I am Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software. We are an indie game company based in Seattle, WA, and fanatically dedicated to creating fun, exciting fantasy role-playing games for Windows, Macintosh, Android, Linux, and the iPad. Past titles include the award-winning Exile, Geneforge, Avernum and Avadon series.

Fifteen of our games are currently available in a surprise hit Humble Bundle promotion: Humble Weekly Sale: Spiderweb Software

Proof I am Jeff: https://www.facebook.com/SpiderwebSoftware

This should go from 3 PM PST to 4 PM PST.

Ask me anything!

Comments: 217 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

eyespliced19 karma

Hiya Mr Vogel! Long time fan/player of your games here! (they rock!)

Anyways, my question is this; why did you decide to (over) simplify the spell casting system/spell list in your latest games? I have found that my favorite spell list was that from one of your older games — Exile III. There is a degree of versatility I've found lacking since.

spidweb18 karma

I'd rather write a game with 40 spells that all have uses that 120 spells that aren't all well thought out. I think that Avadon is cool because, while there aren't as many abilities, you have to think more about timing and when to use them for. Personal preference, I guess.

sfan2711 karma

You are my hero. "Living Legend" doesn't do you justice.

spidweb10 karma

Yes it does. :-)

odderz11 karma

I actually bought the Humble Weekly Sale collection earlier today, where do you recommend I start? And, which of the games is your personal favourite?

Obligatory: Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?

spidweb16 karma

1 horse sized duck. Google the fuzzy wuzzy fallacy.

I recommend starting with Avernum: Escape From the Pit if you got it or Avadon if you didn't. Though the Geneforge series really is a personal favorite. I think it's very innovative.

Neocount11 karma

Mr. Vogel,

I want you to know what a huge inspiration your work has been to me. I discovered the Exile/Avernum series at a very dark time in my life and seeing the world of Exile/Avernum as a metaphor for where I was at the time helped me get through it all right.

Years later I still play Avernum from time to time, and I love the setting in Geneforge as well. Nethergate was also good: it felt like you did a lot of research into Celtic and Roman mythology, which was pretty sweet. Diggin' Avadon: The Black Fortress as well.

btw the Nephilim are definitely my favorite playable race. =.= (btw did you ever have any plans to make the Vahnatai a playable race?)

Also, the stories and settings in all of your games are supremely imaginative and original. Have you ever thought of putting your talents to use writing novels or screenplays with themes and/or settings similar to your games?

spidweb11 karma

Thank you!

Wow, it's been years since I've been asked about playing the vahnatai. People used to ask this all the time. The answer is no, never. The alien nature of the vahnatai are their most important element. They must always be The Other.

I've written one (unpublished) novel and many (unpublished) short stories, but it's really hard to break into writing and even harder to make a living at it. And, honestly, I find the gaming medium to be more in need of good storytelling.

Neocount3 karma

Thank you! I figured as much regarding the vahnatai. btw another question: someone asked about literary influences, but I was also wondering what real world influences you drew from in creating the fictitious religions, cultures, governments etc. that appear in your games?

spidweb3 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] The old adage, truth is stranger than fiction applies here. Jeff reads ALL.THE.TIME and gets many ideas from the news and non-fiction.

From_my_iPhone9 karma

I don't really have a question, I just wanted to say i've been in love with your games ever since I got a mac game demo CD with a copy of Exile 2.

I've since bought and beaten every Exile/Avernum/Geneforge except GF5, which will be getting a playthrough attempt thanks to this sale.

Wish I had more money to donate, this is the only HB sale were i've felt like a tool for barely having a dollar to spare. :(

spidweb12 karma

Don't worry about it. We're doing fine. :)

spidweb9 karma

Thanks for all the great questions! This was fun! Now I am going back to writing Avadon 2 dialogue.

  • Jeff Vogel

Iamfivebears8 karma

I played the freeware version of the Exile games back in the day, and Exile III remains one of my favorite games of all time. Is the series/location ever going to be revisited, or are you content with the direction the "remakes" are headed?

Huge fan, by the way. Bought the bundle the second I saw it. Keep it up!

spidweb16 karma

Every once in a while I consider writing Avernum Zero, about the first days of the underworld. But I haven't yet thought of the right hook/story structure to make me want to make it. So maybe, but don't hold breath. :)

daviwil7 karma

Any advice for indie devs who want to have a similarly long and prosperous run at making games that you're passionate about? I know it couldn't have been easy.

spidweb8 karma

Do your own thing. Don't let ANYONE tell you how games should be made or how and indie dev should act or live. I do so many things that are anathema to how games are developed, and the result has been a long, successful career.

Rnadmo6 karma

Exile 3 consumed a nearly ridiculous amount of my early gaming days. I played it so much that, years later, I remember just about everything.

Which game has been your most successful and which game is your favorite?

spidweb10 karma

In raw moneyz, Avadon: The Black Fortress was our biggest hit, with Avernum: Escape From the Pit close behind. Being on Steam makes all the difference.

Which is my favorite? Gameplay-wise, Avadon. (I can hear the screams of anger.) What am I most proud of managing to finish? Exile 3/Avernum 3. What do I think has the coolest ideas? Some Geneforge game, probably 5.

thesouthside6 karma

  1. So, your daughter is approaching the age that I was when I discovered "The Story About The Baby." Although I found it hilarious (that stuff is "edgy" when you're twelve), I was wondering whether she has discovered it and if not, does this prospect worry you?

  2. How is the family in general?

  3. Where do your ideas for games come from?

spidweb12 karma

  1. Cordelia loves the book I wrote about her. She's reread it many times.

  2. Good. Noisy.

  3. They come to me in weird, unexpected flashes. The idea for Nethergate came in a sudden jolt while I was doing step aerobics.

spidweb5 karma

Oh, and thank you very very much to the Humble Bundle for carrying us and making us know to so many more people. You can still get it for 3 days at https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly.

And we are hoping to have Avadon 2 for Win/Mac out this Fall, with iPad version to follow.

Thanks again!

iggir5 karma

Do you play any table top RPGs? And if so, what are your favorites?

spidweb14 karma

I play many of them. No surprises ... I love Catan. Carcassone. D&D. Paranoia occasionally. Played a lot of Ticket To Ride recently. I've been playing D&D since 1980. Yes, 1980.

iamleyeti4 karma

Hi! As a writer, I enjoy very much your games and the way they are written. I have like a tons of question... but to sum them up: how do you deal with writing with your games? Do you do it before production, during, after? Is it an important matter for you? is it easy to write new stuff in the game or is it a pain and you stick to your original idea? Thank you very much and keep up the excellent work, you and all your team.

EDIT: OH! One last thing! Are you sometimes hiring writers or do you do all the work by yourself?

spidweb5 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Jeff does 99.9% of the writing himself. WE never hire outside writers. I am on occasion, when time permits, allowed to tweak or add dialogue. It is always a hoot.

spidweb4 karma

Great question.

I come up with an idea. Then flesh it out on paper. Then flesh it out more. Then write a big detailed outline on pencil-and-paper. This all takes place over months before I write one line of code.

Once I actually start writing the game and am deep in the weeks, I just implement the outline and am loathe to change any of it. I do make changes but few. I need to focus more on creation.

stupid-genius4 karma

I've known of your games for many years, but just bought them with the HB. I'm curious about your successful career as an indie dev. Without modesty, how would you characterize your success in monetary terms? Have you been successful enough to make the equivalent of what you might make doing similar work for an employer? Have you been so successful that you could retire anytime and are now just doing it for the work's sake?

Thanks for the games; they've been on my "list" for years and I look forward to diving in.

spidweb6 karma

I have made a very good living over the years. Nobody should feel sorry for me. I've been extremely fortunate.

spidweb5 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] To clarify Jeff's answer, no, he could not retire anytime he wanted to, but he is better compensated then he would have been had he worked for a large employer.

anodonne4 karma

Thank you for the countless hours I played Exile as a kid. I recently started playing the Avernum series and I am loving it.

In the Exile series you had 6 characters in your party but in Avernum you have 4. What was the reason for the change?

spidweb6 karma

Personal preference again. I think that attention is too diluted when there are 6 characters. I think 4 gives enough character variety but leaves each character with more individual identity.

TyranShadow4 karma

Do you have any plans to make Blades of Avernum open source in the future like you did with Blades of Exile?

spidweb6 karma

Probably someday, because I don't want the work of the scenario designers to disappear. Not for a while, because I have so many other things to worry about.

joshfong4 karma

What's your favorite game from the current Humble Bundle, and why? Also, do you have any other games you like (both big-name and indie)?

spidweb4 karma

I put my favorite in a different thread, but since it's a common question, I'll copypasta the answer one time so people see it:

Which is my favorite? Gameplay-wise, Avadon. (I can hear the screams of anger.) What am I most proud of managing to finish? Exile 3/Avernum 3. What do I think has the coolest ideas? Some Geneforge game, probably 5.

thusspokenarcissus3 karma

Hey Jeff, I've been a fan since 2004 and I've loved to see the way your games have developed, in terms of mechanics, world-making, plot, and engine. My question, though, concerns your plots exclusively. You've made some pretty heavy issues (resource depletion in A6, slavery in the Geneforge world, imperialism in Nethergate, etc.) central to the worlds you make. What inspires you to select the issues you do?

spidweb3 karma

I am a voracious reader and follower of current events. Every writer should be. Any copy of the New York Times contains the seeds for a thousand game/story ideas.

KameZero3 karma

On a scale of 1 to 10, what are the chances of anything but Avadon hitting Linux?

spidweb5 karma

I'm afraid our Linux efforts have always ended in horrible failure. Avadon was ported because the awesome Humble Bundle people subsidized the port. Sorry about that.

I know this is super-unsatisfying, but at least everything runs on WINE.

sockstream3 karma

Hi Jeff!

I grew up with the Exile series, and recently played through Avadon. If it were up to me, you are a legend!

So how come so many of your games are not SteamPlay?

spidweb5 karma

Steam's system doesn't work for older Mac games (because they can't handle resource forks for people who want the techie details), so only our newer games are on there for Mac.

On Windows, almost everything we've done is on Steam, and most of the rest is on gog.com.

smoore7013 karma

As a long time fan, I'd like to learn more about how you test your games before launch. Do you utilize a large team of testers, or is Spiderweb Software still a fairly homegrown / small team? (PS: I'd really love to help you beta test :) I put in my app and everything).

Thank you for making games that helped define my childhood, and introduced my to worlds that I will never forget.

spidweb4 karma

And thank you!

We have a large team of really super awesome volunteer testers. My testing periods are long, months and months. I start testing as soon as I can. The earlier I get feedback, the better the game becomes.

smoore7011 karma

Hopefully I can join the throngs of testers :) Keep up the awesome games, I'll keep buying!

spidweb5 karma

Follow our Facebook. When we need testers (infrequently), that is where we post it.

smoore7011 karma

I'm a fan of your facebook, and applied to the most recent looking for testers :)

spidweb7 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] For windows? Email our main email address on our website ATTN Mariann Krizsan- Testing. The trick to getting on our testing list is to go on and on and on about stuff- yourself, your job, the games you play, what have you, BUT it must be clear and cogent.

NSBTawney3 karma

I've been playing your games since sometime around when Exile 3 came out and I've noticed that Avadon seems to be a lot smaller than those old games. If/when you decide to tackle a new world, will it be as huge as your older games? Or is it that gamers seem to prefer a smaller world?

spidweb7 karma

I am heading in the direction of shorter games. I think 20 hours is a good length, these days. This is really the direction of the industry. Very very few people play 40 hour games anymore, outside of certain Nintendo properties.

spidweb3 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Our games are smaller, but I believe they have much more sophistication and complexity.

Minjammben3 karma

Do you have a general formula for balancing the combat around the difficulty levels? I remember in Exile 3 the early game casters were incredibly overpoweringly strong and if you got the Major Blessing spell the game became 10x easier. In later games you nerfed Haste a bunch and it wasn't nearly as game-breakingly strong as it was in Exile.

spidweb4 karma

A formula? No. General principles? Yes. One of those principles is that abilities that simply double your number of actions are super duper powerful and need to be controlled very carefully.

kyliemerchant3 karma

Hello! I am a long time fan of many of your games and have two quick questions. 1. Is there any significance in the default names for Avernum? Cordelia, Aldous, etc. 2. Do you disapprove of me comparing Geneforge to Pokemon to advertise it to my Pokemon-loving friends?

spidweb4 karma

  1. My daughter's name of Cordelia. No significance to the others, as far as I recall.

  2. Hey, I'm just happy anyone is talking about me. :)

thusspokenarcissus3 karma

Ever since the completion of the first Avernum/Exile trilogy, your games have taken a bit of a darker turn. Geneforge is infamous for forcing the PC to pick the lesser of two, three, four, and even five evils. The second Avernum trilogy concludes with Avernum a shadow of its former power. Avadon doesn't even let players make major, global changes to the endings. What made you change to having video games be more realistic and less escapist?

spidweb4 karma

Personal preference. I always write what I want to play. I take seriously the idea of video games being an art form, and I love using the medium to mix the hacking and looting with actual ideas.

By the way, Avadon 2, will have far more substantive choices than Avadon did. One of the reasons it's taking so long

StacDnaStoob3 karma

Huge fan of your older games. I spent a large portion of my high school years on Blades of Exile, between making scenarios, designing tiles and sprites, and beta-testing other scenarios etc... A really interesting community grew up around that game/product and I played some truly amazing scenarios.

I was incredibly excited about BoA when it was released, but it never really seemed to reach the same level of inspired output or community enthusiasm as BoE, despite being a much more powerful product. Why do you think it turned out that way (or do you disagree with my assessment?) I remember hearing a while back that you had decided against making another "Blades of..." product. Is this still the case?

spidweb3 karma

No more Blades games. Making a working scenario editor is a huge, painstaking job, and I'm just not cut out for it.

As for Blades of Avernum ... Why wasn't it as big? I think the scripting engine was just too complex for people. The Blades of Exile system was way simpler and required no coding skill.

Zeulodin3 karma

Hello, Mr. Vogel. I know this question will get me accusations of being a graphics whore, but, after playing Avernum: Escape from the Pit andreally loving it, I have found myself unable to play any other Spiderweb games, beyond the initial enthusiasm, due to the very similar and repetitive art style. I understand this might be a personal pet-peeve, but does Spiderweb Software have any plans for revamping the graphical assets for future games or using different artistic visions? Again, it is not the "quality" of the graphics I have a problem with, I think their fine, I have an issue with the repeated usage of the same sprites throughout the game series.

spidweb5 karma

It's just the house style. We make low-budget games with low-budget graphics, and I'm a mediocre graphics programmer, at best. I'm afraid it's unlikely to change too much. That being said, Avadon 2 is the nicest looking thing we've ever made.

morolo3 karma

First off, I bought the bundle immediately. Those games look like tons of fun and I can't believe I haven't known of them/you until now! Its gonna be tough to wait until 5:00 to start playing...


  1. What is your personal favorite RPG (any platform)?
  2. What got you into video games and game design? Specifically, what made you start your company?
  3. Have you been doing it full time since you founded your company? Any major ups and downs?
  4. Are you really the only programmer/game designer for your studio?

Keep up the good work, and thanks for the AMA! Congrats on the Humble Bundle success!

spidweb4 karma

  1. World of Warcraft, Everquest, Baldur's Gate 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Planescape: Torment, Ultima IV-VI, Wizardry: Proving Ground of the Mad Overlord.

  2. Lifelong obsession with games.

  3. Yes, except for a brief contract design gig at Microsoft. We've had some gams that did better and some that did worse. The worst time was the Blades of Avernum/Geneforge 3 one-two punch. Things were dire then, but Avernum 4/Geneforge 4 turned it around.

  4. Yes, except that my wife is now helping with the writing of dialogue.

anodonne3 karma

For EQ, what server did you play on and what class did you play?

spidweb6 karma

Can't remember the server, but I hardcore raided with my druid for a long time. Quit when the 8th or so expansion came out.

anodonne5 karma

I have much respect for you being able to raid hardcore and to create your own games. Favorite EQ memory?

spidweb7 karma

Beating Rallos Zek (Planes of Power era).

GreyAlienGames2 karma

What no Ultima VII?! Oh Jeff, my illusions are shattered. Part II - Serpent Isle is one of the best RPGs ever, along with BG2 and Torment.

spidweb5 karma

Man, I just couldn't get into those two. Too much story. Combat didn't satisfy me. And, worst of all, if you missed the one clue/response you needed, you'd be hunting for it forever. #blasphemy

JumbocactuarX273 karma

Don't really have a question, but wanted to share a quick story about your games.

I moved a couple years back shortly after Avadon appeared on Steam. This was after living with my in-laws and far away from all my old friends I used to play tabletop RPGs with. I was lonely and itching for an old tabletop RPG experience. Avadon isn't quite the chaos and conversations that I'd grown to expect from games with my friends, but it scratched the itch quite nicely. After completing Avadon I went and bought all your games online and continue to recommend them to my friends.

Looking forward to Avadon 2 on Windows. Thanks for all the good times so far and in the future.

spidweb3 karma

Thank you very much!

GarryFreeman3 karma

hello mr vogel, if you could change any part of A game you know, what would change and which game?

spidweb9 karma

I would change Rock Band so it still exists. Man, but I'm gonna miss that game.

Or I would simplify the Income Tax space in Monopoly. It's so stupid the way it is.

iLag3 karma

Hey Mr. Vogel, thank you for making these awesome old-school rpgs. I love them a lot.

So here's my question: from what I understand, your stance on game pricing did change quite a bit in the recent years. Your games used to be quite pricey, compared to other indie games (not compared to other rpgs, mind), and if I recall correctly you used to be, well, not exactly in favor of deep discounts and bundles and whatnot. (Please correct me if I'm wrong here.) Then they got on Steam and now you have your own Humble Bundle. What would today's Jeff Vogel say to the Jeff Vogel of ten years ago when it comes to game pricing and discounts? Would you have started earlier with the discounted games, or would you even like to go back to the good old pre-bundle days? Are you happy with the way all of this turned out?

spidweb8 karma

This isn't quite correct. We have always, since 1994, charged the prevailing price for indie games. At the time, any indie (shareware) game of any note was $25, so my first game was $25.

I lowered my prices because the industry changed. Now it has much better distribution (Steam) and much more visibility, and sells more titles with smaller prices. So now we charge $10 most of the time, which once again is the prevailing price for my sort of title.

And it's working very well for us.

eyespliced3 karma

Is there any chance of a Nethergate Prequel?

spidweb6 karma

No. I had an idea for a Nethergate sequel (it would have been IN SPACE), but I really like Nethergate as a stand-alone. I think it works well.

farmerfrugal2 karma

How are you?!

spidweb3 karma

Stressed. Avadon 2 has been a LONG road.

sturdyliver2 karma

What kind of work did you do before becoming a full-time indie developer? How did you pull off the transition?

As a fan who discovered Exile from a shareware CD in the 90s, thanks for all the great games and the AMA!

spidweb7 karma

I was a grad student in Applied Mathematics, and I hated it. I took a summer off to write my first game to save my sanity. As soon as I realized it was selling, I quit grad school.

SamSniped2 karma

Hey Jeff, I've been a huge fan of your games for a while, and just started playing them again recently (currently doing an uber-Shaper Loyalist playthough of Geneforge 4 as a Warrior, headed towards the Quessa-Uss Gates). Just out of curiosity, are you ever going to remake the Geneforge series like you are the Avernum series, or at least make them for iDevices/Android? Also, can we get sneak previews of Avadon 2? -SamSniped (same screen name on the Spiderweb forums)

spidweb5 karma

Yes. I am going to rewrite the Geneforge Saga. It will be awesome. It will be on tablets. But it won't be for quite a while.

I hope to make the Avadon 2 trailer in the next week or two.

lskkat2 karma

I don't have a question; just wanted to say I've been a longtime fan since Exile 1 was shareware that I stumbled across on a compilation disk and was in awe over at the age of 9 (28 now). :D I love your games and hope to play them for many years to come!

spidweb3 karma

Thank you! And yes, I am very old! :)

smb8d2 karma

Hi, thanks for all your hard work. I'm wondering about your plans for Android/Apple tablets and devices. Do you plan to continue releasing new titles in those formats as well? Or older ones?

spidweb3 karma

At this point, only new titles are going to be put on iPad. And Android, maybe. That part will depend on finding people to do the port, as I don't have brain-bandwidth right now to learn how to code for a new platform.

spidweb2 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] We love tablets. We plan to port all new titles to them. Old games ... I wish we had the time. But that is unlikely.

Ripfengor2 karma

Hey Mr. Vogel, fellow Jeff here! I've been a huge fan of your games and they've helped make up a huge portion of my childhood.

My question is, and I know it's been posed in the past, but do you have any plans of furthering work on the Geneforge saga? Possibly even just an updated version or re-release of the originals on the newer engine?

I have always wanted to see a Blades of Geneforge with much more customizability and opening up more community interaction for such an important franchise.

spidweb4 karma

Rewriting Geneforge someday? Yes.

Blades of Geneforge? No. No. No. No. No.

jarxg2 karma

A few questions:

  • Do you have any plans on developing games for iPhone/iPod touch?
  • What are your main narrative influences?
  • What are your favorite RPGs? Both old-school and newer releases.

Many many many many thanks for keeping the old-school spirit alive, Mr. Vogel! :D I'm having A BLAST playing Avernum: Escape from the Pit.

spidweb5 karma

iPhone? Maybe. In a few years, when we make a whole new engine, I want it to run on little devices.

influences? There are honestly too many to count. Harlan Ellison. Robert Silverberg. GRRM.

Favorite RPGs answered above.

oibalf2 karma

I love your games, have been playing them for years! Any plans for any iPhone games soon? I sold my iPad recently and have been playing a lot of RPGs lately on the iPhone.

spidweb3 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Soon no. THe iPhone screen is just too small for our engine to work on it. After the Avadon series Jeff is talking about switching to a whole new engine which could translate to us being on small screens.

Kordanor2 karma

You mentioned in another answer that you intend to make games shorter. Do you consider the option to take over your heroes from one game to the next? Like you used to be able to in old RPGs like Eye of the Beholder, Ishar, Realms of Arkania, Wizardry...

spidweb5 karma

I have never done this since the earliest days, and I never will. I suggest recreating your party with the same names and pretending they're the same people. However, I can't balance a game for both a novice and an experienced party. Too tricky.

code_G2 karma

Mr Vogel,

What kind of mac do you use for development and how has it changed over the years?

What do you use to port games to windows?

spidweb3 karma

I currently use a huge 2 year old imac for primary development. XCOde, of course.

I do my porting on an old, reliable lenovo laptop. Visual C++, of course.

7A65726F2 karma

Hello to Jeff and the Spiderweb Software team! And thank you: the Exile games were what defined my early childhood, solidified an early interest in computers and gaming, and were probably the ultimate cause of my decision to go to college for a bachelor's degree in computer science - because I wanted to someday make something beautiful like that and share it with people.

I didn't really have a question so much as a desire to express my gratitude. But since this is an AMA: *What obstacles (e.g. due to game design preferences/business plans/programming feats/a completely underwhelming desire) have so far inhibited you from making real-time RPGs over turn-based? Or multiplayer, for that matter?

spidweb3 karma

Thank you, and good luck!

There is a niche and demand for single player turn based RPGs with stories. It's one of the great evergreen genres, and hardly anyone ever serves it. So I stick with it for both personal taste and business reasons. Indies can do very well by tending to the niches others ignore.

TheSoundEngine2 karma

Can you describe the production of sound and music in your games over the years.

How much of a role did your studio play? How has the relationship changed over the years?

spidweb6 karma

Sound is our greatest weakness. We license our sound effects online, using my crappy sound designer skillz. I really should hire freelancers for that. We'll see ...

spidweb9 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Yes we should hire a sound designer.

spidweb6 karma

Thanks for slipping the knife in, honey! :-O

spidweb6 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Remember though art mortal... (imagine I said that in a ghost voice.)

FunkyHat1122 karma

So, another long time fan here (the demo for Exile was actually my first non-educational game ever, when I was ~7 years old, on one of those shareware bundle CD's).

My question is a procedural one. I've tended to see writers split into two camps: those who have an idea around which they craft a story, and those who have a story which they have to 'fill' with ideas. Which of those camps would you say you belong to, and how do you usually come up with your 'starting point?' Or if the last part's too vague, just for Geneforge, which I thought was the most innovative of your series (though I'm very much enjoying Avadon so far as well).

Side question: can we get more blog updates? I love 'em, though I guess you've probably decided they don't get enough attention to justify the time (especially since you're busy with Avadon 2). Still, it's been a while.

spidweb2 karma

I start with a simple idea and flesh it out. That simple idea usually comes in a weird bolt of inspiration and then just stays with me.

As for the blog ... I've been so tired and busy with Avadon 2. Maybe I'll pick it up again someday, but not soon.

craobhruadh2 karma

Hi Mr. Vogel! As someone who has played your games since forever (I played the Exile series in reverse starting with III and back to I, way back in the day), my personal favorite may actually be Nethergate, but I remember you saying once in an interview that it didn't sell that well. Do you have any ideas or guesses why this is? Personally in terms of choices or stories I think it's one of the best you've come up with.

spidweb2 karma

It did pretty well overall, actually. The only reason it seemed to not do well was that I was comparing them to the Exile games, which were monsters of awesomeness.

I just never wrote Nethergate 2 because I really do think it's a terrific story as a stand-alone.

JustinAiken2 karma

Is there any chance of Avernum 1-3 appearing on Steam?

spidweb3 karma

None. I am focusing on the rewrites there. Avernum: Escape From the Pit is out, and we'll write Avernum 2: Crystal Souls next year.

lk2142 karma

I've been playing your games for as long as I can remember. Started with Exile and I've played everything ever since. At one stage I even started writing fan-fiction based around Exile. I couldn't count the hours I've spent playing and loving your games. Great work with Avadon by the way and I can't wait until Avadon 2!

My question to you is this:

What makes your games different from other RPGs?

The reason I ask this is that I don't usually get into RPGs. They're just not the sort of game I like. I've tried but I can't play them for anymore than a few hours. Yours are the exception and I thank you for that :)

spidweb7 karma

This is actually a really hard question. I think a lot of it is that my games are written by one person. Sort of an auteur thing. Everything in my games, the writing, engine, design, look, everything comes from one mind to create one united whole. My games feel different because they are a pure expression of one odd brain.

Luckily for me, a lot of people seem to like my brain.

CrimsonCurls2 karma

What advice would you have for someone who is looking to get into the writing aspect of gaming?

spidweb3 karma

Write games. Get some sort of game creator program and write simple games that in show way emphasize your writing. Whether you want to be an indie or get a job, this is a terrific way to hone your skills and make a portfolio.

oceanclub2 karma

Hi Jeff, I'm a new fan having discovered your games via Steam and the recent Humble Bundle. What has your experience been of moving to third-party digital distribution and to indie deal packs, after (from what I figure) being your own merchant for a long time? Is it working out for you?


spidweb8 karma

It has been amazing. Steam and the Humble Bundle have changed my life. I'm not being snide or exaggerating. They've revolutionized the business in many good ways.

Kordanor2 karma

Did you ever consider to go to kickstarter? With a minimal goal for the game like you would do it anyways and stretch goals in order to acquire new graphic and sound assets which you could then also use for future games. I am sure that lots of people would be happy to spend more money than normal if they could improve the game with it and get a little something out of it.

spidweb5 karma

I am considering it for a future title, but not until the 3 Avernum rewrites and the Avadon trilogy are done.

Strife3811 karma

The greatest demo on a mac addict demo disk. Thanks for all the memories. Just picked up both your ipad games and you guys still got it.

spidweb1 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.] Thank you!

monkeydave1 karma

Any chance of a Nethergate Gen 3 remake? I've heard so much good about the game, but it's so hard to go back to the old engine after the newer games.

spidweb1 karma

If it happens, it won't be for very many years. The first update is still going strong on new PCs/Macs, and a full engine rewrite would be a serious task.

thusspokenarcissus1 karma

How long do you plan to keep writing games? Obviously, you're going to have to help pay for college tuition when the time comes, so it won't be too soon I'd imagine.

spidweb3 karma

I honestly don't know. I'm old and tired and slowing down and burned out. I will be doing high quality rewrites for a long long time (Avernum 2/3, followed by Geneforge Saga), but all new stuff? I'm sure I'll do stuff after Avadon. But what? When? I don't know. I wish I did.

sockstream1 karma

I'd like to dig a bit into the past, if you don't mind. :)

I'm guessing you were probably in touch with some other game developers in the early Mac days? Do you miss anyone or anything from that community?

(Perhaps there's a cool story here, I'm just a bit curious how things went. I was young back then, and pretty much just consumed.)

You already mentioned a short list of favorite games, all relatively recent. Any fond memories of video games from the 90s and earlier?

spidweb3 karma

I have never really been a community guy. I'm much more of a stay-at-home. Indie devs have this big, friendly community, and I've never really been a part of it.

A lot of old games were in that list I posted. Heck, I listed Wizardry 1, which is much older than most computer RPGs, what with it being almost the first one and all. :)

that-charming-man1 karma

Hey JV. I'm a huge fan of BoA (and to a lesser extent BoE) and even released some scenarios for it way back when. Have you ever been tempted to make a similiar "game maker" program for any of your series? I'm sure a BoG would be a community favourite!

spidweb1 karma

Already answered above. TL;DR: Too much work. Not good match for my skill set.

Reddobert1 karma

Hey Jeff! Love your games!

  1. Storytelling is a big part of your work. If you could turn your games into movies, would you do it? If so, which series would you like to see in the cinema the most?

  2. Why the hell didn't you accept me as a beta tester? Like, wth?

spidweb2 karma

[This is Mariann Krizsan, Business Manager for Spiderweb, chipping in my 2 cents.]

  1. Yes instantly. If only some big time producer would bite ... Avernum.
  2. Blame me. I'm the one who picks our testers. Sorry, but usually we get so many awesome folks applying I end up cherry picking.

thusspokenarcissus1 karma

You've said here and elsewhere that you think video games can be a form of art; you've even promoted some games you consider to be artistic on your blog. What principles and themes do you consider most important to your games as art?

spidweb3 karma

Great question.

To me, the purpose of art is to create a reaction in another human being and to communicate something about the nature of human experience. Games can be fantastic at this, when people bother to try.

I'm playing Last of Us now, and it's pretty cool at this so far.