Made with Marmalade: Restoring old IPs on mobile

Made with Marmalade: Restoring old IPs on mobile
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

September 3rd 2013 at 10:00AM

A different breed of independent developer is using their expertise to bring old-school IPs to new platforms

[This feature was published in the August 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

The Lords of Midnight
Developer: Mike Singleton and Chris Wild
Platform: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Mac, Windows
Why Marmalade mattered: Collaborating on a single codebase on both PC and Mac, and developing on different platforms made The Lords of Midnight possible
www.thelordsofmidnight.com

Archipelagos
Developer: AntHill Games
Platform: Android, BlackBerry, iOS
Why Marmalade mattered: Simplifying the cross-platform deployment gave Paul Carruthers more time to focus on producing and promoting his game
www.anthillgames.co.uk

The seemingly unstoppable rise of the App Store movement over the last five years has democratised games development on almost every level.

Online mobile marketplaces in 2013 are bursting with the creative output of bright-eyed new indie studios hoping to make a killer app that cements their position among the greats of gaming. Thanks to this influx of talent, the consumer has never had such a wide selection of new, mobile-centric IP to choose from.

Marmalade is proud to have been behind many of these successes including Draw Something, Call of Duty: World at War - Zombies, and more recently indie hits like Vector. It’s a very good time to be a mobile gamer.

But this democratisation hasn’t just benefitted indie upstarts by offering previously inaccessible opportunities to get in front of consumers; it has also given a new lease of life to a generation of classic British games.

Marmalade’s familiar C++ environment has opened the door for a huge range of classics from the golden age of British computing to be remade for smartphones by their original designers.

GOOD LORDS

Gamers of a certain age will remember the original The Lords of Midnight on the ZX Spectrum released in 1984 and developed by the inspirational programmer and designer Mike Singleton. Singleton was working on a remake of The Lords of Midnight for smart phones and tablets when he tragically passed away in October 2012. Chris Wild, with whom he was collaborating on the
re-release, continued on the project and using Marmalade he reintroduced Singleton’s masterpiece to the world late last year.

Chris Wild told us: "Mike Singleton introduced me to Marmalade when we first started work on The Lords of Midnight for iOS. We primarily wanted to use it so that we could both develop and target iOS even though he was using Visual Studio on Windows, and I was using XCode on Mac."

Initially the game was developed in Marmalade for cross-platform collaboration rather than deployment. “At that stage, we hadn't even considered cross-platform support of the game.”

And yet, cross-platform support has become one of the game’s key features. Wild explains: “Cross-platform support and its ease of implementation was invaluable to us. Not only could we target iOS, but we had Android, BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry versions running within just a couple of hours."

The critically-acclaimed remake of The Lords of Midnight is now available not only on the original target iOS, but also on Google Play, BlackBerry World, PC and Mac, with a Windows Phone 8 version also in the works.

GOING LOCO FOR ARCHIPELAGOS

Another classic that has made the leap from retro curio to rebirth on touch screen mobile devices is Paul Carruthers’ Archipelagos. First released for the Amiga, Atari ST and PC in 1989, Archipelagos’ 3D first-person engine and surreal atmosphere were revolutionary for the hardware of the time. The game even spawned a 1999 remake for PC.

The most recent reboot for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry was well-received in the press, and Carruthers is positive about the experience of returning to the treasured series using Marmalade: “I think many games clearly belong to a particular era or time period, but Archipelagos is unusual and quite timeless, really. With the continuing fragmentation of the smartphone and tablet markets, cross-platform capability has become paramount. I therefore need to base my work on an SDK that is going to keep up with the changing hardware landscape.”

Carruthers chooses to take responsibility for the bulk of the work at his studio AntHill Games himself. Aside from art assets and music, all of the design, coding, project management and promotion is handled by him. Having a tool like Marmalade to take the pressure out of targeting multiple platforms is a real help for him.

Carruthers adds: “For small companies such as ours, Marmalade has proved an invaluable asset. Through Marmalade the ability to use the same code, art assets and audio assets and produce high quality results across a wide breadth of hardware platforms has become fundamental to our development strategy.”

As classic titles like Archipelagos and The Lords of Midnight continue to find new audiences on mobile platforms through Marmalade, their veteran developers are in a strong position to both draw on their existing successes and to build new experiences.

Carruthers is due to release a new cross-platform game imminently, while Chris Wild has recently been teasing screenshots of his remake of Doomdark’s Revenge, the sequel to The Lords of Midnight. Both are sure to be closely watched by gamers of all generations.

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