Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers is a 2D adventure game that follows a group of friends uncovering a mystery as they are trapped in a strange world slowly falling apart.

Beneath its surface, BTS:LD is actually a covertly designed fan game that uses the members of K-pop group BTS and the themes of their music as a template for its characters and narrative.

A title screen from Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers showing the band members silhouetted in black and outlined in neon pink. Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers, HER.E Game Studio, 2019.

HER.E, the game’s developer, discusses the game’s conception and demonstrates that fan-inspired work and influences foster passionate ideas.

Thank you for sharing your time to talk about your game. What prompted the vision to use BTS as a source of inspiration?

Thank you for this opportunity to tell more about the game! My name is Scey and I will be the voice for HER.E today.

The first spark of inspiration for BTS: LD actually was a music video from BTS that came out in spring of 2017: it was the Japanese version of their hit song Blood, Sweat, and Tears. The video’s color palette was heavily saturated, and the narrative heavily depended on the meanings of the colors used in each scene.

At that time, I was very interested in color theory and what colors evoke in different individuals. This was also a time when I had a full-time job in a field far away from any creativity, which was in some ways quite suffocating. During breaks, I sketched ideas and learned programming as a sort of escapism from the dull workdays.

During the early concept phase, I realized that while there are some games related to the boy group, none of them resemble the types of games I personally love—story-based, dipping into psychological themes. I thought that maybe there were fans who felt the same and would appreciate a new genre to select from. Therefore I felt like if there was such a game related to BTS, it would make some people happy.

A screengrab from Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers showing one character on the opposite end of the screen from a white-outlined, mirrored silhouette of themself. Above them are the words "Society's Expectations." Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers, HER.E Game Studio, 2019.

So to speak, this project is both very personal as an escape that kept me faithful at my work and also something bigger: something to hopefully give more people a valuable experience and bring further inspiration.

Can you describe the process when it came to the game’s development? How did your team settle on presenting the game through a mobile platform?

For a very long time, it was hard to settle on a general visual. However, it was not like there was any pressure or rush. I did a lot of experimenting, and when the game started to take a form, I dedicated time to planning out the development schedule and started working on it seriously. The next fall, my first semester at university started so that allowed me to work on it under better circumstances.

Mobile phone development was chosen right at the start, and there was no problem with the team since I am the only person who worked on the game—except the brilliant soundtrack, which is Glow’s creation! The platform was decided for a simple reason: I wanted to make a project that could be realistically finished by one person in a reasonable time frame, all while not being very experienced with game development. The mobile platform has very specific limitations and is perfect for a project on a smaller scale.

There were many, many hurdles and problems during the development, as with any other game. Nevertheless, the project is finished, thanks to my dear friends who volunteered to beta test and now are assisting with promoting the game. I am beyond grateful for their support!

A lot of media recently has been purposefully drawing from late 80s to early 90s visual aesthetics. Is BTS:LD’s artistic direction simply riding that wave or is there something about its subject matter that made its finalized style necessary?

Frankly, I was not aware of its popularity when I started working on the game. As mentioned earlier, the concept phase was my most beloved form of escapism. New retro made an impression on me when I stumbled upon it while looking for new music to listen to at my workplace. It made me feel at ease, and it helped me relax, both visually and musically. Let’s say I was a target of its spell and started learning about why it draws me in only with time.

A screengrab from Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers showing the character Eve walking in front of a diner and saying, "Why did things turn out like this?" Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers, HER.E Game Studio, 2019.

I believe new retro styles are a very interesting and complicated topic. I even wrote a short essay regarding this subject as a part of my university studies. The thing about said source of inspiration is that it plays on our subconscious in very smart, perfectly crafted ways. It’s closely tied with the current age and our conflict between conservatism and progressivism, our past visions of the future and the actual future we created.

Another project I was working on for my studies was an interactive VR installation inspired by the sentence, “Remembering is an act of creative reimagination.” This is exactly what retro exploits. Due to the powerful grip it has over our emotions, it felt like a perfect tool to create a dream world.

What has response been like to the game so far? What do you also hope to convey through the game, whether it be towards fans who are deeply familiar with its source material to those who are not?

To be honest, I pretty much underestimated early promotions and am hoping to let people know about the game and connect with the audience as soon as possible. However, with the little attention it managed to get so far, it is equally distributed between both fans and non-fan players interested in the indie field which is, of course, flattering. From the feedback, it is easy to tell seasoned gamers have no problem throughout the gameplay, whereas people who are not used to similar games have a little difficulty grasping the mechanics at the beginning.

The game was designed with a goal to appeal to fans and at the same time be approachable to everyone else who might stumble upon it. It does not just reference content related to BTS, it draws heavily from games which are dear to me as well, such as the Shin Megami Tensei series—especially Persona. While BTS is the central point and main inspiration source for the game, there are also references to other well-known sensations players can easily find. So while BTS:LD contains a generous amount of references and homages, it can still work for people who do not know any of them because the plot stands on its own.

A screengrab from Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers showing a character holding hands with a character with green, glitchy skin. Text on the screen reads, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" with choices of, "Not to go insane, maybe?" "Us to go back to how we're supposed to be." and "Please, I need your help." Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers, HER.E Game Studio, 2019.

Another aspect to the game is its own message. It is about the importance of accepting all sides of yourself and finding balance, about being responsible for your deeds. For example, you have Eve’s [one of the game’s characters] series of impulsive actions right before the start of the game, and albeit individually trivial, they add up and result in disaster.

I also wanted to convey the power of platonic intimacy and how finding people who you can build deep connections with is far more crucial than surrounding yourself with empty relationships. Not only do the characters’ share a dreamworld, but… their shared compassion, empathy, support and their resolve to help each other are proof of that. And finally, these themes connect together as Eve was not able to face himself alone and needed to acknowledge that kind of support is needed from others.

After BTS:LD, what lies in store for HER.E?

From now on, HER.E will be focusing on an original title that has been in works simultaneously with Lucid Dreamers. This project is technically completely different but quite similar in other ways. There are more projects in the works, but those do not have a set development plan yet.

A screengrab from Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers showing several characters standing in a dark alley. Aimer is saying, "Something weird is up with the city. We should not overlook issues at hand." Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers, HER.E Game Studio, 2019.

Beyond the Sense: Lucid Dreamers is currently available to play for Android. An iOS version of the game is in development and further updates of HER.E’s future work can be found through their website.