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Lords of Midnight
Notes on the War of the Solstice Document.

June 1998
Chris Wild Comment

NOTE: The numbers here are references to the paragraphs in the original document.

1 I think using the same data as the original LOM would be seen as small in 90's. Although I would fight against a massive increase in characters, I would ask for a small increase. No more the 128. These could be minor lords or even ancillary characters that could be used for specific tasks.

2 Having no map helped with LOM, but most players would create a map on graph paper while they were playing, but the act of drawing a map is tedious. A game map should be generated while you play. So you can only see where you've been.

4 The control method of LOM is one of the most important features, and it is massively important that a similar control method be maintained.

5 Next to virtual reality, this has to be the most over hyped belief that a game can fit snugly in the world of films. Interactive Films are a long way off, and computers just don't have the power to make them work, Don't do it.!!!

6 Here is the first major fault of moving LOM into the 90's Most players of LOM do not want real-time direct control. Playing the game in real-time could be achieved with a lot of thought, but direct control always seem to lead to difficulties. In LOM3 it was tedious that you had to follow another character and try and get close enough to him in order to interact. In LOM you were in the location in front of him, and that was enough.

A location based concept would be one of the most important anchors of a new game. Even if locations were reduced in size to give more scope, the player should not have to walk every millimetre in a generated fractal landscape in order to play the game.

7 Warcraft and C&C are a good representation of LOM - Tomb Raider isn't. To use Tomb Raider as a basis is a scary concept.

8 Hand to hand combat is real bad. See comments on Warcraft.

9 Opening up the game to include the insides of Citadels, Keeps etc., is good in concept. The problem is when they all look the same and boring as in LOM3

10 See previous note on hand to hand combat.

11 Increasing the scope of battle is a good idea, LOM with some form of battle system would be appealing, but as a method of controlling your army not individuals.

14 Strange concept which I'm not sure will work or not. Would have to see more.

16 I don't agree with this. Seeing your journey is very interesting and exciting. Ie: when the journey doesn't take too long. In the original LOM unless you were Farflame, you never moved very far. I noticed a trend in Mike's games over the years to have very long journeys which you left the character doing. His approach to this has changed game to game, and on some is better. Ashes of Empire was real bad and tedious, however LOM3 wasn't that bad. I would often like to follow my principle characters around but send others off on a task. The juggling act is to not have mile after mile of travel. Ie: travel in leagues and not foot steps.

April 1998
Chris Wild Original Comment

The War of the Solstice document was truly dreadful!!!!! Careful re-reading will show that this was probably the original concept document for LOM3. Many of the features are there. NO REAL-TIME CONTROL - please don't do it. Unless it is more like C&C, warcraft etc. BUT NOT LIKE LOM3!!!!!!!

May 1998
Neil Cameron's Comments

I've finally had a chance to read Mike's intro doc. My initial anticipation at the start rapidly changed through disbelief to dread, along with thoughts such as "Oh my god, he's sold out!"

I believe he has managed in his proposal to eliminate just about everything which made the old games interesting. But perhaps I'm being somewhat harsh. He does seem to be attempting to follow the crowd, though. If you ignore references to Midnight, Luxor etc. it could describe any of a great many contemporary games. I can't believe that this is a good road to follow even if I did not have other reservations.

I definitely agree with Chris. No way should it be 'real-time'. (I won't burden anyone with my thoughts on so-called real-time games, except to say that real-time and strategy are uneasy partners at best.)

One of the things he specifically says that he will omit is the movement around the landscape. I don't know about you guys, but I felt that to be one of the great strengths of the originals - the thrill of

exploring a new land, as well as being able to go wherever you please, rather than having a limited set of options as he proposes.

I've tried to give some thought to the (difficult) task of defining what it is about the originals which appealed (and still does) and keeps me playing now. Hopefully, some of these things may be what keep you playing. Anyway, here goes:

  1. As I've just mentioned, the adventuring aspects of the games - exploring a new land, getting to know the lay of the land, and best ways of getting from A to B, the nasty features (Languor of Death) and beneficial features (springs, Cup of Dreams) etc.
  2. The strategic elements of the game. Surprisingly, I found this to be stronger in LOM than DDR. In LOM, this involved who to recruit and when to recruit them, and which characters to send in which directions. I was thrilled the first time I found Korinel the Fey (and later when I finally managed to recruit him, and even later when I managed to get him out of his area alive! Even now a difficult task...) In DDR, this mainly consisted of trying to recruit key characters, and protect all characters while hunting more recruits. Both games involved strategic decisions on how to win the game.
  3. The way the graphics appeared, where distant features would gradually get larger and more detailed as you approached them, and how pretty much any location gave a unique panorama (unless in the middle of a forest or mountain range!) You could tell where your character was just by looking at the features around them.
  4. Characters having individual traits. It almost made them seem human, didn't it? Did anyone else think that Lords such as Brith were wimps? (Utterly afraid at the least touch of Ice Fear) And how about Morkin? Brave kid. Ice Fear couldn't touch him, but he couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag!
  5. Quest parts of the games. Mainly involving Morkin in both games, it was something to spend part of your time and resources on to complete. And wasn't it satisfying the first time you completed the quest?

Undoubtedly there are other aspects that I have missed, but I think the ones above are the key ones to me. Thoughts from anyone else?

May 1998
Chris Billows Comment

We should mention that games like Civilization and MAX are turn based and are hugely popular. What would be neat is if all the moves are made turn by turn but when finished you hit the "ok go" button and then all your moves would be implemented in real time... thus an army you mean to attack might just move away... or something like that...

What I especially likes was starting with a small band and trying to both recruit a strong enough force to defend the lands or destroy the enemy.

14th September 1998
Ross Harris Comments

Well I must agree that my first look at the WOTS document is rather scary. Now the idea itself is rather interesting- an immersive world in the land of Midnight, but when this large expansive landscape idea has been tried several times before, and failed, it does get a little worrying. Worse still, it does look like a rehash of the unplayable 'The Citadel' rather than a remake/update of LOM.

Now, I do like the idea of updating LOM; using the same characters, story line and geography but keep the landscaping technique ( although update it ).

I seem to recall the original LOM claimed you could just wander around and enjoy the scenery- a bit of hype perhaps over the 'landscaping' technique, but there was a certain satisfaction about moving in the world and making movement decisions based on what you saw. By always being 1st person, you felt you were IN the landscape. By removing the movement element, then there is no need for a 1st person view. I can only imagine the reason for abandoning this movement method is because the landscapes are visually boring ( dull fractally generated random wastelands ), or that the movement steps are small ( compared to the league movement in LOM ) or both.

LOM was a war game, with character/rpg elements- while you controlled individuals, you also felt like you were the head of a large ( depending on the character ) army. This was reinforced ( or rather, it was never negated ) by you never actually seeing your army; at least because the humble spectrum/c64/cpc could never display enough figures onscreen to be convincing.

LOM was an epic in spite of its small size- unfortunately, all subsequent attempts to make a more 'epic' game have actually ended with a smaller feeling game. I controlled armies in LOM and stormed citadels and cities; in The Citadel I wandered around a ( poorly drawn ) grassy desert with a few shacks in it getting bored...

Some things I'd like to see in a remake:

  1. Landscaping v2! This technique was never really used outside LOM/DDR and is just crying out to be updated. It works, and it works well.
  2. More terrain types; 16-bit graphics; time of day effects/weather effects; 3d terrain; unique looking handcrafted locations, so you can navigate by sight - not fractally generated 'noise'.
  3. Group characters together- so you don't have to move massed armies one character at a time.
  4. [cjw] Definitely. I sometimes think a C&C approach could work for armies I just don't know how this fits with the landscaping.

  5. Some kind of direct control over battles. While having to fight each battle would soon get tedious and slow the game down, having the option to take control when you were outnumbered may be rather satisfying. But not individual combat!
  6. Siege warfare - surround a citadel/city and wait 'til they surrender.
  7. A map! I agree - supplying an accurate map would destroy a lot of the exploratory nature of the game, but having the computer create a map as you progressed is just a labour saving device ( what computers were made for! ); mapmaking is tedious and takes away from actually playing the game.

There are more suggestions, but the main idea is to make LOM better by improving what works, not throwing out the good bits and adding stuff that doesn't work...

15th September 1998
Geoff Neil Comments

Id like to add my weight to what Chris and Neil are saying. I spent a large portion of my teenage years playing LOM and DR and can say that I have never played a better game than LOM and I've played both C&C and Warcraft to completion.

I always found LOM better than DR because most of the characters would kill each other in DR before you had chance to get anywhere near them. I never bought Citadel because I thought, after reading the reviews, I'd be disappointed. It seams to me that the proposed 'War of The Solstice' is just going further in the direction that made DR inferior to LOM, IMHO, and Citadel an utter mess according to PC World.

I think that this is expressed very well in the following two reviews:

I think that if it would be impossible to make a real time LOM game and still keep the feel of the original.

The ability to control each character is essential. The one thing missing from LOM and DR was the ability to group characters so that you did not have to repeat the same moves over and over again.

This along with the suggestions in the LOM review above of:

  1. Updated colour graphics.
  2. Doomdark AI or at least random, branched attack patterns.
  3. New armies raised and trained in citadels.
  4. Refugee columns and civilian casualties that impede movement and affect recruitment. (maybe)
  5. [cjw] Now I think there is something in these two.

  6. Random starting locations of characters. (Again maybe)
  7. A map and unit editor.

Would make for a wonderful game. Mike seams to be obsessed with making the views full 360 degrees and the movement in as small an increment as possible. I don't think that this is necessary. The appeal of LOM was the strategic challenge that resulted from commanding your armies based on the 8 views of the lords you commanded.

Id like to end by saying that the most enduring and intellectual game of all time is turn based and was played for years on a black and white board with little knobbly pieces of wood.

 15th September 1998
Chris Wild Comment - Landscaping

I've been having extensive discussions with Fergus McNeill about a landscaping technique. Mainly from the point of being sellable. It actually revolves around true 3d but from a rendering point of view. A number of high polygon models for each terrain type all textured up. Then go for a high detail line render. However you obviously can't get the quality of MAX but you need better than a normal twitch game. However the time you can take to render a scene doesn't require 60fps maybe 1fps would do. :) This way you can really have the effect of light sources etc.

 15th September 1998
Ross Harris Comments

[re: Landscaping] High-polygon not-quite real-time rendering would work nicely- I thought of something similar to be used in a myst/riven style game...I liked the concept of these games, but wasn't really into 'slideshows'...

Voxel technology does give a very nice landscape effect too, polygonal stuff would work too, but be more of a pain to texture- maybe not, depends on the tools. Even if the game isn't real-time, I like the idea of the 3d engine being fast enough to allow for spot effects- smoke over destroyed citadels/cities, birds flying over hidden armies in forests, snow falling, flags fluttering etc...

[cjw] I think maybe there is a trade off and combination between a couple of technologies. Spot effects would be good. Armies sat around camp fires. :)

[rh] All nice atmospheric stuff!

Objects with different level of detail would help the frame rate a bit, as would other, but I would willingly sacrifice speed for quality of image. It would be great to be able to tell roughly where you are in Midnight ( and even what time of day and direction you were facing in ) purely by the look and lay of the land.

[cjw] One thing to keep in mind as we always have to in our industry Ross. We might be talking about a project that can't be completed until after 2 years from now. The advances in 3d cards is moving greatly in the right direction and machines are so quick nowadays.

[rh] This is true. There can always be a performance option ( like on most flight simulators ) so you can set the speed of update you're comfortable with, at the expense of graphical complexity.

Sieges would have the advantage of not losing any troops- of course it puts your army out of commission for an ( unknown )length of time 'til the defenders surrender. You can always break off at any time and leave, or lay siege for a while until the defenders have been sufficiently weakened for you to attack more safely...

Being laid siege to would prevent your army from leaving, but might allow you to send reinforcements.

There could also be some negotiation options from both sides...

[cjw] Also laying siege opens up a whole strategic area.

15th September
Alligator Descartes Comments

[re: Landscaping] Take a look at a sort of LoM thing I started working on a few years ago using the now defunct Liquid Reality VRML toolkit. I've recently rewritten the graphics engine part of the game to use pure OpenGL via Magician in Java.

It's got some natty world culling stuff described in the book in my signature that lets you multiplex worlds across networks and the like. 10fps fairly easily without hardware acceleration. A Permedia2 card gets about 80fps. 8-)

The scenery is fairly crappy since I just banged it together to test the basic graphics out, but you can get the drift.

The all-important thing I usually forget here is the URL. So here it is:

As you can see, I haven't updated these pages for a while.....8-)

The basic movement style was to keyboard or mouse your character around at various paces depending on whether you were walking, riding or part of an army block move. That is, you could have control over various characters quite closely for wandering about inside citadels and general scenery examination and looking for objects, but you could also use a sort of ``wargame'' mode similar to the original in which you moved leagues at a time for speed.

The landscape was done using a basic grid mapping from the original game. The neat part was that certain landscape elements were ``explodable'' in that you can walk into them. For example, villages, citadels and the like. Mountains just got bigger when you got closer. So, the landscape never really looked ``gridded'' but it didn't have that fractal blandness in that you had recognisable landmarks, say, a large mountain in a range, and whatnot.


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