Many battles fought again by tongue

Strange day today. Not just because it would have been Mike’s birthday, but because for some reason I found myself fixing a bug in Doomdark’s Revenge. Back in January I had a bug reported to me by Simon Foston, I managed to get some save games from him and just needed to find some time to look at it. Now, it’s taken a little while for me to find that time, but for some reason I looked at it today. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I was just looking through some emails that needed dealing with and noticed Simon’s bug report.
A quick look through the code and with a tip off from Simon’s report, it became apparent that the ghosts of dead lords were continuing to take part in battles. I checked the original code and it looked as if the bug was there too, however, I then found that the isDead check was happening later in the process. Strangely what it means is that battles at a dead lords location are processed as part of a dead characters turn, and not as part of other characters in the location. In my case, I’d missed the later isDead check and therefore the dead lord actually took part in the battle.

 

So, it seemed strange to be working on a bug in Doomdark’s Revenge that included the dearly departed, today of all days. I’m sure Mike had a wry smile..

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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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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 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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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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Mike Singleton – The Lord of Midwinter

The Lord of Midwinter
Dawn approached stealthily, running swift fingers of light over the Lands of Midnight. Far to the east, it touched the grim Keep of Utarg with a brief golden haze: the Targ sentries yawned and looked around only to see if the next watch approached to relieve them. The dawn moved on, trembling over the Downs of Athoril, cloaking them in scarlet and saffron. The hills which had seemed hunched herds of vast menacing creatures in the absence of light, seemed now to draw apart and unfold.
The daylight spread further westwards, painting the Plains of Dawn first crimson, then amber, then a deep glowing yellow so that they looked, for a fleeting moment. as they did at any noon of the Long Summer, clad in wheaten gold. In lonely hamlets scattered across the broad plains, villagers stirred and smiled to see the warmth of daylight return, then bent themselves to their daily tasks.
Over the Forest of Thrall sped the hand of the Sun. shooting bright arrows of light into the sepulchral darkness of the trees, and then further west to caress the sheer walls and tall towers of the Citadel of Shimeril. As the first blaze of sunlight fell into the Courtyard of the Kings, the great horn sang out over the city. Twelve times the great horn bellowed its simple fanfare, a short, deep boom followed by a longer, more strident note. A-wake, a-wake, it sang and then fell silent. The city roused itself dreamily, with creakings of shutters, rattling of doors and the growing murmur of feet on its cobbled streets.
The dawn did not linger but hurried on its endless journey, ever westward, ever westward till the world ceased to spin. Across the Plains of Blood it shed its own, brighter blood. What men moved there shivered in reluctant remembrance and did not pause to gaze upon the colours of the sunrise. Then, at last, the light grazed the edges of the Forest of Shadows, rose up and flew over a sea of mist- wrapped trees to touch the high stones of the Tower of the Moon.  — Mike Singleton, The Lord of Midwinter, 1951 – 2012

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This is a gift beyond gifts…

ms62

To celebrate what would have been Mike Singleton’s 62nd birthday later this week, The Lords of Midnight will be reduced to half price on all available stores for the whole of this week starting Monday 18th February…

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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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Dawn approached stealthily

With the Solstice nearly upon us, I thought I’d post an update on the status of the Android version.

Firstly, to be clear, I’m not going to have a final release ready for Friday. I apologise for any disappointment that generates, but I think it’s for the better.

Over the last two weeks, in between getting everything ready for the release of the game, Website, Documentation, Press Release, and other final flurries, I’ve been trying to get the Android version working. The good news is that it does. I have it completely playable on my Nexus 7. The problem is with a) the sheer number of resolutions that need to be supported, and b) not actually knowing what those resolutions are. I noticed for the first time when I ran the app on my Nexus 7, that the expected 1280×800 became 1280×736-ish because of the Nav Bar. This means that although I have a list of a large number of resolutions to support, I don’t actually know what they really are. Making the resolutions support having to be even more robust than I expected.

This on the whole, it is. However I have been having issues with the landscaping, which I have struggled a little to resolve. This is partly because I don’t fully understand the process not being a 3d programmer, and the landscaping being 3d maths. Landscaping was originally written for 4:3 aspect resolution and I’ve had to tweak it for others. Sadly, Mike would have dealt with this in two shakes of a Skulkrin’s sleep frost.

I’ve nearly resolved the issues, it’s working on most of the test resolutions I’m trying, just a little tweaking to do. But even if I have it finished by tomorrow, there is no way I can release it into the wild without more major testing.

Hopefully what I can do, is make a version available by Friday that can be side loaded onto Android devices for a quick test against as many real devices as possible, with a view to releasing on Google Play the following week if all goes well.

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The Moon Ring, the last of the Great War Rings of Midnight


Both Apple and Blackberry versions have now been approved… the War of the Solstice is truly nearly upon us. Available in both stores on The Winter Solstice, Midwinter’s Day, 21st Dec 2012.

Over the next week I will be working on the Blackberry10 version ( to be ready at launch ), and the Android version. Hopefully the Android version may also hit Google Play store… something to aim for.

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