Way back in 1984, English teacher-turned-game developer Mike Singleton released a vast and innovative adventure gamed for the ZX Spectrum home computer called The Lords of Midnight. The game was extremely well received and garnered high praise for its gameplay, the expansive world in which it is set, and its use of a clever graphical technique known as "landscaping" to render the scene with pre-scaled sprites. The Lords of Midnight turned out to be Singleton's most well respected title and is considered by many to be one of the best video games ever created.

Versions of The Lords of Midnight were soon released on a few other (mainly European) platforms of the day, and in 1991 DOS PC versions of the game and its sequel, Doomdark's Revenge, were released, originally developed as reverse engineered fan conversions by Christopher Wild. (Singleton gave his stamp of approval to Wild's conversions -- see Wild's 2004 Retro Gamer two-piece article / interview with Singleton.) Not long after, Wild began thinking about doing Windows versions of the games and thus began his work on The Midnight Engine, a system that would allow the Midnight games to run under modern operating systems and, thanks to data abstraction, would also allow new games to be created under the same framework.

At this point, the astute reader has probably figured out that I am not just waxing nostalgic for the simple fun of it. No, I am happy to say that there is reason for my taking a few moments to bring the uninitiated up to speed, here, and that reason is a project that has been underway for over year now to bring The Lords of Midnight to iOS.

In January of 2011, original author Mike Singleton reached out to Christopher Wild, suggesting a collaboration to get his 27 year old classic in the hands of a new audience. Since that time, at a varying pace, the project has been underway.

Wild has been posting progress updates to his blog throughout the year, and indicates that it is definitely the intention of both he and Singleton to do this conversion just right.

Let me firstly assure you that we are not developing a freeform, realtime, 3d game. We are not developing [the less well-received sequel to Doomdark's Revenge] the Citadel. We are not going to f*** it up!

Lords of Midnight is about the landscaping. It’s about those 2d panoramic views. It’s about moving some characters and pressing night and the end of the turn and waiting for the dawn to break to find out what happened.

So, the landscaping stays. Yes it will get an update. Graphically we will try a few things to help us justify bringing a 27 year old game back to the future. If you’ve followed the history of [The Midnight Engine] with the Lords of Midnight and more importantly Doomdark’s Revenge, you’ll have an idea of some of the things that means.

We’re going to make a few changes to the AI. Nothing drastic. This is not about turning Lords of Midnight into the style of RPG/Adventure games that are currently available. The AI in lords of midnight works – it’s a little simplistic, but it’s perfect for the style of game. However, there are a few little things that no longer sit comfortably, and to be fair, probably didn’t when Mike originally coded them. So there will be a couple of tweaks and additions.

The affect of these additions is that the game will not play like it used to. In spirit it will be the same, but don’t expect to be able to fire up the emulators and watch the old spectrum game play exactly like the new one. There will likely be some surprises, but I think everyone will enjoy.

Wild also indicates that certain AI changes will be made to facilitate multi-user gameplay and that it will remain turn-based like the original -- not real-time. The picture that he paints of the conversion goals should appeal to those iOS gamers who loved the title in decades past.

The iOS conversion of The Lords of Midnight is being developed under the Marmalade SDK (née Airplay SDK), will run natively on both the iPhone and the iPad, and should make its way to various other platforms, as well. Doomdark's Revenge will also be brought over, some time after The Lords of Midnight arrives.

The team has just posted a demonstration video, albeit preliminary and somewhat rough, of the game running on iPad hardware.

That a whole new generation of gamers will have easy access to such a rich classic is wonderful news, and rest assured we will keep readers apprised as progress on The Lords of Midnight for iOS marches on.

( Embedded screenshots are from the ZX Spectrum original and graphics in the demo video are placeholder -- not final versions. )

[ via Gaming on the Go, thanks @gnomeslair ]

  • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

    This is not necessary. Nobody needs this. Nobody. Make it a ROM for an emulator will you but please don't litter the AppStore with single program conversions that look like garbage. As a ROM in an EMU this is nostalgia, as a single purchase App this is just bad.

    • http://blakespot.com/ blakespot

      This seems kind of a ridiculous thing to say. A custom version of a game like this obviously will play better than a straight up emulation. Various modifications are spoken of to make it a better experience. If you're worried about App Store clutter, I can point you to piles of games every day that go live that are not worth a single glance. 

      This is definitely a game not among those piles.

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        The only way this game should be published is FOR FREE.

        I mean look at it. This is obnoxious. The only thing that should look like this in this day and age is a DOS emulator with loadable ROMs or Envirobear.

      • Paul Johns

        Well you can already do that, i've got a non-jailbroken ipod and i've got a Speccy emulator and can play Lords of Midnight or Doomdarks Revenge.  I'm interested in this new revamp as it'll have better controls and i've read updated graphics. As a fan of the series to get this new update as a game which will be 69p or £1.49 will be a bargain. If you dont like it move on, for us retro fans who like updated versions as well its great

      • Kaitain

        SOMETHING around here is obnoxious...

    • PlunderBunny

      This is necessary. I need this. Me.

      We're looking at an early version - it already appears to have a touch interface and a map, so it's not a straight conversion. I remember seeing updated scenery graphics on Chris's blog for early versions of the Midnight Engine - hopefully these will also make it into the final game as an option.

    • Pedro Timóteo

      AppleOutsider, do you realize how insulting your comment is to anyone above a certain age? If you're too young to appreciate a game like this, I'm sure there's an Angry Birds #219 thread that needs you.

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        I'm 35 and played games like "Vermeer" etc. pp. on Computers with a 286 CPU and THOSE colors.

        Nobody needs this. I thought those games were looking horrible back then and they look horrible now.

      • Pedro Timóteo

        This is a grand strategy game. You're only talking about the GRAPHICS (which, by the way, you'd know are placeholders, if you had read the article). There's a problem right there.

        Besides, it looks like you're just trolling to get a reaction out of people. Non-trolls, when they're not interested in something, simply say nothing, they don't go around saying that something Should Not Even Be Made(tm).

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        I am stating my opinion. Feel free not to react to it.

      • MoHeyNow

        Nobody "needs" to post negative and pointless opinions like yours yet somehow someone always feels compelled to.  These guys don't come to your house and slap the dick out of your mouth.  Show some respect. 

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        For what? People who jump on a platform and port every horrible looking, 25 year old game to it to make the big bucks for a miniscule amount of work?

        Again: make a ZX Spectrum emulator and release this game as a ROM and I'm fine with that.
        Besides, you accuse ME of being negative and then you do the same? What is this, Kindergarten?

      • Oliver Mason

        "Minuscule amount of work"? You obviously don't know what you're talking about.

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        Right. It will take hundreds of hours to add tap targets in an emulator game.

        If they change the graphics into new ones it will be a remake and that's the one thing I wanted, meaning it will take a lot of work. If they just program the emulator that will also be a lot of work.

        But just adding tap targets to the old graphics will maybe take a day's work. And please don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about. This game is 28 years old. Are you REALLY trying to tell me that it is hugely complex? What was the ROM size? 100kb?

      • http://twitter.com/directordoc Doc Lyons

         Please stop feeding the troll.

      • Kaitain

        Stop telling other people what to do. This is a free environment. Nobody's forcing the game to be brought into your lebensraum. I...I mean, living room.

      • Paul Johns

        " I thought those games were looking horrible back then and they look horrible now"

        Thats just stupid. Games can have great graphics or music but its all about gameplay, thats why MANY of us still play Pacman/Space Invaders as we're big fans of them and yes the nostalgia factor.
        Lords of Midnight was a HUGE hit in the 80's, yeah it might look outdated, so what ?  Its like a 14 year old X Box fan seeing iOS games and saying how bad they look compared to his latest X-Box $60 game.  They dont appreciate that simple graphics doesnt mean its a bad game.  Yeah it looks 'old', so what ?  They werent horrible then they were cutting edge.  Anyway i cant believe i've fallen for your ridiculous troll like comments

      • Briker Ed

        You keep saying nobody needs this, which is sort of a direct insult to me, who need it. If you didn't like it back then, or don't like the graphic or whatever part of the game that's fine, but don't make a presumptuous generalisation stating no one wants or is interested in it on a new system, rather than just an emulated version. That bit there is not just a personal opinion, it's a disregard of all other possible points of view out of a selfish need to be right. If I'm wrong, sorry, but that's how your posts make you look - rather childish for someone who says is 35. 

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        You should really look up the difference between "want" and "need"

      • Briker Ed

        If that's the best you can do, then you shouldn't bother really, as more often than not a need will produce a wanting, so don't treat the two as they're mutually exclusive. 

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        Right. And I am the one who is trolling.

        I explained why I think it's better to re-do the game with better graphics OR publish an emulator in other comments. I don't really think it's necessary to talk to you about the meaning of words. This is like talking to someone who says "No the sky isn't blue you can't say that what about during sunrise and after sunset?".

        I said need. Not want or interest.

      • MoHeyNow

        By that logic nobody needs an iphone or and ipad and nobody needs whatever your favourite game is on the platform.  Nobody needs any of these frivolous luxuries that go beyond food, water, and shelter.  To single out one retro game and niche of gamers to make that point is pretty ridiculous.

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        Congratulations. You nailed the definition of "need". Guess what - that's why I used it.

        Honestly - it's not my fault that everyone who reads my comments interprets it as "nobody wants this".

        And yes my point was entirely "selfish" and "opinionated" because guess what, I stated my opinion.

        You know the irony here is that in the last 20 years most likely 99% of the users who played this game at all did so not on a real ZX spectrum but on an emulator on another platform, most likely downloaded via a torrent or some website.

        Again, my point was this: remake it, or publish the emulator. That's what I want from the developer. Because that way other ZX games could easily be ported OR at least we get better graphics other than this CGA eyesore.

        And yes that is MY opinion.

      • Chris Wild

        Just to confirm, because this seems to be getting missed... this is a remake. None of the graphics currently shown in the video will be in the final product... not one single one of them. They are there to show the engine running. They are placeholders while we a) decide on the exact eventual look of the game, and b) finally build said graphics. Even the UI is not decided. This process allows the game to run and be tested for logic, and nothing else. This video was purely intended to show that some actual code was running on an actual iPad and therefore hopefully dispel any assertions of vapourware caused by the length of time it has taken me to find the time to code anything.

      • http://www.appleoutsider.de/ AppleOutsider.de - Sebastian P

        Hey Chris,

        thanks for the reply. Please understand that my statements aren't meant to be personal or anything but rather in general about remakes/ports etc. in the past. The first games I have been playing in my life were "retro" (e.g. in 1986 when I played pong on a machine from 1979 and other games on a machine from 1980). I have have seen many a developer promising ports by showcasing graphics (for instance "Jagged Alliance" remakes announced a thousand times, "History Line 1914-1918" remakes etc. etc).

        I wish you the best of luck. Take your time. The Coding Monkeys took 12 months to publish the two Carcassonne Updates. It's been 28 years since the game came out, another year or so more won't matter. Just make it look good and make it work good and everyone will be happy. Including me :-)

      • Kaitain

        In that case, all video game development should be shut down right now, as nobody needs ANY video game.

    • Kaitain

      Disagree entirely. Emulator roms have a very limited audience.

      Your world will not be affected negatively by this being brought out as an app, so please don't seek to impose your own tastes on others.

      In any case, this does not 'look like garbage', just as The Beatles do not sound 'like garbage' simply because they feature old production values.

  • http://twitter.com/major_owned Owen

    Played this on the speccy about five years ago (converted game file turned into a .wav and played back by an iPod!) after reading an article in retro gamer.

    Very atmospheric, looking forward to it!

  • Chris Wild

    These are not final graphics, everything is placeholder.

    • VancouverBlade

      Good luck with this; can't wait to hear more about it. The only downside was reading: "27 year old classic " man; that makes me feel old. I loved this game as a teenager.

    • http://twitter.com/directordoc Doc Lyons

      Placeholder graphics or not I think everyone can appreciate a classic gem like this being ported to iOS... to me it's a shame that there's not more classic C=64 and Amiga games being ported as there are plenty of nostalgic 30 yro's like me that revel in past gaming glories.

      That being said I understand tracking down publishers/copyright holders for these games and getting permission to port them would be a b**** of a task.

  • http://twitter.com/starksimon Stark

    Instabuy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711689 Zhan Li

    AMAZING game, glad to see it make it to iOS!

  • PlunderBunny

    At about 00:40 you can see what looks like an in-game map. The original game didn't have this (at least, the Amstrad CPC version I played didn't) - I wonder if it will be persistent across games? One of the things that will make or break the game for most people is the need to have a good map. Personally, I loved making a map for the game, but I'm a grizzled 8-bit veteran (back then, maps were something you drew on graph paper, and a save game meant leaving the computer on overnight).

    • http://twitter.com/C_McButterpants Corky McButterpants

       cccxc

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4JB2QIEYV7QBN7HC4WOGFOOHUI Jamie Oliver Aspinall

    i like the graphic style and the Look of the New Version. i Hope the New graphics are based on the old ones. the colors , the shadows everything looks so mysterious !

    • Chris Wild

      Current intention is to have newer higher res graphics, that are instantly recognisable as the old. It needs to look new and old at the same time!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_URQOKQFXGJ2JAKZ6MODNSQSEUI Bernie -

    great. there are still lots of gems hidden in the spectrum libraries such as quazatron,  uridium, tau ceti, etc, that have the potential to translate well onto iOS. hope some developers will look into them soon ...

  • http://twitter.com/chaosz911 René de Groot

    Seriously?

  • Ben Jones

    Wicked. Insta-buy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fokion-Harokopos/1533190553 Fokion Harokopos

    Most respected Mike Singleton game? Midwinter. Thanks. 

  • http://twitter.com/directordoc Doc Lyons

    Two words: F__K YEAH!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ana-Maria-Gilabert-Orengo/100002116452645 Ana Maria Gilabert Orengo

    instant-buy

  • http://blakespot.com/ blakespot

    I'd personally prefer the original Spectrum gfx or derivatives of those (simple, line based) versus the Windows ver gfx ( http://www.icemark.com/winlom99/ ). My personal pref.

  • http://blakespot.com/ blakespot

    TLoM made it into the song, you know... 
    http://www2.b3ta.com/heyhey16k/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Leigh/100000105735593 Ian Leigh

    In keeping with how a few remakes have been done - I would prefer the original and new gfx to be selectable ala Monkey Island. The Lords of Midnight was all about the atmosphere. Still have the originals in the attic in their huge boxes!!

  • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

    I just hope we get Shadowgate at some point. I NEED that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

      Oh god, me too. I was involved with recoding those in the Pocket PC era for Infinite Ventures.

      Been thinking about blowing the dust off them and reworking, but we fell out with the rights holders for a reason that I never did quite get in the first place.  :(

    • http://twitter.com/thebenchwarmers BenchWarmers Clique

      i thought shadowgate was nes? sorry im too lazy to wikipedia lol i'll just rely on yawl to set me straight.

    • http://blakespot.com/ blakespot
      • Mike

        Holy crap, I shat myself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

    Can't wait to see this on iPad 3...

  • rogerjowett

    http://www.worldofsam.org/node/176

    if you use the nmi button with a +D isciple and save a 48 SNApshot to disc you can use velesofts snapper disc to reload it into a sam coupe and if you ahve external ram it should run at 6mhz

    http://velesoft.speccy.cz/sam_zx128.htm

  • Marshagain

    When Lords of Midnight appeared on the Spectrum it was a revelation. Not for it's graphics, which seems to be the focal point of some misunderstanding by a certain "Outside"contributor to this discussion board, but for the depth and complexity of its game play. Mike Singleton's Spectrum games were with the possible exception of Elite, the best strategy games available.
    I was delighted to find that when Chris produced the PC version that the sophistication of the game play had lasted the passage of time. Yes, the graphics were basic, however, the game retained its originality and depth.
    As a new convert to the iMac, I can't wait until Chris finishes his latest update of Mike Singleton's seminal work. Thanks!

  • Ben Wheatley

    Watching the youtube clip i really liked seeing the old graphics again. Could there be an option to play in a classic mode? I played it (and completed it) on the spectrum back in the day. This looks really good. Thanks

  • pugwashstaines

    My big brother and I played and completed both the Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge on the spectrum, probably some of the best memories I have. The pure excitement of waiting for the tape to finally load without a hiccup. Only wish I’d managed to get that rubbish printer to work on the Doomdark completion.
    Nobody will remember the games being played nowadays, but everyone can drift back to the first time they got Luxor killed by wolves or controlled Fawkrin.
    Chris, good on you, for putting this on the ipad.
    I know two fortysomething guys who will be taking a trip down memory lane.

  • pugwashstaines

    My big brother and I played and completed both the Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge on the spectrum, probably some of the best memories I have. The pure excitement of waiting for the tape to finally load without a hiccup. Only wish I’d managed to get that rubbish printer to work on the Doomdark completion.
    Nobody will remember the games being played nowadays, but everyone can drift back to the first time they got Luxor killed by wolves or controlled Fawkrin.
    Good on you, for putting this on the ipad.
    I know two fortysomething guys who will be taking a trip down memory lane.

  • David Hoskins

    R.I.P Mike.

    • Stuart Davies

      I just noticed the RIP at the end, cant believe Mike Singleton passed away.
      Mashagain got it right -"it was a revalation" when it came out.

      i remember buying it - must be nearly 30 years ago on the ZX Spectrum - even the box it came it was impressive! :)

      It was the most amazign strategy game of its time, and for a long time to come. 

      Especially when you consider it just had 48k to play with. I dont think most computers could beep with 48k nowadays.
      The fact that it is still so fondly rememebered is testimony to the brilliance of Mike Singletons creation.
      I continue to play games on XBOX and PS3 - but do you know what nothing seems to scratch that itch that was created when i first played Lords of Midnight. It (with Elite) is still up there at he pinnacle of games - even above those games of today. 
      Why cant someone make a game like this or Elite in the modern era, where you actual have gameplay and control of the actions, with multiple ways of getting to an end (or no ed with elite!) rather than being in a very controlled story book.

      Mike Singleton - for what its worth now - you produced something that will live for me till the day I die, one of the best strategy games of all time.