Spiderweb Software - All News
Monday - March 09, 2015
RPGWatch - Spiderweb Software Interview
My next interview this week is with Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software, and was requested by Gilliatt in my suggestion thread on the RPGWatch forums.
Couchpotato: Some members are curious about why you keep making re-makes, and why don't you use a new game engine? How would you respond to them?
Jeff Vogel: I will make an entirely new game engine in the next couple of years. It's a really tough job, though. Very time-consuming. That's why we try to really revamp things every 3 games or so.
As for remakes, well, our newest game, Avernum 2: Crystal Souls, is a rewrite of Avernum 2, which came out in 2000. That's 15 years ago. Fifteen! It doesn't run well on new machines, and we can do such a better job with the design, graphics, etc. Also, when we rewrite it, we can port it to tablets. So I think rewrites are entirely justified, and our customers agree. They sell really well.
Couchpotato: You once mentioned you can't make games as you used to can you elaborate on that statement? I was just curious as most of your games turned out to be enjoyable.
Jeff Vogel: I just have a different brain than I did when I was 25. Back then, I was more energetic, less guarded, more willing to do crazy, off-the-wall things. I was more concerned with making neat, cool things than perfecting game balance or whatever, and that produced games a lot of my fans really love.
So when I rewrite them, I need to be respectful and leave the things the fans love the most alone.
Thursday - February 19, 2015
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ Venturebeat
Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games was interviewed on Venturebeat this week. The focus of the interview is about how he made made 22 games in 22 years. That's a lot of games.
GamesBeat: Is this the infamous basement I’m seeing behind you?
Jeff Vogel: No, no. For the first 18 years, all of our games were written in my basement, but two years ago, we moved into a nicer new home. Now I get a room on the main floor. All my comic books and old video games and Magic [the Gathering] cards are on shelves all around me, just to make me feel comfortable and enfolded.
GamesBeat: What got you started in the business?
Vogel: I’ve always been compelled by games and puzzles. I started out probably by drawing mazes for my parents to solve when I was 5 years old. I was born in 1970, so this is just about the time that computer games were being invented. I remember my dad coming home from a bar and saying, “Hey, Jeff, I saw this cool thing that you might like, it’s called Pong.” As soon as I started playing video games, I was immediately just compelled by them. As soon as I got the chance, I learned to program. I started programming games, I think, when I was 8, 9, [or] 10. It’s always been a compulsion.
Tuesday - February 17, 2015
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ IndieGames
IndieGames Lena LeRay published a new interview with Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software earlier this week. Credit for this news-bit goes to Kordanor.
You've rereleased Exile twice now, first as Avernum and then again as Avernum: Escape from the Pit. The same is true of Exile 2 as Avernum 2 and then Avernum 2: Crystal Souls. What motivated you to rerelease them not just once, but twice?
A lot of reasons. I think releasing remastered versions of quality old games is a pretty established practice in the industry now.
For example, consider our newest rewrite, Avernum 2: Crystal Souls. It is a rewrite of Avernum 2, which came out in 2000. Fifteen (!) years ago. I think it's pretty fair to rewrite a game that old.
In the intervening decade and a half, a lot has happened. My interfaces and design have gotten a lot stronger. The resources available to me for art, sound, etc have grown greatly. Meanwhile, fifteen year old programs don't run well on Macintosh or 64-bit windows. The rewrites have three purposes: to make them function in the first place, to make them better, and to use the new engine to port the games to tablets. There's been a lot of demand for our games for the iPad, but this takes a full ground-up port. The archaic code won't work.
Rewrites of fifteen year old games are going to be a good part of our business going forward, as they are great games and the demand for remastered versions is high. Simply put, they sell really well. It helps that we don't half-ass these rewrites. Everything about them, ever space, every item, every line of dialogue, is gone over. Lots of new material is added.
Wednesday - January 28, 2015
Spiderweb Games - New Avadon Game
Once again Kordanor has provided me with an update from the latest newsletter from Spiderweb Games with information Avadon III will be the next game to get released.
In this newsletter is a small section called "what is next":
"We're about to start porting Avernum 2 to iPad. Then, when that is done, we will begin to complete the Avadon trilogy. If you are looking for something fun to play on the iPad in the meantime, Avernum: Escape From the Pit HD is a lot of fun"
So next in line is Avadon 3
Sunday - January 25, 2015
Spiderweb Games - Developer Spotlight
Pixcelation picked Spiderweb Games as their next developer to talk about in a new article they call Developer Spotlight. As usual here is a short sample.
Game development has changed a lot over the last twenty years. Alright, yes, that statement could have been stolen from the desk of Captain Obvious himself, but it’s still the best place to start for this article. Genres have come and gone. Consoles have come and gone. Developers have sprung up, dissolved, merged with one another and split off on their own. Our world is an ever-changing beast, and the gaming industry is as clear an example of this as any other. In the past two decades, however, there has remained one constant. One developer whose style remains as simple and effective as it was when they were founded in 1994. One developer who has successfully released one new game nearly every year since fifth-generation gaming was still in its infancy. That developer is Spiderweb Software – experts in the field of old-school, open-world PC role-playing games, strongly reminscent of 90s greats such as Baldur’s Gate, Ultima and the original Fallout titles.
Tuesday - August 05, 2014
Spiderweb Games - Beta Testers Wanted
Spiderweb Software in need of asfew beta testers for the Mac version of Avernum 2: Crystal Souls. Just follow this link for the application if you're interested.
We need beta testers for Avernum 2: Crystal Souls for the Mac.
- You will need a Macintosh desktop and laptop machine running OS X 10.6 or later.
- The ability to follow detailed directions.
- Download frequent updates.
- Plenty of time to test between now and the release.
- You will need to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and get it back to us fairly quickly. People who don't get the NDA in promptly won't be able to test.
We get lots of tester applications. Lots and lots of them. Sorting through the flood takes a lot of time. Due to the large number of applications we will receive, we will not respond to every application. Please do not E-mail us asking if you were accepted. We will only E-mail those who have been accepted. Many apologies, and good luck!
- You must have a reliable internet account, capable of E-mail and of downloading large files. Updates are well over 100 MB and need to be downloaded reliably.
- You must be able to write and converse coherently in English.
- You must be able to actually spend time on testing, and, even if you don't find bugs, you need to be able to frequently give us reports on your progress in the game.
- Complete the form below.
Tuesday - May 27, 2014
Spiderweb Games - The Indie Bubble Is Popping
Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games has a new post on his blog about Indie games, and writes the bubble is popping due to the abundance of games released.
I can already sense people are unconvinced with my "proof" of why a shakeout is ahead, so I need to point out something else. It's the problem with being a middle-sized developer (a problem that extends to many fields, not just games).
Suppose you are a super low-budget micro-developer like me. It's not super-hard to survive, because I can get enough sales to get by with a little cheap marketing and word of mouth advertising. I'll be all right.
Suppose, alternately, you are a huge AAA developer with massive budgets. You can afford the massive marketing necessary to generate the big sales you need to pay for your expensive games. You'll be all right, until you're not.
But suppose you're a mid-tier (sometimes called AAA Indie) developer, with $500K-$2 million budgets. You have a problem. You need advertising to get sales, as word-of-mouth won't cover it. But you can't afford a big campaign. The only way you will turn a profit is if you get huge free marketing from Steam/iTunes placement and press articles. (Which is why going to big trade shows and cozying up to the press is so important.)
But when there are so many games competing for free marketing, you have a serious problem. According to their site, the Indie Megabooth at the last PAX had 104 games. 104! At one PAX! Just indies! The games industry doesn't need that many games this year, period. #mildexaggeration.
Wednesday - April 09, 2014
Spiderweb Games - Avernum 2: Crystal Souls
You can all thank Kordanor for the following information, Apparently the latest Spiderweb Software's newsletter confirms Avernum 2: Crystal Souls is in development.
We have already begun work on our ground-up rewrite of Avernum 2. In the same manner as Avernum: Escape From the Pit, Avernum 2: Crystal Souls will be a fresh, expanded reworking of one of our most beloved titles. Hopefully, it will be out for Windows, Mac, and portables before the end of 2014. When we have an official announcement, you can find out right away on our Facebook page.
I'm sorry I can't find any more information beside this right now. I will be sure to keep you all updated on any future news from Spider Web, or other sites in the future.
Tuesday - December 31, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ HardCoreDroid
HardCoreDroid has a new interview with Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games about how to became a video game designer.
In 1994, I was in graduate school studying applied mathematics. I was miserable, and I didn’t see any future for myself in that field. I decided to take a summer off to write a role-playing game and release it as what was then charmingly called “Shareware.” Eight months later, I released my first role-playing game: Exile: Escape from the Pit for the Macintosh. And, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, people bought it!
Now you have to understand that 1994 was a different time. The Web was in its infancy. The big tool for selling games was AOL. Malls had shops that sold floppy disks with sharewaredemos. Sometimes, these shops were not too vigilant about explaining that the customers were paying 10 bucks each for the demos. The angry e-mails about this came to me, not them.
Thanks to word-of-mouth and great good fortune, I was able to quit grad school and begin making a humble living as a full-time shareware developer. I spent the following 20 years plugging away and writing a new game every year or two: indie, low-budget, hardcore fantasy RPGs for Windows and Mac (and, later, iPad, Linux, and Android). I was building an audience and scraping and begging for every press mention I could get. I ran lean and mean to survive through good times (The Dot.Com bubble and the more recent Indie bubble) and the bad times (Every other time).
We’re a mom and pop indie operation. At our peak, we had three full-time employees and the standard host of freelancers. From our damp basement in lovely Seattle, we made the sort of games I loved as a kid. We followed one of the truest paths to indie success: We found a neglected niche of games with a loyal fan base, and we served it. Nobody will mistake my games for big-budget AAA titles, but the handmade feel appeals to a lot of gamers.
The business has changed incredibly since I started but the principles of working as an artist (and make no mistake: that is what game developers are) and running a small business are timeless. I certainly have some advice for young developers based on my experiences.
Thursday - November 21, 2013
Jeff Vogel - Why We Need Video Game Critics
Jeff Vogel has a new post on his blog about game crtitics, and why we need them.
We've reached the point where video games have a huge place in our culture, and yet most of them are ... well, I want to say "terrible," but that's not true. Look at the top of the sales charts, and you'll see a lot of Product. Competently made, bland Product with good production values and a lack of thoughtfulness or creativity or interest in exploring what these odd electronic contraptions can do.
Video games have gotten big faster than they've gotten good. We have fantastic tools at our disposal, but, apart from a few remarkable works (The Last of Us, for example), they aren't being used at anywhere near their potential. I think this is why video games need more and better critics.
Not reviewers. Reviewers are necessary, but we don't need more people to say, "Yeah, Grand Theft Auto V is deeply flawed, but it has lots of polygons and it doesn't crap itself and I don't want to get death threats. 9/10." We have plenty of that.
I was recently in a discussion with some indies where someone commented that too much discussion of the game business was about business, not about the craft of making better games. I agree with this totally. If you want to write games, anything that helps you to make a better game is better for your business.
Friday - July 19, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Rock, Paper, Shotgun is the next site to interview Jeff Vogel. Topics include bundles, graphics and of couse the usual pessimism.
RPS: At the time of writing, you’ve sold over 33,000 copies of your bundle, raising nearly $155,000, with two days to go. Have you ever had such a profitable week before?
Vogel: Nope. This is the record, by a wide margin. We’re shocked. I honestly though it would do less than a third of that. I am hugely grateful. It makes us feel liked, and it’s always great to feel liked.
RPS: Did you have any hopes in mind before it started, maybe target you were aiming for?
Vogel: I’ve learned over the last two decades to try not to have expectations. Things are so super unpredictable. There are so many factors and so many moving parts that go into how something will be received. That said, I always try to be cynical and pessimistic, and I though the Humble Bundle would be nice and pleasant and a good bonus and not set the world on fire. I can’t remember when I’ve been more surprised.
RPS: Spiderweb has been going an for amazing twenty years, and clearly has a large following of dedicated fans. But from my perspective, the last couple of years have seen perceptions change from a quite niche specialist developer, to a broader appeal. Why do you think this is happening now? Is it simply reaching new audiences through online retailers and devices like tablets, or do you think there’s also a new appetite for meaty RPGs out there?
Vogel: I think the demand has always been there, but I just didn’t have a big enough microphone. Single player story-driven RPGs are one of the oldest, most beloved, evergreen computer game genres. The biggest frustration for me, over the years, is that I’ve known there are hordes out there who wanted to at least try my games, but I didn’t have the PR muscle to reach them. Steam changed everything for everyone. It certainly changed my life. The Humble Bundle is also fantastic, for the way it lets anyone, for a tiny price, try games and genres they would never have otherwise. That alone makes the Humble Bundle great for the industry.
RPS: You’ve resisted changing your game design from the top-down, relatively simple layout to the more detailed environments that appear in most contemporary RPGs. What’s the reasoning behind that?
Vogel: It’s an interesting question, because it makes an unstated assumption that the qualities of modern RPGs are superior. And they are. To some people. But indie games over the last years has showed us that there is a hunger for all sorts of presentations. Look at the stunning rise in popularity of more simple 8-bit graphic games over the last few years. A lot of those simple-looking games were hits!
Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Thursday - July 18, 2013
Spiderweb Games - 20th Anniversary Interview
Pixlbit interviews Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games about the company's 20th Anniversary.
PB: First of all, what games got you into gaming, and when did it hit you that you could do this yourselves?
JV : I am very old. The first computer role-playing game I tried was Eamon, in 1980 or so. The first game I really, really got into was Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord in 1983. Playing that was the point my destiny was assured. I wrote games all through childhood, but I only made a real effort to write a real game when I was in grad school at age 24.
PB: Your games hearken back to a previous, more innocent era in game development, and they seem to still carry that promise that the medium can take us away to wondrous but dangerous worlds where anything can happen. What are some of the keys to your design philosophy, and how do you manage to retain this magic today?
JV: I always write the sort of game I want to play. I play a lot of games, and, when one compels me in some way, I break down the qualities that really appeal and try to incorporate that myself. However, it is a very, very personal process. I’m just lucky that the things I like other people like too. I always like to put in lots of detail. I think lots of different things should happen. I think the player should have choices and be able to shift the ending. In a big game, there should be both tragedy and humor. Those are some big principles for my design.
PB: You’ve been operating for twenty years now. What would you like to accomplish in the next 20 years, and what kind of games do you want to make that you haven’t yet made?
JV: I like story-heavy single-player turn-based role-playing games. It’s a niche that I’m good at filling. It’s also an evergreen sort of game. There will always be a demand for it, but most developers don’t seem to be interested. So, for the next 20 years, I’ll write more of the same. But slower. I’m getting older and more burned out.
PB: What would you like gamers who haven’t heard about you before to know about you, and is there anything you would like to say to them?
JV: We write really good role-playing games. The graphics are simple, but the stories and gameplay are excellent. We care about the customer. And, if you’re curious, there is a big, free demo of each of our games on our web site.
Saturday - July 13, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Humble Bundle
As follow up to yesterdays post Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software has put his entire library of games in a Humble Bundle sale.
Friday - July 12, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Twenty Years of Games
Spiderweb Games has turned Twenty this week. Jeff Vogel is the core creator behind 21 games over 20 years. To celebrate it's success here is a graph in 2D or 3D detailing their history.
Sunday - July 07, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Exile Series Available for Free
Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Games has made the Exile series freeware and can be downloaded from the Spiderweb website.
Exile: Escape From the Pit is the first game in the Exile trilogy, which takes place in the strange subterranean world of Exile. Exile is populated by the misfits and malcontents of the surface world, people who were forever banished to the underworld for being too strange, or too antisocial, or having too many incorrect opinions.
Exile II: Crystal Souls is the sequel to the shareware hit Exile: Escape From the Pit. Several years have passed since the events in the first game. Now, the Empire, the cruel monolithic nation ruling the surface world, has realized that Exile, the nation they created, has become highly dangerous. Their troops are now being teleported into Exile in great numbers, overwhelming the defenses of the beleagured souls below.
Exile III: Ruined World is the triumphant conclusion to the Exile trilogy, a massive epic withelegant interface, fascinating plot, and beautiful grapics and sound. A more fascinating and playable game, one will be very hard pressed to find.
Mac versions on this page. Enjoy.
Thursday - May 02, 2013
Spiderweb Games - Avadon 2: The Corruption Fall Release
Spiderweb Games posted a very brief update on their website for Avadon 2: The Corruption. The update doesn't say much just announces new screenshots, and gives fall 2013 as a release date.
We have put up two more screenshots from our next title, Avadon 2: The Corruption. Hopefully out in Fall, 2013! Take a look.
Wednesday - April 24, 2013
Jeff Vogel - Interview with Avernum's Developer
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.
Monday - December 10, 2012
Spiderweb Games - Sale on Steam
You can now buy 11 games from Spiderweb in one bargain atSteam. The games that are part of this pack are:
- Avadon: The Black Fortress
- Avernum 4
- Avernum 5
- Avernum 6
- Avernum: Escape From the Pit
- Geneforge 1
- Geneforge 2
- Geneforge 3
- Geneforge 4: Rebellion
- Geneforge 5: Overthrow
- Nethergate: Resurrection
Tuesday - October 30, 2012
Spiderweb Games - What Makes a Choice Interesting?
Jeff Vogel blogs about choices in RPGs; no revelatory opinions but some solid basic points:
1. The options need to be clear.
The player needs to understand very clearly what is being decided. Suppose that the player is deciding whether some army stays behind to defend a city or goes off to attack the enemy. The player needs to know what is being decided, exactly how to choose each option, and what the possible consequences of each choice are.
2. The options need to be distinct.
The choices need to be clearly different from each other. Otherwise, the act of making a decision isn't satisfying. A good example of where this often wasn't done was in Mass Effect 3. Shepard, the player's main character, was often asked about attacking the enemy, and the choices often came down to, "Yes, we must destroy them!" and "Certainly, we must slay them now!" All I could think at these points was, "Shut up, Shepard."
Saturday - May 12, 2012
Spiderweb Games - Second Avernum Trilogy on Steam
Avernum 4-6 has been released on Steam as a bundle, currently on sale for $9.59:
Avernum: The Great Trials Trilogy Comes to Steam
Three indie classics for one low price!
May 11, 2012 – Following the success of their Geneforge bundle and the recent remake of Avernum: Escape from the Pit, Spiderweb Software (http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com) is pleased to announce the Steam release of Avernum: Great Trials Trilogy for Windows , which combines the last 3 games of the Avernum series into one low price bundle of only $11.99 and an extra 20% off the first week. Avernum 4, 5, and 6 tells the tale of your land’s struggles in the face of powerful forces that seek to destroy it. Fight for survival, hunt awesome foes, and help your weary homeland to find its final destiny.
Sent in by Capt. Huggy Face.
Thursday - May 03, 2012
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ Indiegraph
There's an interview with Jeff Vogel at Indiegraph covering a range of general topics. Here's a snip on the changes brought by iTunes and Steam:
5.) I know you recently started selling your games on the iPad (and Steam too I believe?). How has this shift been for you? Was it tricky to get into the App Store, let alone make the game’s UI work with a touchscreen? How has Steam been for you?
Our games are now on iTunes and Steam, and it has made a world’s worth of difference for our business. Our sales have gone through the roof, and it’s terrific. Getting into the App Store is easy, but getting attention once you are there is not. It’s very crowded.
Steam is the opposite. It’s tough to get in, and I had to make a strong case before they accepted our games. Once they were in, Steam was hugely supportive and it’s a fantastic place to sell games.
Saturday - February 18, 2012
Spiderweb Games - My Life's Tour Through D&D, Part 2
Jeff Vogel continues his journey through D&D and, as usual, takes a contrary position to many:
And then, after an absence of over a decade, I returned to D&D, only to find that the universe has completely changed. People say that Fourth Edition is trying to copy World of Warcraft, but, to be honest, I don't see it. I really don't. Instead, it feels like the hardcore wargames I played way back when I started gaming. With all the good and bad that comes with it.
It's very detailed and tactical. Everything has been formalized. Nothing is left to chance. Every movement, every action, even the act of role-playing, has been codified and given its own rule-set. It's Dungeons and Dragons and Control Freaks.
Old gamers have a reputation for only loving the version of D&D they grew up with and hating everything else, but I went into 4E determined to enjoy it. I played in a single campaign of it for over a year and had really quite a lot of fun. Dense rules? Piles of cards and abilities to keep track of? Tons of algebra? My brain was made to handle this stuff. It was great. For a while.
Thursday - February 09, 2012
Spiderweb Games - My Life's Tour Through D&D
Jeff Vogel has posted the first of a series on his blog about the impact and role of D&D in his life:
I will never, ever forget that day in fourth grade. It was recess, and, as all the other kids ran outside to play, a few of the boys pulled out sheets of paper, some odd-looking dice, and a thin blue book with a dragon on the cover. I asked what they were playing. Something called Dungeons & Dragons. I asked if they would teach me. They said yes.
(You may expect a self-deprecating joke at this point, something about how I played it until I discovered girls, or something like that. If you expect any signs of shame in my D&D obsession, you have come to the wrong damn blog. And I only dated girls who enjoyed playing the game with me, thank you very much.)
Sunday - October 16, 2011
Spiderweb Games - Why you can't have every game for a dollar
Michael Anderson writes they have a guest post at Gear Diary from Jeff Vogel on pricing games:
Games like this have to charge an actual price. They just have to, if the developer wants to stay in business. Why? Because if I charge a dollar for one of my old school role-playing games, even if everyone who could possibly be interested buys one, I would go out of business. So I have to charge more. Games in this category will be five dollars minimum, possibly more, and if you complain that the price is too high, that is like saying, “I want you to go out of business to please me.”
But then there are niche titles. Games for gamers, or games aimed at a smaller audience. Adventure games. Strategy games. Games like what I write: old school, low budget role-playing games. Games like this will never have a huge audience, and they aren’t trying for one. They are aimed to serve a small, dedicated audience.
Saturday - October 01, 2011
Spiderweb Games - Glorious October Carnage Sale
Seems Jeff is starting to see sales in a different light, with Spiderweb's traditional October sale offering the lowest prices they've done (direct from their site - Avadon will still be cheaper on Steam etc):
We're Having a Sale! - In celebration of a fantastic year (releasing Avadon and putting out our first titles on Steam and the iPad), we are permanently lowering the prices of everything we sell by 20% or more! Even better, for the entire month of October, all of our products for Windows and Mac will be 10% off! We hope you have a great holiday season, and we hope you pick up some awesome Indie adventures on the cheap. Go to our store.
Friday - August 19, 2011
Spiderweb Games - Jeff Vogel on Avadon on Steam
Unsurprisingly, I'm pretty excited about it. After 16 years of being a tiny, invisible, basement-dwelling bottom feeder, for a few precious weeks, I get to act like I'm a real developer. With a real distributor, a nice trailer video, and everything. Yes, there will be money, and that's always nice, but it's the recognition I'm sort of focused on now.
So I'm charging $10 on Steam and for the iPad. By the standards of that market, it's a hefty price, enough for me to earn my living. It's cheap enough to work as an impluse buy. It isn't the $1 or $2 price that I'm still sure would put me out of business.
This means I need to adjust the prices I charge on my own web site. I have changed the price of Avadon to $20, and in the future we will very likely reduce the prices of our earlier games as well. Our next game, Avernum: Escape From the Pit will start out at $20. If this grand experiment works well, we may make future games cheaper still, though I doubt any new game on our own web site will ever go below $15.
Friday - July 29, 2011
Avernum: Escape from the Pit - Officially Announced
Jeff Vogel has officially announced Avernum: Escape from the Pit, a "ground up re-write" of their "most popular and best-selling series" due late this year (for Mac - PC and iPad to follow). No doubt many will rue the repetition but fans will note the return of the "overworld" map exploration and new avatar art. Head to the new sub-site for a description and screens.
There's also a FAQ and Jeff discusses the decision to do this game in a new blog post, including news that the price will be $20 and existing owners of Exile/Avernum 1 will get a discount. Here's a snip from the FAQ on game system changes:
Will the Game System Be the Same?
No. The game system has been heavily revised. It's a mix of Avernum 6 and Avadon: The Black Fortress. It is still entirely skill-based and most of the skills are the same. However, the way you train has changed. Instead of saving up skill points, each level you get to increase two skills. You will make the same number of choices to shape your character, but you will be making more of them later in the game and fewer of them earlier. We are also taking pains to make it much more difficult to create a party that is too weak to progress through the game.
The Traits system has been massively reworked. Instead of picking two traits at the beginning of the game, you can select one new beneficial trait every two levels. A lot of these traits give simple bonuses, while others (like Backstab and Swordmage) can dramatically change the way you play the game.
Saturday - May 07, 2011
Spiderweb Games - On Making Lots of People Angry
Jeff Vogel writes a follow-up to his previous blog article titled On Making Lots of People Angry:
I thought that I had a lot of good points to be made about the perils and opportunities of listening to feedback from fans (or ex-fans), so I wrote a blog post about it. This had the entirely predictable effect of infuriating the previously mentioned community.
Now, in the light of day, I feel kind of bad about it. I think what I wrote was fairly mild and I do still stand by every word of it. However, I think I kicked a group of my fellow gamers when they were down, and, being a lifelong gamer myself, I regret that. I've been reading their posts and chatting with them and I think I understand where they're coming from a lot better now.
Monday - December 13, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ IMG
Inside Mac Games chats with Jeff Vogel, primarily discussing Mac gaming issues but touching on Spiderweb's market and Avadon. A bit about DRM:
JC: The only DRM for your games is a registration code. Do you believe DRM really protects against pirates, or just makes it more difficult for legitimate customers who have to deal with all the measures the pirates simply bypass?
JV: Intrusive and obnoxious DRM systems that punish legitimate customers are a bad thing. They should go away. Period. But let's not overstate the case against DRM.
Like most game developers, I release a demo. Access to the full game requires buying a registration code from us. If someone needs a replacement code, that is free. No online verification. No limits on multiple installs. I think our system is pretty friendly to the customer.
The only alternative is to give everyone the full game immediately and then ask politely for them to stop by our web site and pay us. This would put us out of business in pretty much no time at all.
As I see it, the biggest issue here is not that customers are evil, but that human beings procrastinate. Procrastination is a huge and powerful force. Given the choice between playing my game and going to the web store, ordering, pulling out the credit card, entering personal information, etc., most people will just play the game. Until they finish the game. And then they will move on to another game. Sure, a few honest people will hunt me down to give me money. Not enough to stay in business.
A lot of people are honest enough to pay me for my work, thank goodness. But that doesn't mean they might not need a little nudge.
Some people have seriously told me that I should just release the full game without any limits at all. No. Nonononono! That's crazy! I mean, my god. Show a tiny bit of empathy for the developer! If going out of business is the cost I have to pay to make someone happy, I can't afford to have that person as a customer.
Thursday - December 02, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Holiday CD Sale
Spiderweb is offering 25% off their CD collections, which quite a good discount for them from my memory. They've also added another couple of Avadon screens at some stage and their email notes that Avadon will also be released on the iPad, which had previously escaped me.
Friday - October 01, 2010
Spiderweb Games - 15 Year Anniversary Sale
Wow, 15 years is pretty impressive:
Spiderweb Software's Fifteenth Birthday Sale!
It was fifteen years ago that fledgling Indie game developer Spiderweb Software released its first game out into the wild. This was, by game industry standards, a long time ago. Back then, small developers sold something called "shareware." The World Wide Web barely existed. People took photographs on "film." Cell phones were the size of loaves of bread. Also, dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
Yes, the past millennium was a dark and confusing time. And yet, we prevailed, making many fine Retro fantasy role-playing games for Windows and Macintosh. And now we invite you to celebrate our continued survival by offering hefty discounts on the fruits of our labors. For the whole month of October, all collections of our games are 25% off, and everything else we sell is 10% off. CDs containing three or five deep, full-length RPGs, already sold at a discount, are now even cheaper!
So, whether you need a big pile of distractions from the recession and the cold, dark of winter, or you need a nice CD to give as a gift to a gamer friend, or you just like collecting shiny discs, we are eager to help.
Not convinced? Try out one of our huge, free demos.
And here's hoping for another fifteen years. With any luck, our 30th birthday e-mail will be sent out from inside our Pleasure Pod and will celebrate flying cars and the Cure For Death.
Tuesday - August 24, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Sale @ GamersGate
GamersGate has a sale on a number of titles at the moment and the Price Watch thread on our forums (thanks Jaw!) has noticed Avernum 5 and Geneforge 5 from Spiderweb are on offer for 60% off, at $7.98 each. These are among the best indie cRPGs ever created and well worth a look at this price. See our Avernum 5 review here, if you're interested.
Monday - June 14, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Avadon Interview @ RPG Codex
Jeff Vogel has been interviewed at RPG Codex on Avadon, with some comments towards the end about his other plans (remaking Avernum 1-3) and possibly investigating handheld platforms. Here's a snip:
9. How will dialogue be handled? In what ways will it affect the course of the game? Are there any skills related to it? Any dialogue between party members?
Dialogue will be similar to our previous games, but with more role-playing type choices, places to express your opinion, and so on. There will be quite a few conversations between party members.
There will not be skills related to dialogue. Right now, I think it fits the game world better to make the best conversation trees I can and make those available to everyone.
Thursday - June 03, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Avadon Blog #1
Jeff Vogel has penned a first Avadon blog, expanding on the inspiration for this new series:
About three years ago, I saw that the Avernum and Geneforge series were drawing to a close, and I needed to come up with something new. This was, of course, both exciting and terrifying. Coming up with an idea that will determine the course of years of your life (and possibly put you out of business) is a stressful process.
About this time, my wife and I went to see a Hungarian one-act opera called Bluebeard's Castle. I am normally not a fan of opera. Exactly the opposite, in fact. But some friends had cheap tickets, and we had babysitting, so, you know, whatever.
Thursday - May 27, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Avadon: The Black Fortress Announced
Spiderweb has revealed their new game IP, titled Avadon: The Dark Fortress. Three screens are available and will no doubt receive mixed responses. Those wanting a complete, modern 3D overhaul will be disappointed and others will appreciate the iterative advances. Here's the summary:
Spiderweb Software brings you Avadon: The Black Fortress, the first chapter in a new, epic fantasy saga. You will serve the keep of Avadon, working as a spy and warrior to fight the enemies of your homeland. As a servant of the Black Fortress, your word is law. Experience an exciting fantasy role-playing adventure and battle a conspiracy to destroy your people.
Avadon: The Black Fortress Features:
- Epic fantasy role-playing adventure in an enormous and unique world.
- Four different character classes, with dozens of unique spells and abilities.
- Uncover the fascinating history of Avadon and the land of Lynaeus.
- Many different endings. Your choices will change the world.
- Dozens of side quests, hidden dungeons, and secrets to discover.
- Hundreds of magical items to find. Use powerful crystals to make your artifacts even more powerful.
- Huge adventure with lots of replay value.
You are a servant of Avadon. The Black Fortress. Your job is to protect the Pact, five nations that have banded together in a fragile alliance. The purpose of the Pact: To hold back the waves of invaders that seek to destroy you.
Outside the lands of the Pact, there are limitless threats. Barbarians. Fading, jealous empires. Titans and unspeakable horrors. The warriors and spies of Avadon are charged to keep them at bay, weak and divided. You fight in the shadows, rooting out small threats before they have the chance to grow. Your resources are unlimited, and your word is law.
But a dark time is coming. Assassins are killing Avadon's warriors, and a hidden enemy plots to unite all of your homeland's foes. If you cannot discover and destroy this conspiracy, and soon, your people face total destruction. But beware. The defenders of Avadon are being picked off, one by one, and you are the next target.
Wednesday - May 05, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ GameBanshee
GameBanshee has a nice interview with Jeff Vogel on the end of the Avernum series and the new game in development:
Will the new game be closer to Avernum or to Geneforge in style? For example, will you be shooting for more or a linear or open world, a faction-based or non-faction based world, or party-based or solo adventures?
The game is based more on the Geneforge engine. It will have a linear world, but with many player choices. It wouldn't be one of my games without giving the player the ability to make huge choices that affect the world. There will be factions, and there is a dominant power that the player has a very complicated relationship with.
The game will have a three person party (although there are also solo portions). The game is very class-based. There are four classes, each with a very distinct suite of abilities and play style.
Monday - May 03, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ CaptainD
There's a short, quickfire interview with Jeff Vogel at CaptainD's blog. Jeff doesn't seem to be in a loquacious mood for this one, though this answer confirms his conservative side:
9/ Which character from Lord of the Rings would you most like to be? (Bet you didn't see that one coming!)
One of those elves who got to hang back in the woods and be safe and eventually get on a boat and go to paradise. They had it all figured out.
Thursday - April 22, 2010
Spiderweb Games - How Jeff Vogel Saved the Gaming Industry Overnight
And the big companies, who make AAA games with these amazing awesome big-budget engines? They should re-use more of them! The Dragon Age engine is very cool. Make ten games with it! And not just piddly Dragon Age DLC either. Make games that are cyberpunk, horror, science fiction, fantasy in a new setting. The budgets will be much lower, and that makes it easier to take risks. And use the same dragon model. It looks really sweet. And, once the engine is a drained husk (in, say, five years), then spend a lot of money making a new one.
Wednesday - February 24, 2010
Spiderweb Games - New Game Interview
A site called The Gamer Studio has an interview with Jeff Vogel that includes the first real details on his new series that I've seen:
What was the inspiration behind it?
Believe it or not, a Hungarian opera called Bluebeard's Castle.
Is it pure fantasy like Avernum, or does it include sci-fi elements like Geneforge; or perhaps something quasi-historical like Nethergate?
It'll be pretty straight fantasy, but with a very detailed world. There's a lot of history and cool stuff to discover.
What elements have you transfered over from your other games?
It will be a party-based role-playing game with turn-based combat, like we have always done. However, we have completely streamlined the game system in some ways and made it more elaborate in others, like the tactical combat. The basic genre is the same, but everything else is being redesigned.
Monday - January 25, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Bushwhacking Players
Titled Why Bushwhacking Your Players Is a Bad Idea, Jeff Vogel's latest blog post talks about game difficulty spikes:
The basic idea behind this was that it gave the player a challenge. A place to stretch his or her abilities. Something to come back and try later to test your strength and see how much power you have gained. Sure, it'll slaughter you the first couple of times you run across it, but it will give you the motivation to work harder and prevail! It's a hardcore gamer way of thinking. This sort of thing is something I think is neat and has a place, if you're very, very careful about it.
But in Avernum 6, I went way, WAY too far with this. There were way too many encounters that were rough and meant to be returned to later. I actually had one bandit dungeon where the boss was super-tough. "Ah," I thought, in a moment of exhaustion and idiocy. "This will be cool. The player will kill the early bandits, get some lewt, and then see that the final boss is an entirely different sort of character and back off and come back later."
How sadistic and stupid is that? To let the player fight through a dungeon and not give the satisfaction of finishing it off. To add one more item to an ever-increasing list of things to remember to return to. To doom most players to several attempts to kill the boss and getting slaughtered before they figure out that they have to return later, wasting their time and goodwill.
Monday - January 04, 2010
Spiderweb Games - Podcast @ 1Up
Suddenly 1Up is interested in Jeff Vogel with an interview a couple of weeks back and now an interview in their Active Time Babble podcast. I haven't had the chance to listen to it but according to Jeff's blog "there's a lot of stuff about Avernum 6 and a few tidbits of information about the new game I'm working on".
Wednesday - December 23, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ 1Up
Nice to see some indie service at a major site with 1Up's RPG Blog interviewing Jeff Vogel. It's a short interview mostly covering the end of the Avernum series:
Source: Rampant Games
Saturday - November 21, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Make Your Game Easy. Then Make It Easier.
Jeff Vogel has updated his blog. This time he talks about game difficulty. Here is a snippet from the blog:
I used to succinctly describe my views about game difficulty thus:
People will forgive a game for being too hard. They will never forgive it for being too easy.
No. This is, in fact, completely, 100% opposite from the truth. A better summary of reality would be:
People will happily forgive a game for being too easy, because it makes them feel badass. If a game is too hard, they will get angry, ragequit, hold a grudge, and never buy your games again.
I spotted this update over at Rampant Games. You can read Jay Barnson's opinion on the subject here.
Wednesday - July 29, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Geneforge Saga Bundle
Spiderweb has kicked up a bundle with all five Geneforge games, for those looking to collect the now complete series.
Saturday - July 18, 2009
Spiderweb Games - The Joy of Re-Releasing Old Games
I'll let Jeff introduce his new blog entry in his own words and then jump on to a later quote:
Warning: This blog entry contains unpopular views, a mercenary attitude, and an unattractive display of pure, raw greed. Those who prefer a purer, more principled breed of Indie developer should look elsewhere.
I once wrote a game called Nethergate, which developed quite a cult following. Then, as time passed, it became very shaky and outdated. So, two years ago, I released Nethergate: Resurrection. It took two months to do it. I really liked this game, and putting out a newer, nicer version was very rewarding, both emotionally and financially.
A lot of people have complained to me over the years about doing this. I don't understand it.
Thursday - July 09, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Avernum 6 Officially Unveiled
Spiderweb has officially unveiled Avernum 6 - the last of the series - with a product page and three screens. While the updated graphics still won't convert many, I'd suggest they are at least worth a glance. Here's the feature list:
- An enormous world. Hundreds of quests, dozens of dungeons and enemy fortresses, and multitudes of characters.
- A fascinating storyline, full of surprises, treachery, and epic battles.
- Many unique encounters. Not just mindless hack and slash. Many unusual enemies that will require clever tactics to defeat.
- Rich game system with over 50 spells and battle disciplines, many character building options, and powerful secret skills to unlock.
- Unique game world. Unique races and settings make Avernum different from any RPG out there.
- Experience with previous Avernum games is completely unnecessary to enjoy Avernum 6.
The Mac version is due Winter 2009 and, as always, the PC will follow a few months later. Jeff also briefly blogged on AV6 yesterday - here's a taste from that:
There is something very liberating about writing the last game in a series. First, you won't have to write any more. Second, you get to totally trash the place. Of course, it leaves me with the terrifying prospect of writing a whole new series. But, after Geneforge FIVE and Avernum SIX, I'm desperate.
Monday - June 22, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Indie Game Pricing
Not specifically RPG related but Jeff Vogel's blog is always a good read - even for those that don't agree. Jeff returns to the issue of indie game pricing through portals after noting even lower prices:
$6.95 is currently the magic price. Generally, to get that price, you need to buy a subscription. In other words, use the developer's game as a loss leader to win their private route into your credit card.
So let's run some numbers. A typical deal on these portals is that the portal keeps, say, 10% of a sale for expenses and then pays a 40% royalty. (This is pretty close to what I generally get.) Which means each sale of a game on Big Fish would earn you roughly $2.50. You better hope you're earning more per copy elsewhere because otherwise, if you want a pretty meager payout for your work (say, $100K before expenses), you have to sell forty thousand games. You know how hard it is to move that many copies? PRETTY DARN HARD.
This seems to be the indie theme of the day with the Rampant Coyote picking up Jeff's post and Gareth Fouche discussing the somewhat related issue of back-catalogues competing with indies at the Scars of War blog.
Wednesday - May 27, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Using Our Powers for Evil
Jeff Vogel's latest View From the Bottom column at RPG Vault looks at gaming design that is primarily intended to create addiction - and MMOs are the obvious example:
Everyone knows that World of Warcraft, its sinister older cousin EverQuest and similar games are addicting. But what is the exact quality they possess that makes them that way? Is there a specific property they possess that we can extract, distill and pour into other games? And, if we do this, are we using our powers for evil?
Thursday - May 21, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Avernum 6 Update
Jeff Vogel has posted the first Avernum 6 details, with some nice tweaks in store for fans:
I am finally posting some long overdue information about Avernum 6. I was hoping to release screenshots and more detailed plot information next month, but here is a bit of what's been going on.
Avernum 6 is in full development, and the demo section is almost done. I still hope to have the Mac version out for Christmas. It will be the last Avernum game.
(OK, I think it'd be really neat to do a game about the first days of Avernum, like Avernum: Origins, but not until the far future.)
The storyline is the most detailed and twisty of any Avernum game. I think it's really cool. It's definitely very apocalyptic. Much of Avernum is going to be trashed. (Or trashed again.)
Many characters will return, and some of them will get the dramatic ends to their stories they deserve. Much of the future of Avernum and its place in the world will be settled. (And, of course, the player will make a real difference in this.)
Other things of note:
* Every graphic has been redone. All of the icons will be anti-aliased and have shadows, which makes the game look much nicer. It's the prettiest game we've ever done.
* I will use and expand upon all interface improvements from Geneforge 5. Being able to play in a window, play at any resolution, etc.
* The buffing system will be very similar to Geneforge 5. Haste is weaker now, and you can have fewer buffs overall. Haste potions will be full double actions, though, the sort from the older games.
* A bunch of game and system improvements. Dual-wielding weapons is back. The world map will be much more useful, as will quest destination marks on your map. You can see full information about items by mousing over them. (Finally!)
* My favorite trio of wizards, Solberg, Lark, and Gladwell, return. As does X. And many other familiar faces.
* The game takes place in Avernum. The old Avernum. But, for the first time, you start in the Great Cave.
* The final fate of Avernum, it turns out, is something I've been foreshadowing since Exile 2.
* Anama, no. Skribbane, yes. And yes, the first hit is free.
Hope this information is of interest.
- Jeff Vogel
Thursday - May 14, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Blog Update
Jeff Vogel continues Guessing What is Going to Kill Me. Here's a snip that includes reference to his new IP:
I Write a Bad Game - Next year, I'm going to make a whole new series, with a new game engine and IP. This is always risky. I might sink a bunch of money and time in it, and it will fail. Remember, anything new will make you lose a chunk of that reliable customer base that keeps you alive. If I don't replace what we lose? We have a pretty good cash and sales cushion here, but it will never be enough to survive one big flop.
Likelihood - Inevitable.
Wednesday - April 29, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Blog Update
Another potentially controversial post from Jeff Vogel, titled Why Nobody Should Ever Change Anything, Ever:
One of the biggest criticisms leveled at me over the years is that I only write the same game over and over again. This fills me with bitter, ironic laughter, because of one thing. Whenever I change anything, I get lots of angry E-mail asking me to change it back.
I've learned a lot running this business. Many lessons, most of them learned painfully. And I have gained no more aggravating bit of knowledge than this one:
There is no change you can make to your games, no matter how clearly obvious or beneficial, that will not anger some of your fans.
Wednesday - April 22, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Blog Update
Jeff has kicked up Part 2 of Indie Games Should Cost More, addressing several common reactions to his first piece and his pricing over the years:
"Your Games Are Too Crude and Old-School To Justify the Price"
Then dude, seriously, don't buy them. (And, if I may ask, why are you playing them?) I have my pride. If you don't think my games are worth it, don't give me money.
But consider this. I write plot-heavy old-school, turn-based RPGs. Almost nobody else does. I provide a quality niche service few others provide. Some people LIKE the crude, old-school thing I got going on. The scarcity of the service I provide justifies the price.
In other Spiderweb news, Geneforge 3 has been updated with Universal binaries for you Mac users.
Wednesday - April 15, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Blog Update
You may remember Jeff Vogel recently claimed in an interview with RPG Codex there wasn't much room for tactical combat in RPGs. Jeff's latest blog post returns to reinforce that claim, although reading between the lines, he seems to be talking about "serious" tactical challenge:
When designing a game, you have to keep your focus on what makes that sort of game cool and resist the temptation to bring in stuff that dilutes your focus. When I write an RPG, I try to put in about eight or nine serious, tactical encounters with thought involved. The rest of the battles are quick, light, kick-ass, adolescent power fantasy stuff. Because that's what makes the genre work.
Monday - April 13, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Blog Update
Jeff Vogel's latest blog post argues that services that cap the price of indie games (Amazon, Xbox Live etc) are potentially damaging the indie games industry.
Monday - March 30, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Jeff Vogel Roundup
Three different Jeff Vogel articles today. First, RPG Codex has a lengthy interview covering a wide range of territory. A controversial answer:
6. One gripe of many Spiderweb fans is that combat doesn’t offer enough in the way of interesting tactical choices for non-spellcasters. Battle Disciplines in Avernum 5 partially addressed this. What other changes (if any) are in store for the combat system?
I get a lot of suggestions for how to add “depth” to the battle system. Most of them, frankly, aren’t very good. Stuff like, “Oh, I see the monster is using a power attack. I’d better press the Block Power Attack button. There. Done.”
It’s a turn-based game with small-scale combat. To be honest, there is only so much tactical depth you’re going to get. And, heck, please point me to an RPG that has rich and varied tactical combat, because I’d sure like to play it.
I mean, I loved Fallout 3. It’s a great game. But opening up the targeting window, selecting “Shoot Head” five times, and watching the brains fly everywhere isn’t “tactical”.
As RPGs go, I think the Avernum games have a really good variety of challenging fights and tactical situations. But if you want lots of tactical choices, single-player RPGs, any of them, are really not where you should be going. That isn’t what the genre is about. And, if I had big, epic, chesslike battles where you had to think about your battle plan until sweat poured down your face, a huge portion of my fans wouldn’t like that. At all.
Thanks, Shagnak and Elwro!
Over at RPG Vault, he has a new View From the Bottom editorial on game piracy:
So I do everything I can to keep it from getting to me. I don't like rainy days either, but there's not much point in trying to prevent them. And there aren't yet any good ways to make real money developing single-player games beyond selling licenses. Ads can generate some revenues, but nowhere near enough to keep a business afloat.
So, I am working to adjust to the new reality. People will only pay us for single-player PC games to feel good about themselves, like they are committing a virtuous act. Now that stealing them has gone from just easy to painfully trivial, how do we stay in business in the new reality?
First, be nice. Seriously! Charities need to be likeable, or nobody will give them money. The Red Cross doesn't put up ads saying "You are a jerk and we hate you. Give us money. And we're going to kick your dog." It wouldn't work.
And lastly, a new blog entry explaining why he won't be jumping on the iphone bandwagon:
There's a lesson for young developers. Make sure your game fits the way people will want to play it. PC Games = Longer sessions. iPhone Games = Ping. Zap! Done.
Tuesday - March 24, 2009
Spiderweb Games - How Many Games I Sell #2
The second part of Jeff Vogel's How Many Games I Sell is up, discussing the Mac/PC split, the price point and improving the graphics:
Look, graphics are expensive. Really expensive. We keep our costs low, and our games thus become profitable quickly. We've had some games that did worse than others, but I've never, in fifteen years, written a game that lost money.
And here's the sad truth. Suppose I spent a bunch of money, busted my hump, and wrote a game with graphics as good as, say, Eschalon. Then people who really care about graphics wouldn't look at my game and go, "Wow! He's really doing good now!" They'd go, "His graphics suck. They haven't improved at all." And then they'd go play Fallout 3.
Don't get me wrong. My next game, Avernum 6, will look much nicer than Geneforge 5. I've been working really hard on it, and there are a lot of improvements there. And the next game after that, which will have an all-new engine, will look even better. And you know something? Everyone will still say they look like crap. Big budget games will ALWAYS look better. I can't compete there, there's no hope, so I don't try very hard.
Tuesday - March 17, 2009
Spiderweb Games - How Many Games I Sell
Jeff Vogel has posted an unprecedented and detailed article at his new blog, titled So Here's How Many Games I Sell. Using Geneforge 4 as an average example, Jeff reveals the development cost, current unit sales and dollars generated:
Of course, while I am giving sales figures, I'm not going to reveal the salaries for everyone at Spiderweb Software. I will simply say that, between the salaries for the creators, the costs for freelancers to makes graphics, general business expenses for the year (insurance, internet, a new computer or two), and the printing costs for hint books, Geneforge 4 cost about $120K to make. If I had to do all of the code and graphics from scratch, this figure would have been around fifty percent higher.
Generally, when an Indie developer reveals the size of their budget, online commenters will go, "No way! It could never cost that much!" But time costs money. I work for a salary, and my time spent writing Geneforge 4 is time not spent earning money elsewhere. Salaries only don't count toward the budget if your time has no value. And time is the most valuable thing you have.
A second post will cover how Jeff sets the price, PC vs Mac breakdowns and other related observations.
Wednesday - March 11, 2009
Spiderweb Games - Jeff Vogel Blog
Jeff Vogel has joined all the cool kids and kicked up his own blog at Blogspot. The Bottom Feeder will chronicle Jeff's thoughts and exploits with typically acerbic humour. On finding some some respect with the rise of the term "indie":
Now, when someone asks what I do, I say, "I run an Indie game company." And it is completely sweet.
Isn't that a great word? Indie! It has this aura of cutting-edge and danger about it. Like Indie rockers. Like I'm Kurt Cobain, if he never left his basement or something. Indie means I'm cool, and independent, and fighting The Man. And it even goes a long way to explain why my games look like they were made on basically a zero budget. Because they were. But it's all right. Because I'm Indie. MAN!
Saturday - November 22, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Interview @ Reason Online
A site called Reason Online has a short interview with Jeff Vogel on why he makes indie single-player CRPGs and using morality in his games. A partial snip on the latter:
reason: The Avernum series doesn’t have simple cookie-cutter outcomes. The adventures carry ethical overtones, both positive and negative, no matter what options you select. Is there something about that ambiguity that appeals to you?
Vogel: Yes. I’m fascinated by politics, and I’m fascinated by the process of how things get done—how ugly and compromised pretty much any dream can become. I have very little patience, in general, with ideas of some people being absolutely good or absolutely bad, or some race of creature being absolutely good or absolutely bad. In The Lord of the Rings, there are these things, and they’re called “orcs,” and they’re all bad, and they’re all evil, and their only purpose is to be killed. I find that to be extremely boring. Whenever I watch The Lord of the Rings, I find myself wondering, “So what are orcs like? Why are they like that?”
Obviously, there are some cases in real life where people are doing things that are all wrong, like the Nazis, or the genocide in Darfur. But most of the time, once you get under the surface, there are a lot of contests between people where either side isn’t absolutely right or absolutely wrong, and I find that a lot more interesting.
So in the Avernum and Geneforge games, I like to give the players choices. No cut-and-dried solutions, but instead situations where they have to go, “What do I want to do here? What side, what faction, do I think really has more of a point?” If I get to the point where the player has to actually stop and think about it, then I think I’ve made an interesting game. [...]
Thursday - June 26, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Geneforge 5: Overthrow Announced
Spiderweb has officially unveiled Geneforge 5: Overthrow, with a product page and the first three screens online. Here's the feature list:
The screens reveal a little of the new interface and the OpenGL support.
Spiderweb Software brings you Geneforge 5: Overthrow, the final chapter in their fantasy epic. Return to the world of the Shapers one final time. Explore a vast, war-torn world, create and mold your own army of strange, powerful monsters, and choose a side to help lead to final victory.
Geneforge 5: Overthrow features:
- Enormous world, with over 80 areas to explore.
- Choose among five different factions, each with its own beliefs, cities, and quests. Help the rebels or fight them. Your choices will shape the world.
- Dozens of different endings. Choose for yourself how the saga will finally end.
- Many paths to victory. Slay your enemies or use stealth and diplomacy to outwit them. Become engrossed in the storyline or just go out and wreak havoc.
- Lots of replay value.
- Prior experience with the Geneforge series is completely unnecessary.
Wednesday - June 18, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Secure Store Launched
Spiderweb has updated their store with a true online setup, rather than the old order-online-but-manually-processed system where they had to manually email the keys.
Friday - May 16, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Forums Down
A minor item but if you call past the Spiderweb forums and find them down, apparently an update went badly awry:
We have run into serious problems upgrading our site forums. Basically, to run the new forum software, our web-host provider had to upgrade our account. In doing so, they were kind enough to completely mess up all of the files for the entire account. We are looking at our options for dealing with the situation, and we hope to have a new solution in place within a week. We apologize for the inconvenience and we hope that you wish us luck in finding someone to help us who isn't completely incompetent.
Friday - May 09, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Geneforge 5 Update
Jeff Vogel has kicked up an update on Geneforge 5 and as a Spidwerweb fan, it's got me excited:
It's been a long, exhausting run on Geneforge 5 lately. I have completed 13 zones, 2 major cities, 2 game-long plot threads, and all of the demo.
I am finally taking an overdue moment to say where I am at. I'm sorry it's taken so long, but Rock Band, Smash Brothers Brawl, and GTA4 don't play themselves.
It's tough work. It has been a real challenge to find a way to end the series in a plausible and satisfying way and to give the player a real role in it. It is really important to me for the game to reflect that this is a large world, full of a lot of powerful people. The player gets to have a small but pivotal role in ending the war. There are heroes and generals running around. You are the agent acting behind to scenes to help one faction be triumphant. I really like this aspect of it. It feels like the right balance between making the player significant and part of a larger world.
As I said before, there are five game-winning factions. You can play through much of the game, meeting people and finding out who the factions are, and then decide which one to join. Some are reasonable. Some are pretty crazy. All provide satisfying endings to the saga.
I have done a lot of work on the interface. Geneforge 5 now supports OpenGL and will tap some of the power of your graphics card.
In Geneforge 5, you can play the game on any size of monitor and you can play the game in a window. If you have a huge monitor, you can see a huge chunk of the terrain around you. It really makes a big difference.
There are a lot of new graphical frills that make things look quite a bit nicer. Of course, these can be turned off on older machines. I fully intend for old machines to be able to run Geneforge 5, though you might need to shrink the play area a bit.
There is now customization for the keyboard shortcuts. You can also customize the game area somewhat by moving around or minimizing the party roster and automap.
You will not be surprised to learn that many major characters from earlier in the series are returning for a final hurrah (or destruction). You will also get to meet and deal with the mysterious Shaper Council. The chaos of the previous years have caused the leaders of the Shapers to become ... erratic. Perhaps this can be exploited for your gain.
You can also learn a lot about the history and ways of the Shapers. Writing these parts are the most fun for me.
Still hope to have it out for Mac in November. Seems plausible.
- Jeff Vogel
Sunday - March 09, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Geneforge 5 Tidbits
Jeff Vogel has posted some tidbits about Geneforge 5 on his forums, confirming the end of this series and referring to interface changes, which will (hopefully) please many readers:
Now that I've spent two months working reasonably hard on Geneforge 5, I can start posting some monthly updates about it.As time goes on, I'll talk about the interface upgrades (considerable), the game system and spell system upgrades, and all the little things that will go into finishing this series.
This will indeed be the last game in the Geneforge saga. At last, you can bring the war to an end. Coming up with a plausible way for one lone person to help end this enormous conflict has been very difficult. The complexity of the game and the storyline is making me a bit dizzy. Still, I think I have it under control.
The storyline and game structure will be much closer to Geneforge 1 and 2. You will wander around and interact with five (FIVE!) different factions. Eventually, you can choose one to fight for. There are all of the options you probably predicted from the previous games, and others that might take you by surprise.
You will start, as usual, as a lone Shaper/lifecrafter. You will be able to choose to be either a Shaper character (the old three choices) or as one of the six different rebel classes. Yes, I am putting in the "missing" sixth character class from the rebel side.
The spell system will be mostly the same, but I am completely reworking how buffs work to make them more interesting and player friendly. I'll go into this more in later months. Suffice it to say for now that the "OK, this fight is tough, I'll put 12 buffs on every character. Zzzz." system had to go.
The big design question for me now is how to handle the "evolved" versions of the creations. Geneforge 4 had stronger versions of creations that started dying immediately so you had to use them quickly. They appear to not have been at all popular. I want to find a better way to approach this. (Note: Making creations during combat is not an option.)
I hope to release the game for the Mac in November. Since I've been making good progress, this seems doable.
- Jeff Vogel
Wednesday - January 23, 2008
Spiderweb Games - Interview with Jeff Vogel @ Gamebanshee
Gamebanshee's Brother None (Thomas Beekers) interviews Spiderweb Software president, Jeff Vogel in a feature about the history, business model and future plans of the company. You can read the whole article here.
GB: Spiderweb Software is the oldest and most steady presence on the indie cRPG market. Does that mean others should try to emulate your business model?
Jeff: Possibly. I have the advantage of coming to the party early and possessing the tenacity of the cockroach. However, I sell most of my games myself, over my own web site. It's really hard to get enough publicity to attract that sort of attention.
I would probably recommend to a young new developer to design a more casual-friendly RPG and try to get it onto portals like Big Fish and Yahoo! and RealArcade. My niche is old-school RPGs, and I've done very well with it, but there are great opportunities for more casual titles now.
GB: Spiderweb's new releases typically use a lot of previously released assets (engines, animations, etc.). Why?
Jeff: Survival. Time is the most limited resource we have. Just producing the material we do stretches us to the limit. That is why, for each game, I only replace the worst third of the graphics. We don't have the time or money to replace everything every game, and I think that, if we did, it would be phenomenally wasteful.
I think another good question is why other games companies don't reuse their assets. Making games has become very time-consuming and expensive at all levels. A lot of the reason for this, I feel, is that every time a game is finished, everything gets thrown into the trash. What a waste! I honestly don't think anyone cares if they saw the orc model in another game a year before.
Nobody smart writes their own engine anymore. They license something like the Unreal engine instead. I bet, someday, people won't bother to make their dragons from scratch either. Not when they can rent the standard dragon, tweak it a bit to make it distinctive, and save themselves a ton of work....
GB: Do you worry about the people who do not play your games due to the graphics or are you not that interested in their market potential?
Jeff: Don't get me wrong. I love nice graphics as much as the next guy. I make our games as pretty as I can. I'm not ideologically attached to low-budget games. It's just all I can do.
But if someone wants a pretty game, I will not be able to please that person. And if I spend a bunch of money and an extra year making a game as pretty as I possibly can, I still will not please that person. The big companies use cutting edge engines and art departments with dozens of talented people, and they spend years working on one title. I will never ever, ever, ever be able to compete with that in the slightest way. So I don't.
Tuesday - December 04, 2007
Spiderweb Games - Newsletter
Spiderweb has sent out a newsletter covering the release of Avernum 5 for the Mac (Windows version in early March), some graphics problems for their backcatalogue with the new Leopard Mac OS and news that 2008 will see the last Geneforge title:
* Avernum 5 For Windows
Of course, we are also hard at work preparing Avernum 5 for our friends in the Windows world. We hope to have Avernum 5 for Windows available in early March, 2008.
* Macintosh Users Problems With Leopard
Alas, Leopard, the newest version of the Macintosh operating system, has caused quite a few problems. Some games have corrupted graphics (odd, horizontal lines of dots on the screen). Others don't work at all, especially on the newest MacBooks with the X3100 graphics chip.
Most of these problems are caused by Apple's very hasty abandonment of Quickdraw, the graphics system the Mac used since it was first introduced.
We know what is causing these problems, and we are working on fixes. However, for some of the older games, updating them to work on Leopard will be very time-consuming, since they were all written to use Quickdraw. We have to decide which ones are worth upgrading.
We will definitely update Avernum 4, Geneforge 4: Rebellion, Blades of Avernum, and Nethergate: Resurrection. Versions which are completely compatible with Leopard should be out before the end of December. If you need a new version, keep an eye on our web site.
* And What Is To Come?
After Avernum 5 for Windows, we will spend 2008 writing Geneforge 5, the final game in the Geneforge saga. We have begun piecing its storyline together, and we can promise Geneforge fans a truly unique journey.
Tuesday - November 06, 2007
Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #10 @ RPG Vault
It's been a little while since Jeff Vogel wrote one of his View From the Bottom pieces at RPG Vault, so this one comes as a welcome addition. This time, Jeff talks about why his job as a single-player-only CRPG creator is safe in a MP obsessed world:
In a world where multiplayer games seem to be completely taking over, this seems like very bad news for me. And yet, my recent experiences with Halo 3 have convinced me, beyond any doubt, that the future sales of my single-player games are completely safe.
I recently bought an Xbox 360 and surrendered, after 24 years, my status as a PC gamer. Consoles are great. I can play them on my couch instead of in my cold, spider-infested basement. I can keep my two small daughters occupied by letting them watch me play multiplayer Halo 3. It is even educational. It teaches them two things. One, some people are bad and should be killed. Two, daddy is not infallible and can easily be defeated by some 17 year-old hopped up on Red Bull.
I expect that both lessons will be valuable to them in the future.
Monday - August 06, 2007
Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #9 @ RPG Vault
Jeff Vogel's latest View From the Bottom column is up at RPG Vault. The topic is end-game content in MMORPGs, which probably indicates he isn't quite as over them as our last interview suggested:
We've started to let our five-year old daughter Cordelia play World of Warcraft. She runs her cow-person around the starting town, hits birds and pretends that everyone she sees is her friend. We don't have to pay attention to her. Win-win all around.
The other day, I asked her if she was winning. She said, "Daddy! This is not a winning game! You can't win!"
Then I asked her what you do in the game instead. After some thought, she said, "Nothing."
Sometimes children are wise beyond their years.
Monday - July 09, 2007
RPGWatch Feature: Jeff Vogel Interview
We catch up with Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel to discuss Nethergate: Resurrection, Avernum 5 and some of his comments on the genre:
RPGWatch: Before we talk about your upcoming projects, I’ve got to ask about some of the comments you’ve made in your RPG Vault column. Your last Why I Hate Fantasy RPGs piece created quite a bit of debate, with some disagreement over what you really meant. I take it to be a bit tongue-in-cheek but let’s clarify some things. Were you seriously railing against any character progression, wanting to see RPGs transformed into action games or were you giving the industry (including yourself) a prod about mundane content design?
Jeff Vogel: Mainly the third one. I think that game developers need to be far, far more respectful of the time of the player. Leisure time is precious. We should not waste it. We shouldn’t burn time at the beginning making the player grind out levels before he or she can get into the plot. We shouldn’t burn time with faction grinding and trash clearing. We shouldn’t pad the game out with tons of B material.
Part of the reason I wrote those articles was to flog myself for my failures in the past. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve padded. I’ve wasted the time of the player. I want to get better.
And my time is much shorter now. I won’t play any game that wastes my time. God of War 2 gave me 13 hours of first rate material, and I was done. If a game doesn’t give me something like that, I’ll read a good book instead.
Friday - June 01, 2007
Spiderweb Games - Minor Updates
Spiderweb has announced some new scenarios have been added to the Blades of Avernum Untried page and for the programmers out there, you can read about Jeff's programming practices in an article IBM commissioned from him titled Six ways to write more comprehensible code.
Sunday - May 20, 2007
Spiderweb Games - Updated Blades of Exile Code
Spiderweb has announced they have updated the open-source code release of Blade of Exiles due to some problems:
We have released new versions of the Blades of Exile source code for both Windows and Macintosh. Some of the files on the Windows side were missing and some of the files on the Mac side were missing some resources. (If you got the version of Macintosh Release 1 with non-empty resource files, you don't need to upgrade.)
Thursday - May 10, 2007
Spiderweb Games - Blades of Exile Source Released
Straight from Spiderweb's site comes the anticipated news that the code for Blades of Exile has been released to the public:
In 1997, Spiderweb Software released one of our most successful and popular games: Blades of Exile for Windows and Macintosh. Part of the award-winning Exile series, Blades of Exile wasn't just a game, it was an adventure construction kit. In addition to the three large adventures the game came with, you could download dozens of free, entertaining scenarios on our web site. And, if you were ambitious, you could even make your own adventure and share it with the world.
Now, ten years later, Blades of Exile is old. Very old. Recent developments in both the Macintosh and Windows sides of things have left the game no longer functioning. We don't want the game to die, though. Too many people put too much time into making adventures to let their work disappear forever.
Therefore, we have released the source code (along with all necessary support files, graphics files, sound effects, etc.) for the Windows and Macintosh versions of Blades of Exile to the world. Do what you want with it (within the sensible legal guidelines described in the license), and have fun.
Read on for the rest of the details.
Sunday - April 22, 2007
Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #8 @ RPG Vault
Jeff Vogel's latest View From the Bottom column at RPG Vault slipped past us the other day...this time, Jeff continues his theme of Why I Hate Fantasy RPGs, making some salient points and a commitment along the way. Here's the intro:
Last time, I wrote about why, after decades of enjoyment, I have come to hate fantasy role-playing games (RPGs for short). The kind people at popular web site Slashdot linked to it, and a lot of people read it. Many people left comments, most of which said in great detail what an idiot I am. I fed on their hate, and it made me strong.
Boy. I tell you. If it wasn't for the fact that I am right and they are wrong, I'd be pretty nervous right now.
Friday - February 16, 2007
Spiderweb Games - Game Updates
Friday - February 09, 2007
Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #7 @ RPG Vault
Jeff Vogel's latest View From the Bottom editorial-cum-blog might be considered a jab at the lack of imagination in both RPG producers and players - or perhaps he's getting so jaded he needs to move into a new industry:
Being a professional designer of fantasy role-playing games (RPGs, as they're called by people like me), I play them a lot. It's a great way to find good ideas to steal. Plus, I can write them off.
During my recent intense bout of this market research (heh!), I finally came to terms with the fact that, after 23 years of playing them, I hate fantasy RPGs. I hate them, and I hate myself for making them.
Tuesday - October 31, 2006
Spiderweb Games - View From the Bottom #6 @ RPG Vault
Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel has written his 6th View From the Bottom column for RPG Vault, again writing about MMORPGs:
So, if you haven't played a massively multiplayer game yet, you will soon be the only one. Loser. And, since you're probably feeling left out and are considering experiencing the massively multiplayerlyness for yourself, this is a rough, informal guide to the various stages of your time in fantasyland will be like. Forewarned is forearmed.
Friday - August 25, 2006
Spiderweb: Jeff Vogel Interview @ F13.net
F13: What role have trade shows, like E3, played in promoting the Spiderweb Software brand and your upcoming products?
JV: None at all. E3 is mainly an opportunity to spend a ton of money to set up a booth in Kentia Hall so that everyone could laugh at us. It's just not right for a little niche company like us.
Thursday - August 10, 2006
Spiderweb: View From the Bottom #5 @ RPG Vault
Once, I played a lot of EverQuest. A lot, a lot. Since then, I have matured. Now I play a lot of World of Warcraft. Now, as then, it is this hideous nightmare hole into which I pour hour after hour of my precious and irreplaceable youth, pissing away time that I could spend writing, or being with my family, or being involved with the community, or just - you know - doing something.
The only difference between World of Warcraft and EverQuest is that, when I raided in the latter for many hours, I was the only person I knew who did it. I was the lone misfit, spending hour after hour raiding, while friends and family looked on... and shook their heads sadly. But with World of Warcraft, everyone around me has been sucked in. People, male and female, who looked at my addiction with sympathy and mockery, are now playing more hardcore than I do. The sensible person I am married to is raiding several nights a week now. This is not a sign that humanity is headed in the right direction!
Thursday - June 08, 2006
Spiderweb: View from the Bottom #4 @ RPG Vault
Third, gold farmers have a reputation for being obnoxious and cutthroat. In some cases, this is true. But spend a little time around the regular people you find hanging around in the game, and you will see that this is only because people are, in general, obnoxious and cutthroat. My God, but World of Warcraft and EverQuest are full of the idiot children of married cousins. Gold farmers aren't even close to having a monopoly on cretinous behavior.
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