Should we prepare to do battle against the wind and snow?

I was looking at a battle issue reported recently that battle reports were not always being displayed. I’ve had reports before that the AI Lords don’t appear to engage in battle the same as the original, but I have tested this many times and not been able to find an issue other than the AI being unpredictable and a little shaky.

I had recently done some testing while adding the new game rules in place and had my lords attacked, and indeed failed an approach of lord and been attacked, and attacked a lord and battle had commenced, so on the whole it seemed to be working.

I poured over the code again to check the AI conditions of battle and noticed something interesting. The rule is that if the lord can’t walk forward and it is dawn and they are not blocked, then there is a 50% chance of them staying in the current location and ending their turn.

Analysing that a little; blocked means exactly that, they cannot move in the direction they want to under any circumstances. This is usually because of Icy Wastes or there are too many people in the location. Can’t walk forward is usually a transitory check, something in the location they are in or entering could potentially stop them entering, but nothing that would break the game. The Dawn check is just helping to differentiate moving into a location during the turn from moving out of a location at the start of the turn.

The code that makes those decisions is separate from the code that is handling the AI Turns logic. So I went to look at that to check under what condition the lord could not walk forward, and the thing that caught my eyes was – if there is an enemy in the current location. Combine that with the checks in the AI Turns logic and what you have is, there is a 50% chance that a lord will leave a battle at the start of his turn, but if they enter a location with an enemy they will always stop to fight.

The problem was that this flag was being reset by another piece of logic which was actually more to do with the player and not the AI, and also some shared LoM logic. The net effect was, if you attack an enemy lord, or have a failed approach, then the enemy will pretty much always move on and not engage. Now, this seems counter to what my testing has shown, so I can only posit that there was something else happening in these situations that was keeping the enemy at the same location.

Once I realised this it was a quick fix to isolate the piece of code that was overwriting the can’t walk forward flag. However, this then highlighted another bigger issue, and that was that the lord was not considering the enemy as their enemy, and thus the trigger was not occuring.

Again, I checked out the area of the code that handles this, and clearly it was based on LoM, in that Luxor is the friend, and Doomdark/Shareth is the foe. But this does not take in to account the multi-race nature of DDR. So what in effect was happening is that the AI was not really considering the players lords as enemy, or indeed not always correctly considering the enemy AI lords as enemy, which means they would often over look them. Obviously there were fighting, but again I think other issues were causing them to stay in the location of another lord. And as long as multiple lords are in the same location, the battle algorithm would get the friend/enemy check correct and they would fight.

Now, this looks like it has always been wrong, ie: nearly 10 years since I released the games. But I suspect the problem is actually due to the merging of the code bases and likely crept in in the later stages of v1 and then rolled over in to v2.

The dawn did not linger but hurried on its endless journey

3,287 (or 164 score and 7) days have passed since I released the first version of The Lords of Midnight remakes on the Apple Store. Over the next few days, weeks, year I would release both The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge for iOS, OSX,  Android, Amazon Fire, Amazon Underground, Windows, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

As you all know the choice to continue the remakes was difficult after the loss of Mike, but in the end I felt the need to keep these games in some way alive on modern devices. To that end I chose to keep the game look and feel very similar to the original and just apply a light refresh or paint job.

You will also know of the issues I have had with the SDK that the games are built on. Without going too technical, the games are native c++ but in order to reduce the workload for me, I used a thin amount of an SDK called Marmalade to help facilitate the cross platform support that I needed. But Marmalade got out of the business and I had to move to another SDK, Cocos2d-x, which has taken some time.

About this time last year I almost finished the migration after having bitted at it over the previous few years and I was making really good progress until life kicked in and completely floored me when it came to any personal projects and development. Basically the increase in workload brought about by the Pandemic just made sitting in front of a computer in my spare time – a misery.

I finally started picking up again recently, and here we are…

So I am glad to say that The Lords of Midnight is now available again for iOS, OSX, and Android. Windows will be available just as soon as I work out the best way to distribute it as currently the old versions are still available on GoG. These games are now completely free and will remain so. (I may add other purchasing options later for additional content). Doomdark’s Revenge will follow very shortly. The game is fully running I just need to do a lot more sanity checking.

The frontend of the games have been completely rewritten so some things may feel a little different.

There some known issues… 

  1. There appears to be a random crash bug that I have been chasing down for a while. As far as I can see it has something to do with the graphics rendering of the SDK but as of yet I have not been able to pin point it. I will keeps chasing this down.
  2. Incorrect sizing of filter buttons on mobile
  3. Android back button doesn’t give option to close the game from the main menu

There are some missing features…

  1. The compass has been removed. This will be replaced shortly.
  2. Some of the gestures have not been recreated yet.
    1. Pinch and Zoom on the map
    2. Quick access to the Map from the look screen
    3. Drag to move
  3. Button to revert scale to normal on map screen
  4. Use of haptic feedback on mobile
  5. Next and Previous buttons for desktop on think and select screen
  6. Cursor image on desktop
  7. Escape key usage on desktop
  8. Shortcut keys on desktop

And a few features I wanted to add which I will try to get in soon…

  1. Add filter for ‘Hidden’ on Map and Select screen
  2. Add option to disable ‘Are you sure” for night prompt
  3. Add in game option on Tutorial popups to mute/unmute tutorial

There will likely be a new build in the next few days as I made a couple of changes during the Android release that needs to ripple through to all versions, I just didn’t want to mess with the current release schedule by submitted the latest changes to all variants.

Moving forward I am not 100% sure what approach I am going to take. I am already aware that Cocos seem to have downgraded the importance of their c++ engine as there hasn’t been any updates in the last two years. I’m already starting to move to a new system – this time Unity – I think this might have more future proofing. The only problem is, this becomes a complete rewrite in c#. In the end this opens up much more opportunities for the future direction of the games. It may be that the current versions are kept ticking over as they are as I focus all my energy on rebuilding the new system.

Anyway, apologies for the delay, but I hope you can all enjoy The Lords of Midnight and look forward to Doomdark’s Revenge in the New Year.

I fear Doomdark may get untimely warning that the Wise are awake

So it’s no secret that I have struggled with development of The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge since the release of the remakes in 2012/13. Part of this because at the time I think I was driven by a sense of duty to get the games released in honour of Mike. The amount of work I did on those two games in such a short amount of time in order to support seven different platforms was frankly quite astonishing.

After the release of Doomdark’s Revenge I took a short break and developed a children’s game Timbles – which never got released. I then supported the two games for the next couple of years but never really got in to any swing and was unable to move them forward. This then became exasperated by the whole Marmalade SDK fiasco which stopped the games in their tracks.

I slowly started moving toward a new SDK and picked Cocos2dx. I then spent a few months rewriting many aspects of the UI to make it work. I finally put the project back down because I was struggling under the new SDK to make it work across multiple screen resolutions.

Last Christmas after over a year of not working on it, I picked it up during my one work break of the year. The reason for this is that I suddenly realised how I could solve the resolution issue. Inspired I got a test release together for iOS, OSX, Android, and Windows. However by mid January I was back working and even more busy than the year before. Another problem that cropped up is that the Cocos2dx SDK appears to have a bug with its Metal implementation that means its either leaking memory or causing a threading issue. This appears to be a random issue that I am some how triggering and have been unable to find.

Over the following few months I spent more time working and eventually I found myself in a situation where I could can no longer sit at my computers without working. I made an association  with my study and my computers with work and haven’t touched any none work projects through the majority of 2021.

At the beginning of October I changed my main client to Sky. What this means is that I am no longer working additional hours whereas working with PureGym I found myself working longs hours or working later and intermittent through the day.

A few weeks after joining Sky, I found myself slowly spending more time at the computer… and I started finding a rhythm.

So here is where I am. I am not making any promises because I don’t want to break them, but I am back on a plan. I have been rewriting the Midnight Engine in c# – part of this is to facilitate a move to Unity which will open up better long term support for LoM, DDR, and facilitate Citadel. I just don’t believe that I can stick with the c++ engine and Cocos2dx anymore – I am already bothered that their c++ SDK hasn’t been updated in 2 years and their time milestone release is also 2 years overdue. 

Mentally I have committed myself to The Citadel in 2d and some campaign changes. I also have a list of features that I want to add to allow a few game variations. My intention is to get a Unity project up and running “The Midnight Chronicles” and LoM, DDR, and the Citadel will all be campaigns within the one game. I also have my eye on Nintendo Switch and some other things which I won’t discuss here yet.

The new engine also means that I am getting closer to having better tools to handle the data allowing me to start modifying the maps etc for alternate campaigns. The original data was held in an Access Database with a binary export. As I’ve been Mac based for so long now, Access is no longer part of my work flow. So I’ve been using the unmodified binary files for some time. To give you an example in order to release Revenge the first thing the code does after loading the binary database is modify all the data that was incorrect previously. I can’t continue that way.

Where I am right now is that I have what I call “The Midnight Engine Database”. This is all the core objects required for the games. This is in a slightly more open format. Shortly I will be able to load the binary data and export/import to a more open text based format. The map is stored in Tiled format and all the other data is just CSV files.

I have also started exploring a new architecture to allow the engine to be even more open. I am trying to move away from the current object oriented approach because ultimately it’s too limiting and confining. I am also resisting the text so that it can be better localised.

So, where does that leave the current c++ game… well I intend to get LoM and DDR released I just don’t know when I am going to start on it. I am hoping that I can use the momentum of working on the new engine to get me through a release. So please bear with me a little longer…