created by Manahan, wherein takes place the events that are to comprise the 2D action-adventure RPG, differs not much from our own in its notions of spirituality, religious beliefs or its lust for science. When the denizens of the planet PHERA disavow meditation and worship under either of the universe’s creators, The Celestial Giants, for the less spiritual means of harnessing Crystal Energy through the use of advanced machinery, each of the Giants face a downward spiral in their embodying energies.
As PHERA’s inhabitants proliferate under the successful utilization of Crystal Technology over time, the dwindling of the Creators’ significance is further compounded by a battle centred on love and lust between them — which eventually culminates in the LUCID Giant’s destruction and shattering into Crystal rain over the planet.
Meant to be illustrated via a cryptic narrative with its fair share of twists and turns, this mythological premise of the game is accentuated by the birth of a mysterious crystal permeated boy named OENN many generations later who, one must set out as players of the game in search of the LUCID Crystals that are to finally restore balance to a technology consumed PHERA.
While the adventure that ensues is intended to encompass traditional, quick paced platformed action demanding the use of stamina dependent running, melee and long range attacks — portions of which have been effectively teased by the developer via handheld recorded videos — the heart of LUCID’s gameplay lie in the mastery of the Crystal Arts. Unlocked via the collection of both LUCID Crystals and LUCID Shards — the latter of which serve as in-game currency — up to three Crystal Art tiers stand to be mastered, each providing players with up to two choices of upgradable skills.
The mandate of only one skill being allowed per tier further allows for users to mix and match available skills to create their own running & gunning rendition of OENN. Collectables and artefacts meanwhile adorn the mysterious planet of PHERA which in turn open doors to new areas and secondary skills — all of which come into play in combat against uniquely crafted bosses as well as in the solving of a plethora of in-game puzzles.
What makes all of the above fascinating is that not just the mythological lore, but every aspect both game play or otherwise is the brainchild and eventual construction of one single man’s imagination and skill. Besides coding and designing LUCID’s visuals and pixel art, musically adept Eric Manahan is also composing the original soundtrack that will supplement players’ journey through the Crystal permeated atmosphere of PHERA. Which begs the question, how does a full-time Architect find himself at the helm of a 2D RPG’s mythos?
By being a closet Game Development enthusiast for half his life. A gaming fanatic that grew up harbouring the ambition of making games for a living, Manahan attributes the ‘advice’ of those around him to pursue a more respectable and secure career path, to him riding the train to Architecture. ‘But the call never left me; it was inevitable’, he states. ‘ In the beginning of my Senior Year of Architecture School in 2012, I was working late into the night — around about 3 a.m. which was not really uncommon for us.’
‘But during one of my 15 minute breaks I was perusing the internet and came across a game that was made by one person — I didn’t know that was an option! I began looking into how to develop games on my own, and found things called Construct, Game Maker, and Unity. I settled on the Game Maker software because it seemed to be the right medium for for me at the time.’
Deciding that the game he wanted to play and conjure would be a cross breed of childhood favourites such as The Legend of Zelda, Megaman X, Super Metroid and Dark Souls, Manahan set about brainstorming mechanics, researching design and earning his first lesson in Game Design from an episode of YouTuber Egoraptor’s Sequelitis series, that discussed with humour the intricacies of Mega Man Classic and its sequel Mega Man X.
By 2013, while Manahan was still learning to put Game Design and Game Maker theory to use, OENN was being born in an erratic character sketch by the student of Architecture. Therefrom began LUCID’s true journey, which would face up to three iterations in the year between 2014 and 2015;
‘The first iteration in 2013 being entirely too ambitious,‘ Manahan recalls. ‘Sprites were at 256×256, HD graphics, the works — So I scaled it down to 128×128. At this point I was still a novice so I stuck with this sprite size and continued developing LUCID — I even managed to get several of LUCID’s mechanics working, not efficiently, but working. About a year into it though life happened — I finished school, I moved into the city, I got a job. LUCID unfortunately was put on hold.’
The obsession he portrayed during the game’s initial iteration however remained imbibed in his girlfriend’s memory, who consequently proceeded to usher him towards picking up the project and continuing on the track he’d set out on in 2014. ‘So I started again — from scratch,’ he continues. ‘I scaled the sprites down to about 16×16, I had already done many of the mechanics so I knew what problems I would face and how to fix them. I changed the architecture of the game engine; It was cleaner and more efficient. I was astounded that within 4 weeks I had surpassed what had taken me a year the last time around.’
This continued all the way through the summer of 2015, around about which Manahan finally decided to feature more frames, animations and 32×32 sprite sizes in what is set to be the final build of LUCID. ‘From there I’ve just kept pushing, learning and working hard. I am now more conscious of not diving into a hole of obsession and regulate my time a bit more — It is a much healthier development cycle.’
Now, amid the full-time job of its creator, LUCID continues to work its way towards the light. ‘Progress is good. Core mechanics are done and so are basic movements, upgrades, skills, progress saving, dialogue systems, cut scene systems, and menu systems,’ evaluates Manahan who since last month, operates under the alias of Matte Black Studio.
Besides progressively building on animations, aesthetics and variables to improve overall game play, the Architect mentions that the game’s Prologue Level which in many ways functions as a Tutorial, is now nearing completion. Following this, he hopes to dive into a full-fledged crusade to flesh out the rest of PHERA’s world, levels, narrative display and populace.
‘All while I continue to build my internet presence by going to gaming conventions and the like over the ensuing year’, he reveals. ‘Once I have enough varied enemies and environments I hope to develop a more elaborate trailer, create official promo art and start to look into crowd-funding the game’s finishing and Steam Greenlight debut. Members and followers of Higher Eclectic Ground meanwhile, can expect to witness all of it come to life via conceptual artwork, animations, gameplay footage and more.’
Note that while Manahan finds himself confident in furnishing LUCID’s journey by himself, he stands open to collaboration requests from other artists in the development of promotional artwork down the game’s life-cycle. Till then, while we brace for our first look at the game’s prologue that is soon to come, be sure you visit the Higher Eclectic Space wherein LUCID’s forthcoming journey can now be monitored.