Back at PAX East 2022, I met Eric Manahan, the solo developer behind an upcoming game called LUCID. It’s a fast-paced, fluid action platformer that’s as kinetic as it is aggressive. Manahan described it as a “Celestoidvania,” and he just launched his Kickstarter for LUCID.
“LUCID has a very unique form of traversal, which doesn’t have an industry term that I know of,” he said. “The closest I could come up with was ‘Node-Based Traversal,’ one where striking targets refreshes your jump and movement resources.
“But that is a MOUTHFUL! ‘Celestoidvania’ seems like a much more fun and quick way to get that concept across and understood.”
It’s a term he came up with right before an interview, and it’s stuck ever since.
At its core, LUCID aims to balance movement with combat, where your movement abilities are your attacks. You can complete rooms without ever touching the ground, dashing between enemies and nodes to reach the end of each level.
On first impression, it definitely captures that same energy as Celeste in terms of gameplay. However, those are big shoes to fill; Celeste is a pretty beloved game by many. But those lofty expectations haven’t deterred Manahan one bit.
“I LOVE Celeste very very much, but LUCID is a very different game, its own thing,” he assured me.
Inspired By the Golden Age of 2D Sidescrollers
LUCID gets a lot of its inspiration from what Manahan calls the golden age of 2D sidescrollers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best, but it was a moment in time when he felt that consoles were pushing the boundaries of pixel art.
“The Mega Man X4s, the Breath of Fire 3s and 4s, even the Mischief Makers! I sometimes daydream what pixel art games would look like if the tide of gaming hadn’t gone full force into 3D polygons around 1996-ish,” he said. “How different the gaming landscape would be.”
In fact, Mega Man X and Zero are some big inspirations for LUCID, which is what immediately drew me in. I’m a sucker for these sorts of action platformers, and I loved that Mega Man Zero/ZX came back in 2020. The roguelike 30XX has also been a recent love of mine, a game Manahan also enjoys playing.
“Mega Man X is a big inspiration to me,” he said. “It was one of the first games I played on the SNES, and it clearly has left a lasting impression on me. What I think gets translated to LUCID are its tight, responsive controls and quick-paced sidescrolling combat.”
Other games that inspired Manahan include Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Doom (2016), and Hades. He even called out Super Smash Bros., Dark Souls, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG as some “spices” he’s added to the mix.
A common thread I noticed in a lot of those games is that they effectively nail action-oriented combat in different ways. Perfect dodges, precise presses, and freedom of movement give players a lot of room for expression, which is a deliberate part of Manahan’s design.
“I am a musician, and love playing guitar, especially technically challenging progressions. I think that feeling, where the controller acts extensively as an instrument, having the player character feel like an extension of you, is magical,” he said. “I love the idea that people watching footage of LUCID can tell if it is you or your friend playing. That's really cool to me.”
Combat, Movement, and Flow
LUCID is shaping up to be a fluid, highly flexible action platformer, but a lot of its inspirations are known for being somewhat challenging games. We’ve all fallen down pits and missed pixel-perfect jumps before; that’s just part of the genre. Despite that, Manahan wants his game to be accessible to a wide range of skill levels.
“There are in-game design decisions that can alleviate certain sections or give additional resources to help the player succeed,” he said. “Much of the more difficult and challenging portions will be side content like quests, off-the-beaten-path trials, or challenge rooms in dungeons.”
While I was playing in front of him, I got a clear sense that Manahan was keen on crafting a balanced yet engaging challenge. He could tell this wasn’t my first rodeo with action platformers, so when I got to a part that gave me a little trouble, he asked me questions about how it felt and why it was troublesome.
He was looking for earnest feedback, all with the goal of perfecting every bit of LUCID that he could. He told me about different designs and iterations he’s gone through, all in hopes of making LUCID fun and accessible.
“The ‘Main Path’ of the game will be there to teach and ease the player into the game's mechanics and have a very approachable curve,” he said. “So much so that ideally, the player will begin to feel confident in their skills to take on these challenges and feel rewarded when they conquer them!”
Balance is the name of the game here in all aspects. Game design, story, and lore are all taken into careful consideration. Movement and combat aren’t wrestling for your attention but instead share the stage.
“I hope to design LUCID in such a way that the player doesn't even perceive the two as separate, but that they flow in and out of each other seamlessly,” he said.
What the LUCID Kickstarter Means for the Game
Manahan launched LUCID’s Kickstarter on Sept. 18, which coincidentally is his birthday. This is a journey that’s been years in the making for this Celestoidvania; he initially started working on it in 2013, just two years after he entered the workforce as an architect.
“I relatively recently left a 10+ year career to pursue this crazy dream of mine,” he said. “But LUCID initially began as a personal side project that I’d work on after a long day at the office. It was a way more straightforward Metroidvania back then. Around 2016, I put the project on ice to focus on architecture.”
It was during this break that Manahan also spent time playing lots of games that would eventually inspire the current direction of his game, including Celeste. After some time, he knew keeping the project on ice wasn’t the right move for him.
“This would eventually lead to a deep depression and sadness with architecture and my future in it,” he continued. “My fiancé insisted that I pick LUCID back up, as it was a source of great happiness. So I did, and I rebuilt the game in Unity. This was in about 2020ish? The project starts to pick up some social steam, and now I'm here!”
I did ask Manahan how he felt about the recent Unity runtime fee debacle. He responded with a gif from The Chapelle Show that said, “I plead the fif.”
LUCID’s Kickstarter would help him with the scope of the game. Ability upgrades, gear, locations, characters, and especially lore are just part of what he wants to realize with the help of extra funding. To him, a fully realized story would go a long way in making the game as he intends it.
"I am a student of Studio Ghibli. The stories and worlds they make are something I watch very often as I work on LUCID,” he said. ”I’ve used the term ‘optimistic melancholy’ to describe the atmosphere I aim to have for LUCID. Something I feel when experiencing films like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. I’d love for LUCID to share that.”
At the time of writing, he’s raised over $26,000 out of his $30,000 goal, with 27 days to go.
“Without the support of the community, I don't know if I would have had the courage to leave my architecture career and pursue this full time,” he said. “If LUCID looks like a project you’d enjoy, I humbly ask that you share it with your friends and family!”
You can also wishlist the game on Steam to keep up to date on it.