We ride to tear the Frozen Empire asunder!

doomdark_site_indexAfter hastily announcing that I will be releasing Doomdark’s Revenge on the 7th I can now confirm that the actual release date will be the Monday 17th Feb.

The main reason for this change is purely logistics. I have to get the website ready to go, PR and Press Packs, Screenshots, Video, submit all versions, and create the store for direct selling.

However, the other reason that I hadn’t taken into account until thinking about submission congestion, is that, during the week of the 17th, it would have been Mike Singleton’s 63rd birthday. So it feels appropriate.

The iOS version is ready to go, and I intend to submit to Apple tonight. Apple usually take 7 days to approve a new submission. If there are any problems, then I would likely miss the 7th. The real area of concern is that from Feb 1st, Apple are insisting that all submissions are done using XCode5 and target iOS7 as the build SDK. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem, however in order to guaranty this, I need to build with the latest version of the Marmalade SDK 7.1.1 and as this version is only BETA at the moment I have slight concerns. I am currently not able to submit to MAC Appstore because of a Marmalade issue, and that affects my confidence in it.

The Android version appears to be ready. The first initial sweep has been done and a few small visual bugs stamped out. The game UI now seems stable across resolutions so I would suspect that supported devices will be the same as with The Lords of Midnight. I don’t foresee any issues moving forward. The turn around time on Google Play is such that I still have plenty of time to fix anything that crops up.

I have done a Blackberry build, and it all seems to be running in the simulator without issue. I need to perform an actual device test but again I don’t foresee any issues. There were some initial problems with the Q10 720×720 resolution but they have been ironed out. BTW: this version will allow the Q10 to rotate and I will include this fix in The Lords of Midnight ASAP.

Samsung and Amazon builds are just packaging. So again, I don’t foresee any issues.

Windows and OSX builds should be good, as this is how I develop. I expect to hand over a master to Fastspring and GoG.com early next week.

The only issue with the OSX version is that it is unlikely to be available in the MAC Appstore for a while. This is due to the aforementioned issue with the Marmalade SDK and OSX Mavericks. If the issue is not fixed soon, and I have a window of opportunity before the 17th ( preferably by the 10th ), I will install an OSX Mountain Lion machine and attempt to build the app. The OSX version will however be available direct or through GoG.com, where I don’t need to release a signed app.

Once the release is out there, I intend to revisit Windows Phone 8 version of both Doomdark’s Revenge and The Lords of Midnight.

For Midnight!


For Midnight! For Midnight and the Free!
Hear me, Shareth Heartstealer;
we ride to tear the Frozen Empire asunder!

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this. While working on Doomdark’s Revenge this eve, I had to accept the cold realities, and admit to myself that it is very unlikely that I can make a Christmas release.

It’s not that the game is very far from finished, it’s almost there. It’s just that there are so many things going against me at the moment. I had hoped to upload a test version to Testflight at the weekend, that never happened due to spending time with my parents. I’m working away at the moment, so I get nothing done at the weekends. Having been away all week, it’s important to catch up with the family. I couldn’t build a test version on Monday because I left the licence locked on my home machine.

This time last year, Lords of Midnight was in test and I was still working from about 6pm till 2am every night including weekends. At the moment, because I’m working away and in a new contract, I can only manage about 4 hours a night.

The real issue is testing. Apple close down over the christmas period, which means I have to release on the App store on 20th at the latest. That means submitting a good week before. That would be Friday the 13th. Now I’m not a superstitious person, but I will be driving home for 4 hours that evening. Therefore it must be done by the 12th. And that is exactly one week away. That means I must put a version into test this weekend, and at best it will get a couple of days testing… I think all of you who know the difference between Doomdark’s Revenge and The Lords of Midnight, can see that that just wouldn’t be wise. I’m pretty sure that most of the UI stuff would go through test, and the little bits that turned up could be resolved in that time, but the AI?

I would have to work all this weekend in order to make sure that all the AI code is indeed finished. I think it’s pretty much done. I haven’t tested through all aspects yet. I spent this evening watching Lords wander around on the map. But they have battle’s to fight ( not written ), objects to pickup, Lords to recruit…

If I did submit on 12th or 13th, I would have no chance to remedy any last minute hiccups, and then I couldn’t fix anything on an Apple Device until the New Year anyway because of Apple’s closure.

I need to make a final definitive list of all the areas that need finishing off. They might just be little things, like a bug I’ve noticed on the overview map screen, but they might be a little bigger, like the fact that I haven’t coded any of the win/lose conditions, let alone tested them.

GoG can’t release the Windows Version until the New Year due to time constraints, and even if I could finish the game, I’m not currently able to build the final OSX version due to a problem with the Marmalade SDK. Added to that, I haven’t done any real device testing other than loading onto the iPad.

Then I’ve got the Website to build… PR to do… a trailer to make… the Manual to finish…. Stores to decorate…

Just typing this is exhausting me! 🙂

In all my time in development, there is nothing in the above that says anything other than… “Don’t Go”. The only reason to launch, would because I said that it should be ready for the Winter Solstice.

So here is what I will do. I will continue all guns a blazing to get this finished as soon as possible. I will attempt to get a test version on Testflight this weekend. This gives me two weeks of testing to iron out as much as possible. I will then aim to release an official BETA on the 21st ( Winter Solstice ) – on all formats. The Apple devices will be covered by Testflight. I will let you register one device on there for testing, in order to give as many people as possible a chance to play the iOS version. ( I only get 100 testing slots from Apple ). The Android devices will be covered by Google Beta on Google Play ( I think! ). And Windows, OSX, and Blackberry will be on this site.

That way, many of you who have been following this release closely can get the chance, if you so wish, to play a pretty final, if not an actual final version, before release. Hopefully, that will also mean the game gets a good testing over the Christmas break, and I can do an all formats release early in the New Year.


Shading the night sky…

One thing that got carried over from the original Midnight Engine was the shading of the landscape depending on the time of day. The original Lords of Midnight, has a different colour for night which is basically that all the white becomes black, but the blue remains the same.

In TME and therefore the remake, I have a tint colour for each time of the day, and the images are tinted toward that colour. That colour is generally a shade of grey and it is used to darken the dawn, brighten up to normal colours around midday, and then dark off fully to night. In reality, this is one area of the remake that I left in that I don’t like. Only because, it doesn’t really look like the original. The night view has a very distinctive look, and as you can see though, the remake doesn’t look the same. It’s fine as things goes, but I would have much rather made it look more like the original.

Doomdark’s Revenge however has a completely different approach. There is a dawn visual, and day visual, and a night visual.

I knew therefore that when I got around to releasing Doomdark’s Revenge, I was going to have to deal with this issue. The tinting method just didn’t cut it. Because I could tint to red, or tint to yellow, but not combine them.

To give you a little background. The colour changing was relatively easy on the ZX Spectrum. Partly because the images were very simple and were constructed, but also because of the way that the spectrum only had two colours in a 8×8 grid – known as the paper and ink. So all the effects were done by just changing the paper and the ink. These colours were not stored with the bitmap either, it was a different memory area. So in fact, what Lords of Midnight does is, clear the screen with paper and ink both white, draw all the pixels to the screen, which you can’t see, and then fills in the paper and ink colours which makes the screen appear.

Now, the choice I made when porting the game was to use full 24bit alpha’d bitmap images. I can discuss the merits, and the whys, and possibly the mistakes, of this decision. But, it’s not been one I can change easily.

The upshot is: changing colours on the fly isn’t easy. It’s much easier with 8bit palletised images. But believe it or not, despite the fact that the terrain images only use two colours, they actually use at least 255 colours in order to get smooth edges, as well as being alpha’d. Changing to palletised images just made it look awful.

Once solution that I knew could work would be to write a custom shader. Shaders are dark voodoo magic that happen on the graphics card. And I’ve never written one in my life. Had Mike been around, he would have knocked one out very quickly. But obviously he wasn’t, and as I was heading toward the original release of The Lords of Midnight, I didn’t have time to look into them.

Now however, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. With the latest update of The Lords of Midnight sat awaiting approval from the platform holders, I turned my attention back to Doomdark’s Revenge, and the next thing to address, was making the dawn landscape look proper. I was going to have to learn to write shaders. And that’s what I spent yesterday doing.

The end result is that I now create all my terrain images as being black and white. These two colours will be replaced by the shader as the image is being drawn to screen. However, I can’t just replace the two colours, I need to make sure that I where the two colours meet they get blended.

mountain_fragmentIf you click on the Mountain fragment you will see a blow up of the image, and see how this would work. Affectively the image can be considered thus; all black, all white, mixed. The mixed part always being where the two meet. So if we consider that we will replace all black (0,0,0) with new colour_a and replace all white (255,255,255) with new colour_b, the other colours will be a shade of grey from (1,1,1) to (254,254,254). What we actually do is  use the value of one of the colour components to work out the mix of our two new colours. so 0 is 100% colour_a and 255 is 100% colour_b. A value of 153 for example would be 40% colour_a and 60% colour_b.

Now, it’s not rocket surgery, there’s nothing particularly clever going on here, but for me I had to turn this into a shader, and that was new territory.  However, working within the Marmalade SDK and using the OpenGL ES shader reference manual, and a little bit of google… the process turned out a little easier than I expected.

Here is the landscape without the shader active.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 02.07.47


But with the shader active, and the two colours adjusted depending on the time of day, we  get the following.

And, if we now revisit The Lords of Midnight, we get the resulting night landscape that I always wanted.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 01.10.33


Not sure when this will make it back into the current release, probably after Doomdark’s Revenge is released and I’ve been able to fully test the shader across multiple platforms. But it will make it back.