Jure, who drew the graphics for The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge remakes, not to mention all the illustrations from the Novellas and often displayed here, develops a graphics package called JugiPaint. So every now and then he throws me something he has drawn using it while using Midnight as his inspiration.
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.”
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.
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.
One 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…
Firstly, 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!
While I’ve been looking at the data for The Citadel, and putting it in a editable format, I thought I’d make available the data for The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge. The zip file includes a JSON file for the database structure and a JSON file that can be loaded into TILED.
I’m pretty sure that this is the exact same data that has been released with the game, however I can’t be 100% sure due hacks I might have done in code at the 11th hour!
I finally got round to spending some time converting some Citadel data. On of the issues that I had was that I have the map data in LBM image format. It’s obviously not a great format for the terrain data, but this was given to me by the original programmer and I’m not sure how they were processed for the final game. The other issue is the difference in game styles. This data is for a 3d free roaming map and some of the maps are different sizes. The region map are 128×128, however I can’t believe that the citadel could be played out as a 2d landscaping game, without seriously playing with the time taken to move. Therefore, I decided to make the Citadel map 256×256, this is in keeping with the map that Mike drew up for Eye of the Moon, and therefore as the Bloodmarch was originally going to be the setting for EotM it seems fitting to go with the same size.
Last year I did some work on transferring The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge maps into Tiled. I figured that if I could create a tool chain from that, I could possibly edit the maps for future campaign updates to the games. I did all the work on converting to Tiled and coming up with data formats, but never did any work on the toolchain to get the data back into the game. This is something I still need to do.
With that in mind, I produced a draft Tiled version of the Citadel map which you can download to take a look at. It has layers for Realms and Regions, and then individual layers for each terrain type. The Citadel map was very sparsely populated compared to LoM and DDR, and although the current terrain types account for 19 different terrain, which is actually three more than both LoM and DDR, these terrain really are base landscape terrain. Land, Water, Trees, Mountains, Swamps, etc…. it is lacking anything remotely of interest. There are no Liths, Villages, Hits, etc…
If a game is going to come of the Citadel, this is something that is going to need to be rectified.
LoM and DDR pretty much share the following landscape terrain types: Mountain, Forest, Downs, Lake, Frozen Wastes, Plains, and Hills.
LoM adds: Citadel, Henge, Tower, Village, Keep, Snow Hall, Ruin, Lith, and Cavern, while DDR adds: Gate, Temple, Pit, Palace, Fortress, Hall, Hut, Tower, City, Fountain, and Stones.
The Citadel has landscape types of: Mountains, Craggy Mountains, Forest, Hills, Plains, Land, Valley, Lakeland, Swamp, River, Sea, Bay, Lake, Foothills, Isle, and Downs, and adds: Castle.
As you can see, there isn’t a great deal of variety in those none landscape terrains. Citadel, City, and Castle pretty much replace each other, as do keep and fortress. I seem to recall that Maranor is the Dark Citadel, but I am not aware of any cities.
So, apart from Snow Hall, I see no reason why the additional LoM and DDR terrain types could not be used within a Citadel scenario.
The question then becomes, should there be any new terrains?
My first process is to make sure the Tiled map all holds together. I needs a little tidying up which will need to be a visual process. I’m not sure if there were problems with the original, but I noticed things like trees in the sea. I never got that far in the game, so I don’t know if there were indeed trees in shallow water on the coast line, but a few things like that should probably be ironed out.
At this stage I would like to get some Terrain graphics so that I could drop the map into the engine, and start walking around. There are some issues here, as The Citadel introduces water in a way that LoM and DDR didn’t, so there will need to be engine changes to handle that.
Once a clean version of the map is available, the next stage would be to hand populate the map with the other terrain types. I don’t see this being a quick exercise because I think a lot of thought will need to go into this process.
Only at that stage, will I be anywhere near thinking about an ACTUAL game. There is a lot of underlying work do consider with how the game should work, how the AI in the original works etc. Without help this will also be a lengthy process.
So basically, don’t hold your breath, but slowly slowly catchy monkey…
As the smouldering dusk fell, the Citadel of Xajorkith towering above them on the opposite bank seemed lit by a great fire in the west. Luxor the Moonprince gazed up at the Great Tower where his banner fluttered in the gentle breeze. Already the torches were being lit and the slender windows of the Tower were filled with a bright glow.
As a little Winter Solstice treat, here is the novella from The Citadel.
Some of you might find it an interesting read if you’ve never read it before, and for those of you who have, then it will serve as a little reminder, it’s probably been a while.
It’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.
While doing an interview for Retro Gamer Issue 148, I was looking at some of the original hand written pages that Mike had written for The Eye of the Moon. The idea was to give the magazine an image of his writing to put in the article. What I actually found was a piece that hadn’t been typed up. I had mistakingly thought that the text had been included in the documents I already had. I’m not 100% sure where this piece goes before the other two, it feels like it might be the first piece, but the fact that it wasn’t typed up suggests to me that either a) Mike had disregarded it – ( I doubt that ), b) he wrote it after the other two.
The images of this text did appear in the Retro Gamer Article, however, they are too small to read, so I include the images here, the text, and I have updated the Eye of the Moon document to include it.
In the Blink of an Eye
“How many Mantas?”
“At least 100 riders Domse, and they have spare horses too. They’ll catch us sometime tomorrow for sure.”
Domyinykas sighed and turned to gaze at the distant mountains rising from a blue haze. How would they ever reach them now?
“It’s that stone Domse?” said Mantas quietly.
“The Eye of the Moon? Yes, I fear it is. We’ve been hunted from the forests of Qadim Haraj to where we stand now by different bands of warriors every step of the way. It’s as though it calls them, it beckons them to us.”
“Domse, we can’t take a hundred of them. Can we not just cast the thing away here and now?”
Domse turned back to his friend and gazed into his eyes. Even Mantas was afraid now. It was desperate.
“No we can’t. That would be the ruin of all things. We must take it to the roof of the world, we must! Do you think that they will ride in tonight?”
“No my Lord, the footing is too harsh. They only ride by day and their horses are swift, as though they ride the wind.”
“The get some rest Mantas, and the others. I’ll stand guard tonight. I need to think.
It was early to stop, dusk was only beginning, but Domse wanted everyone fresh as could be tomorrow. Another mile tonight wouldn’t make the difference, the riders of Varangor would still catch them tomorrow regardless.”
As the other boys, weary from the long days of chase, lay down to sleep, Domse gazed at the casket which sat on a rock close to him. He wondered at what power lay within that could draw death and danger down upon them from so far away.
For a few moments, Domse eyes closed and he seemed to drift asleep. The dusk thickened around him and he thought he heard music playing far away. He opened his eyes. There was a shimmer around the casket and it seemed to dose now that the faint music was coming from inside the small wooden box.
It was a light and happy melody that swayed and danced and twisted and gently grew louder. Domse was filled now with curiosity. There was a strange air of peacefulness enfolding their small encampment. His comrades slept with smiles on their faces, the campfire blazed merrily, the dusk was full of stillness and soft with the lingering warmth of the day.
Slowly Domse reached forward and opened the box. Inside the Eye of the Moon was glaring and shimmering as though it was dancing through a bright rainbow. The brought the stone closer and peered into its crystalline depths. The feeling of warmth and homeliness filled him.
The shimmering rainbow colours faded and we replaced by a scene, another encampment but far larger than his own, bustling with men, brightly lit tents, cooking fires, lanterns and in the foreground a man. The man turned to face Domse with a look of surprise.
“By all the gods!” The man exclaimed, “who are you boy?”
The VOICE was commanding but not harsh. Domse was as surprised as the man, but nevertheless, he answered as best he could.
“I am Dominykas, Prince of Coromand. I journey with my comrades to Valahar, seeking the roof of the world.”
The man smiled.
“Well if the roof of the world is anywhere, it surely lies within Valahar. But Valahar is very far from Coromand.”
“That’s true enough sir, we have been travelling for nearly three years now.”
“Then you are close to Valahar?”
“We believe so, yes, but we are being hunted.”
“Riders of the Varangor this time, but they are not the first to try and catch us.
“The Varangor! They’re a long way from home! Forgive me for asking young prince, but what have you done to stir up such a hue and cry?”
Now Dominykas needed to fake nothing.
“I truly don’t know. We harmed no one save in our own defence, we have stolen nothing, we have passed as quietly as we could. And sir, now you must forgive me, but who are you?”
“I am Morkin, Prince of Midnight. We also travel to Valahar, seeking a treasure that is rightfully my fathers. Some fate rides upon it my boy.”
“Some fate perhaps, but not as grave as the fate that rest on our quest.”
“We take a jewel to the roof of the world, to cast it there into a bottomless chasm and rid the world of its evil forever. So the prophet commanded and so shall it be!”
“What jewel is this Dominykas?”
“Men call it the Eye of the Moon. Don’t ask me why, I haven’t a clue.
Morkin laughed softly.
“No wonder you were being hunted young prince. The dark forces of the world have been seeking this stone for many a long year and now it has revealed itself again. You are at the eye of a storm I fear Dominykas.
“That’s the truth for sure Morkin. We have a hundred or more riders hunting us, and we are five.”
“Five hardened warriors?
“Not really, although we have done our fair share of killing the last few weeks. We are just boys Morkin. I am sixteen and the others are the same, give or take a month or two.”
Morkin turned, perhaps to hide his reaction. When he turned back though, he was smiling. “Courage lad! That was my age when I set out the destroy the Ice Crown”, he said with a smile.
“The Ice Crown! Exclaimed Dominykas. You destroyed the Ice Crown?You loosened the grip of the long winter on the world?”
“I played my part. It was for others though to defeat the armies of Doomdark,” said Morkin.
Mike and I spent a long time talking about the save game feature in LOM and DDR. Both us came down on the side that a save game on a modern platform diminishes the story nature of the game. Unlike loading the game back for 10 minutes from a tape as it was back in 84, it take less than a second to reload the game, and therefore a lot of the challenge is removed. I’ve discussed this previously here…
Anyway, I received an email today about the save game feature…
Due to the complexity of the gameplay, it is difficult (impossible) to excite new people to play if you do not include a true “Save” mechanism in the game.
I’m still not of the mind to add a save game feature, but I ended up wondering if it was time to expand the UNDO feature a little.
The game creates an undo position after every single move. It allows to roll back completely through the game. It marks special undo records such as Dawn and Night. However, in the game it only utilises the last move and dawn. I originally wanted to give the facility to playback the undo records as a way to watch the game unfold… never happened. And I was going to add difficulty levels that utilised the UNDO facility more… Also, never happened.
The undo records except dawn and last are purged as you end the story and return to the menu. This happened because I received a report that stories were taking up a lot of space. An undo record is actually a full uncompressed, unoptimised save game and takes about 30k. They can soon mount up.
What I was thinking was… how about if I left ALL the undo to dawn records live and possibly the last x moves too. That way you could undo a couple of moves, or undo dawn, undo dawn, undo dawn… etc… Maybe an option to redo so that you could step back up the dawn undo list if you have not pressed night since undo.