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.

Related Posts:

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…

Related Posts:

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

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

Think about the future…

icon_512x512I finally submitted the OSX version of The Lords of Midnight to Apple last night, it’s been a long time coming, a lot longer than I expected. I didn’t start it as early as I expected due to supporting the mobile version until March. Some of it has been because of technical issues, I struggled to get the code, more accurately the resolution code, to work satisfactory. Another part was being burnt out. I hadn’t realised how much getting the Mobile version out, took out of me. I found myself not really interested in developing the desktop version, so I found myself bitting at it and not staying focused. In fact a lot of the code ended up being developed on a Saturday morning while my daughter was diving, like I am now. I have a an hour and a half to kill while she dives, you can only give your full attention for so long, and that was always a good excuse to have my laptop with my and work on LoM.

All being well with the Apple submission process, the game will be available in the Mac App Store for the Summer Solstice. The Windows version needs a little more testing and I need to find a home for it to be distributed. If that all doesn’t happen during the next week in order to hit the same release date, I suspect it will be the week after.I now find myself thinking about the next steps. Jure has already started work on, if not almost finished, the artwork for Doomdark’s Revenge, so there is nothing to hold me back there. I suspect that the actual next steps will be a new build of the mobile version of LoM to include the scaling map, the keyboard controls ( for bluetooth keyboards ), and a few bug fixes that were dealt with during the desktop development. The desktop code is just a different branch of the mobile version, so I just need to roll everything up. Being truthful, I also need to put an advert in the mobile version for the desktop version, it would be nice to pickup at least another 6k unit sales.
Continue reading

Related Posts:

Update

dragonI thought I’d post an update of where things are at, at the moment.

I’ve been having a bad run of “can’t be arsed”, this is not just on the Midnight front, but with a number of things. It happens now and then. I think part of this is due to the fact that from October I worked tirelessly on Lords of Midnight right up to release, and then followed the release with two months of updates. In the end, I think it burnt me out a little. That combined with the day job and that I work for some of my clients in the evening as well. The problem is that I have now lost a little bit of momentum and I just need to get that back…

The desktop version is almost ready. I hoped to put it into test a few weeks ago, but didn’t because I was waiting to add one more feature, which is the MAP scaling and movement gadget. I did the temporary graphics, but haven’t implemented it yet. Once that is in I will make a request of Jure for the final graphics and then upload for test and open the forum for testers.

I intend to formally request Jure start work on Doomdark’s Revenge at the start of May, so that is my new goal; I’m going to aim to have the desktop version in test and DR started by the 1st May. And then aim for DR to be ready for at least the Mac App Store  by the end of May.

 

Related Posts:

Version 1.05 and game play changes

c_doomguardh

With the release of version 1.05, there are a number of game play changes that will have a major affect on the outcome of the game, so I wanted to discuss them in a little detail.

If you have already completed the game, then firstly, well done, but secondly, you might want to play the game through again to see how the changes affect the outcome.

Android users can start playing this version now, Amazon, iOS and Blackberry will need to wait until next weekend when they make it out of review.

Lords are now displaced correctly after losing a battle.

This is really about escaping. When a lord finally loses a battle and all his armies have been destroyed, if he is still alive he should have been displaced randomly to an adjoining location. This is important because that movement is free. Which means when you decide to retreat you have a one location head start from the enemy.

The affect of the Ice Fear on courage – not reducing it correctly.

Low courage characters like Lord Lothoril were gaining a massive courage boost when they were in the same location as Morkin. It means that they would have had a better outcome in battle or even the ability to attack when they shouldn’t have been able to so. This was caused by a negative courage being turned into positve.

Armies no longer recovery too quickly

Armies were regenerating their energy too quickly. Which means movement around the map without the need to rest, could be over a longer period, and more importantly, the armies were not suffering so much during long battles. The knock on affect during a battle would be that your armies would fair much better than they should have.

Doomdark’s armies no longer ignore lords on plains in front of their very eyes

There is code in the original Lords of Midnight that is used to look up to 3 locations in front for something of importance. This is just looking for something that is not plains. It is used when you are looking across plains to a location, so even though that keep in the distance is not directly in front of you, your view will be described as look toward the keep. This code is also used in the decision making process for the Doomguard wandering around the map. However, the bit I missed is that the original code didn’t actually use this function to check up to 3 locations in front; it was only using it to work out the location directly in front for the direction looking. So the Doomguard would scan a full 360 around themselves, and had they found a lord in one of those locations they would move into it. However, my implementation had two problems, the Doomguard would look a full 360 around themselves, and if they found a none plain terrain up to 3 locations away, they would start to move in that direction. Not only that, they would get there in one move. It means they could be distracted easily, and move too quickly.

Alteration to what you are allowed to do when Doomguard are at the same location

The options available to you when at the same location as the Doomguard have been brought in-line with the original. I made a mistake when interpreting these. Importantly, it means you can now exploit a quirk of the original which means you can attack the Doomguard at night with a single lone lord, and then immediately hide. This means that you affectively can get a free move at the end of the day. I will address this as a “quirk/bug” in a later version in that I will remove it as a difficulty option.

Now allowed to fight critters at night, as long as no Doomguard there

You should have been able to fight critters even though it is night. This is important just in case you get attacked during the night. Had you not killed the critters while you had an army could cause you a problem if you lose your army overnight.

Daytime game completion scenarios being triggered by Ice Crown destruction

This is purely an issue of the Ice Crown bring destroyed when Morkin is at the same location as one of the characters that can destroy it. The completion was being triggered on returning from the THINK screen. All this means is that it would have been difficult to achieve a complete victory without keeping Morkin away from those characters. And even then you would have to have brought the characters together and press NIGHT without having pressed THINK.

Removed left over AI difficulty code that would have Doomdark generating new armies that track down Morkin, Luxor, or head to Xajorkith

This was changed in the previous version. This was a problem that made the game a little more difficult because new armies were being re-generated when old armies were destroyed and these armies would often go after Luxor or Morkin. A version of this will be added back under difficulty levels at a later date.

 

Related Posts:

The Compass

Something I was working on tonight…

Work in progress on a new feature in Lords of Midnight. Hold the screen for a second and the compass pops up, then slide left or right to look around and let go.
This is the initial version, I may later release it with full animation, either revolve to the new direction or maybe even revolve as you move your finger. It basically gives you access to the full 360 without multiple presses and drags.

Related Posts: