He rode on towards the Tower of the Moon a little more gladly

Thanks to the generosity of Scott Gibbens, who took time out from his 170 mile journey home at the end of a busy day at work, to swing by my place and lend me his iPad2 for testing… the new build is now working on all the devices it can. The only restrictions I have had to make is iOS7. This removes iPhone 1-3, and iPad1, and iPod Touch 1-4. Unfortunately, there is just nothing I can do for these old devices anymore. For the record, the current version in the app store will continue to be available and work on those devices that have already downloaded it, it’s just no future versions (should there be any) will be available.
This new build has gone out to the external testers, and as long as I get the ok, it will head to the store next week. All being well, I will do the same for Doomdark’s Revenge. I intend to release both LoM and DDR for Android, Windows, and OSX as well to unify the releases. However, Blackberry, and Windows Phone will not be getting this release.
 
For the record, this is what is available in this release…
 
1. Added discovery map
2. Added ‘tooltip’ info on map
3. Added cleanup button for lords on select screen
4. Change to undo system ready for difficulty modes
5. Added ability to UNDO from the gameover screen!
6. Handle new screen resolutions
7. Built for latest IOS SDK
8. Support 64 bit devices
9. Cosmetic changes on scrolling views – dithered
10. Update of engine to align with Doomdark’s Revenge
11. Misc minor engine fixes ported from Doomdark’s Revenge

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The Moon Ring lends us the power to change our plans

For those of you that do not follow my personal blog, I thought I’d update you on a few issues that have been plaguing me… for those of you who have, you can skim down to nearer the bottom…

About six months ago I received an email from Marmalade detailing their intention to withdraw from the SDK market. Marmalade is the system I used to develop The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge in order to facilitate the cross platform nature of it. Using Marmalade gave me the ability to target iOS, OSX, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, Kindle, and Blackberry.

A month or so later, Marmalade confirmed that the SDK had been sold to another company, and that further support may become available from them.

That process has now taken place. I have less than a month of my Marmalade licence left, and they have not turned off the Licence server to I can still build and continue to work. However no future support will come from them. The new company are offering a 12 month bridging licence at $100 more than my previous licence fees, but this also comes with no support. I’m also not convinced that they intend to be around for the long term. The main reason they appeared to by the Marmalade system was for internal development.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Google. Doomdark’s Revenge was now in breach of one of their policies and needed to be resubmitted or removed from the store. A quick recompile and the problem was solved.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Apple. The Lords of Midnight was due to be removed from the store in 30 days. This is due to them culling old apps that were not being updated and/or were not 64 bit. If the App is removed people who currently have it will still be able to play it and re-download it, it just won’t be able to go on any new devices or be updated.

In theory, a recompile would solved the problem, and as I had slowly added some new functionality, this should gain me a stay of execution for possibly another 5 years.

Over the last few weeks I’ve ben wrestling with a Marmalade SDK that is not supported and an inability to build a new version. Eventually, after a lot of heartache and pain, and getting close to just giving up, I have managed to get a working build, however, there is a catch, it doesn’t work on iPad1, iPad2, and iPad Mini 1. iPad1 is no surprise, I can’t target anything lower than iOS 6 anymore and iPad1 only goes to 5.1 The iPad2 and iPad Mini is more of a problem. The issue appears to be the Marmalade system incorrectly reporting those devices as Retina devices even though there are not. I’m still trying to fix this, but it’s proving difficult without current access to any of the devices. So, I might have to make a decision. The deadline is under two weeks now and in order to stave of the executioner, I might have to upload a version that doesn’t support those devices. And this is where the real catch is; I can’t exclude those devices without going iOS10 or purely 64 bit, or both.

Using iOS10 would allow me to target iPhone5 up, and iPod Touch6G, iPad4 up, iPad Mini2 up. Going 64bit would be much more restrictive.

It hurts to think I might lose iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini1, and iPhone 4, it seems harsh, especially as I have an iPad3 which it does work on! I have no idea how many of these devices are currently playing the game, Apple don’t break down the numbers to devices with that amount of granularity.

To be fair, I don’t have a current enhancement plan for the games, so it’s not like people who currently have the game will be losing out much, but it just feels wrong.

I’ll have to make a decision early next week in order to upload LoM and DDR and at least stop the rot. However, once those versions are up, I don’t know how much longer I might be able to build them again for.

Long term, I need to look at porting the games to another platform, and this is something I have spoken about before…

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This time you’ve got me to help you…

A few months back I received an email from Marmalade Studios. Marmalade is the system I used to give me cross platform support. I pay for a licence yearly which is still covered by the ongoing sales on the long tale of the game. Anyway, the email informed me that Marmalade were pulling out of the Tools business to focus on their own development. They laid out a timetable and final release plan for the current tools but ultimately from March 2017 they will no longer be supporting their toolset. There was an offer to purchase rights to the source code, but as a small indie, that’s not really an option.

This doesn’t affect the current releases, but what it does mean is that any chances of me producing updates in the future have almost certainly been removed. And with every new OS release, the chance of the game not working are increased.

I know I have not been prolific with updates since the release of Doomdark’s Revenge settled. There was so many things I wanted to do, but just haven’t gotten around to. The reality is two fold, as amazing as the sales of the games have been, they are obviously not enough to support me full time, and secondly, the games were written quite frantically in the end and I never regained that sense of purpose after their release; this is not just for these games but for everything that I have been doing creatively.

I’ve been trying recently to tie up another release. The main reason for this is to produce a build with the latest version of Marmalade and get it out there to properly support the latest devices. In theory a new release should keep its visibility in the App Stores for a few more years. As part of this I’ve been slowing adding a couple of features: Discovery Mode, Difficulty Modes, Rationalise the code base between DDR and LOM. etc..

So with all this in mind I have been toying with the following: Uploading the source code to GitHub and making it open-source with the objective of transferring it to another cross platform solution, Cocos2d-x for example. Or, allowing people to port the engine to any other coding languages they like, so it could be used however they like.

The current codebase is written in c++, and thus moving to Cocos2d-x makes sense, but I quite like the idea of porting to c# or swift.

Moving to open source could also allow for the tool chain to be fully developed which would allow for more work to be put into ongoing development of the games.

Anyway, I shall think on this more, but if anyone is interested in getting involved, then drop me a note…

 

 

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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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You are the last heir of the House of the Moon

c_freehOne of the interesting things that has come out of the potential Lords of Midnight novel, is having to think about some of the backstory that Mike never filled in. I have done this on and off over the last 30 years, but suddenly it seems to be much more important.

As part of the negotiation stage for the novel, it was important to get a feel for what any story might be about, and to that end I have been working with the potential author on the initial outline for the novel. For my part as ‘consultant’ I have been cross referencing all the novellas and other little bits of information, in more detail and with a new eye, to highlight pieces of story that are important and to help fill in some gaps.

When Mike originally wrote the game and novella, the whole process happened in around six months. There are things that he alluded too that he never actually gave any thought to at all.

For example, Rorthron the Wise says to Luxor when they meet at the Tower of the Moon:

“I have kept this from you too long, but with good reason. You are not simply Lord Luxor of the Free, you are the last heir of the House of the Moon. You, my Lord Luxor, are the Moonprince and this ring is yours by right, to be worn only in circumstances of gravest peril.

Corleth follows this with,

“The Fey have long suspected that the House of the Moon still survived. The Wise are not the only guardians of knowledge. I could not be sure until today when Rorthron held forth the Moon Ring, but since I have known him, I have harboured a secret hope that your father was the Moonprince.”

This is never referenced again. What happened to the House of Moon, how is Luxor the heir, and how and why was it kept secret? We never hear any more until the events of The Citadel when we are told the brief story of Rarnor the Unlucky who had the Eye of the Moon stolen from him. Was the loss of the Eye the start of the downfall for the House of Moon?

When you start to break down the Novellas there are so many areas that can be expanded upon, and for a novel, will likely need to be addressed in some way or another. Some of this work might never make it into the actual text, but it is going to be needed even if just in passing.

In all the years of asking Mike questions, he would often answer,

“I don’t know Chris, you probably have a better idea than me, I never really thought it through that far.”

It seems, we are going to have to start thinking it through that far…

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Why is the Solstice so important?

The War of the SolsticeFirstly, this is not an announcement, but I do want to update you on some very interesting developments that have occurred over the last few days.
I have had a number of conversations with an established author about the possibility of a Lords of Midnight novel covering the War of the Solstice. We have a tentative understanding in place, and his publisher is also keen, and in principal signed up to the idea. We’ve discussed an overview of what the story might cover, and the timescales under which this would take place. He is currently putting together a general synopsis and outline, as well as some samples chapters. I shall have further conversations with Mike’s family to rubber stamp the approval, with a view to having a fully fledged agreement and a cast iron announcement in the coming couple of months when the full issues have been dealt with. Stay tuned!

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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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The Eye of the Moon

I have finally typed up the notes for The Eye of the Moon and combined it with a little story history.

I’ve just found some extra notes and bits that I forgot to scan. I have now added these in.

The new bits are:-
1. The hand drawn map of Valahar at the end.
2. Some information about name changes on the Eye map.
3. Names of additional wise characters.
4. Known Routes
5. Single Use Magic
6. Holding Domains
7. Independents
8. Restricting the Numbers

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Midnight @ Blackberry

BB World_Get It_BLK Box I have removed The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge from Blackberry App World. It’s been a tough decision to finally make, but the games are just not viable on that platform. There are a couple of major issues that I have:
Firstly, the games are not really selling, so the low numbers mean that I am not triggering Blackberry’s minimum payment thresholds. I estimate that I have sold somewhere between 100 and 200 units of The Lords of Midnight, but Blackberry use three different payment vendors depending on how the game is purchased. These are Bango, Digital River, and Blackberry themselves.
Bango, and Blackberry have minimum payment thresholds, and I have received no payment for games sold through them.
Digital River have paid me, but they pay in USD into the business paypal account. This is really poor and a nightmare to administer from an accounting point of view. In particular it makes calculating my VAT very difficult.
The fact that my sales are estimates is because you are unable to get accurate reports from the Blackberry Vendor Portal. You have to rely on statements to calculate your sales. But some of the Vendor statements ( Digital River ) appear to lack any reference to the game sold. So I can’t separate the sales for the two games.

Should there be enough interest, I will consider placing the Blackberry .bar files for future updates on this website, so that the keen players can side load the updates themselves.

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Midnight Status Update

This week has seen The Lords of Midnight finally get the 1.12 update across all the stores. That means that OSX and Blackberry players can now enjoy the features that other users have had for nearly 4 months. Sorry about that, the OSX issue came about because I could no longer submit to the App Store, and it has taken this long for Marmalade to fix the issue, and Blackberry was just an oversight – never noticed that I had not updated it.

Doomdark’s Revenge has now hit version 1.2 across all stores. This resolves a number of early issues and brings the remake more inline with the original. There is still some work to do on that, and version 1.3 should be pushed out later this week which will hopefully close off the remaining problematic areas. You can see a full list of upcoming changes here.

I’ll be honest, it has taken me by surprise at the number of issues that crept through the testing process. Looking at it with hindsight, not enough testing occurred that compared it to the original. I have spent a large amount of the last two weeks pouring over the original code looking for subtle things that I had previously missed, in order to try and explain the variances. For example, Shareth’s stronghold is Imiriel, but for the routing AI it get overridden as Glireon. Morkin is actually and AI lord which means he moves. And, Characters will not attempt to recruit another character while at a stronghold.

The OSX version of Midnight and Revenge both have a problem with Mac Book Pro Retina screens. I shall be looking into that. As a work around, place you laptop in one of the smaller virtual resolutions, start the app and then change it to Large Window mode in the options. The change you desktop resolution back.

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