Thoughts on Load and Save and ranting reviewers

undo
I just read an interesting review of The Lords of Midnight on the iOS store from PlaystationPaul. I’m posting it here and am going to discuss it as I have no right of reply for reviews.

Be warned – no proper save option

So the porter of this game is quoted as saying “We wanted you to have the ability to save but remove the temptation to just reload your game when something went wrong” and “But you have the ability to undo to dawn if you really mess up.”

Well thanks buddy for completely ruining the game, even the original Spectrum version had an option to save and load at any point – it’s meant to be a strategy game not a rougelike. The “undo” feature can only do so much – I lost Morkin after about an hour of play and can only go back to the dawn – he’s gone permanently along with all that progress – great! Do I really feel like going back and repeating all my actions again just to get to the point where I lost Morkin? No – not really – so thanks for completely spoiling a classic game by omitting one of the bare bone features which makes it enjoyable to play. Hopefully an update can rectify this somewhat arrogant and time-wasting decision.

I don’t know the circumstance on how PlaystaionPaul carelessly lost Morkin. Firstly, if he attacked something and died, then why not just perform a single-undo, and then send someone to his rescue, or keep trying the fight and undo approach. It’s as close to load and save as you are going to need.
Secondly, if he lost him in battle over night, well that’s the game. Maybe Morkin shouldn’t be left unattended where Doomdark’s armies can easily pick him off, and definitely not used in battle.

I presume by mentioning not wanting to redo the day’s work it was the former, so I really don’t understand not using the single-undo option.

Such and arrogant time-decision‘ – lets see. An arrogant time-wasting decision, made by Mike himself. Being honest, Mike wanted it removed completely, he didn’t like the idea of people arbitrarily loading and saving just to get passed a particular battle or fight. It took a lot of discussion to get the undo-to-dawn feature in the original release, and then I added the undo-one-turn during an update after a lot of discussion with other fellow Midnight players. So, if I am indeed guilty of arrogance, it’s by overriding Mike and adding the undo-one-turn option. Therefore Mr Playstation Paul, I shall not be releasing an update to rectify a somewhat arrogant and time-wasting decision that Mike and I spent a lot of time discussing and considering its impact on the game.

PlaystationPaul, email me personally and I shall refund your £2.99 and in future I will contact you before I make any design decisions on the game, because you obviously know what this strategy-adventure game should be more than Mike did, and without him around for me to consult, I obviously need to take advice.

“I hope you enjoyed yourselves. Excuse me for not showing you out. Straight up the stairs. You’ll find the way. I’m terribly busy. Whole day wasted. Goodbye to you. Goodbye.”

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The Frozen Gates I shall tear down.

Seven moons from now I, Shareth, Empress of the Icemark, will ride forth to avenge Doomdark, my beloved Father. The Frozen Gates I shall tear down. Midnight I shall lay waste and through the portals of Xajorkith I will pass, triumphant. All shall adore me and despair! Or, if the Moonprince prefers, let him ride to hammer at my door and find defeat more swiftly!

Last night I took a moment to branch the current Lords of Midnight desktop project, and create the Doomdark’s Revenge source tree. The reason I took the desktop project and not the released 1.6 mobile version, is purely because the Desktop and v1.6 Mobile needs to be merged anyway, and I thought that this separate project would be a good opportunity to find out what I broke for mobile in the desktop version. As it happens, not that much!

Jure had already sent me most of the graphics, so this would also act as a good opportunity to create a list of missing art resources. I plugged all the artwork in and created a ddr.tme file. This is the file that links up data from the backend database to the frontend presentation layer. Once I’d made my first pass through that I built the project and ran it… boom! No surprise really! First issue was the Doomdark’s Revenge database. I last generated this about 2004 I think, so the binary format was a little out of date because of a few changes I made while making the iOS version of the engine. Few changes to the export script, and that was all working ok.

Next thing to resolve was some graphical issues. There are no shields in Doomdark’s Revenge, and I used small versions of the shields for the select icon. Jure and I had not come to a decision on how this was going to work, so I created a temporary solution and quickly cropped the characters faces.

f_dwarff_free f_tarithel f_giant

On the main look screen, then shield needed replacing with the character graphic. So the engine now detects a lack of shield graphic and uses the character graphic instead.

And that was that…

That was just stage one. I can wander around the map using any of the three main characters. It randomly crashes, and obviously there is a distinct lack of AI. But, all in all, not bad for a few hours work.

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The Marches of Valahar

EyeOfMoon
The Lords of Midnight
by Mike Singleton

Book IV:
The Eye of the Moon

Comrades of the Prince:
The Marches of Valahar

Time itself was sleeping. There was utter stillness even in the air. The drops of rain hanging from the leaves gleamed but did not sparkle for not even the light trembled. The silence was so deep it made him feel deaf but when he breathed out it seemed like a roar. The storm had passed.

Dominykas turned his eyes to the horizon. Over the forest, misted by distance, the far peaks of Valahar floated in a milky blue haze, sharp white shards cutting at the sky. Then the light subtly changed and one of them, the tallest, suddenly suncaught, began to glow at the very tip, brighter and brighter until it glowed with golden fire.

The Wilderhorn, he thought, it must be. That’s where I must go, to the roof of the world, to the gate of the heavens. The boy couldn’t imagine the road that led there. It was impossible. How could he ever reach it? For a moment, black despair rose, seeping into him, but then he wrenched away from it. I’m not a boy any more. I can do it if I must and I must, so I will! He gazed at the mountain with its golden crown of fire.

It was simple after all. Bright as a beacon, there was the torch that would light his path. However long and twisted the journey, a peak that soared so high would be with him like the sun or the moon, sometimes hidden, sometimes in darkness, but always reappearing as he turned a corner and found the open sky again or as the world turned and darkness fled.

His heart filled with joy. Nearly forty moons had passed since they left Coromand and now their journey’s end was at last in sight, blazing with fire. Smiling, he turned to his friends. He flung his arm out to point wildly at the mountains.

‘There! The roof of the world! The gate of the heavens! The Horns of Valahar! Look! The Wilderhorn!’ he shouted and the fire that touched the far off crest blazed within him. His young comrades looked. They gawped. They gasped. They looked at one another. One by one they grinned. Then at last they cheered.

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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

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Comrades of the Prince

EyeOfMoon
The Lords of Midnight
by Mike Singleton

Book IV:
The Eye of the Moon

Comrades of the Prince: Chapter One:
The Shadows of the Forest

There was something strange whispering and skittering around it tonight, something dark but unseen. It was only a vague sense, nothing truly heard or felt, just an inquietude seeping and slipping through him. Dominykas closed his eyes and tried to ignore it. They were safe. It was safe. Mantas was guarding tonight so all would be well. The heaviness of sleep drifted down on him like soft thick snow.

The casket was nothing special, just a simple wooden box that would fit in your hand, with a brass keyhole where it locked but Asulgar sensed something of power pulsing within the plain casket, something that would surely please his master. There’s just five callow boys, he thought, and a dozen of us Hajeen, warriors of Qadim Haraj, the Shadows of the Forest. Four of the boys were sleeping. This would be over swiftly.

He stood slowly. We will honour them, he thought, they have respected the trees, but no one crosses Qasim Haraj unnoticed, no one crosses without rights of passage and still lives, even in times of peace and the times of peace were slipping away swiftly. Already there were rumours of war in the far north in the lands of fire and ice.

As Asulgar rose into the thin moonlight, so did eleven other shadows, the rest of his troop. They waited for Asulgar’s hand to drop. There would be no voice commands tonight, not until the first screams at least. But Asulgar froze as he felt a sliver of cold steel pressed lightly against his neck.

“Drop your hand old man and you will be dead before you can blink,” came a whisper, and that was all, no other touch or hold, no glimpse of his opponent, no clue as to which way to turn to meet him or escape him.

Asulgar noticed the boy guarding the camp was still standing there at the edge of the clearing, perfectly still, much too perfectly still. He smiled in admiration. A clever trick from one so young, setting a lifeless dummy as camp guard while he watched from an unexpected place.

“You cannot take all of us like this boy,” whispered Asulgar.

“You think not? Look at your men again old man,” whispered the boy.

With astonishment, Asulgar glimpsed at he Shadows of the Forest and saw that only seven of the eleven others were still standing, waiting for his signal. The edge of the knife gently caressed his neck. There was no tremble in the hand that held it.

“Save us some time and yourselves some blood. We would not harm you unless pressed to it,” said the boy.

There was such quiet assurance in the boy’s voice. In a soft calm voice Asulgar spoke aloud.

“Hold, men of Qadim Haraj, we strike not tonight. Lay down your weapons.”

A hesitation and then movement in the clearing and the sound of knives and heavier things dropping to the ground. Mantas knew that now was the time of greatest danger. All of these men would have at least one hidden weapon and be preparing himself mentally to use it. There would be a sign first, a voice change most likely.

“Now tell them to move slowly to the centre of the clearing, to gather at the fire,” whispered Mantas.

The knife edge no longer gently stroked Asulgar’s neck. Asulgar readied himself, then spoke slowly.

“Men of Qadim Haraj, slowly, we move to the centre, to the fire…”

The first cautious movements began and Asulgar stepped forward too.

“Now!” Asulgar added. The Shadows of the Forest heard the subtle change in tone, the shift from calmness to something more ruffled. No one would have called the tone urgent but the utter placidity was lost. It was their sign. But all of the boys heard it too and knew its meaning and each knew his part.

Asulgar turned as swiftly as death but his knife sliced through empty air. Mantas was already five paces away closing on another shadow and the boy’s hunting spear was already in flight, a flicker of gold in the glimmer of the campfire, straight to the heart of the shadows. Asulgar dropped like a cloak suddenly cut loose from the shoulders.

The campfire flared up, blazing like sunlight, and in the harsh white light the shadows became men whirling to face their enemies and slashing, stabbing as they span. Four of them slew their own comrades, bound, blindfolded and gagged and pushed stumbling towards them by the boys who had captured them but a minute or so earlier. The others, like Asulgar, struck at void.

Save for Mantas, none of the boys was visible but their throwing knives flashed through the air. Four more Hajeen twisted in death agony and fell writhing to the ground; Mantas took his man, killing him cleanly with a single thrust of his knife. The last two Hajeen tried to flee but were caught in a second volley of throwing knives.

It had taken perhaps twenty heartbeats. Mantas smiled to himself. Not bad. We’ll be swifter next time.

He walked over to where he had noticed Dominykas sprawl on the ground just before the mayhem began. He was pretending to sleep. Mantas nudged him gently with the toe of his boot.

“My Lord! Dominykas! Prince Dominykas!”

The other boys gathered round. Dominykas rubbed his eyes sleepily, then opened them.

“Is it morning already Mantas?” he said

“Stop pulling my leg Domse! You captured one and killed two. That wasn’t sleep-walking!”

Domse grinned up at his friend.

“Well, you pulled my leg first! I thought my toe was being severed!” he said with a gentle laugh. Mantas laughed with him

“But it worked didn’t it? And it was you idea in the first place Domse!”

“The fishing twine round our toes for silent alarm, yes, but not the amputation! That was just your idea Mantas!”

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The Marshal of Ithrorn is sorely pressed

dragon_redThought I’d better post quick update about what I have been doing for the last month, or more to the point, what I have not been doing. I’m not quite sure where all the time has gone, but it has gone nonetheless.
On off I’ve been trying to get over a particular hurdle on the desktop version, and it’s just about swapping resolutions. I don’t want to just allow the player to swap through all the possible resolutions that their monitor can handle, so I have implemented a system of, Fullscreen, and then Small/Medium/Large window version. The main issue is changing the internals of the system after the initial selection. It’s not a big, nor complicated job, it’s just one of those meh pieces that I seem to be unable to keep myself interested in for more than a few moments. It kind of feels a little like the Android version. That became a toil because I wasn’t really that interested in it at first, that is, all the work required to support multiple resolutions. So the work just dragged.
I think this is also on the back of two solid months of coding on the project. It feels like I’m having a little post release wobble. Hopefully I can get my coding mojo back soon so that I can get the desktop version out of the way….

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New Features and Suggestions

I’m first going to start with a list of items that will be added to the next released. This version will go into test in the next few days.

1. Tweaks to the swiping/moving on the small devices. iPhone/Touch etc…
2. Visual indicator that the screen has been pressed for looking/movement has been added.
3. Discovery Map display has been sped up when large portions of the map have been visited.
4. Accuracy of the Discovery map has been tweaked. Lords and Names of places no longer appear just because they are on the map. You have to have looked at them. ( from new gameplay only )
5. Horses, Dragons, Skulkrin, Trolls, and Wolves are now recorded on Discovery Map if you have looked at them. ( from new gameplay only )
6. Filter to turn off item 5!
7. Undo option added. You can perform a single undo of your last command.
8. Undo to dawn has been added for the first day.
9. Night button added to the Select screen.
10. View icon changed to Look – sorry being pedantic!
11. Pressing the choose icon when the choose options is visible, now closes the choose window.
12. Slightly not hitting a choose icon, no longer closes the window.
13. Removed left over AI difficulty code that would have Doomdark generating new armies that track down Morkin, Luxor, or head to Xajorkith.
14. Progress bar added to splash screen for loading assets.
15. Fixed downs map terrain not showing correctly over multiple locations.
16. Removed approach icon from think screen when lord cannot be recruited.

If you have any suggestions for features that you would like to see added in future versions, or changes that you think would make the game better or more accessible, then please leave a comment here…

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The War of the Solstice has begun…

Arise, Midnight! Arise the Free!
Peril and doom lie at our gates.
Waken your valour,
arm yourselves with courage!
We ride to conquer Doomdark forever!
Arise Midnight, arise!

arise

The War of the Solstice has begun…

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