Sentries yawned and looked around only to see if the NEXT watch approached

The Lords of Midnight – ZX Spectrum Next.

It gives me great pleasure to confirm that Matt Davies and Simon Butler will be bringing The Lords of Midnight to the ZX Spectrum Next.

The Spectrum Next – an updated and enhanced version of the ZX Spectrum totally compatible with the original, featuring the major hardware developments of the past many years packed inside a simple (and beautiful) design by the original designer, Rick Dickinson, inspired by his seminal work at Sinclair Research.

 

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He had heard the tales men told…

For many hours they rode in silence, Luxor lost in his thoughts, the boy watching the forest in a mixture of fear and fascination. He had heard the tales men told and couldn’t quite believe they were only tales. “Why does the Solstice trouble you, my Lord?” asked the boy. 

Luxor turned his head slowly towards Morkin. For a few moments he said nothing and then, as though he had suddenly remembered, he began to speak. “Our world wasn’t always white, Morkin. You’ve heard the legends of Summer when the land was green and teeming with life. Ten thousand moons ago it was, so long that men barely believe such a time ever existed. Yet the Wise remember. They have scrolls that tell of the first snows falling and the first carpets of ice covering the land. Suddenly, all the lands of Midnight were plunged into this winter of ours. Then came famine, a great famine that ravaged our people, and with famine came war.” 

mock_up_novel_cover

When Mike Singleton originally developed The Lords of Midnight, he did so with his love of telling tales. After creating the initial Landscaping technique which made the game so revolutionary, he immediately switched to creating a map, one that he thought would be fun to explore, and then used that to help drive the narrative of the Novella, the back story included with the game. He populated the map with people, creatures, and places, assigning them names and purpose. Mike’s son Jules told me about sitting on his father’s knee watching and suggesting, while he played the god of Midnight and created new locations and terrain for his people to live in. The story and the world of Midnight is so important to the game and one cannot be without the other. In just five small chapters, Mike filled our minds in a way that we were able to fill in the blanks while playing a game on what by todays standards, was nothing more than dishwasher controller.

Mike once told me that he had hoped to to write a full novel, but game development and life just got in the way. He kept driving forward with new games and new stories, Doomdark’s Revenge, Midwinter, Ashes of Empire, to name but a few. All born out of his storytelling instinct.

As players, we all remember the competition that launched with the game. A novel prize – print out the screens as you make your way through Midnight, and the first person to complete the game would have these screens turned into a novel by a fantasy author. Alas, the game was complete too quickly, and beyond was never able to fulfil it’s promise of the prize.

Over the years and have read a few fan-fiction starts to novels, none of them every got past a few chapters, and none of them really had the potential to go all the way. I’ve also discussed the idea of a novel with one or two authors, who all showed interest, but never got off the drawing board.

It is with all that in mind, that I am happy to announce that, the novelisation of The Lords of Midnight is finally underway. 

It happened like this…

On the 8th April, Drew Wagar (@drewwagar) made a tweet comment to Tom Fahy (@fifthfayh) with reference to his Doomguard Twitter avatar.
drew_tom_conversation

And that was it. We had an email conversation over the next few hours, and by the end of the weekend Drew’s publisher was on board, and I had an initial thumbs up from Mike’s family. I put a few ground rules in place and a few small hoops for Drew to jump through. Over the next few weeks we batted a few things back and forth to get a feel of the type of story Drew wanted to tell, and by the end of the month we met up to talk about the project, did some contract type stuff, and agreed, that this was something worth doing.

I’m not going to talk much more about the novel here, I will leave you with an interview with the author Drew Wagar. You will also be able to follow updates on this blog and on Drew’s blog over the next few months.

I leave it there, other than to fill in the details.

The Lords of Midnight
Written by Drew Wagar
Published by Fantastic Books Publishing
Released Date: Winter Solstice 2017

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We must not think that any task is hopeless…

t_tower0It’s been mentioned to me recently that it would be nice to have modding functionality for The Lords of Midnight. Opening the engine up was something I always wanted to do but I’m not sure to what level this needs to happen. Therefore if there is anyone out there who would be interested in modding LOM or using the engine, drop me an email, and we can discuss what approach to follow to make this happen.

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Amazon Underground

amazon-underground-app1A month or two back, Amazon approached me about putting The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge on their new service. It had just a project name then, and I had to sign a whole host of documents before I was even told watch the service was, and then another whole host of documents when I agreed.

Before deciding that I would, I thought long and hard. Essentially, I never wanted the Midnight games to be advert driven, and I couldn’t see a compelling way to have “in app purchases” that would generate the kind of sales required to support the game, without an amount of work that would be loss leading.

By having the Midnight games as a full purchase game, it has probably stopped it from being installed as many times as it might have been when free, indeed I have seen the spikes when the game has been reduced in price for promotion. But even those extra sales have not amounted to much in the way of cash as the price reduction has obviously hurt.

That said, the games have sold around 30k units which I couldn’t be happier at. That just hasn’t resulted in a great deal of money, in the scheme of things. Rough fag packet calculation, if you take the average price at £2.50, taking into account price reductions, different platforms, and multi-currency, you get a turnover of £75k less Commission 30%, and VAT at 20%, it’s just £37.5k – and divided between Jure and Mike’s family, pretty much a three-way split, I’m looking at £12.5k over 2.5 years. Without doing an accurate calculation, I can say that number feels about right, and it’s still a long way from covering my time costs if I apply a day rate to it.

Android sales of the games are well under a 3rd of Apple, but they appear to have a 10:1 piracy ratio when taking into account rough internal data calculations.

So, as we hit the tail end of sales, I wondered if the Amazon pay-for-play where they pick up the tab, might be an interesting approach for some additional Android sales. The gamble was, will people who won’t buy it on Android, possibly pick it up and play it for a while, enough to generate a small trickle of income, that might be greater than the normal Android sales. This could all possibly be maximised by being an official launch app for the service.

Android still accounts for about £50 a month in sales, this last week has seen and additional £3k units downloaded through Amazon Underground, accounting for less than a £1 worth of pay-for-play. Amazon pay a fraction of a penny per minute played. So not a great start, but I’ll have to see how it goes.

I know the t&c’s for the Amazon offering are a little harsh, and the privacy settings quite extraordinary, but still understandable considering what they need to achieve, however I figure that the target audience who don’t want to pay for the games in the first place, probably don’t care. And those who do, have either already bought the game, or still have the option to through Google Play, or Amazon Store proper.

I just need to keep an eye on whether the Amazon Underground sales hurt the Android sales, better them, or just become another small income stream.

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Version 1.11

lom_advert_for_mobilesI finally managed to push out the update to Lords of Midnight. All platforms have been updated to 1.11

This is the first time that all platforms have shared the same code base, and it’s the first time I have updated all platforms on the same day. It’s quite a big day as I’ve been trying to get this update out for a while, and I feel this marks the proper hand over to Doomdark’s Revenge. So, I really hope I haven’t missed something massive somewhere!

This will likely be the last update this year, unless of course I’ve messed something up. For the next 6 months I suspect all my focus will be on Doomdark’s Revenge. Not only getting it released, but those first few updates that will happen to it early next year after the initial release.

I full list of changes can be found here….

But I thought I might pickup and summarise a few of the items.

Big change was adding new grouping controls. You can now scroll around lords that are grouped making it easier to select lords from the select screen when they are grouped. You can also merge groups, disband with one click, change the leader of the group, and drag a lord from one group to another. You can also disband a group or leave a group from the think screen. Video of it working here…

There is more keyboard support on screens. This is for the desktop version and hopefully Android where it has keyboard support.

Mouse wheel support is there for the desktop version.

The scaling on the map is now available to the mobile versions. You can scale with pinch and spread, but I have also left in the scaling gadget on the mobile versions too.

Selecting lords on the Map screen has had a little work. You can now select the multiple lord icon in order to gain access to all the lords.

For iOS I have added an option to toggle between an ebook novella and pdf novella. I hadn’t considered that people might not have iBooks installed. But I have also added ebook support to the OSX version now that Mavericks is shipping with iBooks.

Two biggies that will make a difference to the game. You can no longer select a lord from the map screen when Luxor is dead and Morkin does not have the Moon Ring. This was a bug that would have allowed you to still control your lords even though you didn’t have the Moon Ring – sorry that exploit has now been plugged!

lom_advert_for_desktopsAnd, armies were fighting double at night. Which means battles would have been quicker than they should have been because double damage was being dealt out. This would have meant that you could have lost a fight without the chance of escaping, because you should have had a turn between the two battles. Or the armies on both sides are unable to get reinforcements between the two battles.

I hope you enjoy…

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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.

CityScenesSmall

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.

image006

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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Midnight/MU

Aside

mmu_logo
For those coming back to Midnight, or indeed those new to it, you might want to check out Online Multi-User Midnight – Midnight/MU It’s a great experience. It’s been running now at least 10 years, and you can play the Lords of Midnight Scenario, Doomdark’s Revenge Scenario, as well as a host of newly specially created scenarios. The games have been tweaked and well honed to cater for issues caused by Multi-User play, and a number of new features have been added. But essentially, if you are familiar with Midnight, you will get along here.

Register on the game site and on the forum. It’s a very friendly community. There are usually plenty people around to help you with training games, although it might be a little quieter than usual at the moment due to holidays.

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The Marches of Valahar

EyeOfMoon
The Lords of Midnight
by Mike Singleton

Book IV:
The Eye of the Moon

Comrades of the Prince:
The Marches of Valahar

Time itself was sleeping. There was utter stillness even in the air. The drops of rain hanging from the leaves gleamed but did not sparkle for not even the light trembled. The silence was so deep it made him feel deaf but when he breathed out it seemed like a roar. The storm had passed.

Dominykas turned his eyes to the horizon. Over the forest, misted by distance, the far peaks of Valahar floated in a milky blue haze, sharp white shards cutting at the sky. Then the light subtly changed and one of them, the tallest, suddenly suncaught, began to glow at the very tip, brighter and brighter until it glowed with golden fire.

The Wilderhorn, he thought, it must be. That’s where I must go, to the roof of the world, to the gate of the heavens. The boy couldn’t imagine the road that led there. It was impossible. How could he ever reach it? For a moment, black despair rose, seeping into him, but then he wrenched away from it. I’m not a boy any more. I can do it if I must and I must, so I will! He gazed at the mountain with its golden crown of fire.

It was simple after all. Bright as a beacon, there was the torch that would light his path. However long and twisted the journey, a peak that soared so high would be with him like the sun or the moon, sometimes hidden, sometimes in darkness, but always reappearing as he turned a corner and found the open sky again or as the world turned and darkness fled.

His heart filled with joy. Nearly forty moons had passed since they left Coromand and now their journey’s end was at last in sight, blazing with fire. Smiling, he turned to his friends. He flung his arm out to point wildly at the mountains.

‘There! The roof of the world! The gate of the heavens! The Horns of Valahar! Look! The Wilderhorn!’ he shouted and the fire that touched the far off crest blazed within him. His young comrades looked. They gawped. They gasped. They looked at one another. One by one they grinned. Then at last they cheered.

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