It’s been four hours since I pressed Night, and yet I sit here waiting for the Dawn. Six hours have past since I heard the news that Mike Singleton had passed away.
Lords of Midnight has been a large part of my life for twenty eight years. I’m not sure I can stress how much an affect it has had on me and my life. While many of you will have fond memories of playing Mike’s games and the affect they had on your gaming life, for me, it became much more than that. It has almost consumed me for at least the last twenty years. There is not a day that goes by, that is not Midnight related for me.
Obviously, I played Lords of Midnight when it came out. But in 1990, during my first job, writing accounts software, I bought a Spectrum +3 and started playing around with it, wanting to apply some of my newer found knowledge to the older machine. I ended up getting side tracked and hacking Lords of Midnight because I wanted to know how it worked. After I produced a full commented disassembly of it, I set about porting it to DOS. That port was later released on Domark’s Lords of Midnight:The Citadel, at the request of Mike. However, before even that, Jon Ritman played it, and prompted me to join the games industry. I ended up working for SCi in Southampton, and my first job was reverse engineering a Japanese NEC PC machine, in order to port Cyberwar to it. I was lucky enough to meet Mike in London a number of years later, and we discussed the labour of love that the development must have been for me. He was truly impressed with the work and effort of what I had done, and that in turn, filled me with much joy.
I started a Windows port in 1999 and setup icemark.com has a repository of Midnight related material. I founded a yahoo group for the discussion of all things Midnight. These sites brought me in to contact with many like minded, Midnight inspired people. Many of whom I now holiday with for a long weekend every year, at various locations around the world, in what we affectionately call, The Midnight Council.
My work on the reverse engineering of Midnight, led to me reverse engineering many old Spectrum games. Work, which has been used by many retro developers over the years. It also led to me working for a large New York law firm on the 3D Parent Case 4,734,690, or ‘690. In which I had to reverse engineer PSION flight simulator for ZX81 and Spectrum, in order to prove prior art.
My first piece of published writing was and article for Retro Gamer, and was a 10 page spread about Mike Singleton and Lords of Midnight. It led to a number of other published works.
When the iPhone was first released, I reached out to Mike to discuss Lords of Midnight on it. Two years ago, Mike finally contacted me, and we started work on it. Over the last two years Mike and I have talked almost every week, and sometimes every day for weeks on end. And the development of the game became about much more than just Lords of Midnight, it became about making a outlet for Eye of the Moon – the legendary, official, original, 3rd part of the trilogy.
Unfortunately, development has been slow, for many reasons. But one of which was Mike’s illness. Not long after his 60th Birthday, Mike was diagnosed with Cancer in his mouth, and had to have chemotherapy and then an operation to remove some of his jaw and tongue, and take some of his shin to rebuild his jaw. Not only that, but while being prepared for his operation, the doctors found that he had previously suffered a heart attack that had gone un-noticed! The operation was successful, even though they had to place him in a coma for recovery. And over the last 18 months, he seems to have been slowing rebuilding his life.
A few weeks ago, maybe even a month, he was over the moon at having written a new version of one of his early games snakepit, using Unity3d. He spent only a few hours on it. http://www.swigsnc.com/snakepit/
Only last week we were discussing once more how the graphics should look in Lords of Midnight, his recent trip to Italy, updating the AI for the Xajorkith defence problem, moving back to England to be closer to his kids, and taking thirty minutes to eat a steak – “everyone else has finished their dessert, their coffee and putiing their coats on!”
So now I find myself wondering about the future. Strangely the direction for Lords of Midnight seems much clearer; step back, remove the bling, and put out a simple but faithful version with the original graphics. Doing any more than that without Mike’s input just seems wrong. However, part of me says, let’s call it a day. Let’s leave the memory where it is – one of the greatest, but overlooked games of all time, by one of the the best, but under appreciated developer, there has ever been. I don’t know if I can still work on the game without Mike being involved.
I will wait until I have spoken with his family before I make a decision, as in fairness, I guess part of the decision is now theirs.
Tonight has shaken me in a way that I would never have expected and I already badly miss my friend.
The last thing Mike said to me was…
ok, I am going out for my morning coffee now, so I will be in touch later, with the alpha tower…. nearly done, just the twiddly bits round the foliage to do
Rest in peace in your tower Mike.