Why is the Solstice so important?

As much as my life has become entwined with The Lords of Midnight, it has also for similar reasons become linked to the solstices.

When I first started my journey through the Midnight landscape, I lived about 250 miles away from Stonehenge, the pilgrimage location for all those who follow the solstices, and the concept of spending a night there couldn’t have been further away. Now I live about 25 miles and have made both the summer and winter pilgrimage many times. Lords of Midnight uses two concepts that align with Stonehenge, the winter solstice and standing stones – the henges.


So it seems apt that today at the Summer Solstice I have hit another Lords of Midnight milestone – the release of the novel.

I must make it clear that I am not the author of the novel, that role was taken on by Drew Wagar. I still have some way to go before I manage to tick off my author goal. But, I think it’s fair to say that the novel would not exists without my involvement, and I am extremely proud to have helped to finally make this happen. The original game publishers promised a novel that never happened, and 34 years later, Drew, Fantastic Books, and I have delivered.

Firstly the novel came about because of a chance twitter conversation. The result of that conversation and after some discussions with Mike’s family, was that I was able to greenlight the novel. Let that sink in a little, I have to. 34 years ago when I originally started playing the game, I could never have imagined that my life would become so linked that I would affectively have a casting yes/no vote on anything to do with it, let alone a novel. Unfortunately that sword is double edged as this is only possible because Mike is no longer around.

Secondly I worked closely with Drew to keep the novel accurate not only with regard the original game, but also when considered as part of the complete Midnight saga. The Lords of Midnight can no longer be considered in isolation. The original game and novella were written without any consideration for the future, and after its release more games and stories became available. Therefore, when setting out to tell this tale, it was imperative that the necessary adjustments and corrections were made. Drew and I spent a good amount of time looking forward and backward over the saga’s timeline. Somethings we just needed to link up. Somethings we’ve had to fill the gaps.

Thirdly I’ve been there as a sounding board for the story, Drew had a story to tell. In part that reflects the original game story and for all of us to have played the game to death, we all know how it ends, so there are no surprises there. Drew’s job was to navigate the journey and to tell a compelling story that fits within the constraints already defined. My job was to assist Drew with that in any way I could. Part of that was reading the story and commenting on it. This just involved me often saying, yes, no, or how about. The other area would be me making suggestions based on my knowledge of the saga lore either up front of in reaction to something Drew was working through.

And lastly, the cover. Drew and I commissioned the cover from my long term Midnight collaborator Jure. We took some ideas based on work he had already produced and created a mock-up concept of something we would like. Jure then created a quick concept sketch that we discussed and then went on to produce the lovely final piece.

So today has come. Summer Solstice 2018 – The Lords of Midnight – Book One in the Chronicles of Midnight is released, I hope those who read it enjoy it. I hope that Mike would be as proud of it as I am.

The book is currently available in eBook format from Amazon or in multiple DRM free formats from Fantastic Books Publishing. Physical copies to follow at the official launch in September.

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You listen to too many ale-tales, Morkin

The Lords of Midnight official novel is available to pre-order via Amazon in ebook form which will be launched on the Summer Solstice, June 21 2018. Paperback copies are due in September.

The land of Midnight was cursed into eternal winter many thousands of moons ago.


The survivors battle hardship, famine and war; having beaten back Doomdark, the Witchking, in a battle that lives on in legend. 

But now, at the Winter Solstice, neither the Lords of Midnight nor the Fey of the forests can resist his greatest weapon, the ice-fear.

Their only hope rests in ancient lore, the myth of a long lost house and the legend of the Moonprince.

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Many tales were told that day…

Drew has delivered the first draft of The Lords of Midnight Novel. Obviously, I have read it during the writing phase, made comment where necessary, and am overall very happy with the story. However, a novel is not generally written in one pass. The story made be told, but it still needs to be crafted and refined. Things that were written at the start of the tale may need to be revised, information that we want to impart as an aside, or for future continuity and foreshadowing, may need to find a home at the correct place of the story.

So, as Drew gets out his polishing pen, I shall be printing out a copy, and sitting down to read it from start to end for the first time. Something I’m really looking forward to.

In Drew’s words…

First draft in the Chronicles of Midnight

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We cannot spare more than a few for such a perilous task

After the problems earlier in the year with Marmalade getting out of the SDK market, I started working on porting Lords of Midnight to Cocos2d. I initially decided to park the games and start on something new to get me going. As it happens that the new thing was The Citadel. I managed to get TME – the Midnight Engine – which is the backend game code that runs both LoM and DDR, up and running. I then worked on the Landscaping technique.
Happy with that working, I dragged the Map data out of The Citadel and started rendering that. The real big issue I needed to address for the Citadel is water, so I started working on that.

I spoke with Jure and he mocked up some potential imagery, so we could get and idea of what it might look like.

I then had a lot of problems with Cocos2D getting it to build under windows, and to be honest, I got a bit disheartened and gave up for a few months. It’s frustrating when the OSX Build all works without any issues, but the code just wouldn’t build on Windows.

Since I’m working closer to home at the moment, I started to get that coding itchy feeling, and so I returned to the game. After a bit of restructuring I managed to get the code compiling on Windows – however, it completely wouldn’t build on OSX anymore. Xcode would completely barf and kill my machine taking up over 52gb of memory!

I spent three evenings trying to get it to work. The upshot of all that pain, is that I seem to be back into my groove…

I spent a bit of time thinking about the whole process, and I’m not sure if it’s because my Facebook feed keeps reminding me of what I was doing five years ago… desperately trying to complete LoM to get it submitted to Apple before the Winter Solstice as it happens, but it feels right to get these games back up and running an ready for any future release.

At the moment I am slowing making my way through every UI screen and rebuilding it under Cocos2d. It’s painful because as powerful as Cocos2d is, the documentation is a complete bag of horse turd. I’m really stumbling around trying to translate the UI Engine I had already built into a new one.

Once I have all the periphery screens complete, I will make my way into the game screens.

I’m not abandoning The Citadel, I’m just taking some time out to get the whole engine fresh again. I’d like to get LoM and DDR released under the new system early next year.

As an aside, the complete progress can be found in the GitHub repository. All the code and assets are there.

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There were many tales to be told

Drew has given an update on the current progress of the novel. Unfortunately it involves a delay, but we all think it’s for the better…

He thinks again…

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Sentries yawned and looked around only to see if the NEXT watch approached

The Lords of Midnight – ZX Spectrum Next.

It gives me great pleasure to confirm that Matt Davies and Simon Butler will be bringing The Lords of Midnight to the ZX Spectrum Next.

The Spectrum Next – an updated and enhanced version of the ZX Spectrum totally compatible with the original, featuring the major hardware developments of the past many years packed inside a simple (and beautiful) design by the original designer, Rick Dickinson, inspired by his seminal work at Sinclair Research.


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The eye wearied of gazing at water…

An early version of the landscaping with added water… There’s a lot of work to do to get it right, but it’s a start. Images with and without features for comparison.

First image is a river running between the Lith of Mitharg and down the Plains of Gard. The second is a river running through the Plains of Blood.

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You must travel through wild and troubled lands

It’s no secret that I have been looking at The Citadel again with a view to retro fitting it into the original landscaping mechanic. I tend to drop in on it every now and then. At the moment though I have been paying it more attention than normal.

There are a number of issues that need to be ironed out.

  1. Understand the logic of the game
  2. Convert the data to something I can use
  3. Write code

The first item comes from a number of things. Firstly actually playing it – easier said than done. I have it running under DosBox on my Mac, but it’s still very unstable and secondly, as a game, it’s pretty impenetrable.

I have to be able to understand the game in order to decide how the retro fit version should play. I suspect it will deviate a little from the original mainly because of the different style, but some things like giving your lords quests should be ok. Why not just be able to tell your lord to Goto Place? Obviously it won’t be realtime like the original but will probably happen at the end of your turn.

I also have some of the code that James Shaw sent me a few years back. It doesn’t cover everything but it does handle the quests that the characters attempt to follow. I’m trying to get some more code from James because I don’t fully understand the overall game structure that is occurring – basically the motives. I understand what many of the characters are doing, just not why!

Converting the data is interesting. Over the years I have reverse engineered some of the data, and that combined with James’ code means I pretty much have everything for the characters, objects, citadels, castles, armies… etc.. I also have quite a bit on the map. And that is where things get more interesting or difficult depending on how you want to look at it.

I have a number of pieces of data for The Citadel maps. Some from the game, and some that James sent me. The problem is, they are at varying scales. The original manual explains that the Bloodmarch is around 500 leaves by 500 leagues with 20 leagues being a good days march. So that suggest an internal map of 512×512. (A league in the original games was one location). The maps I have vary from 1024×1024 to 120×120 and they contain different information. You have the the map of the 12 realms. The map of the 130 regions. The map of the terrain. The height maps. The Route maps. Maps for building placement…. etc..

A 512×512 game map would be way to big. LoM was 64×62 and DDR was 64×96. So firstly I needed to settle on a better size. I chose 256×256 as being affectively 12 LoM maps which was the intention for Mike for EotM.

So I needed to scale all my maps to the same size and then grab the data from the.

I wrote tools to create TILED maps of the terrain as mentioned previously.

I’ve not revisited those maps and cleaned them up a little. There are a number of things that come out of the process. Firstly, The Citadel is all about terrain i.e.. Mountains, Plains, Forests, Trees, Sea, Rivers… etc.. and not so much about places. Because the display of the game map in 3d is so much different that the original 2d landscaping, many of those features share the same space.ie. The concept of a mountain is only a named area, the land is actually different height maps, and thus things like trees and and plains and hills often inhabit the same space, and this doesn’t work so well for the 2d game. There are only two main forests on the Bloodmarch, but there are a gazillion trees.

Those mountains also break down into different terrain types, so we now have Large Mountain, Mountain, Hills, Foothills, Downs… many of them also inhabiting in the same space. From a gameplay point of views, this terrains are probably important. For example the mountains seemed to be used for passes through the large mountains, same with hills and foothills.

The other problem is that of noise caused by the scaling process of different sized maps. I’ve ended with things like trees in lakes, rivers, and the sea. Here is an example that covers many of these aspects followed by a cleaned up version. ( Ignore the colours and the graphics, these are just placeholders and things to allow me to see things better.)

Original converted map

Cleaned up map

I’ve cleaned much of this by eye because I think I’ll get a better result and understanding of the map, and have now done most of the map, but I suspect much of this will still take further refinement as I focus on particular areas of the map, and especially as I focus more on the gameplay aspect of it.

The next step on the map is to start adding new features. The game is missing many of the things that gave LoM and DDR character. There are some shelters ( although I have yet to find how they are placed on the map), but they are a generic building that gives the character some safe place to rest . What the map really needs is villages, fortresses, palaces, stones, henges, etc… and this is going to take time!!!

I actually plan to start making this stuff available on GitHub because in the end, some help would be really appreciated.

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Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Moral rights.

A personal post from by Blog, has relevance here…

On The Lords of Midnight: Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Moral rights.

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