Role On: Avernum: Escape From the Pit

By Jim Rossignol on July 29th, 2011 at 8:28 am.

Some role-playing, yesterday.
Spiderweb send word that they are starting a new Avernum RPG trilogy. The first episode will be called Escape From The Pit, and should be available in “Q1 2012″. As usual the game will feature fantasy of the epic flavour, and plenty of turn-based combat. It also has an open sort of overall quest structure: “Three separate game-winning quests. Seek safety, escape or revenge. Do just one of them or all three!”

Spiderweb also explain that there will be a discount for previous Avernum series owners: “Avernum: Escape From the Pit for Macintosh and Windows will be available at a considerable discount for anyone who has purchased Exile: Escape From the Pit or Avernum from us in any form (including on compilation CDs).”

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65 Comments »

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  1. Thants says:

    So they’re going back through a third time? That’s odd.

  2. Teronfel says:

    Huh,interesting

  3. pipman3000 says:

    A remake of a remake? Is he going George Lucas on us?

  4. vodka and cookies says:

    Uh yeah strange decision, another remake I’d kinda hoped they had moved on to something else besides Avadon.

  5. Gnarf says:

    From the FAQ:

    Why Are You Rewriting Avernum?

    The original game came out in 1999, and it is showing its age in many ways. It no longer even runs on the newest version of the Macintosh operating system, and it’s starting to get very shaky on Windows 7, especially the 64-bit version. We don’t want this game to disappear from the face of the earth, so a major retooling is necessary.

    In addition, we want to release Avernum on the iPad, and that too requires major modifications from the ground up.

    So we have two choices. Let it disappear or redo it. We love the game too much to pick the first option.

    That sounds pretty reasonable.

    Also it says it’ll be $20, or $10 if you’ve already bought the first Avernum/Exile.

  6. Srekel says:

    “Unlike our recent all-new titles, Avernum: Escape From the Pit will have an outdoors to roam. ”

    YES! Having the whole game play out at the same scale really doesn’t work as well for imagining yourself running around in the largest computer game world ever.

    • Nick says:

      Yay! That was something I really missed in Avernum 4 onwards.

      I shall be buying these.

  7. J. says:

    I’d really love to see one of the older Spiderweb games in a Humble Indie Bundle someday. Would introduce them to a new audience.

  8. CaspianRoach says:

    This game’s graphic engine is covered in spiderweb.

  9. Mattressi says:

    I’ve looked into those games a few times before and every time I wonder why I’ve never looked into them. Then I come to the ordering page, see the ridiculous price and say “ohhh, it’s those games”.

    Seriously, if they priced them competitively I’d have already bought them. As it is, I haven’t even tried the demo, for fear of liking it and then having to stop myself from spending $28 on a several year old indie game. I haven’t paid more than $20 for a game in 3 years.

    • Alextended says:

      Avadon is only $10

      …on iPad…

      Which is shit if you bought another version for $25 before that release.

      Or if you still want to buy another version since there’s no price parity.

      So I’ve decided I’m not buying another Spiderweb game for my PC for more than $10 since he plans to release all future games on iPad also and I can’t condone ripping users off based on their OS/platform.

    • Mattressi says:

      Wow, didn’t realise that either. Another reason for me to stay away. Never thought I’d boycott an indie dev :S

    • Srekel says:

      It’s not about ripping off anyone. He’s explained why the pricing is different on his blog, I believe… yep, see here:

      http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.com/2011/06/our-first-game-is-out-for-ipad-hooray.html

      There’s a list a bit further down.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Boycotting a small honest indie developer because he prices things higher? That seems a bit extreme.

      I mean, you can simply take a look at their games and then decide on a case-by-case basis. A boycott, however, means ruling out ever buying any product from them regardless.

      Also, Vogel seems like a pretty decent fellow.

    • Mattressi says:

      Hmm, after reading that link (Srekel’s) and the link given by Vexing Vision, I think I’ve misread the developers somewhat. They certainly seem to genuinely not want to rip people off. Perhaps I’d be less pessimistic about their games if I had the money to spend $25+ on an old Indie game.

      That said, I still think it’d be a good idea for them to have a $10 sale or something similar for a few days and send out a press release to RPS and other gaming news sites. I can’t imagine that it would lose them money compared to if they never tried it.

      Still, the $15 price difference between the iPad version and the PC/Mac version is definitely too off-putting for me. I’d certainly consider their older games if they were on sale, but I’d never buy Avadon for a price greater than on iPad. It just seems wrong. They say that the PC version has more features, like more than one resolution (though, the iPad only uses one and I’d imagine each PC gamer only uses one for their games too – who actually makes use of the other resolutions which their monitor doesn’t support?), keyboard shortcuts and a refund option; but these all seem like weak excuses and not enough to justify the $15 price difference.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Vogel says: “But the main reason Avadon HD is $10 is, to be honest, that is the only possible price. Any more expensive, and it will cost way too much for an app.”

      But fails to get the fact that $28 is way too much for an indie game these days too.

      The ‘problem’ is Vogel has been doing this for a long time. Before Steam, before World of Goo, before the explosion in indie gaming. And he has an audience. Who buy every game, and buy it for $28.

      I reckon he could expand that audience ten-fold with more aggressive pricing. But I don’t know that. Were I him, living a fairly comfortable life doing something I loved, would I risk that by launching at a lower price (knowing that my fans would then buy the game at the lower price, killing a lot of guaranteed income).

      iPad is easy, as it’s trying to sell to a new audience, and won’t cannibalize his existing one too much.

    • Urthman says:

      These are huge, enormous, sprawling games. If you like this niche, you’re definitely going to get $30 worth of gameplay out of it. Much more there than most $60 AAA titles. If you don’t like this niche, you’re probably not going to buy it for $10.

      These games have demos that are much longer than a lot of AAA games. So just play the demo. If you don’t like the game enough to pay $30, you’ll probably be tired of it before you get through the demo.

    • d32 says:

      He can explain all he wants, I’m not paying more than $10 for his games anymore. Regardless the platform. (And I’m not buying the ipad either).

    • d32 says:

      Urthman: Why would I ever pay $30 for something that can be had for $10? That’s possible only if I were in mad money-throwing love with the supplier, which I’m not.

    • JackShandy says:

      Fucking race to the bottom bullshit. Remember when Braid was $15 and there was outcry? God have mercy on indie devs, I swear.

    • Kaira- says:

      I think Cliffski said it the best.
      http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/?p=1241

    • Deano2099 says:

      @kaira

      Doesn’t apply here, as he sells the iPad version at $10, so the value of the game he himself has set is $10. He sells it for three times that price to PC/Mac users.

    • Waltorious says:

      Several things:

      1) If you think Spiderweb’s games are too expensive, you should try their gigantic free demos first. For Avernum you can play essentially the first third of the game for free. I never would have considered paying $28 for it when I first saw it, but after playing the demo I was more than willing to pay that much because it was very, very good. It doesn’t look like much but is really well written and has a lot of content.

      2) For those claiming that $28 is too high a price for ANY indie game, Jeff Vogel has some hard data that disproves your point. Namely, that he’s been able to pull a profit and keep his company running for 17 years using his pricing schemes. Is $28 too high of a price to sell to you, specifically? Yes. But he doesn’t need you. To put it another way: if he priced his game at $10 he would need to sell almost three times the number of copies in order to make the same amount of money, and that’s tough, given that he makes oldschool RPGs which have a niche appeal.

      3) Being annoyed over the price differences on iPad versus PC is understandable, but Jeff has pointed out on his blog that they are NOT the same, in fact the iPad version is inferior in several respects. So for those saying “he’s ramping up the price for the same game”, that’s not entirely true. It is, of course, up to you to decide if the PC version is worth that much more to you. I tend to think there shouldn’t be quite as big a price jump, but I haven’t actually tried Avadon yet.

      4) Most importantly: I would like to recommend to anyone that hasn’t played any of the Avernum games to check out this new remake (when it’s done of course). The first Avernum game is one of my favorites from Spiderweb but it’s hard to recommend to new players due to it’s simplistic graphics and rather clunky UI. The UI especially looks to be in for a revamp in the new game so it’s a great opportunity to check out this series. It’s really quite imaginative and fun.

    • Alextended says:

      I’m sorry but it’s the same game. So iPad has no default physical keyboard which means there are no keyboard shortcuts and iPad’s native resolution is 1024×768 so you can’t go any higher while performance is a little sloppy on iPad 1 (but not iPad 2, just as performance can in theory be sloppy on an ancient PC). These are incidental differences, the game is the same game and he just told me that it’s worth no more than $10. If it actually lacked half the content that he sold as “Part Two” for another $10, he’d have a point. It doesn’t so he doesn’t.

      I and other PC gamers don’t wanna pay extra out of our pocket just so iOS users, strangers to us, can get the same game so much cheaper, especially when he likely wouldn’t have developed such a game at all had iOS been the ONLY platform he made releases on. His PC fanbase will essentially more than cover the development costs and turn in a profit as they always do so he can then happily offer a huge discount to other people. And fanboys are glad because they can double dip for less than double the price. Not me sir.

      He should price all versions equally and slightly higher than the iOS releases to make it even. It doesn’t matter if it won’t reach its max potential on iOS. Anything that isn’t casual, $0.99 and doesn’t have regular free offers won’t anyway.

      Alternatively, again, for this next game, an episodic two-part release on iPad at $10 each with a $20 single title PC release would also seem rather fair.

    • Urthman says:

      Urthman: Why would I ever pay $30 for something that can be had for $10? That’s possible only if I were in mad money-throwing love with the supplier, which I’m not.

      Why would you waste 100 hours playing a game that’s not worth $30? Seriously, if the games not worth that much to you then you don’t have to even pay $10, because you won’t finish the free demo before you get tired of it.

    • Alextended says:

      Eh, that’s silly. I’ve played free games for many more hours than Spiderweb games but that doesn’t mean I’d be willing to pay $30 for them and more expensive games for many less hours but that doesn’t mean I felt ripped off. The length alone doesn’t dictate what the value to a consumer is. Offering the game for $10 certainly affects what some buyers are willing to pay even if they don’t have that platform. Maybe if I had an iPad I’d buy it. I’m not boycotting or something, I just want to be treated fairly. In a way that feels fair to me, not with excuses that show me why he personally feels he has to treat me unfairly. Alas, I don’t intend to ever get one so no, I can’t support a PC release that is priced so much higher than iPad at the same time (it’s not like he launched the game on iPad a year or two later and lowered the price of all versions).

    • malkav11 says:

      I find the whole handwringing “OMG Spiderweb prices their games too high” theme really annoying, especially considering that you can’t get games like this from AAA developers -at all-, much less for $25-ish. But ultimately, you’re willing to pay or you aren’t. If you aren’t, well, that’s your problem, not mine.

      That said, I paid $10 for the Windows version of Avadon.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      “Because he can” is a pretty good reason. What was the last party-based RPG with turn-based tactical combat released for PC by someone other than Spiderweb? Seriously, I have no idea.

      Well, there’s Knights of the Chalice (2009), and surprise, it sells for 15 GBP = 25 USD.

      Before that? I’m flipping through MobyGames (which admittedly has incomplete metadata) but I reach 2003 before I recognize another title in Temple of Elemental Evil.

    • Tacroy says:

      They price their games too high because they keep on releasing essentially the same games over and over again.

      I still have an Exile trilogy CD somewhere. It’s almost exactly the same game as Avernum – there were some skill changes, they dropped the party size, but the plot and the quests and the art are all the same. It’s probably going to be the same game as the new Avernum trilogy.

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, yes, the first three Avernum games are remakes of the Exile trilogy (and Blades of Avernum is a remake of Blades of Exile). This wasn’t exactly a secret. But the gameplay changes are significant, and there’s a lot of new content. (And the art is very much not the same.) Plus, people who owned Exile at the time were given a fairly substantial price discount (though, IIRC, you had to own an individual copy and not the Trilogy CD like I do). Then there were three more brand new, nonremake Avernum games and five entirely new Geneforge games. That’s not exactly making “the same game all the time” unless you are generally dismissive of sequels making gradual improvements to gameplay and design rather than jettisoning previous fans out the window the way Bioware seems set on doing.

      This new update of Avernum will most likely make some significant gameplay changes, add yet more content, and has already been announced to have a lower base price point and a 50% discount for previous owners of the first Avernum in any form. I certainly hope that it will be followed up by new games – Avadon 2, perhaps, or another new franchise (but probably Avadon 2).

  10. Gundrea says:

    I just know I’m going to end up playing this through. Exile was the best thing to come out of Spiderweb Software and Vogel milks that for all it’s worth.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      I also have a very fond memory of the original Exile series. I actually still like the old school top-down 2D view better than the later Spiderweb’s 3D engines, which I always found terribly clumsy and irritating (not to mention that the isometric 3D graphics are quite horrible to look at)

  11. RF says:

    Thank god. Avadon was terribad.

    But he’s probably going to be making this in that god awful Geneforge engine (I wish he’d get away from that, the old Avernum engine was far better, you didn’t have to spend 20 seconds going into combat to beat a single rat in a single hit).

    And, @ Mattressi: I love the games, too, but he does price them retardedly. Instead of chucking them on Steam for $10 for each series and get 20,000 sales, he puts them up for silly prices and gets about 300 sales. I mean, look at the “Cthulhu Saves The World” on Steam. It’s sold how many copies?

    • Premium User Badge

      Tom De Roeck says:

      I dont think he cares, hes living off of it anyway. And I doubt he only sells 300.

    • Alextended says:

      Avadon was great. Not without flaws, but still great.
      And it doesn’t take 20 seconds to beat a single rat.
      Agreed about the pricing, though he gets a few thousand sales, not hundreds.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, it seems almost like he wants to keep his games in a small niche. If they’d just lower the price to $10 (especially if they’d put it on Steam) they’d likely sell significantly more. But, to me it looks like they’re actually trying to keep it as a really hardcore niche title with a small but committed fanbase. More power to them, I guess, but they’ll be getting no money from me until they start asking a sensible price for their games. I mean, seriously, they’re selling decade old (and it shows) games for $25.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      Vogel is an idealist. And I support him for things like this: http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/misc/promises.html

      This attitude is frankly awesome, and not compatible with major retailers or with a lowered price.

      I didn’t like Avadon. Not because of it’s mechanics, but the world didn’t appeal to me as much as I was hoping for, and I hated the guts of all the NPCs in my party. There wasn’t a single one I liked after talking with them, and never before have I been tempted to run a Spiderweb game solo!

    • formivore says:

      Supposedly he’s tried to get his games on Steam and they wouldn’t take them.

      I do think with lower prices and/or a sale he might be able to get exponentially more buyers than he currently does. But without the ability of Steam to get the word out, that pricing may not work. Jeff is very much interested in making money from his games, and has written a lot about the challenge of staying afloat as an indie developer.

    • Gnarf says:

      If they’d just lower the price to $10 (especially if they’d put it on Steam) they’d likely sell significantly more.

      I don’t think so.

      I’m a little weirded out when the buyers give advice to the sellers on how to make more money. Particularly when the advice just so happens to serve the buyers’ interests.

    • pipman3000 says:

      Serving the buyers interests is a good thing it’s how you sell things :)

    • Gnarf says:

      Yeah, but on the pricing issue I think maybe you’re trying to hit some sweet spot or something like that. Where it’s expensive enough so that you make money and cheap enough that blablabl

      It’s just, everywhere, all the time, there are gamers going, oh this is like way expensive and stuff and, oh, you should totally sell it cheaper! Not because I want it for cheap but because you’re such a nice guy so I just have to offer you some business advice. Because I’m really into business and marketing and that and not really that much of a potential customer really actually. Ain’t like I have any interest in this myself, I’ve just observed it, all neutral like, and after observing it and thinking on it some I have come to the conclusion that you could make a lot more money by charging me less for your product.

    • Mattressi says:

      Meh, you can take it however you want. I never pretended I wasn’t interested. I’d like to check out these games, but I know how much I’m willing to spend on a relatively old indie game and it isn’t $25 – so I won’t look into it further. There are many other games that I’m interested in which are in my price range and I feel no loss from not buying these games, nor am I avoiding buying them to spite the developers. I simply don’t have the money.

      Besides, you don’t have to be into business or marketing to know that you need to balance income per unit and the number of units sold in the products lifetime if you want to maximise the profit you make. Maybe there are technical business terms that I’m not using, but that general idea is really just simple common sense. There are a large number of indie developers who sell their games for much less and make much more profit (see Mojang and the various Humble Indie Bundles for examples). But again, the devs are free to make their own choices. I doubt they’d even check these comments. I wasn’t offering ‘advice’ to them hoping that I’d trick them into reducing their income so that I could save $15; I was merely stating that it seems to me like it’d be a good idea for them to try a sale or straight price reduction. Not expecting something to come of what I said, just voicing my opinion in the comments section :/

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Vogel has had direct-download distribution through GamersGate, Big Fish Games, Amazon, and Direct2Drive. Not every game is on every service, but it certainly seems like he wouldn’t be averse to selling on a service like Steam.

      Those of you complaining of price should consider that Vogel’s games are sometimes discounted by these other distributors. Direct2Drive, for example, had Avadon for PC on sale for less than $10 for a time in June – within a month and a half of release. I picked up the aging Avernum IV from Big Fish for a negligible amount with one of their promotions. And I picked up Geneforge V from GamersGate for less than $10 last year.

      If he sold on Steam at a price like Cthulu Saves the World or whatever, he runs the risk of permanently reducing the perceived value of his games by those that ARE willing to pay $20-25. He may pick up a lot of first-time sales by the curious, but will those customers be there when his next game is released? It would be hard for him to raise price after that, as even his loyal customers would be willing to wait and see if the games will go on sale for a reduced price on Steam.

    • d32 says:

      … but he already did lower their perceived value by selling them for $10 on ipad, while making ridiculous excuses for it.
      (no resolution changing, no key binding)

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Take it from this pharmacist-businessman… what Vogel is doing has reasonable precedence.

      Consider the iPad as a 3rd-world country. The pricing there doesn’t effect the pricing here. You can buy generic drugs in 3rd-world countries for a fraction of the price of the same drugs in the U.S.

      Manufacturers are willing to make less money in 3rd-world countries because it is seen as “extra” income and because people there are less willing to buy at a higher price. Consumers/patients may try to circumvent these regional divisions by purchasing product intended for 3rd-world countries over the internet (despite illegalities) or when travelling out of country.

      A trade-off for these patients is that the quality of the product doesn’t have to be held to the same standards in 3rd-world countries as it would be in the U.S. Exactly how important that difference in quality is would be a subjective evaluation.

    • Urthman says:

      I’d like to check out these games,

      Nothing’s stopping you. The free demos are bigger than most full-price AAA games.

    • JackShandy says:

      Jeff Vogel would absolutely not sell more than 3 times the amount of games he does now if he put them up for ten bucks. That just flat-out would not happen. Avernum is never going to be minecraft. Suggesting dropping the price is sound buisiness is, therefore, false.

      Ssecond thing- These games are worth 30 bucks. So Minecraft and Terraria and a million other incredible games with hundreds of hours of playtime are willing to sell their games at far less than their value, which means that everybody now knows that no indie game is worth more than ten dollars. When you sell at that much less than you’re worth, you can either become minecraft or die. And that sucks.

    • Alextended says:

      Even more than three times the sales would still be very, very far from Minecraft, but closer to much milder yet still very successful and very viable, er, success stories in the indie scene. The potential for Minecraft caliber mainstream appeal is absolutely not what people suggest is a possibility, they’re in fact very aware of the games’ niche nature and you presenting your “argument” in this manner have the opposite of the intended effect, if that was to show you know better.

  12. Vexing Vision says:

    I am actually looking forward to the remake of the remake of Exile 3.

    Exile 3 is worth whatever prize Vogel is asking for. Avernum 3 is still very, very good (but I liked Av6 better). And it has been too long since I burned down some cockroach-factory, betrayed the Anama and got killed by golem laserbeams.

  13. Pemptus says:

    I’m one of those (un)fortunates that played and loved Avernum 1-3 before their newer titles (and Geneforge), and I’m having trouble accepting the newer engines. They’re kinda shit in comparison, really. Bad Poser 3D models instead of lovingly drawn sprites? Having to go into combat mode each time you see a rat? No good way to move the party via keyboard, which is vital when playing on a crappy laptop? Skills on a cooldown? A million action points per turn instead of a manageable number of four? Meh, I say, meh!

    Still, I’m overdue for an Avernum 1 replay, and that was the only part without a quest log, and I like my quest logs very much.

    • OrangyTang says:

      I am in the same boat – I played Exile 2 first ( http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/images/Exile2/exile2_shot.gif ) which while not particularly fancy (no animation, etc.) I much prefer the hand pixeled, top down 2d look over the fake prerendered 3d iso view.

      I’ve tried to get into the more recent ones, but the change in art style and combat style means I just can’t get into it in the same way. Which is a shame because I think in so many other ways they really are great games.

    • Limey says:

      I agree. Haven’t enjoyed any Spiderweb game since he became obsessed with that silly 3D engine.

    • Twerty says:

      Yeah… Avernum 3 was rockin, and a major part of 1-3 was keyboard movement, because it meant easy discovery of the many, MANY hidden doors there were. Doors you had to find by brute force (much much faster with keyboard) and/or by carefully looking at the map and perhaps using the spell Automap to discover a secluded area. A brilliant little system he had there.

      Everything after Avernum 3 feels like a step down, he went from a huge open diverse world where back to a small dark cave again. :/ I’ve really tried to like the other ones, even Avernum 6, but they just don’t stick with me for some reason…

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’d really love to see remakes of Exile I-III done in a slightly tweaked version of the Blades of Exile engine. Make it compatible with modern versions of Windows, fix the interface for larger monitors, and I’d gladly play through those games all over again.

      Only Exile III really holds up today, if you can get it running.

  14. Handsome Dead says:

    geneforge is cool

  15. Alphabet says:

    I find this very exciting. I think his games are wonderful and fairly priced, too. Who cares what the iPad version costs? The $25 I spent on Avadon was superb value, and really scratched that party-based isometric combat-heavy story-rich RPG itch. I’ve only played Avernum 6, GeneForge 5, and Avadon, because I can’t deal with the small play-areas of the earlier games, so remakes of them in his new engine really works for me.

  16. Coins says:

    Not Avernum again, surely. I’m a big fan of Spiderweb’s stuff, but I’ve always found that the Geneforge world was much more appealing than Avernum’s one.

    • karry says:

      The world ? Perhaps. But from the perspective of pure gameplay Geneforge is godawful and irredeemable, when compared to Avernum, especially the in the combat department.

  17. Mecha Tofu Pirate says:

    If I were to try out one of these games, which one should I start off with first?

  18. Grape Flavor says:

    I really hope they remake Geneforge 1 next! Avernum may be mechanistically deeper but Geneforge is so much more inventive. If they alternated the remakes between the two series I think everyone will be happy.

    I’d love to play Geneforge again but 800×600 graphics are so horribly bad on modern displays.