Only Luxor remained with a thousand riders of his Houseguard, waiting for news.

Just an update of how things are progressing at the moment.

The move to Cocos2d-x is now almost complete. I have the full Lords of Midnight running with every screen implemented. Which means it is fully playable, however in order to hurtle through to completion I chose to priorities and simplify certain things.

For example. The select screen allows you to do just that. What is missing is the grouping functionality. Which means you can play the game and select all the recruited characters, you just can’t utilise grouping.

Here is my current TODO: list…

  • Landscaping – armies
  • panel_look – direction arrows
  • panel_map_detailed
  • Mouse Images
  • panel_look – shortcut keys
  • panel_look – show following character
  • panel_look – compass
  • panel_think – select character
  • panel_think – Post/Recruit
  • panel_look – help pending
  • panel_look – Landscape – keyboard control
  • Load XML Project Config
  • landscaping – mist
  • landscaping – grafitti
  • panel_select – Grouping
  • panel_select – shortcut keys
  • panel_select – drag and drop
  • DDR panel_gameover
  • DDR uicommandwindow – give text
  • DDR uicommandwindow – select face with name
  • DDR panel_look – Tunnel View
  • panel_advert – multiple adverts

I’ve been doing all this work with the MAC build because it’s easier. The next step was to make sure I could get the project working on iPhone, again because that’s the next easiest most logical step for me. I fixed up some cosmetic issues caused by multi-resolution support and added in support for the Safe Area of the iPhoneX range of phones – basically the notch, the curved corners, and the home indicator. This will also help with any potential AppleTV version that might come later. With the safe area I chose to allow the background to fill the full screen, but make sure any UI components are within the safe area.

The next thing is to get Windows32/Windows10 variants building, which for me unfortunately means spending time in a Windows VM. I also enjoy using Visual Studio less and less… but hey, needs must.

Once the windows version is building, at least the win32 version, I will swap back to Doomdark’s Revenge. I will make the changes required to get DDR running in the same way LoM is. The main thing will be tunnels, mist, landscaping and ui differences. The reason for this is so that I can have a version to give to Drew that will help him with the novel research.

After that, I will start pulling on the straggly strands together. I haven’t decided for definite yet, but I am thinking of releasing this version under the monicker “The Midnight Chronicles” and having both LoM and DDR as selectable campaigns, rather than releasing them as two separate apps. This wasn’t really possible when I first released LoM 6 years ago!

I am also considering In App Purchases. The idea is that the main game will be free, but you can pay for additional scenarios and graphic sets. It is likely that The Citadel will be released as a scenario rather than a new game. Some other scenarios might just be playing with the map or the game conditions. I like the idea of a scenario that more closely resembles the way the Novel plays out. I don’t intend to add IAP for functionality or gameplay, so there will be no in game currency for example!

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The minstrel’s songs were old ballads that everyone knew well

I’ve been having a few conversations with Wayne Britcliffe about making his Midnight inspired music available. Two of these pieces of music I used on the game trailers. The Midnight Overture was used for The Lords of Midnight, and The Icemark was used for Doomdark’s Revenge.
When I say having a few conversations, I actually mean I spoke to him about it three years ago, and completely forgot to do anything about it. Now that I have finally remembered, I wanted to ask if there is an appetite for these pieces of music to be made available.
I’d appreciated it if you would take some time to fill the form in so that we can gauge interest on releasing the current music or potentially more music.

The Lords of Midnight Trailer
Doomdark’s Revenge Trailer

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How many times had he pictured in her mind its winding paths and gentle glades?

When Drew and I were thinking about the cover for the novel, we already had a picture in mind. However, as with most novels, the responsibility of the cover sits with the publisher. Very few authors have much say on what the final cover will look like, it is after all, generally a marketing decision.

In this case, things changed. Due to events outside the scope of this post, and generally not of real importance, Drew and I found ourselves having to think about the cover. What it would look like, and who would create it. The who was a no brainer – Jure my long time collaborator on all things Midnight was the perfect fit, and we had an image of his that both Drew and I loved and had used already in promoting the book. 

Original Inspiration – Jurij Rogelj

There were just two issues with the picture though. One, we had used it already, and two its focus is the wrong way around. If you fold the above image in half the Lord would be on the back and the Citadel on the front. It’s not a huge problem, but it doesn’t feel right.

I also had an image that I used in the game for the main menu. The image shows a group of Lords marching out from the Citadel, albeit this one juxtaposes new and old art work. And that was the idea I liked.

Main Menu

So I created a mockup by flipping the image and sticking on a cutout of the citadel and the lords. This I sent to Jure and asked for something like that.

Cover Mockup

Within a day or so, Jure sent me his draft sketch. Which Drew and I discussed. Needless to say we loved it. There was only one thing that we wanted to change and that was to incorporate ‘dawn’ a little more. We both liked the way that the sun pops up from behind the mountains and sprays across the lake on the original image.  So I asked Jure if he could adapt the sketch to take that into account.

First sketch without text
First sketch with text

Jure sent a new image, but he felt that the switch of the sun made the right side of the image, and therefore the front cover, too dark. We agreed with him and so asked him to create the final artwork based on his sketch. To be honest, I could have just gone with the sketch! 🙂

Second sketch with text

A couple of days later, I received the final artwork from Jure, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone involved with the production of the book were overwhelmed with how great it looked. It’s another one of Jure’s perfect Midnight inspired images.

Final Image
Final Image with text but no publisher logo or barcode

I now look forward to what Doomdark’s Revenge cover might look like. This time however, we might give Jure more time!

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Above, the towering clouds simply melted away and the bright stars gleamed in the sky once more.

After having a conversation with Drew a couple of weeks back about the future of the novels, I came to a stark realisation that I was now unable to build the special version of Doomdark’s Revenge that he would need to allow him to freely wander the Icemark as part of his research. This was something that I did for him with The Lords of Midnight and it helped greatly.

However, the problems that I have had with the building of the games because of the loss of the Marmalade SDK are still plaguing me. I was slowly coming to the acceptance that I would soon be removing the games from the Apple app store as each new release of iOS and new devices makes the game unobtainable. This will likely follow through to Android and Windows.

All this has been compounded that my general motivation has been through the floor for a number of years now.

The upshot of this post is that this week I had a self imposed break from work and I’ve been working on the game and have made great progress already. The main menu and surrounding screens are all working. The main view is mostly done bar a few niceties and features that I don’t yet need to give Drew the functionality he needs. Today I’m working on the Think screen, but the main missing screens are the Select and Map screen.

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Why is the Solstice so important?

As much as my life has become entwined with The Lords of Midnight, it has also for similar reasons become linked to the solstices.

When I first started my journey through the Midnight landscape, I lived about 250 miles away from Stonehenge, the pilgrimage location for all those who follow the solstices, and the concept of spending a night there couldn’t have been further away. Now I live about 25 miles and have made both the summer and winter pilgrimage many times. Lords of Midnight uses two concepts that align with Stonehenge, the winter solstice and standing stones – the henges.

 

So it seems apt that today at the Summer Solstice I have hit another Lords of Midnight milestone – the release of the novel.

I must make it clear that I am not the author of the novel, that role was taken on by Drew Wagar. I still have some way to go before I manage to tick off my author goal. But, I think it’s fair to say that the novel would not exists without my involvement, and I am extremely proud to have helped to finally make this happen. The original game publishers promised a novel that never happened, and 34 years later, Drew, Fantastic Books, and I have delivered.

Firstly the novel came about because of a chance twitter conversation. The result of that conversation and after some discussions with Mike’s family, was that I was able to greenlight the novel. Let that sink in a little, I have to. 34 years ago when I originally started playing the game, I could never have imagined that my life would become so linked that I would affectively have a casting yes/no vote on anything to do with it, let alone a novel. Unfortunately that sword is double edged as this is only possible because Mike is no longer around.

Secondly I worked closely with Drew to keep the novel accurate not only with regard the original game, but also when considered as part of the complete Midnight saga. The Lords of Midnight can no longer be considered in isolation. The original game and novella were written without any consideration for the future, and after its release more games and stories became available. Therefore, when setting out to tell this tale, it was imperative that the necessary adjustments and corrections were made. Drew and I spent a good amount of time looking forward and backward over the saga’s timeline. Somethings we just needed to link up. Somethings we’ve had to fill the gaps.

Thirdly I’ve been there as a sounding board for the story, Drew had a story to tell. In part that reflects the original game story and for all of us to have played the game to death, we all know how it ends, so there are no surprises there. Drew’s job was to navigate the journey and to tell a compelling story that fits within the constraints already defined. My job was to assist Drew with that in any way I could. Part of that was reading the story and commenting on it. This just involved me often saying, yes, no, or how about. The other area would be me making suggestions based on my knowledge of the saga lore either up front of in reaction to something Drew was working through.

And lastly, the cover. Drew and I commissioned the cover from my long term Midnight collaborator Jure. We took some ideas based on work he had already produced and created a mock-up concept of something we would like. Jure then created a quick concept sketch that we discussed and then went on to produce the lovely final piece.

So today has come. Summer Solstice 2018 – The Lords of Midnight – Book One in the Chronicles of Midnight is released, I hope those who read it enjoy it. I hope that Mike would be as proud of it as I am.

The book is currently available in eBook format from Amazon or in multiple DRM free formats from Fantastic Books Publishing. Physical copies to follow at the official launch in September.

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Many tales were told that day…

Drew has delivered the first draft of The Lords of Midnight Novel. Obviously, I have read it during the writing phase, made comment where necessary, and am overall very happy with the story. However, a novel is not generally written in one pass. The story made be told, but it still needs to be crafted and refined. Things that were written at the start of the tale may need to be revised, information that we want to impart as an aside, or for future continuity and foreshadowing, may need to find a home at the correct place of the story.

So, as Drew gets out his polishing pen, I shall be printing out a copy, and sitting down to read it from start to end for the first time. Something I’m really looking forward to.

In Drew’s words…

First draft in the Chronicles of Midnight

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We cannot spare more than a few for such a perilous task

After the problems earlier in the year with Marmalade getting out of the SDK market, I started working on porting Lords of Midnight to Cocos2d. I initially decided to park the games and start on something new to get me going. As it happens that the new thing was The Citadel. I managed to get TME – the Midnight Engine – which is the backend game code that runs both LoM and DDR, up and running. I then worked on the Landscaping technique.
Happy with that working, I dragged the Map data out of The Citadel and started rendering that. The real big issue I needed to address for the Citadel is water, so I started working on that.

I spoke with Jure and he mocked up some potential imagery, so we could get and idea of what it might look like.

I then had a lot of problems with Cocos2D getting it to build under windows, and to be honest, I got a bit disheartened and gave up for a few months. It’s frustrating when the OSX Build all works without any issues, but the code just wouldn’t build on Windows.

Since I’m working closer to home at the moment, I started to get that coding itchy feeling, and so I returned to the game. After a bit of restructuring I managed to get the code compiling on Windows – however, it completely wouldn’t build on OSX anymore. Xcode would completely barf and kill my machine taking up over 52gb of memory!

I spent three evenings trying to get it to work. The upshot of all that pain, is that I seem to be back into my groove…

I spent a bit of time thinking about the whole process, and I’m not sure if it’s because my Facebook feed keeps reminding me of what I was doing five years ago… desperately trying to complete LoM to get it submitted to Apple before the Winter Solstice as it happens, but it feels right to get these games back up and running an ready for any future release.

At the moment I am slowing making my way through every UI screen and rebuilding it under Cocos2d. It’s painful because as powerful as Cocos2d is, the documentation is a complete bag of horse turd. I’m really stumbling around trying to translate the UI Engine I had already built into a new one.

Once I have all the periphery screens complete, I will make my way into the game screens.

I’m not abandoning The Citadel, I’m just taking some time out to get the whole engine fresh again. I’d like to get LoM and DDR released under the new system early next year.

As an aside, the complete progress can be found in the GitHub repository. All the code and assets are there.

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There were many tales to be told

Drew has given an update on the current progress of the novel. Unfortunately it involves a delay, but we all think it’s for the better…

He thinks again…

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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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The way was obscure but he moved onwards…

The ersh has finally settled on the whole Marmalade Licence Issue. My licence no longer works so I cannot build LoM or DDR anymore, and the new company who I know nothing about, nor what their long term intentions are, require $600 for a one year bridging licence.

I just about managed to get the new 64bit build out for iOS and Android, but never managed to update Windows, Mac, Windows Phone, and Amazon. I’m a little disappointed by this, but I think I can live with it.

However, the iOS version of Doomdark’s Revenge seems to have a little bug on iPhone7 where it doesn’t always show the splash screen and the main menu backdrop. The rest of the game works fine. This can be fixed by running your phone in Zoom mode. I wish I’d managed to get the fix out for this in time. What this actually means, is that this fix would cost me $600.

I’ve though long and hard about this, and I’ve decided to let it go. GMO Internet group Japan, who now own the Marmalade Tech, have said that they will be changing the technology in 12 months. Currently their bridging licence is a no support, no update licence. So come a new iOS or Xcode, both which will happen in September, then there is no guaranty that it would continue to build after that. Then there is the little issue of the compatibility of their new tech, should they make it available, and the new cost.

I don’t honestly think the DDR bug will affect that many people, after all, there are not that many people playing it. Should the problem become a real issue, then then, and only then, might I consider buying the licence to allow me to fix, compile, and release.

Until then, I need a new plan.

And here it is…

My next game was going to be Timbles – my children education title that has been kicking along for way too long. This is also written under the same system and thus I can no longer work on it. I cannot currently bring myself to port it to another system, therefore it will be shelved until some future time.

My intention was to move my system to Cocos2d-x and I have started working on that. But, I have decided that rather than spend time in the past again, porting to another system, I am going to start a new game that will allow me to familiarise myself with Cocos2d-x and build up the system I need, and then after that I will take Timbles, The Lords of Midnight, and Doomdark’s Revenge across to it. If I can get another game out, then follow it with Timbles, I am strongly leaning to spending time on The Citadel.

It’s worth point out that I have over the years ported The Lords of Midnight from a Z80 code base that I hand disassembled and crafted to 80×86. I wrote a Visual Basic version, and C version. Developed the Midnight Engine in c++ for Windows, then took this across to the Marmalade system as the base of the current releases. Timbles was developed under Visual Basic 10 years ago. Then moved to DirectX. Then rewritten in c# for Silverlight to run in a browser, before finally being coded in c++ under the Marmalade system.

I think you can see why I am a tad reluctant to revisit these code bases right now. 🙂

In the mean time I will update the GitHub repositories to include the full final source.

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