Night has fallen…

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.

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66 thoughts on “Night has fallen…

  1. In the attic of my family home in Scotland, there is a big box of old computer games from the 80′s, some of which I even worked on. All the classics from Ultimate Play The Game, Magnetic Scrolls, Level 9, Delta 4 (of course) and many others. But there are 2 games missing from that box. 2 games that I had to have the originals here in my new home in the USA, games I couldn’t live without. Games that even after almost 25 years still inspire me with their design and elegance- Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge for the ZX Spectrum.

    I’ve had several discussions about updating the art style of LOM but for this game my inspiration fails me. Sure, I can think of many ways to redo the art but it never seems like an improvement compared to the elegant and deceptive simplicity of the originals.

    Just the other day, I wondered if maybe just releasing a faithful conversion of the game and adding the improvements as updates post-release may have been an alternative strategy worth pursuing. Updating the art always seeming to be a major issue with the project, one I certainly found personally hard to visualize. But the thought of someone more creative than myself cracking the problem was even more exciting, especially when it wouldn’t just be an update but an official Mike Singleton update.

    But the sad news that came out today does change things significantly. While you stand at a crossroads as to whether to continue with the project or not, all I can offer in the way of advice is that there is no wrong path you can take. The decision you make will be the right decision.

  2. Rest in peace, Mr Singleton. You inspired many of us when choosing the path that led to our trade.
    Mr Singleton wished that his creature had new life in the age of smartphones, and to make “The Eye of the Moon” reality. Alas, the second will never be able to happen, as it will never be Mike Singleton’s Eye of the Moon anymore.
    Now only Chris and the family can tell if they feel the Lords of Midnight is revived or let to rest along its father.

  3. This is very sad news. I was drawn in and enchanted by the Land of Midnight, I remember well the extravagantly packaged game, the booklet and the maps all done with that distinctive art style. That moment when the four travellers set out from the Tower of the Moon, my appetite whetted by the rich story of Luxor and the foe, Doomdark, was one of wonder and excitement. It seemed to me then, an almost real world and I was immersed in the titanic and often intrepid battles with Doomdark’s armies as I held on grimly at Shimeril and Xajorkith. After the great sieges, the slow tread north and the roll back of the foul and into the Icelord’s lands. There are some really special moments, meeting the Utarg of Utarg and enlisting him and finding they remote Fey outposts. Mike Singleton made this magic, and though we mourn his passing, he has created a world and a legacy, in gaming terms, on a par with Tolkein’s Middle Earth and I can find no greater compliment. Rest well, Lord of Midnight.

  4. I am sitting here stunned at this news. I still remember the first time I saw the Lords of Midnight on a friends computer. I went straight out and bought a copy and played it until I was told to go to bed! Chris – you need to do what is right for you and his family. Rest in peace Mike Singleton

  5. This is such sad news. I loved lords of midnight and doomdarks revenge. They inspired me to write my Play mail game, which borrowed heavily from the theme of Midnight. God bless you Mike, R.I.P.

  6. LoM was one of the first games I remember as totally immersive. The world was real. The characters were real. The predicament was real. It is a high point of my gaming recollection. RIP Mike.

    Regarding “what next?”, I’d love to buy a version for iPad.

  7. I can’t describe how this news saddened me. I played LOM on my C64 back in the 80′s, and it became the benchmark for all other games to beat (it still is in many ways). I still recall our attempts to PLAY muliplayer DDR back in the late 90′s too, Chris.

    Though I haven’t played any of Mike’s games in a while, his talent and ability to create such a wonderful world to play in has always been there in my mind, and I know I was looking forward to the Ios release as much as anybody. He will be missed.

    Chris, please pass my condolences on to his family if you can. And whatever happens now, I know that thanks to you and Mike I will still be able to fight Doomdark to the death when the whim takes me.

  8. Good Night to The Lord Of Midnight, meeting with you was always a pleasure you brought joy to any project you were involved with and shared the same sense of fun I enjoy, the world will miss your naturally generous nature. The games industry will also be lesser without you in it. My thoughts are with your family and their great loss.

  9. I saw something on M/MU last night and did not believe it (or, I guess, want to believe it), then read your FaceBook post. This is extremely sad news. I’ve played LoM and DDR since they both came out for Spectrum, played the PC conversion and been with the M/MU group online for seven years or more. The games are inspiring and full of strategy despite their relative simplicity by today’s standards. Mike created something that should not have been possible in the time they were made. To my mind, despite all the fantastic graphics and sounds in today’s technology, nothing has come close. Night has fallen. RIP Mike.

  10. Pingback: RIP Mike Singleton, 1951-2012 : All New Musings

  11. Sad news, indeed. Let’s be joyful at a life that was not wasted and whose efforts brought much happiness to the lives of many others.

    In terms of look, the original has something of the William Morris about it or of Tolkien’s illustrations for the Hobbit. It is rather those principles of simple stylised atmosphere that should be retained, in my humble opinion, rather than a faithfulness to the 8-bit graphics of the original.

    Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge were not so much realistic as highly effective in bringing something wholly unreal to life in our imaginations. Sabre Wulf and Knight Lore were beautiful but you would never believed these things existed.

  12. Rest in peace Mike. Thanks for all the memories, I’m not sure any game will ever have a place in my heart as much as Lords of Midnight and Doomdarks Revenge.

    Was lucky enough to have some correspondence with him several years back and he seemed like a nice man.

  13. Chris, I know how you feel, or at least some of it. Despite never having met the great man, I too was inspired by his works to a great extent: enthralled from the very first teaser advert for LOM and totally smitten by the original game itself, I became a life long fan. Midnight/MU came about as you know when I wanted to teach myself some new web technologies and I knew that I needed a project that would keep me interested – multi-player LOM was that project. What else could I have chosen?! And I am not alone – there are so many LOM/LOM-inspired games out there – a testimony to the brilliance of the original.

    Thanks to Mike we have the Midnight community, with its yearly Councils, forums, user groups and so on.

    With regards to what next: what would MS have wanted? A faithful remake of the original Spectrum game, or a game with a different vision and scope? Only you and his family can know this. I hope though that you do release the new LOM in whatever form is deemed appropriate – what better way to remember such a gaming legend?

  14. RIP Mike! I had some good times in the early 80′s working with you on ‘Dark Scepter’ and ‘Throne of Fire’ along with the many other projects you always had going. I remember your enthusiasm for thematics and computer generated speech in games, which was very new ground at the time.

    I and my company at the time (Consult Software LTD) were lucky to be at the forefront in the very early days of computer game development and to have had the opportunity to work and laugh with you. I remember all the times Glenn and I spent at your home in New Brighton, working out the design and game play for ‘Dark Scepter’ down to play sword fighting in your back garden so that we could replicate a real sword fight on a 48K Spectrum :-)

    Although we had our differences towards the end of our relationship, I have often thought of you fondly and of our time together during the 80′s. My prayers go out to your two boys (now grown men) who I know you were extremely devoted to.

  15. Sad news, very sad – night has indeed fallen. I obsessed so much about LOM and DDR in my younger days that I used to have dreams where I was in them! I was getting so excited about the prospect of the tablet version and Eye of the Moon. Mike’s gaming vision and playfulness lives on in the LOM community that has sprung up around his games. I would like the idea of finished versions that will keep the flame burning…

  16. Pingback: RIP Mike Singleton, the RPG visionary who revolutionised the genre | Opentopic testing center

  17. Damn cancer. It keeps taking away so many good people. Obviously, my feelings can’t compare to someone who knew Mike personally, but this has really come as a shock and a sorrow. He left a legacy that went far beyond games.

  18. Pingback: RIP Mike Singleton, the RPG visionary who revolutionised the genre | LUXEgamer.com

  19. Many of us, in our 40s now, can afford computers with capabilities that we could only have dreamed of when we were 13. And yet, incredible though these new machines are, there is something missing. Again and again we are drawn to talk of the gaming giants of yester year. Mike was one of them, I can hardly put down on paper what a wonderful addition his games were to my childhood. Crossing into the Icemark the day after reading the novella by torchlight in bed grabbed my imagination in a way that very few other things did at that time.

    Thank you, Mike.

  20. I went to school with his sons in 89.

    A lovely gent and a visionary, I think people forget times before and who paved the way for a lot of gaming that we have now, we have a lot to thank him for.

    I have fond memories of him and whilst I sadly lost touch with him moving to Switzerland, I sometimes wondered about him and what he was developing next / doing.

    You will be missed by lots of people Mike and I do hope that LOM is finished for IOS, I for one and many I know will buy, not just because its a cracking game, but because deep down its Mikes heart and soul and who wouldnt want that as a keepsake.

  21. I still remember vividly to this day my Grandfather manically describing a game he was playing and his joy and wonder of not only the game itself the technical feat needed (at the time) to pull it off….

    I was only 10 at the time and it was The Lords of Midnight…….

    The memories i have to this day of playing and planning strategy with my Grandfather with this and Doomdarks Revenge will never leave me….

    When i saw the news just minutes ago there is no more fitting tribute i could give in thinking of them meeting in the ‘beyond’ and shaking hands and chatting….

    Deepest regards to Mikes family and you Chris

  22. I remember getting LOM and DDR in the 1980s and me and my brother would play it for hours, days and weeks at a time especially in the “6 week holidays”. Very sad to hear of his passing but even though I never met Mike, through LOM/DDR he created a lot of good times playing his games and he was one of the reasons why I first got into programming and years later, that’s what I do for a living.

    Thanks Mike and rest in peace.

  23. There is very little I can add to what has already been said. I was simply stunned when I heard the news today. As an influence on my all-important childhood fantasy world, Mike Singleton was at least the equal of Tolkien. The reason I still play computer and video games today, as a 40-something, is to experience worlds as complete and immersive as the Land of Midnight.

    Cheers, Mike. You meant a great deal to a lot of us.

  24. I too remember my first experience with LOM. It was a world I could escape to where I could help save a land and its people. I never knew Mike but his vision of that world has stayed with me and will do till my time comes. So sad to hear that hes started another quest, Im sure it will be as glorious as LOM and DDR

  25. Sad news. Mike’s games brought great joy to my childhood and youth. A classic version for iOS would surely serve as a tribute and memorial? Such a shame not to see the work you shared to fruition at all.

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  28. A sad sad day…

    I have such fond memories of hiding under my duvet with a torch and falling asleep waiting for dawn to break and although I was 14 and that was almost 30 years ago, it’s almost as if I’ll be doing that again tonight but for very different reasons.

    Although I post rarely, I have, ever since joining this group, read every post and kept a keen interest in both Mike’s and your continued work.

    I can think of no more fitting a tribute than keeping him alive in our hearts through his games and this community.

  29. Chris – Nothing will tarnish the legacy or change the effect Mike’s games have had on so many of our lives. So finish your project if you feel you should.

    Mike – terribly sad to hear of your passing, I have a funny feeling that even with Icemark and related community efforts dedicating so much devotion to Midnight you may well have passed without really knowing the impact you had. Thank you and rest in peace. My thoughts are with your loved ones.

  30. LoM and DDR are two of my most formative experiences – incredible for a 40-something father to say about a pair of computer games, but utterly true for all that.

    Mike was a visionary. I wish I’d had a chance to thank him myself for Luxor and Morkin, for the dash North to rescue Korinel, for Lord Mitharg and Lord Brith, for Farflame the Dragonlord and the Utarg of Utarg, for Tarithel, for Shareth, for Kahudrarg the Barbarian and the rest of the Barbarian nutters, for Morildrane the Bad Fey, for Imorthesh (who always seemed to bag Icelords), for Thigrak and Glormane, for Fangrorn rocking up with a huge pile of allies, for Ganormarg who is practically impossible to recruit, for Lorelorn and his Forest of Farorn Crew going off message and piling into the Giants instead of pestering you, for Zarashand – even for Anvildrak, Fenorn and Sildrorn, the Three Stooges, turning up when they were least wanted.

    He made so many stories from a handful of bytes.

    I’m off to defend Shimeril again. As I have, every few months, for the last 28 years, and as I know I will every few months until I no longer can. I don’t have another film, another game, another book that I go back to so often. Tonight, I’m going to hold it.

    Thanks Mike, thanks so much.

  31. My first memories of gaming that immersed my imagination /the BBC grow productive farms programs and dungeons and dragons were no match

    Working out how to win perfectly _ all lords alive,all keeps taken,all enemy across the board wiped kept me playing this game for months.

    I always wanted to travel from LOM to other lands.

    A part of me has faded with this news.

    Mike singleton. .. a great inclusion in the history of technology.

  32. This is one of the saddest days in the history of videogames.

    Thank you for everything, Mike.

  33. I never met Mike Singleton. Yet I am so sad.
    I played LOM when I was a teenager. It was not just the game, it was also the story that came with it. It was such a good game, with such a great story. It was a miracle to see such a masterpiece in a computer like the ZX Spectrum. Then came DDR. It was more greatness, another great fantasy universe in which I could lose myself.
    LOM and DDR – especially LOM – played such a huge role in my life. They led me to read Tolkien. They made me like fantasy books. They made me dream. LOM’s world became that place, in my mind, where I went to when I needed to get away. I cannot imagine my life without LOM.
    I never met Mike Singleton. Yet I owe him so much…
    Thank you, Mike

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  36. As a friend wrote on another forum – “Morkin is utterly sad.”

    That’s the feeling I’m stuck with now – R.I.P., Mr. Singleton – you gave me some of my sweetest childhool memories – sitting in the rain with Mike Oldfield in the background batteling off Doomdarks foul creatures and struggeling with that horrible Shareth; lovely and twisted at the same time.

    The feel of triumph when I did the first defence og Xajorkith and the utter horror when all those enemies suddenly showed up in the mist on Doomdark’s!

    Doomdark’s was the first and only game where I’ve used a map with pins on it to find out what was happening!

    I played LoM on the Spectrum, on an emulator on the PC, Chris’ DOS-versions – and later got them working on the Windows platform. And latest on my Android-tablet – looking forward to be playing it on my iPad. Do the right thing, Chris – and as one wrote – the decision made WILL be the right thing :-)

  37. It was only a few days ago when a mention of classic games prompted me to revisit this site – after a long time away – and to see the update in progress from Chris and Mike Singleton.
    I had a wonderful surprise with that visit. Mike revisiting his classic, and bringing it to new hands to enjoy – and back to the old fans once again.

    Today’s visit is nothing but a terrible shock.

    We can’t imagine what pain and torment Mike has been under the last few years, and a terrible illness has finally taken one of the greats.

    Thank you Mike for all the fun you gave your fans across all your games – and thank you from myself for the many times I spent across the lands of Midnight.

  38. Absolutely gutted. A personal hero of mine has gone.

    RIP Mike Singleton. A true legend of the software world and the creator of my favourite two games ever.

    You will be sorely missed.

  39. Sad news. Mike Singleton was a creative visionary and the scope of his games inspired many kids to become game designers, myself included.

    I still have my copy of The Lords Of Midnight for the ZX Spectrum. It is one of the few games I have kept since those rainbow striped days of bedroom coding.

    Rest in peace Mike.

  40. As small as it may seem as a demonstration of the effect of Mike’s creations had on people at the time (confirmed by the legion of “followers” that still wander through Midnight today) I recall travelling several hundred kms (from the Algarve-Portugal to Gibraltar) to buy first-handed a release of Doomdark’s Revenge and actually mapping it completely (by running through the full landscape with characters) on a wide chequered page (around half A2 size) with colour-coded squares much later (early 90′s).

    Without disrespect for the remarkable achievements of current games like “Skyrim”, I doubt they will manage to create the same durable effect on the current players.

    This effect is, most probably, the biggest tribute that Mike has had during his life and will certainly keep on beyond his departure.

    Curiously, the fact that “Eye of the Moon” never came out has had an addictive effect on all of us follower that still keep wandering through Midnight (in our thoughts), seeking for the missing epic…

    Thank you Mike for having made my life so much more worth living!

  41. Back in the 80s I was fortunate enough to work for Crash magazine. It was easy to get jaded about playing games when you saw literally 100s of them, the majority of which were awful. Lords Of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge were two that really caught my imagination in a way that few games before and fewer games since ever did. Those games existed for me as much in my head as they did on screen. I played both for countless hours and thought about them for even longer. When retro gaming became all the rage these were the only games from the 80s that I could be bothered to load up an emulator for. I’ve still got my originals.
    RIP Mike Singleton

  42. Memories of weeks spent huddled around a spectrum in my mates lounge playing Lords of Midnight during the school holidays are my most vivid teenage memories, we ate ,slept, dreamt of nothing else. It was a game that even in victory you couldnt help but feel you needed to return and do better.

    Mike you where a genius, who touched so many lives.

  43. This is a truely sad day for videogames.. I have such happy memories of playing LOM on the Spectrum with my Dad in front of the TV in the front room. Everything about the game was great – the story, the box art and the game itself. Amazing to think Mike squeezed a whole world into 48k, it was a feat of programming and game design. My condolencies go to Mikes family – he will be missed.

  44. Oh my god.

    I thought I would do the usual 2-3 day check-in here, and was totally shocked to read the news. I almost didn’t believe it initially, but then the reality slowly sunk in.

    “The Lords of Midnight” and “Doomdark’s Revenge” have in many ways touched my life in a similar way to Chris, where barely a day goes past without me thinking about something to do with Midnight.

    I have many fond memories of playing the games, times which don’t seem to be 28 years ago at all. Since those early days I attempted to produce an updated version of Lords on the ZXSpectrum, then AtariST, then Amiga500, and then PC, which finally resulted (with some help from Chris and Wayne Britcliffe) in the production of my remake “War of the Solstice”.

    The depth of the imprint that these games made on my mind is solely down to Mike’s genious and ability to craft a story so powerful that it has remained a focal point for all these years.

    The most notable moment for me was when an email from Mike appeared from nowhere in my Inbox whilst he was working in California. It was only brief to say that he liked the look of my remake and would have a closer look when he got a bit more time. I was touched by the fact that he had bothered to make contact with me like that.

    The current work on the iOS version and the prospect of Eye of the Moon actually happening was something that I was very much looking forward to.

    As has been said here many times above, the industry has lost a true legend.

    We know that these things will come to us all one day, but I truly wasn’t expecting this news today.

    My thoughts are with Mike’s family and all the Midnight followers during this sad time, Mike will be sorely missed. RIP Mike

  45. Very sad to hear the news of Mike Singleton’s passing, a true pioneer, I have very fond memories of Lords of Midnight, one of the first games I can recall that had genuine mystery and depth to suck you in, no mean feat on a 48k speccy!

    RIP Mike, sad sad news, my condolences to his family and friends.

  46. I only ever met Mike once, briefly but I did spend many hours on the phone to him discussing strategies, bugs and the like for LOM III when I was writing the game manual. LOM was the reason I saved up the pennies and bought a Spectrum all those years ago. I remember forming game strategies for playing ‘Starlord’ when all we had at Rainbird was a specification document (and it took four years before the game finally appeared, very different from the one I pictured in my head from that document).

    Having lost my own father to cancer earlier this year, I have an inkling what Mike’s family are going through. Condolences are all we can offer, but Mike and his creative genius will live with us for ever and that is the best tribute I think I can offer.

  47. Very sad news indeed and a shock to me. I worked with Mike in the early nineties and ever since whenever I’d bump into him at shows etc. he’d always have chat, always spend a bit of time. A genuinely lovely bloke, obviously will be dearly missed by many. RIP Mike.

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