The Lords of Midnight
|The Lords of Midnight|
|Distributor(s)||Chilli Hugger Software|
|Release date(s)||ZX Spectrum & Amstrad CPC
|Genre(s)||Adventure, Role-playing, Strategy|
The Lords of Midnight is an award winning adventure video game, written by Mike Singleton, and released in 1984 for the ZX Spectrum. Very well received from the beginning, it was soon converted for the Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64. The game featured an innovative 3-D effect that Singleton called landscaping, which served to bring the player into the game much more than usual. Lords of Midnight is often named with Elite as among the top role playing games of the 1980s.
The Lords of Midnight is a wargame/adventure game. The player starts with four characters (Luxor the Moonprince, Rorthron the Wise, Corleth the Fey, and Morkin), and then has the option to recruit up to twenty-eight further characters (such as Lord Ithrorn, The Utarg of Utarg, Lords Blood, Xajorkith, Shadows, etc. plus Farflame the Dragon Lord, Fawkin the Skulkin, and others) to join in the quest to destroy Doomdark, the evil Witchking who has locked the Land of Midnight in perpetual winter.
The game can be played in three ways. The first is as a straight adventure game, where the goal is for Morkin to destroy the Ice Crown, the source of Doomdark's power. The second is as a wargame, recruiting other lords and their armies until you are strong enough defeat Doomdark's armies and storm his citadel in the far north. A third variation, referred to in the manual as the 'Epic', requires the player to complete the game both ways simultaneously.
The player has an advantage in that only one of the two objectives is needed to defeat Doomdark. The game is won whenever the Ice Crown is destroyed or when Doomdark's home citadel of Ushgarak falls. For Doomdark to win, he has to complete two objectives. First, he must kill Morkin, Luxor's son, since as long as Morkin is alive, the game continues. Also, he must subdue the armies of the Free, either by killing Luxor or by conquering Xajorkith, the capital citadel of the Free lands.
The game featured a groundbreaking technique called landscaping to depict the lands of Midnight from a first-person perspective. Also, playing the game may be enjoyed numerous times, since each time Doomdark's armies can choose to attack from different routes and do not always follow the same pattern.
At the time of its release, game creator Mike Singleton thought there was no way to defeat Doomdark before Xajorkith fell. Gamers quickly proved him wrong, and even now various Internet groups devoted to the game continue to refine their strategies to defeat Doomdark.
The Hungarian computer magazine called 'CoV' also published a full-detailed map, along with a walkthrough in their 19th issue.
The 3D effect used in the game was achieved by "billboarding" (see sprite) pre-scaled images of mountains, forests, buildings, etc. to create the impression of a perspective-correct landscape scene, available from a view of 8 points of the compass; the technique was self-described as "landscaping". The technique created a strong impression at the time, and the game received praise for its graphics; "landscaping" was also used in the sequel Doomdark's Revenge, but did not see significant further use in other games.
Singleton designed the game, wrote the novella/manual, and developed "landscaping" in the last three months of 1983. He wrote the code in the first three months of 1984. The game he submitted to the publisher in April 1984 was entirely his own product.
CRASH awarded Lords of Midnight 10 out of 10, highlighting the panoramic views, detailed units and "wonderfully coherent" storyline. The game won the award for best adventure game of the year according to the Crash readers. Zzap!64 rated it at 91%, calling it "truly an epic game ... a must for adventurers and strategists alike", although one of the three reviewers expressed disappointment that the Commodore 64 version's graphics did not improve on the Spectrum original. It was also Best Strategy Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards
The ZX Spectrum version was voted the 7th best game of all time in a special issue of Your Sinclair magazine in 2004. In 2013 historian Jimmy Maher stated that, while not as playable as Elite, it and The Lords of Midnight "make you want to believe—make you actively imagine—that there is more to their universes than there actually is ... some of the most awe-inspiring virtual worlds ever made". He called The Lords of Midnight's development "a remarkable achievement indeed, one of the last of the great lone-wolf games".
Sequels and remakes
A sequel called Doomdark's Revenge took place in a land north of Midnight called the Icemark. The object was to defeat the daughter of Doomdark, who sought revenge against Luxor for her father's death.
The planned final installment of the trilogy, The Eye of The Moon, was never released.
There has also been some work into creating a new modernized version of Lords of Midnight for iPhones and iPads, with a collaboration between the original author of the game, Mike Singleton, and the author of the game ports for Windows, Chris Wild. Following Mike Singleton's death on 10 October 10, 2012, it was confirmed that the new version would be released on BlackBerry and iOS on the Winter Solstice in 2012 with versions for Windows and Android to follow.
Upon its release, Beyond Software, the publishers of the game, offered to turn the campaign of the first person to offer proof of completing the game into a published novel. While there were not many ways of offering proof that the campaign was completed, many players sent reams of thermal printer paper to Beyond Software, hoping to get their campaign published. The first person to send in their claim to victory did so within two weeks of the game's release. In the end, however, no publisher was interested in publishing what they deemed a fringe publication, and the offered prize was forfeit.
Tentative discussions were held, in which Mike Singleton offered to write the novel himself. Ultimately time constraints and the reluctance on the publisher's part made all plans for a novel impossible.
- "Lords of Midnight Online Community, at Yahoo! Groups".
-  Lords Of Midnight Map, part1
-  Lords Of Midnight Map, part2
- Your Spectrum, Issue 9, November 1984 - Adventures
- Maher, Jimmy (2014-01-07). "Mike Singleton and The Lords of Midnight". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
- Brewster, Derek (August 1984). "Lords of Midnight". CRASH (Newsfield) (7).
- Wade, Bob; Penn, Gary; Rignall, Julian (May 1985). "The Lords of Midnight". Zzap!64 (review). pp. 82–84. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Top 50 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair (Imagine Publishing). November 2004.
- source code of various game variants on icemark.com
- "Retro Gamer Issue 4, March 2004 (scan)".
- "Mike Singleton, Lord of Midnight : 2nd Sinclair User Annual, 1984".