Lords of Midnight Graphics

Early on, when Mike and I were starting the process of thinking about how The Lords of Midnight might look, we played around with a few tentative ideas. We spent some time thinking about being in full 3d and then settled on building 3d models of the terrain and rendering them down to 2d. The main reason for this was performance. Mike was worried that we wouldn’t get the fidelity and quality out of realtime 3d that he was looking for. The option was to go for slower renderer to crank up the quality.

We were unable to get anyone who had time to build the models so we continued on with normal 2d images so that we could have the engine up and running and game most of the game complete. We could then drop the correct imagery in at the end.

We obviously couldn’t go with the original graphics. There was just no way that we could keep the blocky originals. First Mike did some hand drawn versions of the originals.

Then he did some coloured versions.

combined1

We could never agree on the coloured versions. I didn’t particularly like them, but we agreed that they were a work in progress and gave us a talking point about what we did and didn’t like about them, and the problems that the approach raised. A proper artist was going to be needed to do them properly.

I wanted to use graphics that I had used in TME. Not the original Lords of Midnight ones, but the graphics that Jure had produced for Doomdark’s Revenge. But I just couldn’t convince Jure to work on the project! 🙂

One of the ideas with the coloured versions was a concept that Mike was calling Ink. With 3d you get lighting. With 2d if you try to do lighting it is usually very flat. Mike’s idea was to give each 2d graphic its own normal map. This would allow the 2d images to have directional lighting. The images would also be made of a very small palette, say 8 colours, and this palette would be expanded to use variants of the colours depending on the lighting etc. The idea is that a terrain is generally only a few colours, it may be many shades of that colour, but still only a few colours. The palette would also be adjusted depending on location, owner, night and day. Things like windows could be lit up at night, and the same graphic could have different lit windows depending on its location.

For a while Mike played with the idea of painting this lighting information onto a 2d image directly to remove the requirement of building models.

citadel x normal

Example of a lighting map.

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An early test of a simple model that Mike rendered.

We then played around with some more specific hand drawn images. Chris Webster offered to have a bash at coming up with some ideas. The following show some of these early tests.

In principal Mike liked them, as did I. But we couldn’t agree on them. Mike didn’t like the fact that they hilighted the squat nature of the original graphics. The more realistic hand drawn versions just seemed to enhance the problem. I however, liked it as a style thing… unfortunately we never finally pursued this area to it’s logical conclusion because of time.

After Mike died I started looking at how the images could be drawn by me. Ross Harris handed me a quick filter idea on photoshop. The idea being that the images were more of a medieval painting, which is how Mike always saw the original game. The view was more of a tapestry.

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After seeing Ross’ idea, I had a play around with photoshop trying to achieve something that I might be happy with.

characters

Luckily, it was about this time that Jure offered to help bring the project to conclusion!

Jure produced two sets of images. One set that were faithful to the original, and an alternate set that he would have preferred to use. One day I do intend to release a version of the game with the alternative set.

And finally, here is an image of Luxor that I found on Mike’s machine…

Luxor

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Thoughts on Load and Save and ranting reviewers

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I just read an interesting review of The Lords of Midnight on the iOS store from PlaystationPaul. I’m posting it here and am going to discuss it as I have no right of reply for reviews.

Be warned – no proper save option

So the porter of this game is quoted as saying “We wanted you to have the ability to save but remove the temptation to just reload your game when something went wrong” and “But you have the ability to undo to dawn if you really mess up.”

Well thanks buddy for completely ruining the game, even the original Spectrum version had an option to save and load at any point – it’s meant to be a strategy game not a rougelike. The “undo” feature can only do so much – I lost Morkin after about an hour of play and can only go back to the dawn – he’s gone permanently along with all that progress – great! Do I really feel like going back and repeating all my actions again just to get to the point where I lost Morkin? No – not really – so thanks for completely spoiling a classic game by omitting one of the bare bone features which makes it enjoyable to play. Hopefully an update can rectify this somewhat arrogant and time-wasting decision.

I don’t know the circumstance on how PlaystaionPaul carelessly lost Morkin. Firstly, if he attacked something and died, then why not just perform a single-undo, and then send someone to his rescue, or keep trying the fight and undo approach. It’s as close to load and save as you are going to need.
Secondly, if he lost him in battle over night, well that’s the game. Maybe Morkin shouldn’t be left unattended where Doomdark’s armies can easily pick him off, and definitely not used in battle.

I presume by mentioning not wanting to redo the day’s work it was the former, so I really don’t understand not using the single-undo option.

Such and arrogant time-decision‘ – lets see. An arrogant time-wasting decision, made by Mike himself. Being honest, Mike wanted it removed completely, he didn’t like the idea of people arbitrarily loading and saving just to get passed a particular battle or fight. It took a lot of discussion to get the undo-to-dawn feature in the original release, and then I added the undo-one-turn during an update after a lot of discussion with other fellow Midnight players. So, if I am indeed guilty of arrogance, it’s by overriding Mike and adding the undo-one-turn option. Therefore Mr Playstation Paul, I shall not be releasing an update to rectify a somewhat arrogant and time-wasting decision that Mike and I spent a lot of time discussing and considering its impact on the game.

PlaystationPaul, email me personally and I shall refund your £2.99 and in future I will contact you before I make any design decisions on the game, because you obviously know what this strategy-adventure game should be more than Mike did, and without him around for me to consult, I obviously need to take advice.

“I hope you enjoyed yourselves. Excuse me for not showing you out. Straight up the stairs. You’ll find the way. I’m terribly busy. Whole day wasted. Goodbye to you. Goodbye.”

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