The War of the Solstice

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Game migration to the Unity platform

Seasons greetings everyone!

I thought I would give an end of year update on current activities and let you know that as always, developments have been ongoing in the background during 2017.
The focus this year has been on learning the Unity game engine, and migrating the War of the Solstice over, in order to open access to many interesting new possibilities for future development. As usual, firstly a snap of the Unity version in development, then some details 🙂

The migration to Unity initially posed certain key questions, not least of all whether I should rewrite the entire game in C#. After having spent a ton of hours developing and debugging the current game, it’s not exactly desirable to have to start again and port all the code over to a new language…

Luckily some investigation showed that Unity supports native C++ plugins, therefore it seemed like an obvious decision to re-package the core game logic, or “backend” as I refer to it, into a C++ plugin. It was actually a reasonably straightforward exercise, and I now have a backend .dll which is being used by both the existing game written in native C++ code, and the Unity version in development. This means that all the Midnight game logic remains intact; no need to redevelop, rewrite, retest. Result!

It has also proven a good decision to develop the soundtrack last year in the FMod Sound System, since this is also available as a plugin for Unity. So all the effort put in by Wayne and myself to create the atmospheric soundtrack can be plugged straight in to the Unity version of the game. No further audio development required. Another result!

The main work has been in porting the “frontend” ie graphics and user interface to Unity, and learning about all the features and possibilities that brings. To be honest I think I’m still scratching the surface, but as you can see from above, the graphical quality and flexibility has been taken to the next level on this platform. The asset store has some really good assets available which have saved me from creating everything from scratch; this is one of the great benefits of moving to such a platform, and it’s clear to see that the speed of development should eventually outpace that which I experienced on the existing game.

I really appreciate the very visual style of Unity development; you write something, you add something and you can very quickly see the results (or not as the case may be !!). It’s also good that you are “forced” to design and build in an object based way, and it makes it easy to reuse scripts, objects, shaders really easily. Once you get to know Unity a little, you really do focus on the fun parts of game development, and not so much on the low level coding and graphics API’s.

The only bugbears I have with it so far, are having to regularly navigate the version updates that are ongoing (and making sure that I have chosen assets which are well supported and maintained!), and a few inflexibilities in the rendering system compared with doing it natively. Having said that, the pros definitely outweight the cons in my view, so it’s definitely been a positive experience so far…

So why am I doing all this… still looking ahead to getting Doomdarks Revenge added in. The possibilities within Unity should make this far easier than it would have been to do natively, and should bring many nice additional touches too 😉

Raising up the elevation from the previous view, you can see how it is possible to get a full scale rendering of Midnight running at >50fps on my Geforce GTX780 GPU. A performance that I couldn’t get anywhere close to natively!!

More as it happens… for the moment Happy New Year!

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The ZX Spectrum Next

ZXSpectrumNext

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well together with 3112 like-minded ZXSpectrum fans, I contributed to the kickstarter development and production of the ZX Spectrum Next: “a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions“. In the 30 days since the campaigns launch, £723,390 was pledged beating the funding target of £250,000 within the first few days!

“Spectrum Next is an expanded and updated version of the ZX Spectrum, fully compatible (software and hardware) with the original. You can play any games, demos, use original hardware, you name it. And it also runs new software created more recently to make use of expanded hardware, including new graphics modes and faster processor speeds.”

I opted for the “ZX Next Accelerated” model for which the specifications are:

  • Processor: Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
  • Memory: 1Mb RAM (expandable to 1.5Mb internally and 2.5Mb externally)
  • Video: Hardware sprites, 256 colours mode, Timex 8×1 mode etc.
  • Video Output: RGB, VGA, HDMI
  • Storage: SD Card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
  • Audio: 3x AY-3-8912 audio chips with stereo output + FM sound
  • Joystick ports: 2 x DB9 compatible with Cursor, Kempston and Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
  • PS/2 port: Mouse with Kempston mode emulation and an external keyboard
  • Special: Multiface functionality for memory access, savegames, cheats etc.
  • Tape support: Mic and Ear ports for tape loading and saving
  • Expansion: Original external bus expansion port and accelerator expansion port
  • Raspberry Pi Zero Accelerator board: GPU / 1Ghz CPU / 512Mb RAM
  • Network: Wi Fi module
  • Real Time Clock, internal speaker

The following additional stretch goals were also unlocked as a result of the funding success:

  • A box to die for…
  • Printed manual upgrade
  • Internet Toolbox: Tools and an API for multiplayer gaming and Twitter
  • Nodes of Yesod: Remade for the Next by Steve Wetherill
  • A whole new game in the Dizzy series made exclusively for the Next
  • Ren Next: Jas Austin’s classic game reworked for the Next
  • Two new games: Dreamworld Pogie for the Next, and Castlevania: Spectral Interlude

Looking forward to unwrapping a new ZX Spectrum and seeing what development potential lies within!

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Exploring potential with Unity3D V5

I spent some time recently exploring what potential Unity3D might offer for Midnight related development. Not being so familiar with the game engine it was a bit of an eye opener to see what assets are up for purchase in the Asset Store. A quick search came up with the following interesting assets which caught my eye… 🙂

Map Magic Terrain generator / Winter ground pack
MapMagicWinterPack

 

Time of Day / Fir Trees
TimeOfDayFirTrees

 

 

 

Cave System / Knights
CaveSystemKnights

Elves / Dwarfs
ElvesDwarves

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Guide to Play 1.0

I’ve created a Guide to play which contains the full background and detailed instructions for playing The War of the Solstice. An essential read for those that are new to the game!

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Patch Release: War of the Solstice 1.0.2.6

I’ve put out another patch release 1.0.2.6 which fixes some graphical glitches that I realised have been introduced in 1.0.2.5. If you happened to download the 1.0.2.5 patch, then please apply 1.0.2.6 over the top to fix these issues.

Please do log any feedback in the forums, especially if you experience any gameplay bugs.

See the revision history to check what has been fixed.

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Patch Release: War of the Solstice 1.0.2.5

The next patch release 1.0.2.5 is now available with some minor bug fixes. None of these are to do with the actual gameplay, mostly graphical / performance issues. It’s only a very small 4Mb patch, however must be applied on top of an existing 1.0.2.4 installation.

Please do log any feedback in the forums, especially if you experience any gameplay bugs.

See the revision history to check what has been fixed.

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Retro inspired game development at it’s best – Lumo

Lumo

It wouldn’t usually occur to me to link to other non-Midnight titles on the site, but I was so impressed by this gem of a modern game inspired by the likes of Knight Lore, Head Over Heels, Amaurote, Solstice and Equinox, that I thought I would share it… it’s starting to tempt me into the world of Unity development! Visit the site to get all the details.

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New Midnight inspired project – Wars of Midnight

A new Midnight inspired project has been announced, using the Unity engine. I’ve added a link over on the links page It’s great to see a new project on the blocks since where there were once more than 25 links to Midnight related remakes and fanpages, only a few remain !

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Patch Release: War of the Solstice 1.0.2.4

The next patch release 1.0.2.4 is now available with many additions/changes.

See the revision history to check what has been fixed.

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Next patch release is almost ready

I’ve been steadily working my way through almost all of the feedback given since the original release, and implementing as many of the changes and suggestions as possible. I also found a few bugs along the way which have also been fixed. Needless to say, it’s taken up a little time!

I’m now in the tidying up phase and preparing the next release for download, which should be made available in the next couple of weeks…

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