2018 has been an absolutely wild ride for us at Lantana Games! From engine upgrades to conventions and even game launches, there’s been no shortage of exciting times at the studio in the last 12 months. Though it’s hard to choose our favorite moments from this year, it’s harder still to not look back on 2018 and think about what the future holds. So with that in mind, and in honor of our 9th anniversary (omg!) here are our Top 9 Lantana Games Moments from 2018!
#9 – Hanging Out at BostonFIG
Danny, Varun, Ashley, and Anna
BostonFIG was on September 29 this year, and while we weren’t exhibiting anything, we had an awesome time going to the show and hanging out! We met up in the lobby of the MIT Johnson Athletic Center early in morning, caught up with some longtime industry friends, and went to explore the show floor.
There were some amazing games on display! We started in the digital section, which was packed as always. Just a few of the titles from the show that you should check out include Boyfriend Dungeon, Austen Translation, Fur: The Game, and Feral Frontier. We roamed the digital floor for hours, playing games, chatting with friends, and eventually crashing on Yogibos at Extra Life’s table for a much needed cat nap.
After exploring the digital and tabletop exhibits for several hours, we marched off to Meadhall for dinner before the afterparty started. Team dinner was awesome, with lively conversation and Varun challenging us to spicy Indian food. We hung out downstairs at the Meadhall, continuing with some drinks and snacks until the party began upstairs, when we worked our way up, spread some Mondrian postcards around, networked, and had a grand old time.
Though we are no longer as involved with BostonFIG as we used to be, it is still a very important part of us as a studio, and we are aiming to make our grand return to the show in 2019. We’ll have been absent from it for 5 years if we don’t, and there is something very wrong about that.
Shortly after Mondrian – Plastic Reality launched in Early Access, we began exploring possibilities of creating a dedicated website for sharing content from the game. We knew we needed some place official to host levels, so players and parents would be comfortable browsing for, uploading, and downloading creations before we were able to implement the Steam Workshop backend. So we set out to explore possibilities in this area.
The first step of this was to form a small Experiential Network (XN) Project with Northeastern University that would help us research, prototype, and eventually create a website for this content. This small team collaborated to create some basic designs for the website, but after 2 months on this project, we ultimately realized it would not be cost-effective to host user-generated content ourselves, and made the decision to cancel the project, keeping a public Google Drive folder open for our players to share content instead until we could figure out a more permanent solution.
One week later, our friends at dbolical surprised us by launching mod.io, a website dedicated to hosting mods and other user-generated content for games. Putting Mondrian up there was an absolute no-brainer and we had the game’s page built within an hour of the website launching, immediately uploading some starter content to get things moving. Since then, mod.io has been an important part of Mondrian – Plastic Reality, with a link directly to the website added to the game’s main menu (“Creations”), and while it remains one of the smaller games on the site, we were beyond thrilled with finding it, and we’re even more excited for the future of us and dbolical working together to help bring eyes onto the site, integrate the API directly into Mondrian, and bringing more games to it in the future.
#7 – Mondrian – Plastic Reality Paint Tools
When we started building Mondrian Maker, the toolset was exactly what it needed to be: drag and drop blocks onto the field, save and load level files, and that’s it. Over time we built out the functionality to include flipping blocks to other types, alignment tools, scale/rotation, block modifiers, and snap to grid. But there was one community request that kept creeping up on us: the ability to set blocks to specified colors. Traditionally, Mondrian’s level colors were dynamically generated, and eventually even made relational thanks to our backend Color Wheel system. But considering the creative, artistic nature of the game, we knew this was a feature we needed to implement.
We knew we couldn’t recreate Adobe Photoshop inside Mondrian Maker, but we also knew that some of the basic concepts from that kind of software had to be included in order to create a robust toolset that straddled the line between level and art editor. We decided on a combination of universally-known and proprietary tools in order to give creators as much freedom as possible to paint their levels. For the universal tools, we added the Paintbrush for adding color to a block, Swatches for storing and selecting colors, and the Eyedropper for storing color from a block into a Swatch. For proprietary tools, we created the Paintscraper for removing painted color from a block, Varnish for locking all current colors in, and a Shuffle Button for setting whether new blocks are placed with a random color or the color stored in your Main Swatch. Along with RGB sliders for choosing any of over sixteen million colors, the Paint Tools quickly became Mondrian Maker’s most powerful feature, opening up true creative possibilities for users.
Thanks to the Paint Tools, we were able to start the Mondrian Maker Speedpaint video series on our Youtube channel. This series showcases the power of the editor by recreating retro videogame characters as Mondrian levels, and then showing them off in-game. We will absolutely be making more of these videos in 2019, showing off even more tools we have in mind for Mondrian Maker in order to expand the series beyond this concept.
#6 – Children of Liberty House Customizer
We talked a little bit about Children of Liberty’s new House Customizer tool in our August Screenshot Saturday Recap post, but really didn’t mention just how big an impact this tool has had on the game’s development. Essentially what this tool does is create a basic house shape (think box with a pointy roof) that can then be quickly molded into nearly any building, original or historical, we need to create for the game, using sliders, dropdown menus, and texture replacement. The tool uses ProBuilder to create geometry, a Unity package we’ve used for years to build the game that recently got acquired by Unity themselves. Buildings are then saved as external text files, no bigger than a few kilobytes apiece.
So far we have used the tool to create 39 buildings and counting. Some of these include historical recreations like The Green Dragon exterior, the Pierce Hichborn House, The Lamb tavern, and The Sun tavern. Others are more generic houses, shops, and taverns we are currently spreading throughout Boston’s North End.
We’ll be adding new features and improvements onto the House Customizer in 2019, but even in its currently form, it has MASSIVELY expedited level building time, and been a complete game changer for Children of Liberty’s development. Credit where credit is due, many thanks to Alex, our Northeastern Co-Op over the Summer, for the hard work he put into creating this, and to Brian for concepting, overseeing, and continuing the development of this tool in 2019 and beyond.
#5 – Exhibiting Mondrian at PAX East
It took a few years, but we finally brought a game back to PAX East! Thanks to our friends at Playcrafting, we were able to have Mondrian – Plastic Reality on display on Saturday, April 7, alongside several other games like The Ultimate Clapback, Hexile, and Bunny Blocker. We also brought the game to two parties: Playcrafting’s own Pregamer party on Wednesday, and Made in MA on Thursday. The reception to the game at every event was staggering, as you can see in the above video, and gave us loads of inspiration to keep building the game and make it even better.
During the course of the show, we learned a few important lessons:
- No one wants to build levels at conventions, so make sure there’s plenty of content already finished for the crowd to enjoy.
- Pack light and pack lunch.
- Always consider yourself lucky when the framerate issues pop up on your laptop AFTER the convention is over.
PAX East is always going to be near and dear to our hearts, and we hope to make it back to the show floor in 2019.
#4 – Mondrian – Plastic Reality Launches in Early Access
In the early days of the year, we started making a tease on our Instagram, and after 9 days, on January 5, the world discovered Mondrian – Plastic Reality. The tease culminated in a livestream with a flu-ridden but determined Danny on his 31st birthday showing off the game that the team had spent the last year building, and all the new features being packed into the Abstraction in Beauty sequel. With five playable characters, a powerful level editor, and game-changing block modifiers, Plastic Reality hit Early Access on itch.io.
Since launch, we’ve added dozens of new levels built by Danny and Anna; new block types like Portals and Splitters; new powerup designs by artist Devin; a Color Wheel system to create relational, dynamically generated color schemes; new in-game animations by artists Christine and Madison; the Paint Tools in Mondrian Maker designed by artist Manning; new background art from artists Ilayda, Anna, and Manning; character art by artists Christine, Lexi, and Bridget; drastically improved performance on low-end systems; and a whole lot more.
Mondrian – Plastic Reality recently got upgraded to version EX7, which introduced ball/paddle trails, a mountain of bug fixes, and even some new levels. You can view the full patch notes here. The game is currently available on itch.io and GameJolt for PC.
#3 – Children of Liberty Gets a Geometry Cleanup
One of our biggest goals for the Summer Co-Op period was to clean up the existing geometry on houses in Children of Liberty. We had noticed our previous models had issues when it came to lighting and texturing, so the plan was to rebuild any geometry we had to, and fix up whatever we could. The result, thanks to our Summer Level Builder Anna, was incredible. Lights are behaving themselves, textures are UV’d correctly, and the full extent of our asset library is finally coming through.
We laid down three basic rules when it came to improving the game’s geometry:
- Walls must be minimum 0.25 meters thick in order to cooperate with directional lights
- Quads only
- Edge loops for window and door cutouts
With these rules in mind, the game now looks better and loads faster than ever before. On top of the basic cleanup, detailing and experimenting with Unity’s Standard Shader has helped bring out the game’s materials, giving them various levels of shininess and reflectivity, for example, polyurethane-coated wood as opposed to unstained wood.
Now our new level builder, Kim, has been working on other levels in much the same way, like Boston Gaol, as well as working with Unity’s new Prefab Variants to add a whole new level of variation to the game. You should absolutely expect to see more on this front in 2019.
#2 – Mondrian makes IndieDB’s Indie of the Year Top 100
In an absolutely unexpected turn of events, Mondrian – Plastic Reality made the Top 100 of IndieDB’s Indie of the Year Awards! We seriously cannot thank our community enough for this honor, as you all poured all the time and effort you had into helping us reach that coveted list along with games like Celeste, Omensight, They are Billions, My Time at Portia, and more.
We are still awaiting the final tally of the awards, but keep an eye on our social media, @lantanagames, to find out if we win!
And finally, the #1 Lantana Games moment from 2018 is…
#1 – Children of Liberty Upgraded into Unity 2018
Everything we’ve been able to achieve in Children of Liberty this year has been thanks to the hard work from Brian and the Tech Team upgrading the project into Unity 2018. In case you need a refresher, we started the first version of Children of Liberty, way back in the day, in Unity 3! The game was upgraded into Unity 4 before its Early Access prototype release, and now in Unity 2018, it has never looked better.
From a brand new version of the engine; to beautiful new artwork created by Ilayda, Ashley, Sarah, Madison, Manning, Christine, and Sahar; new character and effects animations by Christine and Samantha; revamped geometry by Anna and Kim; to brand new architecture by Andrew; to fantastic coding work on back and frontend systems by Alex, Varun, and Ria; this upgrade has been an undertaking, but has given us an immeasurable return on investment. Lately we have been working on converting the game’s sprites into Unity2D Sprites, building new architecture using our House Customizer, overhauling old geometry, making as much use of our massive asset library as we can, and the continued process of upgrading the game’s tech.
Now that said tech has caught up with the times, we’re going to keep building. We’re not going to stop until this game is done. We know you are expecting greatness out of us, and that is all the inspiration we need to keep going.
Before closing this blog post, I want to give some personal thanks to our amazing 2018 team. Heck, ALL the personal thanks. This has been one of the most productive and exciting years in Lantana Games’ history, and we can’t wait for 2019! So without further adieu, all the thanks to:
Brian, Anna, Alex, Varun, Kim, Andrew, Christine, Ilayda, Ashley, Manning, Samantha, Madison, Sarah, Hannah, Sahar, and Ria for an absolutely incredible year.
To our fans, thank you for your continued support, and we hope to bring you more games and more fun very soon! Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We’ll see you in 2019.