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 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.

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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Blackberry Playbook

I recently registered for Blackberry development through Marmalade. The reason was because RIM were offering a free device on loan to test your application. I figured I had nothing to lose, so why not. Anyway, the process was pretty quick and within 10 days I was accepted on the program, qualified for the device, and it turned up today.

I installed the Native SDK, which in turn allows Marmalade to target the device natively. I registered all the certificates etc that I needed. Built the app. Deployed to the device. And well…

There you go. The process was pretty painless. But, check this out: The Marmalade SDK did it’s thing and it just worked. The previous work I did on resolution independence paid off. I just have a few tweaks to make because of the widescreen. But other than that… fully functional.

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“I slew score upon score of his foul creatures yet always there were more to take their place”

I can only apologise for the delays in this project, but can assure you that I more than anyone am eager to see this released.

The summer has proved much turmoil to my schedule. Not because I am too busy, but more because I am out of sorts with development in general. The house move came at a time when I was in full flow, and unfortunately, it had the dramatic affect of completely killing my momentum. And I am only very slowly getting that back.

Anyway, over the last few weeks I have pushed out 2 new versions for testing, and have already added some features read for next weeks drop. The first included changes to the Ice Crown quest. For those people who are very familiar with the original game, the quest mode is way too easy. So I wanted to spice it up a little. Ideally, I was going to move the location of the Ice Crown, or even have it randomly assigned to a location, so that you would have to do some questing to find its location, before you can perform the quest itself. However, I decided to leave that to later in game campaign updates. So all I did was add a few extra armies on the north western flank, the route that Morkin would usually take to perform the quest, and then add some additional logic for generating new armies that are interested in the Ice Crown, should it be lifted from its original location. Current testing suggests that the quest may be a little too hard! 🙂

Second update added some small features to the lord selection screen. The ability to instantly see which lords are at night, dawn, in battle, and to be able to filter on them.

Next weeks drop includes additional features for the map screen. Namely easily locating yourself on the map, scaling, and being able to select things from off the map. Hopefully, I will also add in support for iPhone5 for next week, because currently the wide-screen nature of it, is playing havoc with the game.

In other news, I have a Blackberry tablet dev kit winging its way to me, courtesy of RIM and Marmalade. Which in theory means that the game could launch on this device at the same time as iOS, something that I unfortunately cannot extend to Android.

And… still looking for artists… if you know anyone who might like to get involved, point them in my direction!

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Postcards from Midnight

Dawn approached stealthily, running swift fingers of light over the Lands of Midnight. Far to the east, it touched the grim Keep of Utarg with a brief golden haze: the Targ sentries yawned and looked around only to see if the next watch approached to relieve them. The dawn moved on. trembling over the Downs of Athoril, cloaking them in scarlet and saffron. The hills which had seemed hunched herds of vast menacing creatures in the absence of light, seemed now to draw apart and unfold.

Thought I’d post a quick update on the progress, or lack of, for Lords of Midnight on iOS as I am aware that I have not posted anything for a while.

Unfortunately, the truth is that developed has comes come crashing back to a slow trickle. This is due to me moving house at the end of June. I am somewhat surprised at how much the move has disrupted my development work.
Obviously, I had a few days prior to the move as I dismantled my study and then concentrated on all things moving. Prior to that I had had 7 straight weeks of shouting at people, chasing down people, to make sure the move happened, so by the evening I was more than happy to throw myself into development.
After the move it took a week or so to hey my study up and running, and generally be in a more organised situation round the house in general. But the momentum had been lost. Since that time I have not really spent anytime near the computer, where I have been able to develop.

It has really surprised me, and a little disappointed me, at the level of disruption that has occurred, but all I can do now is try and get myself back in the saddle, so to speak.

Testing has been good, and the current version is relatively stable. It is also now working on all iOS devices. The current changes that I am working on are amendments to the AI with regard the Ice Crown Quest. And then after that I will be working on tweaks for the Xajorkith Defence.

Hopefully I can get my self kick started and fully operational soon!

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Crowd Funding Midnight

If Lords of Midnight was funded using some form of crowd funding, what would you want from it?

What would be your enticement to donate some cash to the project and what would you expect to see in return?

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