back to article Game over for legendary 1980s games designer Mike Singleton

Classic videogame designer Mike Singleton - famed for titles such as the ZX Spectrum's The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge - has died aged 61. Singleton will be best remembered as a trendsetter, developing popular 1980s titles such as Dark Sceptre and Midwinter, and building hundreds of games for systems from the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh no...

    This headline is one of the few I've ever read on El Reg, that's made me say "Oh, no!" out loud.

    Didn't know the guy, but it's perhaps a testament to his work that it had that effect. It's a sad loss that he'll never be "Utterly Invigorated" again.

    Rest in peace.

    1. Alan Dougherty

      Re: Oh no...

      Exactly.. Carrier Command, a pivotal game in RTS, sims and most games today.

      Bohemia have even just released the reboot (after buying the car crash effort from another studio). I pre-payed for the CC reboot, just to let them finish it, but haven't installed it yet.. tonight shall be that night...


      1. Alan Dougherty

        Re: Oh no...


        Although I haven't played the release (have been banging my head off the table with the beta tho), I hope Mike was chuffed enough to know that there was a LOT of interest for the new Carrier Commaand; A good game never dies.. it just gets rebooted..

    2. Dave Fox

      Re: Oh no...

      Had precisely the same reaction here too.

      I've not even given Mike Singleton and his games a second thought in what must be 20 years, but the memory of his work lingers on to this day!

      RIP Mike - 61 is no age to go.

      1. Stuart Elliott

        Re: Oh no...

        My comments won't do it justice, so I'll stick with

        "What they ^^ said".

    3. MrT

      Re: Oh no...

      Precisely my reaction too. I remember playing Lords of Midnight a lot... and also the trick loader that the series used to speed up load times - often to trip up just at the very end!

      Sad loss.

  2. Amorous Cowherder

    Many memories, many wasted days of me and my mate trying to map out LoM on the Amstrad CPC version!

    Cheers and RIP old son!

  3. The Baron


    A man who brought real innovation to gaming and opened our eyes to what was possible.

    Night has fallen and the foul are abroad.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are a lot of us nerds who wasted many many hours in the 8 and 16 bit era, enthralled by Mike Singleton's work. Probably best to raise a glass to him at your earliest opportunity. For once, I have nothing snippy to say, at all.

  5. LPF

    Jesus you know your getting on ....

    When all your heroes bbegin to pass away RIP :(

  6. Madeye

    One of the greats

    I still rate Midwinter as one of the greatest games of all time - despite his apparent lack of success in the modern industry, many of the more recent sandbox games (Just Cause 2 and Far Cry 2 to name but a couple) can trace their lineage back to the concepts developed by Mike Singleton. He was one of the true greats

    1. Alan Dougherty

      Re: One of the greats

      Midwinter; I haven't heard that name in years.

      Infact I forgot the game even existed. I now remember my mate bringing his ST over one day, while my 286 was still waiting for it's first sound card. And it was epic for the time. Funny tho, that I didn't make the connection between Carrier Command and Midwinter until now, probably due to platform difference.

      Still, a few years later, I was just upgrading, while he was buying a new machine from scratch. Swings and round-a-bouts..

    2. ropie

      Re: One of the greats

      Midwinter was amazing.

      I have a copy of Amtix magazine with large screenshots of Lords of Midnight in and it still strikes me as one of the few times that computer games came close to pure art - just beautiful :)

  7. Spoonsinger

    Lords of Midnight.

    Now there was a game where you had to actually remember where your 'people' were in the larger context. Easy yes, (once you got the feel), but outstanding coding to get it on a 48K speccy. Midwinter was also a tour de force, (and nicely brought upto date by the likes of Just Cause). Carrier Command never appealed, but nice to see the legacy lives on. ZX81 games pack 1, yeh - this is where I came in :-)

  8. Colin Critch

    Mike you slew the dragons and thought again

    RIP Mike. Thanks for LoM it burned my hours as a youth and kept me entertained.

  9. DrXym Silver badge

    I loved those games

    I thought Doomdark's Revenge was too hard but I used to love playing Lords of Midnight. The graphics were impressive for the time and there was that feeling of "lore" that very few games manage to convincingly create which it had in spades. Even Lords was hard by modern day standards - the way you had to carefully pick your moves, and pay attention to the night report to see what had gone on when the other side took their turn - true fog of war stuff.

    I remember when learning to program the Amiga that I wrote a Lords of Midnight knockoff. It wasn't much good but I still have the disks and wish there was an easy way to see if I could retrieve the code and the binaries. Bloody amiga disks!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    <- I'll be raising one in Mike's memory this evening.

    Carrier Command - what a great game. What nowadays would be called an "open world", great AI when playing against the computer and just the right level of complexity. Hadn't realised that Midwinter was by the same guy, but it was also a great game despite the constant swapping of floppy disks until I upgraded the memory on my beloved Atari ST. I seem to recall there also a Midwinter follow up where the frozen world of the first game had warmed up into a tropical one.

  11. Irongut

    RIP Mike

    Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge were superb games and I wasted many hours on them.

  12. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    A real shame, what he managed with the limited resources available compared to many of the contemporary games at the time was staggering. Many modern games lack the depth of these.

    I remember being gobsmacked by Lords of Midnight when I first played it.

    Let's raise a drink to him.

  13. Sargs


    I briefly worked with Mike on the probably justly-obscure Starlord back in '93 at Maelstrom's office in Birkenhead. My strongest memory is of his sitting there staring at the code for an hour, suddenly going "Ah!", typing furiously for twenty minutes and one quick blat through MASM later, the 3D engine had a brand-new feature springing fully-formed from the head of Zeus, so to speak.

    Oh, and the code in question was 80x86 assembler with no meaningful symbolic address labels as that would have made it too easy. Even back then, most PC/Amiga/ST development was done in C apart from very low level graphics operations, so his assembly-abilities impressed even then.

    It's a shame to see him go.

    One thing; I'm fairly certain Carrier Command was done by Realtime Games in Leeds, which was Baird, Oliver and Onions, not Singleton.

    1. Furbian

      Re: Aw...

      Thanks for that insight, most interesting.

      Lords of Midnight was just so refreshing and atmospheric, I remember the landscapes looking cold, and the guys on horses were just brilliant, Lord Blood and all. Amazing that it was at all achievable on a 48K Spectrum (with attribute clash), but it clearly was. He'll be missed.

  14. 7-zark-7


    Apart from CC which i loved I also fondly remember Midwinter on my Amiga. The picture and description on the box really piqued my interest.

    One feature of Midwinter i remember being impressed by was the water effect. It had moving polygon waves at the shoreline. It was the first time i had seen animated water instead of a blue coloured block to represent water.

    I'm currently struggling with the CC reboot. To me it still has the feel of the old CC (good) with pretty good light and water effects. Its just a shame about the walrus routing on land and the poorly realised on-foot sections of the game.

    Anyway, thanks to the efforts of Mike Singleton I have fond memories of early gaming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Midwinter

      I saw that CC remake, then noticed it was Bohemia Interactive, and gave it a miss. Their stuff tends to be bugged to hell, and takes many many patches, and sometimes community fixes before it works properly. As much as I hate to say it, it's the Eastern European Game Syndrome(tm), just like with Witcher, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and many others. Even when the game is really promising, attention to the rough edges is sometimes a bit lacking.

      I am sure that give it a year and a bit, and pick it up in the Christmas sale on Steam, and it will be worthwhile, though :D

  15. mistercrisps

    Sad times.

    The bloody sword of battle brings death in the domain of Singleton and of Xajorkith and of Dawn.

    :( if you need a nostalgia boost.

    RIP Mike.

  16. wydoihavetosignuptocorrectbadreporting
    Thumb Down

    Factually Inaccurate.

    Sad day, Lords of midnight and Doomdark's Revenge are two of my favourite speccy games, but very inaccurate info RE: Carrier Command.

    Mike, in his own words here, clarifies that he had nowt to do with Carrier Command:

    1. Mr_Blister

      Re: Factually Inaccurate.

      Was it really Mike commenting in the section below the main article? Maybe if he was part of the article itself being interviewed, then it would be better proof perhaps because many people often use famous names as their online aliases.

  17. Weirdy one

    Very sad indeed.

    I can only agree with the other comments here. When I was 14 I spent many evenings making my own map of every square inch of the first LoM game (I think Crash! spoiled that bit by the time the second came out). Totally riveting and somehow managed that feat that newer games struggle with, that of creating an immersive world with just a few pixels. I think that the imagination filled in gaps better than any number of polygons can.

    I'd forgotten Midwinter on Amiga, but that was eqully amazing in it's own way, with a scope that put it ahead of it's time.

  18. jason 7

    I enjoyed his work!

  19. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    Cheers, Mike.

    Many fondly remembered hours of non-productivity and inspiration to write my own games.

  20. YouStupidBoy


    And thanks for the memories.

  21. burnttoys


    I know you can't hear me now but "Cheers! Here's to some wasted hours!"

  22. 27escape

    I worked with Mike at Maelstrom, back in the late 80s.

    For an English teacher, he certainly knew his maths. Whether it was to validate random number generators or to allow 1000s of locations in 8bit games, to doing 'sub pixels' on the Atari ST to make it appear to have better resolution and real 3D shaded graphics on 8bit and 16bit platforms, all in assembler of course.

    Ahead of his time in many ways, shame some of the ideas did not come to fruition.

    One enduring memory is when he came back with some huge 27inch monitors from some air traffic control place, took up almost the entire depth of the desks, that and the clouds of smoke that enveloped the office.

    Strange when I go back to that office now (my solicitor is in there), brings all those memories flooding back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I worked with Mike at Maelstrom, back in the late 80s.

      When I was in my early teens I met Mike on a number of occasions as I was an aspiring programmer and was amazed at his games. This then progressed to introducing him to Codemasters when I was working there in the early 90's.

      The guy took time out of his business hours to show me stuff he was working on, explaining certain tricks of the trade, etc, etc.... something I'm very grateful for.

      Mike was an inspiring and kind person to a brat :-) ... that must be the teacher in him eh

      So sorry to hear of your passing. RIP

  23. Jedit

    Doomdark's Revenge

    "Doom" - check. "Dark" - check. As for revenge, I guess God was jealous that Singleton was better at worldbuilding and making sandbox games.

    I think I'll dig out the old Retro Gamer issues with long, in-depth articles and interviews with Mike about Lords of Midnight. There was some good stuff on his plans for the never-completed final game in the Midnight Trilogy.

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