The Gamerheads Podcast

Kickstarting Creativity: Eric Manahan's Lucid

September 18, 2023 Gamerheads Podcast Network
The Gamerheads Podcast
Kickstarting Creativity: Eric Manahan's Lucid
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how architecture and game design could be related? Discover the intriguing fusion of these two distinct fields as we talk to our guest, Eric Manahan, the game developer at Matte Black Studio. Eric brings a unique perspective to gaming, with a background in architecture. We explore his transition from architectural design to game development, the lessons he's learned along the way, and how his latest game, Lucid, exemplifies his innovative approach.

We also discuss the Kickstarter for Lucid and the exclusive rewards. Manahan's contagious enthusiasm will inspire you to learn more about the game, and the community he's built.

With insights from his personal growth, this episode is a must-listen for anyone with a passion for game development or who simply appreciates a good tale of creativity and personal discovery.

Looking to back Lucid? Here's the link to the Kickstarter: http://www.lucidkickstarter.com/

Follow Eric on Twitter: @_theMatteBlack

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Music:
Jeff Dasler - Recused


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Speaker 1:

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Speaker 2:

Grote here from the Indie Informer. Hey, this is Brimstone and you're listening to Roger Reichardt on the Gamerheads podcast.

Speaker 1:

And welcome to another episode of the Gamerheads podcast. My name is Roger Along. With me is a very special guest. I have Eric Manahan from the Matt Black Studio and we're going to be talking about the game he's working on, which is Lucid. Eric, thank you so much for joining me.

Speaker 2:

Roger, thank you so much for having me, and you pronounced it perfectly. Oh good, that was very impressive, very, very impressive.

Speaker 1:

I was going to ask before we went on live, like oh, I should probably ask your last name. And then I was like oh, I just forgot.

Speaker 2:

I could hear it in like in the your voice, as you were saying it. I was like you got it, man, you got this, oh well it's really great to have you on the show.

Speaker 1:

We met at the mix in Seattle and I got to see your game. You were. You had a lot of people at your booth, so I didn't get to actually play the game, which I'm super excited to play the game too, but oh, yes, thank you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so tell me about yourself.

Speaker 1:

Well, tell us about yourself and how you got into game development.

Speaker 2:

Oh boy, Me talking about me one of my favorite things.

Speaker 2:

So, yes, my name is Eric. I actually I come from an architectural background. I went to school for architecture and I was in the field, the workforce, for like 10 Asian plus years. And that was what's the word Soul crushing. There it is. Yeah, yeah, that was soul crushing. And eventually not eventually whilst in school, it was like a late night one night and I was just like I need a break. I don't know anybody who doesn't is familiar with architecture, school and studio. You have zero social life and you're very, very late, very late hours. So it was like 3am. I was like fried, I was frazzled. It was just before a big presentation the day after and I was on a distructoid and I read this article about this little old game had a demo called iconic class and, yeah, I played the demo. It was amazing. And then I read the further in the article is like, oh, one person made this. I was like get the, get the book.

Speaker 1:

You can swear on the show by the way it does, so it's a great idea. Yeah, I was like get the fuck out of here, man.

Speaker 2:

I am unlike myself. I was. It must have been the late night stupor. I messaged, I emailed him and he responded.

Speaker 1:

And he was very helpful very, very polite.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, super, super, super awesome. He pointed me the way of constructs the other thing. But long story short, that guy put me on the path to game dev. So, yeah, all because of him, I started doing it as a hobby and every night after architecture work I'd print well, not every night, but a lot of many nights, I would do a little project in my bedroom and just it's no light of day, just, you know, tinker in a way. And then many, many years later, we're here, man.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome. So a few things. One, I think it's amazing that you went from architecture to you know, game dev, although I will say and you won't, you don't like to hear this, but I'm going to say this because you said you don't like to hear this, but I'm telling you, game design is very similar to architecture in some ways.

Speaker 2:

No, I 100% agree with you. Like the design, tenants carry over really, really easily. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

The other thing. I'll just mention this here, like you may get a kick out of this, but I actually lived real near Talleessen I don't know if you that's the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Oh yeah yeah, yeah, oh, my god that's cool, Was it?

Speaker 2:

did you like go by there often? Or was it kind of just something over there?

Speaker 1:

Oh no, like my wife worked in Spring Grain. It's in Spring Grain, wisconsin, so we would go there quite I mean we didn't go to Talleessen often but we did go there. And just funny quick side note, we had to have some plumbing work on our house and the plumber came out he was doing plumbing work at Talleessen and he was like, let me tell you, like the plumbing there is not up to code, it sucks.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, honestly, I'm not surprised. A lot of the most beautiful architecture is yeah, how do I put this? It's basically a sort of functional artwork and then like, if you live there for over like I don't know a few years and you're like, why is the ceiling falling apart? Yeah, there's a reason why falling water needs like constant maintenance, like it's sinking, it's a whole thing. And also, frank Lloyd Wright was a notorious asshole. He intentionally so, like the code. Like the standard door, height is about 6'8" give or take and he would.

Speaker 2:

Notoriously he was a shorter dude. He would make door heights. I forget what it was, but like, let's say, six feet tall, just to like screw tall people, he was a jerk.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I have. I made alfair. I'll tell you some other stories that I know. Frank Lloyd Wright like growing up in that or not growing up, but I lived in that area for a while and I'll tell you some funny stories. But yeah, oh, interesting, but we're here talking about your game, lucid.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so.

Speaker 1:

I'm. I have to say, when you, when we were at the mix and I saw the game, I was like, when I found out that you worked as an architect, I was like what? Like, how, Like this game is so beautiful and it's gorgeous and it plays really well, Like yeah, tell me, tell us about the game.

Speaker 2:

Okay, yeah, lucid, so it's probably gonna sound familiar if you ask me, like, what's your pitch there? So for all those listeners out there, I'm doing the SpongeBob rainbow hands and I'm going. So it's the world's first Celestoidvania, which is a fancy way of saying.

Speaker 2:

It's a Metroidvania with, I guess, like node-based traversal, that moment in Celestor, I'm not sure if you've played Celest but, oh wonderful, there's that bit where, like you, would jump into those green gems and it would like refresh your jumps and all that. I took that concept and just ran with it and essentially you have these abilities, these skills, these Metroid-type upgrades, and when you connect a strike in the air with these abilities, it refreshes your jumps and you can basically chain and stay airborne for as long as you can keep hitting targets and not, you know, miss under the beat. And it's proven to be really, really fun to move around the world. And combining that with like really in-depth combat which is easy to pick up and rewarding the master, it just seems to be kind of hitting a bunch of like little light bulbs in people's heads. When they get away from playing it, there are big smiles on the face, which puts a big smile on my face.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's awesome, and so it wasn't just the Metroidvanias or Celest that influenced this game. What are? I know you'd mentioned to me at the mix some other influences, but what were some of the other games that influenced this?

Speaker 2:

Oh man, if I had to boil down the recipe, the soup that is, the lucid soup, to its like main meat potatoes, I would say that it would be Super Metroid, legend of Zelda, a Link to the Past. Slash Ocarina of Time, slash Majora's Mask, mega man X and Z X124. And I would say more modern stuff would be obviously Celest and then, oddly enough, like Doom 2016, slash Hades. And every time I say that I get the what?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because that you didn't mention that when we were in Seattle. Yeah, tell me more about that.

Speaker 2:

So that's where, like the moment-to-moment combat, like the very arena combat kind of play, comes into play. So there's the overworld kind of Metroidvania bits, but then when, right now and then you'll get to these little portions that kind of lock you in like the I think they're called blood walls according to Double Fine, these blood walls kind of lock you in and you have to like defeat an arena of waves of enemies, like and this is where the Doom Hades kind of comes into play. It's where it's like very fast paced and the dashing and all that stuff and using all your abilities, and I guess the Doom portion comes into play where you can swap your abilities on the fly, like you enter that slow-mo.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if you've played Doom 2016,.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, when you stop the switch guns it kind of goes slow and you got that wheel to pick what gun you want to use. So yeah, like all the other, there's going to be enemies where you have to go in and use ability A, and then it could then open up to ability B and then swap to ability C and then you can take out the enemy, all while stip dodging and diving and rolling and all that stuff. Wow, yeah, that's what that comes from Wow.

Speaker 1:

This is your first game. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I've been playing. I've been playing games for like oh, what's how? 30 years now. So I've and I've been. I never thought like what I've been doing, like studying it all, kind of like sticks in your brain and like I have, I don't know, you kind of get a feel for like this feels good from playing so much. So I don't know, it's like innate kind of. I just feel it out man. But yeah, this is my first game.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I just saw impressive that you, like, went from architecture to game development. That's just. That just blows my mind. What came first? When you were designing this, when you were designing Lucid like, what was the first thing you were thinking through? We were thinking through the combat mechanics, the art style. What were, what was your first thoughts?

Speaker 2:

Oh man, that's a great, great question. So it kind of this is going to be such like a pompous answer, but it's, it's, it's kind of the truth. But so in architecture school you kind of get trained how to design right, and in design, or at least in architecture, you kind of think really holistically so and also you have to justify and have a reason for every move you make. So that's what we were told. So, like, why is this wall here? And you just say, oh, because, because X, like, what's your reason that you get? You get like flocks inflamed or whatever like for like, you need to have a reason why this is here. Like, oh, it's to, it's to hold the pipes to get the water to the second floor. It's the wet wall, it's just the other thing. So you have to have reasons. That's all to say that you have a holistic design. So when designing Lucid, it was a very, from the ground up, super holistic where, like, the art in the colors and the shapes of the attacks are this way, because you're, let's say, you're going up and it's looking like a spear, so it's a very vertical, like a very telegraph that, like this is the up attack and so, yeah, it's, I guess, for.

Speaker 2:

So combat or movement, it was both at the same time, and that's the holistic point. That's the whole stupid spiel I'm trying to get to is it was a hand in hand, and I learned this when playing a Celeste and the messenger and Mario Odyssey and what else oh, even Spider-Man on PS4. It was the lesson that movement has to be. Getting from A to B has to be just as fun and feel good. And because you're going to be moving for the majority of the game, why waste time and not have fun doing it? So mobility and movement has to be just as engaging as the combat. So I decided that every ability so you get they're called crystal arts. Your crystal arts will not only like enhance combat, but they're also going to expand mobility. So every single skill you get will like add a new bit of weaponry to your arsenal, but it's also going to be able to change the way you move around the world.

Speaker 2:

Be it unlocking areas, be able to access little little secrets over there or little treasures. But yeah, it has to do. Everything is doing double Wow.

Speaker 1:

That's impressive. I mean, it makes sense, right. That translation from your previous life to this new life. That again makes sense, right? So, like, how did you do the artwork yourself? Did you hire people? Like the artwork is amazing in this game, yeah, so I started.

Speaker 2:

I love pixel art. I've always loved pixel art and I started as a wee little lad and I just kind of kept, kept at it, just kept at it for years and years and years. I never thought of it. But you know, like practice gets little gets better. And, yeah, I can safely say like 95% of the art is all done by yours truly. I've had a few friends, especially during the Kickstarter, getting ready for Kickstarter. I was like hey man, could you like make me a dog please?

Speaker 1:

And he's like absolutely, I got you.

Speaker 2:

Hey, man, could you add like some foliage to this house? And he's like I got you, but I'm, for the most part I've been doing a lot of the art in house.

Speaker 1:

Wow, that, that again just blows my mind. Like the game is gorgeous, like it's such a beautiful game. Oh, thank you. Oh my gosh, like when you walk up and you just see that you're like not only does it look clean and smooth and crisp, but oh my gosh, it's just beautiful, it's a beautiful game, amazing.

Speaker 2:

Thank you and I think that's something I mean, something I've hope to achieve. Is that another thing? With architecture, it's like I can't. I can't say I regret learning architecture because it's helped me so much. But I it's like that guy, but there's like I learned, like high archie of information and being able to convey a lot of information and make sure it's clear on screen and it's not cluttered and like you know that's that's probably going to hurt me and this is probably safe and that's a ledge and the foreground's not fighting with the background and the midground's not fighting with the foreground and everything's legible, especially in such a fast, paced, mechanically deep game.

Speaker 2:

It's got to be very clear at an instant, and some trick I learned actually was I think it's called the blurry eye test where let's say, I'll play a game my game, or play Lucid and I'll like squint my eyes and make it really blurry and if I can still see what's going on and be able to play, I know I'm good and I can proceed. And I see you not. It totally works.

Speaker 1:

Those are secrets they don't tell outside the little game world. Yeah, that's so funny, but you know so. So this is built in unity, right? I'm going to get a little nerdy here. This is built in unity, right? Yeah.

Speaker 2:

We were like talking the day unity just torched, I know, I know, but it is it is right now it is.

Speaker 1:

So I mean outside of the fact that, yes, those changes are really strange, changes that unity just carry with One thing. So because, like this full disclosure, like I dabble in unity as well, like I'm not oh that good, but like for me, like part of it is like thinking through not just the coding, because I think that's intimidating enough, but also just knowing, like how much the system can take, and like where can you make, you know, cuts, and like make sure that you're not over asking too much for the system. Right, like the performance wise, like how, how did you navigate that? How did you? How did you learn that? How did you go about tackling learning?

Speaker 2:

Oh dude, that's a. That's a really fun question. Yeah, that one I have like not nightmare. It was a rough one because so I learned to use what's it called oh my God, the oh my God, the thing with all the the oh my God. What is it called in unity? I'm like opening it up as we speak. Window General, inspect no hierarchy. Project console test runner. Jesus Christ, there's something called Optima. Whatever the tool that you use in Unity that helps you optimize and check your performance I'm completely blanking on what it's called.

Speaker 1:

I can't help you, I'm not that good at Unity.

Speaker 2:

What the heck is it? Analysis Profiler.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Yes, in the Unity profiler I became very. It's like oxymoron. I became really well knowledgeable at the profiler and I don't know what it's called.

Speaker 2:

I became super knowledgeable about the profiler sans its name, and it really helps. So something I ran into was I had a computer that, for whatever reason, the build was running fine on so many other computers, but my laptop it was just lagging and getting super high and it was not good and apparently it was a nice computer. So I was like, well, my nice computer is running this. That means it's my fault, so I have to optimize.

Speaker 2:

So I optimized the crap out of the game. I read forums, I've read forum posts. I've read it posts. I've read YouTube videos on how to optimize your game, be it not using transparent particles, because every bit of transparency, it has to run that pixel as many times. Not only is it the, let's say, it's a sprite you have to run it first time for the sprite, then the second time for every layer it touches behind it. So if you have, say, a bunch of particles that are transparent, that's going to do a lot of damage. So a lot of particles became opaque.

Speaker 2:

What else? Oh, there's also tiny optimizations you can do in code, be it, instead of doing like checking I forget what the line is, but it's basically a long form check for tag. There's a shortcut, a more optimal check. There's the exact same thing, it's just written differently, and that saves a lot on garbage allocation. So there's a lot of little tips and tricks that you can learn out there. It does take some time and learning how to read the profiler and it's a pain in the ass and it's not fun. But holy crap man, I was able to get my potato of a computer to run 60 frames per second and then get this it was just my computer, it was literally. It was just my computer something fried on the inside.

Speaker 2:

So then when I got a new computer and it ran so smooth it was like butter. So in the long run it was totally worth it because it runs so so nice now, but but God damn it. I was like, oh, it was just my faulty computer, oh man.

Speaker 1:

But you probably learned a lot in that process.

Speaker 2:

I did, I sure did, yeah, yeah, silver lining for sure.

Speaker 1:

Well being your first release. What were some of the challenges that you faced that you didn't expect when you went into Gamedev?

Speaker 2:

There are a bunch out there let's see. Learning how to run your socials, learning that you have to be a marketing guru, you have to mix and mingle, you have to deal with suits sometimes. I thought, I was out from that and it never ends.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, there's a bunch of shit you gotta navigate. As in a Gamedev, you have to wear a lot of hats. But honestly, I've worked longer hours than I ever have and I feel so much more rewarded and way happier than I ever was doing at 9-5 and making way more money than I ever have, but yeah, I am poor as shit, but I'm happy. Oh, that's funny.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I have interviewed a lot of indie developers and I think that's the number one thing I didn't realize the marketing and the social and the being out there being the face of your own company. That seemed to be a resonating thing that everybody has said that was not something I was expecting.

Speaker 2:

I completely agree. I mean even just running a Discord just today, dude man, when it rains and pours just today, my Discord is one of the most lovely. But I love them. They are so kind, so supportive, they help each other out, they boost each other up, they help with each other's projects and advice so good. So when someone does come in and starts throwing shit in the soup we got our first troll today and white blood cells to a wound Everyone came out like yo yo, yo, yo yo. So, yeah, you got to even learn how to be a mayor of a little town sometimes I was like this was not on the job application, but it's so true.

Speaker 1:

It's so true, though, so this game is coming out. I mean, we are doing a Kickstarter. I should say so. Your Kickstarter starts on 9.18. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

That's correct.

Speaker 1:

September 18. So tell us oh sorry, Go ahead, Amina.

Speaker 2:

Oh, sorry, I didn't so.

Speaker 1:

September 18. Tell us about some of the rewards. I guess at those different tiers that people can sign up for.

Speaker 2:

So yes, september 18. Less than a week away, and also it's my birthday, that's awesome. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was looking at like the release, you know the window, and I was like, oh well, that's my birthday.

Speaker 1:

Fuck it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, let's do this. This is my birthday, so I just ran with it and then my buddy was like dude, it's what, mondays apparently aren't great. I'm like it's my birthday. Okay, okay, calm down. Is it true? Mondays are not good.

Speaker 1:

I don't know this stuff Is that good or not Like?

Speaker 2:

typically not good release.

Speaker 2:

From the. You know everyone has tips and tricks. Some tips and tricks that you will maybe receive is that you want to do like later in the week the thinking is that it's after payday and stuff and all that. You know what. Like, I just want to I'm trying not to like sneak trick you into backing Lucid. You know, like, if you want, if you believe in this project, like let's do this. But but to your question, was it back around? Let's see. Oh, let's see back rewards, I can tell. I can say that there are most certainly Kickstarter exclusives, that the very first tier there, every kickbacker, kickstarter backer, backer Will receive three Kickstarter exclusive talismans. Those are essentially your like hollow night badges.

Speaker 2:

Yeah so they're gonna be Kickstarter exclusive, like things you can put on and alter how you play, and on top of that, there's gonna be a Kickstarter exclusive area. I've um, I don't want to spoil what it is, but it's gonna be a very Like inside or baseball like. If you, you're gonna hopefully want to join the discord. There's a special place for backers at this court and it's gonna be an homage or a love letter in and of itself to the community and Hopefully people enjoy it. But and also there's a bunch of digital rewards.

Speaker 2:

I Don't want to spoil too much, but there might be a prequel, little bit of art, like an art book, maybe an album, yeah, a bunch of little goodies, a bunch of goodies here and there, and then let's see, I'm looking through and like which one do I want to? Then there's like the classic, I don't know stuff you would think like, maybe designer MPC, you're a boss or a mini boss, cool, but yeah, um, yeah, I'm looking forward to I. I really want it to develop, make it like an us together, a community thing, and get input and make People in the community who really are excited to be excited not only for the game but to get a chance to like get their little bits and tid bits of ideas into a project. That's cool to me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, look forward to it. That's cool. And and do you have? Can you share the link or share the site? Or I mean, is it just yeah, oh.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yeah. Do you want to share your?

Speaker 1:

kids are never.

Speaker 2:

No, you guys have to figure it out Google it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I Went out and I found a link and I was like this is my link and it is is Wwwlucidkickstartercom and that will take you to the page that you could follow. I mean, there's a few more days to follow, but please do those numbers seriously help these, the freakin, the algorithmic gods, and will help Lucid kind of like peek through and be seen by more people. So please go to To wwwlucidkickstartercom, follow the project, be there on launch day and it should be, should be a good time. It's gonna be well.

Speaker 1:

I have one last question for you before I have you. Yeah, what's one thing that you learned about yourself in the process of making this game?

Speaker 2:

Ooh, um. What's something I learned about myself? Um, I learned. I learned that I am actually a little. My biggest flaw is I work too hard. Now I actually I learned that I'm I used to paint myself. I think it was from working in New York City and high in residential Um, and just kind of like I felt very curmudgeonly and I painted myself as not super friendly, but I turns it turns out I'm actually pretty friendly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was gonna say really yeah and uh, working with people has been a like a pleasure and everyone's been super kind and um, I've I've gotten some comments and feedback from people I've worked with being like it was really nice working with you. And I just didn't expect to hear that because I've always been like um, I have really high expectations, I hold myself to super high expectations and I I work with people and I expect them to, but I, I lift, we lift each other up and um, I'm always afraid that any critique or any of this it'll come off too hard, but so far everyone's been very like, it's been really great working with you.

Speaker 2:

Um, you give great feedback in a nice way, and I was always afraid that it'd come off as an asshole, but um.

Speaker 1:

I learned that I don't expect. That's nice so that was so you learned you're not an asshole. That's amazing, I learned.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was really, that was so nice. I was like oh my God, I'm not an asshole.

Speaker 1:

Oh, this, it was just the job I get it now. Yeah, oh, that's hilarious. Uh, eric, how can people find you on social media and follow, uh, the progress of the game, besides the Kickstarter, obviously?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, uh, oh, let's see. Um, well, well, friends, obviously if you want to make my birthday super awesome, you will go to lucid Kickstartercom and follow and support the Kickstarter, but then after that there's also let's see. If you would like um, I don't know like interactive, like questions and polls, and more funny and a little bit closer interaction to me, you could definitely follow me on Twitter. Uh, what is my handle?

Speaker 2:

Uh, it is something stupid it's at underscore the Matt black Matt as in M A T T E, not Matt, the name Matt as in like the material. So, uh, underscore the Matt black. That'll take it to Twitter Instagram same kind of Matt Matt black studio. There I post more content. Um, I post the same content, but I post content with more like lower bits and story and world building there. Um, but, honestly, if you guys really want to get a part of this really cool community, um, come to the discord. Uh, on both of the socials I just said there's like discord links, but please come to the discord. Everyone's super awesome. We talked video games, movies, art, music, you name it. Uh, we talk about it.

Speaker 2:

Game design, obviously, and how it all kind of rolls into one and, uh, we have audio technicians, we have uh, animators, concept artists, writers, sound effects creators, other game devs everybody there loves game making and please come by. Uh, everyone super warm and cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'll have to join myself, so please do. Uh, I will include all the links, uh, in the show notes so, listeners, you can check that out. Yeah, absolutely, uh. Well, eric, it was so great meeting you at at in Seattle and having you on the show. I'm really glad we were able to connect and I cannot wait for this game to come out.

Speaker 2:

Uh, thanks, it was. It was really nice meeting you too as well. Uh, Roger, thank you for having me. Uh, thank you for all the great questions. Um, this was really fun.

Speaker 1:

Of course, and listeners, like I said, I'll put the links in the show notes. Give Eric a follow, support his Kickstarter. Uh, this game is like. I got to see it in person and I am super excited about it, and yeah this is. This is such a great, great game and and a cool person to back as well. So, uh, yeah, so thanks, thanks everybody for listening. Uh, if you like what you hear, leave us a review on our podcast as well. And until next week, everyone, stay safe and game on, bye, bye.

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