Lords of Midnight – iOS

Thought I’d post an update for LOM. I realise that it’s been over 2 months since I last had anything to say on the subject.

Firstly, it’s been a busy few months for both Mike and myself. Mine work related and Mike’s more personal. That combined with a little bit of sidetracking on Eye of the Moon.

Two of the issues with this project is time and getting it right. Neither of us are working on project full time and it’s very easy to lose a week before you know it, just because you were overly tired or didn’t feel like sitting in front of a computer. I’m sure that winter is the best time to do development and not in the summer.

The getting it right aspect is about thinking about the project more than actually doing it. Over the last 2 months I’ve been going round in circles about the graphics of the game. I’ve been thinking about a number of different approaches that we have considered for the look and feel, and the way the user interface will work.

The original LOM had a very distinctive look and feel. Simple, but very affective. Somehow with the very powerful modern technology, we have to achieve the same result. I sat down recently and gave some thoughts to the way LOM was going to look, and was not happy. I’ve had firm ideas about the direction of the graphics for a long time. Mike brought new ideas to the party when we start discussing the new game. And in general we had a consensus about the way forward. But then I started to doubt… I kept thinking about Jaws. Jaws works because the brilliant robotic sharks that Spielberg was going to show off all over the place, didn’t work. In the end he had to work around them, utilising them sparingly. The end result, much more suspense to the film.

For LOM, the shark was the graphics. Mike wrung an awful lot from the spectrum, but in the end, the setting of the story was defined by the minimalist graphics – a world full of white snow! So, as you start to up the quality of the graphics you are moving further into working shark territory. LOM was stylistic and I feel it has to remain so. Simple and stylistic.

I discussed this with a few people and then went back to Mike in order to tell him that I thought we were the wrong people to be thinking about the graphics. And that if we continued down the path we were following, I felt we were going to make a mistake. Mike agreed.

So, last week I had a meeting with an artist. Fergus McNeil ( some of you may remember his 8 bit days with Delta4 ) and asked him to take over artistic control of the project. I’ll keep you posted with anything I can on the visuals.

In the mean time. Tonight I am back at the computer – coding!

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20 Replies to “Lords of Midnight – iOS”

  1. Your reasoning sounds spot on Chris. The simplicity of the Speccy graphics meant that Mike created not only a visual world but one that we imagined ourselves.

    Funny you should mention Fergus – I was doing one of my periodic loft cleanouts and came across my copy of Bored of the Rings (original yellow cover edition, of course). I seem to recall that that had some pretty good graphics. Did Fergus do those?

    Anyway, I still want to know Mike’s view on armies – are they going to be LOM or DDR display-style. If LOM, please can you persuade him to allow DDR style as an option. Pretty please? I don’t think my poor old brain could cope with 2000 Foul emerging from one small nearby cavern any more! 😀

  2. Yes, Ferg did the graphics for all his games.

    The army thing – is a gameplay issue. We have discussed it and bounced back and forth – unfortunately both methods have merit… and I’m not sure the answer is a direct one way or t’other – I wonder if there is a middle way… 🙂

  3. Thanks for taking the time to update us Chris. Although we are all eagerly awaiting the iPad release, I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say take all the time you need to give us another classic. We don’t need another repeat of the PC version 🙂

    Btw, if at any stage you need any beta testers or just some feedback on playability or UI, I would be happy to do pitch in. I’ve done beta testing for several games in the past.

  4. I’m just going from memory here, and it was a LONG time ago – but limitations or not, there wasn’t much wrong with the graphics in the original, it worked because everything was a line drawing like you’d see in a book. So LOM visually was like a cross between a war game and a ‘choose your own adventure’ book.

    Clearly people expect more these days – but if it were me (speaking as a gamer, not an artist, which i’m not) i’d really just want to see something very similar to the original in spirit, but with enhanced full colour visuals. (It’d be quite nice to see a world that wasn’t a frozen waste, with rivers (which could even slow you down or force you to find a bridge) and forests, it doesn’t have to be all white now there’s no colour clash!)

    Reading an earlier post you talked about the transitions as you move through the world and I can see how that poses a problem particularly as you approach an army that starts out as a bunch of banners and needs to become a representation of the troops – have you thought about depicting armies as camps (ie, tents), rather than characters? You could see those from 3 squares away and they’d just need to get a bit bigger and more tents = bigger army. As you arrive one square away, the ‘general’ would ride forward under his banner and a flag of parlay to either talk or fight.

  5. Well, I just want to keep it at cheers and support full stop no matter what it will look like, graphically, or how many doomguards will emerge from beyond yonder icy firtree. I guess constructive criticism and bright wishes and insightful pangs just aren’t my thing as an ‘already contaminated beyond sensible rehabilitation’ addict to the “Midnight” universe. Just go on, you can do it, both you, mister Mike S. or the artist.

  6. This was always going to be the hard part. The original two games were so evocative. Despite the basic nature of the graphics (though advanced for the time of course), they evoked a very tangible world.

    Back in 2001, I devoted a huge amount of energy to envisage the world of midnight for a theoretical remake pitch. The costume designs formed the core of my portfolio of a couple of years in fact.

    For the Free, I dressed them in Byzantine/Islamic armour of the 9th/10th Century: lots of scales with classical flourishes and flowing, decorative silk pantaloons. There was a hint of the Indian Prince in there!

    The armies of Doomdark were much more Steppe Mongolian in appearance. Doomdark himself wore a long (almost shin length), lamellar coat, splint armour on his arms and legs, and oriental silk detailing. His helmet was conical, with a lamellar neck guard and a learing, Steppe demon style face mask. Both sides shared a similair, coherent armour style, but each had angled it towards their own underlying culture or civilisation.

    I’m almost 100% sure that no one else sees Midnight like this! And that’s the problem. Midnight is so powerful that the original fans have very firm ideas about how the landscape and it’s people appear.

    I wonder if Olly Frame (Crash’s in-house illustrator) is still doing the rounds? He’s do a great job establishing the visual look and feel of the game world…

  7. I’m with Marcus Tullius, I just want you to keep going and complete it! fantastic project.

    Until I read you post I’d missed the point of what was then was actually easier than what is now regards the simpleness of it. So much more is expected today, but at the same time that can be less. Here’s hoping Fergus can assist. It’s also good to see that it’s another name involved that emerged from the same era as LoM and Mike.

    A quick question. With so much more memory and stuff available, what new features will you be bringing to the game. I assume it’s not just a very straight remake with prettier graphics? Maps maybe? Possible other character types? But again all a danger to the original appeal.

  8. Men… ANYTHING AT ALL that You do in behalf of the Lords of Midnight Happy Bunch Company is DEEPLY APPRECIATED by ALL in the above Company.

    Keep up with the good work and DO ASK about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING since we’re all the ones interested in to output, sooooo it’s on our best interest in SUPPORTING Your efforts 😉

    Meaning… I’ll bring the brews, Ringy the strips of meat and Andre… He can bring some nice Reds 😉

  9. Hi Chris,

    Keep going, you and of course Mike have the love and good will from so many people to see this project through.

    Whilst I appreciate the need for a modern rethink to the graphics, to have the option to play it as if we were back in 1985/86 is for me something I would treasure above all else. I think this would allow you to be experimental with the new graphics and have a version keeping the look and feel of the original. I hope this is something you would think about doing.

    Cheers

    Milnrow Andy

  10. How about keeping the general graphic style and only upping quality of the execution? Something like hand-drawn sketches, still in a few colors (more or less b/w), just in much more detail than those ’84 stick men 🙂

  11. This is very good news- the original art was integral to the game, but it wasn’t a 3d game. The view you saw of the landscape was an iconic representational view, that gave you only the information you needed to make your next move clear. When you saw a citadel, you knew immediately it was a citadel from its outline.

    That’s not to say you can’t add more variety- for instance, having the image of an army more reflect the size of the army so at at distance you can get an idea how large your opponent is. Doesn’t mean you should plot every soldier in the army. And the increased screen resolution can add finesse to the art, without cluttering it up with messy detail. The graphics have to show you what you need to know, convey the atmosphere of the game but leave enough space for you to project your own details onto it.

    I think once you have something to show, people will see why this is the best solution. The art won’t be ‘simple’, it will be ‘elegant’…

  12. Any news on this? I loved this game on the ZX Spectrum so much. I had a big map I made out of stuck together graph paper. Would happily pay for it.
    I’d stick to the original graphics – I’ve just bought Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon app and part of the pleasure was it being basically the book.

  13. Malcolm,

    Things are still moving forward, albeit very slowly at the moment. As I said, summer is not a good time for part time programming! 🙂 I’m hoping that momentum will start to pick up soon. There’s nothing to lose in time, after all, it’s been nearly 30 years since the original! The main thing is to get it right. With regard the graphics, we need to get a good midpoint between old style graphics and the capabilities we have at our disposal, and that is going to be a real trick in its own right!

  14. Hi,

    Just wanted to add that I would be absolutely thrilled to play Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge on my iPhone (and more than willing to pay).

    Also a big thank you for making two fantastic games that were a huge part of my childhood (I played them on my C64). I too made my own maps with graph paper.

    I still keep my old Gameboy Advance around just to play the Homebrew versions on that (which I thought were excellent conversions). Would those versions not be best to convert to iOS? It had the original graphics, but with added speed, easy button configurations and also a map.

    Now that I have found this IceBlog in relation to iOS versions I will definitely keep an eye on further developments with keen interest.

    Many thanks

    David

  15. Looking forward to hearing more about this, Chris. Any chance of an update?

  16. Looking forward to this although much prefer the all the different enemies/allies in Doomdark Revenge!!

    Please let me know the timescale!!! looking forward to this !

  17. Hi Chris,

    How’s the LOM re-imagined project going? As like many others I am eagerly awaiting an update! (although can appreciate you’re busy like everyone else)

    All the best
    Rob

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