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Default Jeff Vogel - Interview

April 24th, 2013, 01:44
PCGmedia has an interview with Jeff Vogel CEO of Spiderweb Software.
What, in your view, are the biggest challenges in making a very classic turn-based RPG in this day and age? Do you have to make any compromises, or are you appealing to a niche you’ve nurtured and respected?

Jeff: I think the hardest part is the same for any small indie title: getting exposure. It really takes a lot of time and effort to get any traction with a low-budget title, no matter what the genre.

As for compromises, we compromise all the time. We have limited time and limited budget, and so much of what we do is just improvisation and making do.

There’s a story for almost every NPC I meet in AvernumHD – and even his
surroundings, home, and past are accounted for. How do you guys come up with such exquisite and eloquent detail for characters that you may never meet again?


Jeff: That’s the fun part, actually. I spend months and months working on storyline, characters, etc. It really is the focus of what we do. Glad you like them!

Do you feel it would be possible to create a game like AvernumHD with the same depth, scale, and amount of dialogue, with the same graphical style or fidelity, including all voice acting, as a game like Skyrim? What do you think the cost would be? Is it something you’d ever like to do?

Jeff: I absolutely feel it’s possible. Heck, I loved Skyrim, and I would love to see what would happen with my sort of game design implemented with a real budget. Don’t think it’d ever happen, though. When a company spends that much bread to write a game, they’ll turn to either an in-house or big name designer. Oh, well. I’m really happy doing what I’m doing.

Do you – to any degree – lament the downfall of classical turn-based RPGs in favor of smaller, highly polished action RPG titles?

Jeff: I don’t mind the polish. I mind the action. I miss slower-paced, more cerebral games. I loved the recent X-Com reboot to death. I think it really shows you can have success writing that sort of game here and now.
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Last edited by Myrthos; April 24th, 2013 at 07:47. Reason: Changes name
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April 24th, 2013, 01:44
They have PC in their name but keep talking about Avernum HD like they played it on iPad, sad. Oh well, the port was good from what I hear. Meh interview though, like they had to praise the game every other line. No, not every NPC has an elaborate story.
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April 24th, 2013, 05:53
Speaking of budgets. I suspect that if he were to go kickstarter and propose a new game engine with updated graphics (at least up to the level of Infinity engine) that there would be quite a few donations thrown his way. I'm pretty sure he would probably not like the strings attached but this croudsourcing model would open doors for him.
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April 24th, 2013, 06:17
I bet if he ever goes to Kickstarter, even maintaining the kinds of games he does currently, he'll get a boatload of cash. That being said, I do think he enjoys full control way too much to do such a thing, and it's hard to argue with that. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and for crying out loud it is nice to see someone not compromise simply to make a buck. I'll be standing in line for every product he generates, unless something drastic changes.


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April 24th, 2013, 09:16
I hope that he uses kickstarter at some point.
I'd be glad to give him more money than he usually wants at a release for his games if I get a little extra for it.
I think that 10-20k of additional funding for graphics tilesets, sounds and music would improve the games a lot without needing to do any compromises. And in difference to other projects - he could even use most of the investments for future games as well.
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April 24th, 2013, 10:53
Interesting that he mentions X-Com - as I've read several comments from devs on that game recently. It seems the general perception is that it's a really faithful recreation of a deep and complex classic.

X-Com reboot was inferior in almost every way to the original, except for the special abilities for the soldiers.

The fact that so many people are praising it only tells me that they've forgotten a lot of the reasons the classics worked so well.

I suppose for a modern "AAA" version, it was about as good as one might expect. But it WAS NOT a faithful remake if you care about stuff like map size, enemy AI behavior (pop-up mechanic was abysmally bad), squad size, tactical options that DID matter, weapon variety, mission variety, length of game, quality of the end mission, and so on.

I guess people are very forgetful when it comes to these "details".

One game that TRULY deserves praise for being faithful in almost every way is Deux Ex: Human Revolution. If you take out the pathetically stupid boss fights (not a developer decision, by the way) - it's probably THE most faithful remake/sequel game in the AAA segment of the past 10 years or so.
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April 24th, 2013, 10:55
Originally Posted by Kordanor View Post
I hope that he uses kickstarter at some point.
I'd be glad to give him more money than he usually wants at a release for his games if I get a little extra for it.
I think that 10-20k of additional funding for graphics tilesets, sounds and music would improve the games a lot without needing to do any compromises. And in difference to other projects - he could even use most of the investments for future games as well.
I actually think that with the current, KS-driven revival of Turn-Base RPGs, he will have to up his game a bit to stay competitive in the coming years. He is no longer the last bastion of classic indie CRPGs.
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April 24th, 2013, 22:10
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Interesting that he mentions X-Com - as I've read several comments from devs on that game recently. It seems the general perception is that it's a really faithful recreation of a deep and complex classic.

X-Com reboot was inferior in almost every way to the original, except for the special abilities for the soldiers.

The fact that so many people are praising it only tells me that they've forgotten a lot of the reasons the classics worked so well.

I suppose for a modern "AAA" version, it was about as good as one might expect. But it WAS NOT a faithful remake if you care about stuff like map size, enemy AI behavior (pop-up mechanic was abysmally bad), squad size, tactical options that DID matter, weapon variety, mission variety, length of game, quality of the end mission, and so on.
I played both one after the other in short succession. Both were good. The old one was more tedious than I remember and the UI didn't age well at all. I found the new one an excellent followup and renewal of the original's fun. My complaints about the new one mostly followed the weak plot points of the ending, the intrusion of the plot on gameplay that, though really fun, limited replayability, and some mission mechanic decisions that were balanced but not plausible (3 missions, choose 1 for instance).

I guess people are very forgetful when it comes to these "details".
"Yeah, well, you know, thatís just, like, your opinion, man. " - The dude
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April 24th, 2013, 22:20
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
I actually think that with the current, KS-driven revival of Turn-Base RPGs, he will have to up his game a bit to stay competitive in the coming years. He is no longer the last bastion of classic indie CRPGs.
I think he is already doing this for so long, that he doesn't fear that at all. Besides he seems to have a "big" fanbase anyways.

I also wouldn't see KS as "the big source to finance his game" so to say but instead as an opportunity to get some additional money.

I mean he is doing the games anways. He could just make a project with a 5k goal and then say "at 15k we will get new tilesets", "at 20k we will add new soundeffects", "at 25k we will add new music". And that's it. After the KS project he makes the deals with the people willing to provide and sell these ressources and everything else stays the same.

I guess his biggest "problem" is to get out of his routine for once and test something. Otherwise I could not explain why he didn't already do it.
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April 24th, 2013, 22:56
Originally Posted by Bedwyr View Post
I played both one after the other in short succession. Both were good. The old one was more tedious than I remember and the UI didn't age well at all. I found the new one an excellent followup and renewal of the original's fun. My complaints about the new one mostly followed the weak plot points of the ending, the intrusion of the plot on gameplay that, though really fun, limited replayability, and some mission mechanic decisions that were balanced but not plausible (3 missions, choose 1 for instance).
I consider UI advances a natural evolution that doesn't merit any credit whatsoever - unless it's especially well done. Same goes for visuals, sound and music.

As for you complaints - it sounds like you have plenty with the new one, and yet you consider both of them equal? You do realise that X-Com came out in 1994, right? I assume you've got that in mind when evaluating stuff like the UI.

Are you saying you didn't have a problem with the way enemies popped up out of nowhere and basically had a free turn against you - effectively working against the idea of being cautious when setting up your soldiers?

Now, this was most likely done because of console limitations and how the AI was already bogging the otherwise rather simplistic game down. That's the only explanation I can come up with for not having all enemies on the map from the beginning. I guess you also liked the way maps are very small in the new game?

You didn't miss more variety in missions - like base invasion?

You didn't miss the waypoint missile launchers?

You didn't miss melee combat?

You didn't miss timed grenades?

You didn't miss an overwatch mode that's actually useful?

You didn't miss crouching that wasn't exclusively for cover?

They succeeded in making any tactical decision almost redundant. The new X-Com is pretty much going from cover to cover - and you don't EVER have to consider doing anything else, really. It's pretty close to playing itself - that's how much they've reduced your tactical arsenal during battle.

All levels are designed for convenient cover at convenient distances - so you can place your cursor and get a nice color-coded message about what's probably smart to do with your 1 move and 1 action or whatever.

Apart from the archaic visuals and clumsy interface, was the original X-Com REALLY not a bit better because it had more options? The new game was better off by taking all that stuff out? You really think so?
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April 25th, 2013, 03:23
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Apart from the archaic visuals and clumsy interface, was the original X-Com REALLY not a bit better because it had more options? The new game was better off by taking all that stuff out? You really think so?
Making decisions is hard and stressful. Everyone knows things that are hard and stressful aren't fun. Ergo games that are fun shouldnt have decision making.
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April 25th, 2013, 08:55
Originally Posted by CrazyIrish View Post
Making decisions is hard and stressful. Everyone knows things that are hard and stressful aren't fun. Ergo games that are fun shouldnt have decision making.
Doh!

I keep forgetting that - my mistake
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