The Moonstar hovered bright and clear in a deep dark sky

Upon the forest hung a sparkling frost. The air was cold and thick. If a twig snapped it would crackle for miles around but only the muted whisper of the trees could be heard. Above, the Moonstar hovered bright and clear in a deep dark sky. The Moon itself was not even a sliver, just a deeper darkness blotting out the glistening haze of the Roads of Light.

As he watched, his fears seemed to drift away as though they were just brief clouds that had enshrouded him and were now passing into the far, far distance. The skulkrin edged forwards into the glade. He felt a beautiful, glowing glory shiver through him. He was completely bewildered; never, not even as a young skulkling, had he been happy like this. Unaccountably, he felt good and kind and gentle.

c_midwinterhTwelve months ago tonight I received a Direct message on Twitter from Fergus McNeill that came very much out of the blue. Four words that shook my foundations. It succinctly asked, “Did Mike Singleton Die?”

I hadn’t spoken with Mike for about a week. The last words he’d said to me were, “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.”

It wasn’t unusual for us to not speak for many days after being apparently in mid sentence. During Mike’s recovery he might go for a number of days without being able to sit at a computer. So, obviously I never thought any think of it. He’d been getting better. He seemed to have turned a corner, as was making great strides forward with his health.

After receiving the tweet from Ferg, I immediately sent a text message to Mike and then later one to his son Jules. I waited a while before sending the text to Jules because obviously how do you approach such a subject.

I did a search online a found a piece posted by Wibby on Giant Bomb announcing his death. I didn’t know who Wibby was and so didn’t know how accurate his information could be. While I waited for news from either Mike pronouncing the news of his death to be premature, or his family, I found myself locked numbly at my desk. The minutes slowly ticked by. Almost desperately, I sent a Skype message to Mike that read, “Mike, please tell me you’re there…”

I wrote a post, ‘This parting has come too soon’ as I found myself reflecting, yet lost in the unknown. The text grabbed from The Lords of Midnight Novella, very much resonated with how I was feeling at that moment.

I was getting messages by email, twitter, and phone, asking me the same question that Ferg had posed a few hours earlier. The minutes turned into hours before I had confirmation. Wibby wrote the following comment…

I am in tears….. I just looked in my gaming cupboard and I actually have Mike’s own copy of Lords of Midnight sat there that he gave me, I opened it up and it has his Bachelor of Science degree in it from years ago when he was in university as a young adult.

I will be passing them back to his kids… also spoke to one of his sons tonight and we are taking his ashes to our local for a last pint….

Wibby turned out to be Bruce Butterfield who I knew, knew Mike, and knew Mike’s family. Therefore, my worst fears were confirmed.

I tried to go to bed at Midnight, but didn’t sleep. I finally gave up and dragged myself out of bed and down to my study and started to write the bog post ‘Night has fallen…’ I found myself just pouring words onto the electronic page.

The following few days were crazy. I spoke with Bruce, and Mike’s son Jules. And I watched the internet explode with an outpouring of love for Mike.

Mike Singleton – 1951 – 2012
A genius, taken well before his time.

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Are we there yet…?

lordsofmidnight_avatarI should be working, but today has been a nice day, and I’ve been a little distracted. I’m at the end of week 5 for Timbles, and on the whole, everything is coming along fine with that.

However, I can’t help myself but think about the last 7 months. During that time I have managed to release The Lords of Midnight for iOS ( iPad, iPhone, iPod touch ), Android, Blackberry Playbook, Blackberry Z10, Mac OSX, Microsoft Windows, and Kindle Fire. I find it odd, that I often berate myself for not having brought all the versions to market as quickly as I had intended, however I need to remind myself that there is only me for the majority of the time, and support from Jure for the graphics, and I am only working on it part time.

With the release today of the Windows version, I feel close to wrapping up this little chapter that started… well it’s hard to say when it started. 30 years ago with the release of the original game, 24 years ago with my work on the DOS version, 14 years ago with my Windows version, 5 years ago with the opening of the Apple App Store and approaching Mike about releasing it for iOS, 2 Years ago when Mike finally said yes, or 9 months ago upon his death.

On Monday I intend to try and build a beta Windows 8 Phone version that will allow me to get a Windows 8 Phone through a Microsoft/Marmalade promo programme. This is how I approached the Blackberry versions. With full acceptance from Microsoft after that, the Windows 8 Phone version should be available in their store later this year. Not before the end of August I suspect, mainly because I have a 3 week holiday coming up. Once that is done, I don’t think I will be looking at any other platforms, although I must admit, I would love to see it on a console in some fashion…

There is still a lot I would like to do with LoM, but that will have to wait. I intend to push out a couple of updates this year, there are some new features for the mobile versions, and no doubt some bugs in the desktop versions. But my main focus will be Doomdark’s Revenge now. Only after that is released can I really take stock of the games and come up with some major grand plan. I would like to release one major update every year, and I do have the ideas that would fit into that category.

The last seven months have been more hectic than I imagined, the next seven months I suspect will be much more so. I must remember to take more time to think…

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Timbles – Week 4

icon_android_1024The fourth week rolls by…
I was actually pretty concerned this week, it’s been a bad week for development. I lost both Tuesday and Wednesday to company admin. In particular, I had to process my accounts. The end of June was the end of my VAT qtr, and that needs to be submitted by the end of July. I also needed to calculate the royalties that I need to pay for The Lords of Midnight. What had become apparent was that I didn’t really have a good fix on how much of my company money, in the company bank account, still belonged to the company. Now that’s not normally an issue for me, I’m only usually 3 months away from processing my accounts, and I don’t spend money based on the balance of my business account, but having given up my major income stream, I really needed to resolve the issue. The last thing I want to do is to think I have more money available to me than I do. So, as hateful as processing my accounts was, it was a necessary evil. However, the positives still don’t make me feel any better about the two days of development I lost. It was also my wedding anniversary on Tuesday, and Victoria’s birthday on Thursday. I took Victoria out for lunch on Thursday, so that was another half day given up.

IMG_1457With that background to put the week in context, I have actually ended it positively. At the end of last week I set myself the goal of having the game running on an actual iPad. For a while I was thinking that I was going to miss my own milestone. But, it all came good in the end.
I development on the missing bits of code that I needed to have the game running properly on a device. The game now goes into a menu, you select to play. You can return to an in-game menu to exit out, or just resume back to the game. And the game returns to the menu when it has finished.
I went through the process required by Apple to create all my certificates and profiles needed to get this new project on a device. I built all the assets needed to cover all the different iOS devices, and created icons and launch screens.

A couple of test deployments while I shook out some issues with placement of assets and inclusion of correct files during the build process, and Timbles is running on my iPad. There are issues with it running on the iPhone but that is just about the screen size. A day or so next week should resolve that. And the rest of the week will be about polishing a few things, and in principal I should have a fully operational game mode by the end of next week.

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Timbles – Week 3

timbles_elephantAnother week passes by in what is becoming a worryingly increasing pace.

The work on Timbles last week yielded few, if any, outward signs of change. Definitely nothing that would warrant another youtube video. However, a lot of pieces dropped into place. There is some tweaking to do, but the Frantic mode is pretty much in place.

One of the difficult things to remember with Timbles, is that it’s about the numbers, the times tables. It’s about getting someone to play the game long enough and not think about the fact that they are playing a game of times tables. It’s essentially, learning your tables by rote. And to that end it is important that the player, just keeps playing.

It makes thinking about the design of the game a little difficult at times because normal rules of game design don’t always apply. I have added many fun things with the star bursts, and power ups and like. But in the end, they are only there to distract the player from the times table bit of the game, and lengthen the game time, and in turn increase the players exposure to the numbers.

 

bonus_7 bonus_3 bonus_5
I am within touching distance of a playable version. So, this week my focus is going to be on some frontend work, putting things like the main menu in place. By the end of the week I want to be running on an actual iPad with the ability to play the game and return to the menu, and then play another game.

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Timbles – Week 2

Last week I spent a good amount of time coding! I has my main framework in place last week so just need to start adding new things in. I found myself reading through the code of the original prototype and then coding these individual snippets up in the new system.

The original windows vb.net code
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.15.57

New C/C++ code
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.17.53

However, after wondering if there was anything online for converting vb.net to c++, I found something that would allow me to convert 100 lines of code at a time. So I quickly rattled through most of the code, and by Tuesday had all the original prototype code in place in the new system. I spent Tuesday, housekeeping, fixing up the stuff that wasn’t right.

By the end of it I had areas of code marked up as TODO: these were areas that I couldn’t incorporate fully yet, but I knew I would need to work through.
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 10.24.26

Timbles Design DocumentWhile working porting the old code, I realised that there was a whole area of the original prototype that I couldn’t remember how it worked, why certain actions were triggered, what certain variables were doing. So I started a design document to record this information as I worked it out again. This would give me something to work with as I turned the prototype into a real game.

It’s funny, that as the new prototype is now playable I find myself thinking about the actual game more. Which really is what it is all about. The original prototype was just that, a prototype. I now have a new prototype running under a new system, but it is still a prototype. It’s the base to build upon. The original prototype had a few game styles, but I decided to implement Frantic mode first. Frantic involves numbers appearing on the screen slowly, you must keep the screen clear. The more questions you get right, the shorter the delay between questions becomes. The game continues like this for a time and then stops adding new numbers allowing you to finish off clearing the screen, and then the next table is added and the process starts again.

While playing the Frantic mode, I found it too difficult! Yep, that’s me playing a game I wrote, that was only using the 2 times table. Is there any hope? 🙂 The issue is actually the size of the playing area. If the question comes up at the bottom of the screen and the answer is at the top of the screen, you can spend more time looking for the answer than you have, especially as the screen becomes fuller. Thinking about it, I found myself thinking about two solutions that would make it easier and more importantly more fun. Either the playing board is smaller and the imagery bigger, which is not a bad thing in itself, or the the questions and answers need to appear closer together. Of the two I happen to like to first solution, mainly because bigger graphics are always going to be preferable, especially on mobile devices. So if the game suggests that the board should be smaller and the graphics should be bigger, who am I to argue?

Thursday I added in sound code. My framework had no method for playing sound as I never used it in The Lords of Midnight. So I had to work my way through the Marmalade SDK to add sound support. Now I can start the process of implementing all the sound effects – a whole group of TODO’s ready to come off the list.

Friday was a right off, pretty much the same as the week before. Not sure what it is about Friday’s but I need to keep my eye on it. No working currently getting done on Fridays!

Video of me playing the new prototype!

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