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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I thought the War was lost and Midnight doomed.

battle_full_linesI’ve been working my way through the outstanding bug list. One of the areas that seems to cause contention, is battles.

It causes me some problems because the original is actually pretty haphazard where battles are concerned. So I’m going to talk about the battles in a little more depth, just so that you can get an understanding as to why certain things seem to be happening.

Firstly, night processing goes like this…

1. Reset all characters at dawn
2. Give all AI characters their turn
3. Process Battles
4. Place things on map
5. Move Mists
6. Remove things from map at location’s where characters are
7. Check if characters can recruit soldiers from strongholds
8. Re-spawn armies at strongholds
9. Check for important deaths

Secondly, the interesting point here is, characters are given a chance to move BEFORE battles take place. So, if you attack a character, there is a good chance he will move and thus a battle will not take place.

To understand that a little more, let’s look at the AI turn.

The AI character must decide what to do every night. Each character will react to a number of objectives.

1. Goto Liege
2. Goto Foe
3. Goto Object
4. Goto Home
5. Do nothing

If they have a liege, and that liege’s objectives are 1 or 2, then this characters objective also become 1 or 2.

Otherwise, we pick a new objective

When picking a new objective we pick a random number between 1 and 16. If we choose 1 to 5, then these are our objective. Otherwise we continue with our current objective.

So as you can see, there is a 68% chance that we will just continue on with what were we previously doing. Which means that unless you are at a characters stronghold, and his current objective is to go home, then the likelihood, he is moving away from you.

There is only a 6% chance that the character will stay at his current location.

Personally, I am very surprised at these stats, because it makes battles bloody difficult. Unlike The Lords of Midnight where a nearby army would drop everything to attack, or an attacked army would stay until the death, in Doomdark’s Revenge, everything apart from battle seems to be of more interest.

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The Forest Keeper

When Mike and I were talking about The Lords of Midnight remake, one of the things we were going to do, was start the game earlier.

The Novella starts with Luxor and Morkin at the Forest Keeper’s hut. They are on their way to The Tower of the Moon in order to be part of the Council of the Wise.

The Novella is effectively all exposition. It’s about giving you the player, the information you need to know, in order to continue on and immerse yourself with the game.

This came to mind the other day because I was asked about remaking The Lords of Midnight, again. It is something I would love to do. I’m just not fully sure anymore what it would mean. However, there was one thing that I remembered that we did want to do, and that was change the Novella into a Animated Graphic Novel, and split it up with the initial game play which would then start from the Forest Keeper’s hut.

The game would place in you a restricted map, inside of the Forest of the Moon, and you need to find your way to the Tower. This would allow for the Narrative to be blended with the tutorial, and thus, by the time the game starts proper, at the start of the Solstice, you would have all the information you needed without having to read any manuals.

Once you start to increase the production values, then maybe there is something that could be for a larger audience.

I’ve already had some conversations about the audio. About how to score the game.

And visually, we have an idea of how it would look. Most of you already have an idea from Jure’s art that was non-original style for The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge. But I place a gallery at the end of this post. But if you then take into account this image the Jure sent me the other day when were were discussing how we would make the game look…

A Vision of Midnight

The real issues comes down to the interface and the gameplay. What would we need to change in the actual game. The main thing is to stay in the narrative. Every decision we make must be based on the story, and staying in story. We would probably need to make a few slight changes to the original just to give it some breathing space.
And all that text… it’s problematic but it’s also the charm of the original, you wouldn’t want to get rid of it, but should some of it be lost? I really don’t know the answer to that yet. What if it was all spoken?

Now, if I could just find some money to allow me and Jure to work on it full time… or almost full time…

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