What is Lumen? Fake Video Game Manuals and The Dorks Who Love Them / by Tony McMillen

What if it was always night?

What if the sun never came up again? How could the world continue without sunlight? Life needs it to survive but what if there was an alternative?

More importantly: How could I make Green Lantern actually cool? Because Green Lantern sucks.

Not sorry.

I’ve never liked the guy or his mythos. And out of all these questions that’s the one that really started all this.

Lumen began as a creative challenge to myself, if I was given the job of retooling Green Lantern and making that character interesting to me how would I do it? What would I keep, what would I throw out?

Turns out I’d throw out everything but the lantern.

 

Because a hero or an explorer with a lantern, for me, that works. That’s primal. Hell, that’s the tarot.

 

But before this story and its hero started coming together in my mind there was one other idea that I’ve had percolating for a long time: I’ve always thought that illustrated video game instructional manuals were an undervalued art form.

 

I remember being a kid and pawing through my cousin Ben’s Zelda manual and be totally taken in by the artwork and storytelling therein. I was 7 or 8 and had never heard of The Hobbit so to me Zelda was my first big introduction to fantasy storytelling; at least beyond the Greek Myths I’d read and heard about in school. The format of the manual stuck to me. I have a love for it like I love my album artwork and liner notes for my favorite albums. And as a kid some of the first stories I’d create were video games in my mind. I’d draw out the levels and the characters and keep all the pictures together in big stacks. Those were my manuals.

Well, I got a little better at drawing since then and I have written a couple novels, so maybe it was time to try creating another make believe video game?

Which brings me to Lumen. This project is still far out but I’m really excited to start the conversation about it. I don’t wanna reveal too much of the story as I think it’s better to learn that from the manual itself but here’s the basics:

Lumen is the story of Esteban Vela. A young man living in a world of perpetual and unnatural darkness. The world has been this way for a millennium, the sun is now a myth. All after a falling star called “The Burning Beast” collided with the planet, destroying the empires of man and changing the atmosphere with a mysterious new layer known as “The Shroud.” The Shroud is what keeps the world permanently in the dark. But in addition to throwing the world into shadows the  Burning Beast also provided the new source of light and life for those lost in the dark. Lumen, a sort of land algae that emits a powerful glow begins to grow from the deeply imbedded core of the Burning Beast and into the rest of the world. This “Heart of Lumen” becomes the source of all light and life in the Shroud covered world which comes to be known as the “Nocterra.” Lumen is a living, harvestable substance with many uses and many of its characteristics and workings still not fully understood. Under its new light the world changes, new things grow. Some of them dangerous to the remaining humans…

 

Under The Shroud with the light of Lumen evolution becomes rapid and humanity finds itself rivals with new races better suited to live in the Nocterra. Anglermen, feral and carnivorous beasts who use the spindly glowing lures growing from their backs to entice foolish humans hunting for Lumen in the wild,  wait in the shadows. And while they are fearsome the anglers are only the most well known of the dangers as so much of the Nocterra remains unexplored by what remains of humanity.

And what remains has changed… To better survive the Nocterra people have evolved to possess night eyes which shine in the night like the eyes of other nocturnal mammals.

Civilization has changed as well, survival has become key and most of the human world lives under the protection of the Nocterra Kingdom and its Lumen lit walls. But there are others who live outside the safety of castle walls. Hermits and madmen, ravagers and rebels. And of course the poor. Esteban Vela is sixteen years old and living outside the wall of the castle when he hears whispers that the Lumen is dying. Everywhere the glow is leaving. Panic hits and humanity rushes out into the dark to gather all the Lumen they can carry while it still lasts and the anglers lick their lips and wait to devour them all.

 

One night Esteban sees a falling star, a small burning star of Lumen and he runs after it. Whether to use it for himself, to keep him alive in his cave or maybe to barter with to get him access inside the kingdom walls? He doesn’t have much time to think, he simply runs after the star. And when he finds it he also finds a strange suit of armor and a lantern. And that’s when the game begins…

Lumen is going to be illustrated instructional manual for an 8-Bit video game on the Alucinari Game System released in 1987. It’s going to be full color, have tons of awesome character designs, action scenes, item catalogs, maps, lists of bosses, allies, levels, dungeons (calling ‘em calabozos in this game) and tons of other stuff. They’ll be tons of crazy weird art and two stories: The first, the story of Lumen that unfolds as you play the game. The second, the story of Lumen the game and its console The Alucinari Game System and its sordid, controversial and possibly occult history.

That’s the idea at least.

Here’s some more rough sketches and idea fuel: