You Could Play Avadon: The Black Fortress

Where would we be without wizards?
Because there’s a demo. Spiderweb Software’s Olden Skool CRPG is out now, and you can unlock the full game from the demo, I believe. Spiderweb have been going for quite some time now and, thanks to the pitiless gaze of their founder, Jeff Vogel, have never deviated from their mission. If Avadon tickles your interest them you should totally browse through their other games. There’s a fair few fantasy adventures to be had in there.


  1. The Army of None says:

    Oh man. I loved the Geneforge games as a kid. I may have to check this one out.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      And as someone who loved Geneforge 1 when he was 20, I have to say THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME FEEL OLD.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I remember sending Jeff cash in an envelope for Exile (I must’ve been about ten), and receiving a couple floppies in return. And running it on a 486 with Windows 3.1.

      Then he updated from the brown-floor graphics of the very original version of Exile (is that still floating around anywhere?) to the blue-cave look, and my 486 was a bit too slow for that. And he’d also replaced one of my favorite character sprites. Bastard.

    • Raye says:

      whoops, reply fail.

    • malkav11 says:

      I have a really old shareware version of Exile on a Mac game programming book’s CD which has extremely, um, basic art and the original dialog popups. It probably wouldn’t even run on anything I own anymore.

  2. bigtoeohno says:

    Where’s wizardry?

    • Harlander says:

      We need some balance in the discussion.

      Everyone knows turn-based games aren’t real RPGs.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I remember playing wizardry 8 for hours and being unbearably frustrated by the difficulty. Then I realised I was level 10 and hadn’t actually levelled my characters up yet. Doh.

    • adonf says:

      Yeah, who makes a non-action based RPGs in 2011 ? I now retro’s cool but come on !

    • jon_hill987 says:

      “Everyone knows turn-based games aren’t real RPGs”

      Angband called, it wants you to apologise. Hold on, phone’s ringing again…

      Oh, hello Might and Magic… yes… I’ll tell him. *click*

      Might and Magic wants an apology as well.

    • Harlander says:

      You might want to check the attenuation band filter on your sarcasm detector there.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      “Everyone knows turn-based games aren’t real (edit) ‘CRPG’s.

      I should add I’m only being cheeky, I have been enjoying wizardry’s crusade on action crpg’s.

    • Wizardry says:

      From my understanding this game is his worst game yet. Not only is the setting pretty bland, it seems that he’s trying to cater for the mainstream which is exactly what he shouldn’t be doing as he can’t compete with bigger developers. I’m all for turn-based CRPGs, especially from independent developers, but Vogel’s games have been getting steadily worse since Exile. He may be making CRPGs in the correct territory, but my fear is that he’s slowly heading into the wrong territory.

    • pipman3000 says:

      old school rpg circle-jerk GO!

    • Raye says:

      I came here several days ago for something about The Witcher 2. I don’t remember exactly, not important. I stayed for the comments, Wizardry in particular. Wizardry, you know what you remind me of? You know *that* girl, the one who always complains she can never find the right man, and then when you ask her what it is she’s looking for, she prattles off a list a mile long that you’d never find in anyone outside of a movie star? Yeah, that’s you. You are so picky, your standards so absurdly specific and high that you will *never* be happy. Ever. Clearly, the only way to get a game that meets your specific desires is for you to learn to program, and make it yourself. It’s just not going to happen otherwise.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      It pays to know what u like.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Raye: And you know what you remind me of? An arsehole.

      P.S. I am a game developer/designer. I’m also a software engineer. Hope that helps.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Then make the bloody game already dude! I want to shag your perfect man!

    • Raye says:

      @Wizardry – So why aren’t you making your perfect game, then? As I said, it’s the only way it’s going to happen. Show everyone what you want, rather than going on endlessly in comments about other games whose only crime is to have a different vision than yours.

  3. Davie says:

    Ah, Spiderweb. Their games were literally the best thing, back when I was young and all my computing was done on a mac. Nothing available for those accursed machines was better than Geneforge. I’ll give it a shot, for nostalgia’s sake.

    • Davie says:

      It tried it; it’s great, but $25 seems a little steep.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Every RPG worth it’s salt has 40-50 hours of gameplay. In that genre, it’s not exactly a selling point. It’s a bit like an FPS promoting “has a dozen guns”.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Delusibeta: Why not, then? At least, why not when the game is fun to play? Why are rpg hours of fun less worth than fps hours of fun or the like?

      Is it because rpgs commonly do not offer multiplayer?

  4. Srekel says:

    I want a Wot I Think. The Avernums are awesome games.

  5. arghstupid says:

    Ooh good good, I spent a silly amount of time on the Exile (not -that- Exile) games back in the day but was somewhat put out when avernum was essentially a remake. On the other hand I just noticed they made six of the things so I guess it deviated at some point. Hmmm.. Anyway, newness = excitement.

  6. Sunjammer says:

    Exile 2 is still one of the finest RPG experiences I’ve ever had.

  7. Elos says:

    Exile III was the first game I bought with my own money. :3

  8. Pemptus says:

    Word on the street is that this one is a bit more, uh, simplified than Vogel’s other games. Consolized, one might say, as an iPad port is in the making. I’ll still check out the demo though.

    I absolutely love the first three Avernums, with no. 2 being one of my favorite games ever. I prefer the older engine to the new one, which looks and feels a bit plastic and artificial. Although Av 6 wasn’t bad at all. I’d skip 4 and 5 though.

    • Dominic White says:

      Have we really fallen so far that you can accuse ANY Spiderweb game of being ‘consolized’? Seriously? This place is going to the dogs.

    • Pemptus says:

      I know, right? :P
      I’ve seen it being criticized for being less open-ended and much more linear than the other games. Which imho is not always a bad thing. I’ll have to check it out myself.

    • arghstupid says:

      Didn’t geneforge get the same criticism when it came out? Anyhow, there’s a demo so I’ll give that a go and see.

    • Raye says:

      You can’t be serious. You’re seriously accusing Spiderweb of all companies ‘consolization’? A company who, for the past, what, 15 years? has only ever released on the PC/Mac? And the things being simplified have absolutely no relation to the iPad’s touch-screen capabilities, they’re things like going with a class-based system rather than a skill-based system, that’s got nothing to do with the iPad, it’s a simple design decision. Can’t it be as simple, as he himself states, that people found his games too difficult so he made ‘normal’ difficulty a bit easier? And don’t even say ‘well obviously the games aren’t meant for them’ they are meant for whoever the designer wants them to be for. And they do still have difficulty settings if you find it too easy.

    • Pemptus says:

      Oh do pipe down. My fault for not putting a smiley or something in my first comment, I suppose, as the whole “consolization” thing was meant as a joke.

      Or was it?

      Yes, yes it was.

    • Berzee says:

      @Pemptus: OR WAS IT?

  9. Thants says:

    Ah, this takes me back. The Exile game were so great. Nethergate too.

    • Pemptus says:

      Nethergate was indeed a gem. The ancient engine can put people off nowadays though – remember that there’s Nethergate Resurrection – Nethergate in Avernum 1-3 engine! It’s quite a thing, really.

  10. Anthile says:

    I would give it a try, except that $25 is a very high price for an indie game and I didn’t even like Geneforge. Maybe another time.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Yep, Vogel seems determined not to change price, and it’s understandable as he’s found a model of selling that works for him (if you have 2000 fans, that will all buy your $25 game each year without fail, then you’re making a decent living and why change?). For similar reasons there are never any big sales either (why risk having people choose to wait for the sale?)

      The indie market has grown hugely in the past couple of years, and the guy could be reaching a much bigger audience. I think now he really would sell to more than twice the number of people at half the cost, especially with a new property, if he could get it on Steam.

      It’s unfortunate, but he’s just not making games for the vast majority, and has no interest in doing so.

      The iPad release is interesting though. He can’t be planning to charge $25 on there surely?

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Gamersgate has Avernum V & VI and Geneforge V. They’re at full price now, but have been on sale before at 50% off or less than what they sell for on the developer’s site. This may not be useful info at the moment, but just thought I’d mention.

    • drplote says:

      Last October or November he ran a sale where everything was 50% off. I remember because I’d bought every game about 2 weeks before that. :P

    • Alextended says:

      Why not try the demo and buy it if you like it this time? I don’t think the sensible thing for him to do is to reduce the price until people who don’t like the games still buy them because chances are those will be very few and he could lose more from the people who like them and pay the full price than he gains from people who buy them just because it’s super cheap and they don’t care…

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The iPad release is interesting though. He can’t be planning to charge $25 on there surely?

      I certainly hope he will. Have you seen the utter shit that passes for RPGs on the iPad for $9.99?

      I expect him to charge at least $20. And I expect him to have a fair bit of success, as he’ll have an entire market segment all to himself. I’m very much looking forward to it.

      If you want to argue that $25 is high, you’re going to have to point out examples of games that are similar in gameplay, similar (or better) in quality, and cheaper in price. Even if we extend our search to the vast world of PC games, Spiderweb Software is looking pretty lonely out there.

    • Deano2099 says:

      What I think is or is not too expensive doesn’t really matter. I just wonder if there is a market for a $25 ipad game. Hopefully we’ll get to find out.

      This one is interesting as it’s a ‘new IP’ … I can only speak for myself but $25 is too much for the older stuff as it’s a series, so I’d have to start at the beginning, so am looking at a $150 investment. I know that logic is all over the place but it’s how I feel personally. Generally when new games come out, the old ones get discounted right down. The 50% sale was nice, but 50% off a ten-year old game?

      It’s utterly impossible to recommend something like that to anyone that hasn’t already played Baldur’s Gate, which is a third of the price he’s currently selling Avernum for, even though they’re pretty much contemporaries. It’s a hard sell.

      Of course, that’s all balanced against the important fact that Vogel makes a pretty decent living doing something he loves so why shake up the boat? And presumably enough people are still buying the old titles that discounting them isn’t sensible. Which is crazy but must be true. Why change a winning formula.

      That said, I’d be really tempted to bundle the first Avernum and Geneforge games together and sell them for $5 – yes, there are very generous demos for all of them, but that ignores consumer psychology – they’ll value something they pay for far more than something they get for free. People that will never try the demo would buy one of the early titles for cheap and actually play it.

    • Raye says:

      I could live with the $25 price tag, if he would lower the prices later on. Every other developer, indie or no, does this unless their games were really cheap to begin with. But no, Geneforge 1 is still $25. If you look at his most similar competitor, Basilisk, Eschalon: Book 2 is around the $25 mark, but Book 1 is 19.95. Still a little steep for an indie game, but I will grant that both Spiderweb and Basilisk’s games are very large and they do need to make their money back. But not having the price drop a bit over time is extremely daunting to potential new customers, who see like 6 games all priced at $25. Surely he’s made his money back on the older games in the assorted series by now, and could afford to cut the prices a bit for latecomers?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s an interesting debate over pricing strategy, but what matters are real-world results. IIRC, Jeff’s said that his back catalog is still selling fairly well. If it ain’t broke…etc.

      I think the main thing you have to understand is that Jeff’s niche includes a large number of Mac users, who are used to paying good money for high quality shareware. He’s not making Minecraft or Super Meat Boy or even Recettear. He seems quite happy with more modest success in a smaller niche. It’s a tiny company, and I doubt he’s interested in providing technical support for a horde of people who bought a game for $5 (cf. the controversy over MacHeist).

    • Alextended says:

      Yes, I doubt it will be cheaper on iPad than on Mac, that would only piss off his fans on other platforms. It’s the same game, why do I pay more for it depending on my system? It’s not likely to get Angry Birds success with such a price but that’s not what he’s going for. It wouldn’t get that kind of success even if it was $1 really. iPad support probably didn’t take all that much to implement on top of Mac and should provide at least a few extra sales, if not from new fans then from people who double dip to have it everywhere (some people, not me, do that).

    • malkav11 says:

      Firstly, he has lowered prices on some older games individually – you’ll note that the Exile games are $15, which they certainly weren’t back in the day. Secondly, as time goes on, CD bundles of the games are added for a lower combined price, and these have drifted down in price over the years. The Exile Trilogy CD I own was more like $50 or $60 when my mom bought it for me over a decade ago, and is $25 now. Similarly, I’m pretty sure the Geneforge and Avernum trilogy bundles weren’t $45 a piece when I bought them. Finally, I’ve acquired certain individual releases (Blades of Avernum, Nethergate Resurrection) at a significant discount when I added them to an order containing other games (CD bundles).

      Sure, the prices aren’t lowering as much as you’d like or as much as many other indie games do, but it’s not like they’ve stayed fixed forever.

    • Deano2099 says:


      Isn’t it already $5 cheaper on Mac than on PC?

      It is an odd situation because this method works. And I kind of like that. I reckon he could make more money, but it would involve a risk. That said, I doubt it’d be a huge risk to to sell the first game of each series in a bundle for $5 – it’d be like a big extended demo and it’d get people to actually try the games (again, people are more likely to play something which they’ve paid for).

      But I do like the fact that he basically doesn’t really want more money. That’s quite cool. Imagine if Bioware were like that, they’d still be cranking out Baldur’s Gate style games, because they still sell. They just don’t sell as well as bigger games. The profits are lower, but they’re still in profit. But they’re part of a publicly traded company so profit isn’t enough. There has to be growth year-on-year. Making a decent living isn’t enough anymore.

      So it is kind of like shouting at him “Vogel, go for the extra money!”… but there’s a lot to it. Imagine if he did drop the prices down to an actual impulse level buy (honestly, going from $30 to $20 means bugger all these days) and they sold huge numbers. Suddenly other people go “hey, look, these games are really popular, let’s make some” and suddenly the market he’s had to himself for the best part of a decade suddenly has competition.

      So I get why he is how he is. He likes the status quo. As the status quo is good for him: he makes a decent living doing something he loves doing. That said, and you might want to go all ‘boo, hiss’ at me for this: it is a selfish, capitalist impulse that drives that. It’s good for him, it’s not good for the consumer. And it’s as fair to criticise him on his pricing as it is to criticise EA or any big publisher. Perhaps even more so as unlike EA all his games consistently make a profit.

      It’s a genuinely fascinating case as pretty rare in video games, but then, it’s also almost the Kickstarter model in reverse so maybe it’s becoming more common now. Kickstarter says “can I find enough people willing to pay a premium to fund my fairly obscure project” – Vogel says “I already have enough people willing to pay a premium for my fairly obscure projects, so I don’t need to worry about them pledging the cash up front”.

  11. Alextended says:

    That screenshot you guys chose is the worst of the bunch but oh well, the game’s not a looker. I’ve been playing the demo on and off since Monday. I’m getting the hang of it, I levelled up once and saw how the core stuff works. The game is quickly drawing me in and I can already see the sinister potential the story holds under the introductory fluff I have to go through. It might not look it, but it’s been a joy to play after I got over the initial annoyances and disappointment with certain details. It’s basically fun like Infinity Engine games used to be, though not as ambitious. It’s trying to be more accessible too, so don’t expect the same depth in every way (such as combat, it’s neat but it’s no d&d). That Lexrem fellow was more interesting than he looks in that screenshot, too…
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    Also, for those with a Mac, it’s a little cheaper on the Mac App Store.
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    I’m happy with it so far, happier than I’ve been with recent (ish) RPG purchases I’ve made, which include flawed gems like The Witcher and Risen. The premise of an outfit that wants to keep the tribes divided at all costs with authority to use any means necessary so that they never unite against your nation is pretty interesting and I’m sure that there are real, involving choices and consequences here, in true Spiderweb tradition. I want it, but it would be nice to have the Mac App Store price on Windows…

  12. StingingVelvet says:

    I tried it and it seemed very bland. Story, setting and character wise anyway. I wish more indie RPGs would take risks with new settings rather than emulate much bigger budgeted projects.

    • Nick says:

      His other games are all different to this, Geneforge series is mostly about various factions that you can join and outcomes from that, Avernum is slightly more traditional but most of the series is set in underground caves where people farm mushrooms and stuff.

  13. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    looks like FF meets Diablo, might have to check out the demo when my infernal ISP uncaps me >.<

    • Wizardry says:

      Final Fantasy meets Diablo? What? Only people who have no clue about the history of CRPGs would make such a comparison.

  14. chann says:

    Jeff Vogel has a lot of thoughts on why he believes indie developers price their games too cheaply, for those wondering why Spiderweb’s pricing is higher than the norm.

    • Rii says:

      I went in expecting some laughs, but to be fair he makes some good points, particularly re: portals enforcing price points on games sold through them.

      That said, $25 is farking steep.

    • arghstupid says:

      I have a lot of respect for his opinions on the matter, partly as he’s actually tried different price points and know what works, but mostly as he’s been doing this full time and making a living from it for ages. reckon he’d make for quite an interesting interview actually.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      reckon he’d make for quite an interesting interview actually
      I concur. Get to it Hivemind….

    • triple omega says:

      I understand his points about publicity and small niche markets, but most of the time they don’t apply. Lots of Indies make games that are not explicitly restricted to a small niche market and publicity doesn’t always need to precede sales. Sometimes the price-point itself is what generates sales and then publicity follows.

      Especially with online sales, the first impression+price is what makes or breaks a sale. You don’t need to attract everyone at once, you can get the lower price-point people during a sale, but getting a solid foundation of early buyers will help future sales. So asking too much at launch can really hurt you in the long run.

      That said, if you DO have a niche niche, you’re far less likely to attract more people at a lower price-point. Unless your current one is insane. :P

      Besides, the whole “selling @ alpha/beta for cheap”-thing is mixing things up nicely as well. It shows that conventional pricing and selling is just one possible way to go.

  15. Pr.Obsequious says:

    This game reminds me of Escalon : Book 1 & 2, by Basilisk Software and available on Steam : link to

    • StingingVelvet says:

      They’re also available DRM free on their website, and all the money goes to the developer.

    • Alextended says:

      Spiderweb games are on a league of their own, Basilisk has a long way to go yet. They should hire a writer and device a decently involving combat system to begin with. The writer’s guidance with the story should help them get a more interesting world designed too. Their game engine is pretty sweet though. I bought both Books but I doubt I’ll get the third as the second didn’t present a meaningful improvement over the disappointing first and they don’t seem to acknowledge the critical issues just because they have some vocal fans in their forums (duh). I was really hoping they’d at least do something to spice up the simplistic combat (make it party based, or action point based with 1 person, just anything more involving than the current system) if it was too late to get an interesting story and world to go with it but they don’t seem willing.

      Anyway, yeah, start with Avadon if you want to try Spiderweb’s deal, it’s the most newbie friendly of their stuff, taking cues from recent Bioware games (like choosing what few story members to take with you in a dungeon, heh) instead of the more complex even more old school style they had previously (creating a whole party yourself). It does suffer in some ways but it’s a good entry to their stuff and if you want to go deeper their other titles will be there.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I played about 20 hours of Eschalon 2 and found the dialogue and descriptions very entertaining and well written, much more so than what I have played of Avadon so far. I also liked how it instantly throws you into a large open world to explore, where as in Avadon I was immediately thrown into a typical dungeon crawl.

      In short I played an hour or so of Avadon and quit, but I played a good long while with Eschalon and bought both games.

    • karry says:

      “They should hire a writer and device a decently involving combat system to begin with. ”

      Thats what Vogel should do. He makes combat worse with each new series. Avernum/Exile was simple, and it worked, for the most part. Geneforge combat was poo on a stick, with every single character being able to cross 1,5 screen worth of space and still smack you. Avadon combat is just worthless.

      Vogel may have fitted the niche perfectly when he was basically alone, but with Basilisk games on the prowl – he’s got a good way to go to reach their level.

      “taking cues from recent Bioware games”

      Riiiight, real smart move there, Jeff…

    • Alextended says:

      That you liked Eschalon doesn’t go against anything I said about it. Good for you. Yeah it gives the impression of an open world but it’s still strictly linear in progression, it just makes you walk longer to achieve said progression, and it doesn’t bother with presenting an involving story and characters but instead presents a bunch of mundane side quests you can do on your way to the next story bit, with only a few that can be solved in a slightly different manner (an obvious choice that leads to more loot) and one instance of real consequence (a certain shady character confronting you for something of his). The only memorable quest in the second game was the one involving a werewolf, it’s a shame the lack of a writer means such instances are isolated exceptions and not even handled in the best way they could be. I’ve finished both Eschalon games as I said so yes, I know what they’re all about, and involving role playing or an interesting setting is not it. They both quickly devolve into turn based diablo as you keep getting closer to the end (or other major points) too, especially the second with a vast area that is nothing more than a dungeon itself, despite not being underground (not that both games don’t have a fair share of typical dungeons or barren land that serves as such, for you to be so against Avadon’s).

      If you find Spiderweb’s combat simple (no arguments here, especially in Avadon’s case, though it’s still more involving and challenging than most RPGs these days, what with not being a hack and slash or something like Eschalon which is even simpler) then I don’t know how you even have the nerve to present Eschalon as a better alternative, especially given all its other issues on top of combat that is far simpler than Avadon’s. It’s just absurd.

      All Eschalon has going for it is the pleasant, smooth engine but given all the other issues that’s not enough to get me to purchase the third, not without signs of improvement, though given the blind praise they get from fans that should instead ask them to do better, I guess they have no reason to change. Maybe they’ll put more instances where you can defeat a swarm of enemies by blowing up conveniently placed TNT barrels and having nice particle effects. RPG!

      I guess the primary difference, quality aside, is Spiderweb goes for structured stories with choices & consequences and party based tactical combat while Basilisk goes for the Fallout feel of open discovery with a single, limited yet overpowered character. Though they don’t do it nearly successfully enough, it gives fans room to boldly claim it’s “open world” and so apparently better than something more structured like Avadon (yet also like many of the classics).

    • karry says:

      Perhaps you should think about a career in politics. Writing an entire page, for what you could have said in three sentences. And yes, i do have the nerve to call Eschalon a better alternative to Avadon.

    • Alextended says:

      I know you have the nerve, I didn’t ask you if you do. It’s just that it doesn’t even make sense since these are neither the same style of RPG nor is Eschalon more successful in its own approach than Spiderweb has been with theirs. Duh.

  16. sk2k says:

    Great, another typical standard Jeff Vogel fantasy RPG. :/ It is the same again, again, again….
    I would die for an Cyberpunk or SciFi RPG (buck rogers style).

    • StingingVelvet says:

      That’s pretty much what I meant when I said bland above. I am so sick of the standard fantasy story and setting, so I have no idea what would motivate me to play it for a thousandth time but with much shittier graphics and production values.

      If this were cyberpunk or something though I probably would have bought it day one.

    • Alextended says:

      Your loss, the setting is unique in its own ways (some of which I described in a post that is awaiting moderation for some reason, maybe my screenshot links), Spiderweb games have meaningful choices & consequences and their writing is actually pretty decent, at least past the early turorial sections. The engine may not look like much but it feels fine after you get the hang of it, classic yet at a good pace. This being a new series likely aimed to attract slightly more mainstream folk with the setup and iPad release suffers in some ways but still seems pretty good, so far. How much of their stuff have you played through to go all “more of the same”? I’d imagine only super fans play every entry and the rest limit themselves to whatever seems to be the best of each series.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I mean more of the same in general. I loaded up the demo and read some very bland story about knights and castles, then was thrown into a dungeon to kill rats with a sword and basic magic. I mean, haven’t we all been there a hundred times before? Why play this game when there are all those other games out there that do the same thing but better?

      Maybe it gets more unique later but the start of the demo is just dreadfully bland and generic. When even 15 year old IE games look better I don’t know why I would ever bother with Avadon since it does nothing unique or interesting. If it had a cool and unique setting, better written story or fresh gameplay concepts I could get on board. It doesn’t though.

    • malkav11 says:

      This is another thing Vogel’s weighed in on in the past (he’s a pretty vocal guy). In short, he needs his games to be predictably successful in order to continue making them full time and still make a living for himself and his family. The one time he strayed much from the standard fantasy formula (Nethergate), it was significantly less successful. He can’t afford to risk that.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      To be fair, the Geneforge setting is not a typical fantasy setting. It has some sci-fi elements and is pretty bizarre, from my experience. I like the start of Geneforge V, where you’re an amnesiac slave among others in this dungeon and something is driving the conjured beasties crazy and they’re killing guards. You then have a choice to gear towards the resistance or to promote a sort of gene-lord aristocracy, if I recall.

    • Alextended says:

      Really? Not playing the (likely, unlikely, anti, or whatever else) hero but someone working for an organization who do what they must, no matter the cost or the cruelty, to keep their nation on top, to keep the other tribes divided to avoid the possibility of them uniting against said nation, is bland and generic? I can’t even recall playing one with this setting, though there probably are a few, but it’s hardly a tired story. Mass Effect had the whole “you have the authority to use any means necessary” deal but it never went anywhere with it and you were still the hero against the obvious evil. The political spin on things is also rarely seen as it is, outside quickly disposing of some sinister head in a quest or as a barely seen backdrop to a wholly different story. As for the games that do it better, then unless you mean the all time classics, that’s purely subjective. And if you do mean the all time classics, then you’ve already played them many times over and surely are ready for a new adventure. Even if it’s similar to them it’s not the same, there are new dialogues, characters, choices, battles, challenges and the relatively unique setup (clumsily) described in my posts. As said already some other games of theirs have more bizarre settings. If you don’t want to give them a chance, that’s fine by me, but don’t try to claim that you actually did that.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I didn’t play the whole game, nor am I talking about the plot. I am talking about the setting and general look and feel. I started the game as a knight or wizard in a castle heading into a dungeon to fight rats. That just smacks me in the face with boredom. I hoped the dialogue would save it but no, the dialogue was bland.

      Maybe it gets better but the start of it is like taking a sleeping pill.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      @ Malkav

      Oh I wouldn’t doubt that. The massive hardon that core RPG gamers have for the fantasy setting baffles me and it would not surprise me if they didn’t buy a game with a different setting purely based on that. I know from surfing sites like RPGWatch and RPGCodex how those people are.

      That said I looked at Nethergate and it seems like traditional fantasy… what’s unique about it?

    • Alextended says:

      I didn’t describe some plot point explained much later, it’s the first thing you read in the game dude, when you claimed “I loaded up the demo and read some very bland story about knights and castles”. If what I (clumsily) described is your definition of bland then that includes pretty much every classic too, whether they have knights as the vessels that deliver the story or something else. Dismissing it for having knights and being interested in something just for not having them (though as said before, Geneforge games have sci fi elements and can get rather bizarre with their setting too) is quite shallow but it’s up to you.

    • malkav11 says:

      I personally wouldn’t call any of Vogel’s settings purely traditional/generic fantasy (a term which I think gets thrown around far too freely as it is. Most recently in reference to Dragon Age. But I digress.). But Nethergate is set in Roman-occupied Britain and allows you to play either Romans or Celts, fighting one another over a remote and magic-infested region of the country, both sides ultimately stumbling upon the same mysteries. It’s much more historically influenced, lower fantasy and lower tech than most CRPG fantasy settings, including Vogel’s own Exile games (which were all that he’d made at the time). It seems to me like Geneforge is actually more out there, not less, but that’s what he’s said about the subject. -shrug-

  17. vodka and cookies says:

    I’ve always enjoyed Spiderwebs games, well worth the money for the huge amount of game time you get from them & nice to see them get a bit of coverage too.

    Such old school RPG’s may not be to everyone’s tastes but I genuinely find them more involving then AAA RPG’s like Elder Scrolls series, there’s something to be said for leaving things to the imagination along with text descriptions, one of the things I miss the most in new Fallout titles.

  18. RQH says:

    I am always baffled by the marketing for these games. Not the budget or scale; that’s obviously about limited resources. I mean the text:

    * 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.

    I want to learn a little something about this enormous and unique world. Give me a couple examples of cool spells that might attract me to this game, in contrast to the hundreds of other games I could be playing. Or of the magical items to be found–what’s weird & interesting about them? Titillate me with just a snippet of this fascinating history you promise. Most RPGs can boast most of these features, including the other ones by the same dev. Since not a lot of press cover these games with any depth or detail beyond what the dev describes on his site, it’s imperative that the dev describe his own game well.

    And yes, I know, I could just download the demo. But if that’s the attitude, why bother with even the above text. Why not just write “It’s an RPG. Play the demo”? Obviously because you want to entice people to at least download the demo. So entice! Put some feeling into it!

    • Jesse L says:

      It’s not just this one particular response, but the aggregate lot of mealy-mouth weak kneed contemptuous whiny posts in this thread makes me want to stomp over and punch the lot of you – you know who you are – in the eye.

      I thought you lot were old-school RPG snobs! Who love indie games! Yet also among you are many fans of Bioware’s newer work! Avadon is a combination of these elements, made by one of the longest-running independent developers in the business. For fifteen years Vogel’s been out there upholding almost single-handedly the supposedly much-beloved, much lamented tradition of the Western turn-based user-defined party big world with lots of incidental detail replayable sidequests out the wazoo RPG. If you like that stuff you have no business having not played at least one of the characteristic “huge free demos” he’s released over the years. (Especially if you have a Mac!)

      Now look, we mostly like Mass Effect 2, right? Avadon is his attempt, I think, at making a Mass Effect 2 version of a Spiderweb Software game. He is a Bioware fan, you know – especially of Dragon Age – despite the fact that he has traditionally made a different type of game. For the first time in a Spiderweb game (excepting a couple of Geneforge titles) you have party members with their own personalities and skill trees. Some things are a little simpler. There’s no Look button anymore, for instance. Instead when you walk past a sign, the text on it will simply appear at the bottom of your screen. Neat. You can still go into your inventory and see descriptions for most of the items you can pick up, wear, and use (Shirt: “Like pants, but for your chest!”). Let’s not be a community of change-hating jerks. Let’s (as a community, not necessarily you individually) go try it. And by the way, he’s not a marketer, he’s a game designer.

      If you take issue with ANY of the changes in the way he makes his games, I invite you to peruse his blog, linked above and again here:

      link to

      Where he regularly discusses in an open, honest manner all facets of the design of his games, including THE BUSINESS of selling indie games (again, as linked above), and regularly takes a ton of crap from armchair devs like you and me for not making his games exactly in the way that I, myself, would make a game in a perfect world where it would take no time, money, skill, or effort and in which the success of said game would not impact my ability to provide for myself and my family, as it does for Vogel. He is an indie RPG designer and the market has changed in the 15 years he’s been making games. He can change or go under. But what to change? And how much? Which group of shouty internet people to listen to? Because they’re all shouting. GOD HELP ME it makes me upset to see people dismiss these games with a sneer.

      I’ve played part of the Avadon demo myself so far. I’m still a big fan of his writing. It’s unfortunate that we start out fighting rats in a dungeon, sure. I miss the complexity of all the spells a beginning magic user had available in the Exile series (but no one’s ever going to offer a game like that again, and the Exile series is so big and sprawling I can always go back and play it again anyway). I miss all the random junk I used to be able to pick up – spoons, shoes, pants, thread, sacks of grain… But I never did pick them up, did I? Does it help that we’re immediately treated to a set of moral decisions in that first dungeon-hack quest? Yes. It does. And I want to see what happens with these characters, and I’ll enjoy finding out more about who I’m working for and why. Vogel has never avoided the morally grey areas in any of his work, and he always gives the player the chance to pick their own side. I appreciate that.

      In short: shut up you punks! But let me try to be nice. If you don’t like it, you can politely clear out, as far as I’m concerned. With this, as with all games, we’ll do well to remember that this is someone’s work. In this particular case it’s someone’s life’s work. Yes, I’m a fan. But when I’m not a fan of a game, I try not to go out of my petty way to take little sniping internet-post-style shots at it.

    • Alextended says:

      Nice post Jesse, I wish I could have written something closer to that when replying to certain other individuals here but hey, I’m not the writer, Jeff is. Thanks for showing me some people get it.

      Though I think you should direct it to other people, not this guy.

    • RQH says:

      Uh, that’s a lot of ire, Jesse L, for a post that did not in any way criticize the game or suggest that it should cater to my particular tastes. All I did was suggest that one might get more mileage by communicating the game’s setting and features more specifically. I have a great deal of respect for indie developers, and I enjoy RPGs, but the “pitch” for the game felt surprisingly hollow for me, and when I reflected on why, I concluded that it made the game sound generic, even if the game itself was not. I tried to delineate in a constructive way how those same bullet points could be framed in a way that gets me, who knows nothing of this game or any others by this developer, excited to download the demo and check out the game. As it is, I may still download the demo because of what other people have said elsewhere about the game, and other games he’s made, but I think it’s probably valid feedback if someone who enjoys indie games and RPGs doesn’t come away from reading a description of an indie RPG with a burning desire to at least download the demo.

      Personally, I am not trying to disparage anyone’s life’s work. If my life’s work and my livelihood depended on communicating my life’s work well to other people, I would welcome simple suggestions that could increase interest and sales, that cost no money to implement, and very little time. That said, I completely respect Mr. Vogel’s right to disregard my suggestions, and I certainly hope that if he’s been reading this thread, he has not taken so much pain from my post as you have. It was meant in the spirit of purest helpfulness.

  19. skurmedel says:

    So is this an actual CRPG, like with party and stuff? Slightly filled with joy here, I thought these games were extinct with the exception of Dragon Age (1).

    • Berzee says:

      Yep! A whole party, many skills, lots of character customization, TONS of writing for NPCs in every town, hours and hours even if you only play the demos.

      The only thing I don’t like about them is that your own party members never really have a personality. I prefer the Final Fantasy approach of giving your guys unique voices and letting you tweak their combat skills..but your characters in the Avernum games are basically just killin’ machines (though I haven’t played much of them since he switched to 3d-rendered character sprites…couldn’t get used to it for some reason…so I don’t know if he has improved that area with dialogue choices or whatall).

    • Jesse L says:

      Avadon is the first of his games to use pre-made party members with personalities, dialogue, etc.

    • skurmedel says:

      Interesting. Thanks, I’m going to try the demo when I have some time to kill.

  20. pipman3000 says:

    FACT: blades of exile is the only game from spiderweb that is worth buying (and now it’s open source)

    i hate those crappy poser-like pre-rendered models he uses in all his new games.

    • Pemptus says:

      I actually agree. With the Poser models that is. But I reserve the word “hate” for things that matter.

    • Thants says:

      That isn’t even remotely a fact.

  21. Alextended says:

    Posting this message, without screenshots or other links this time, as that version is still awaiting moderation, possibly for that reason (I guess I’ll see if this version also gets it).

    The screenshot you guys chose is the worst but oh well, the game’s not a looker. I’ve been playing the demo on and off since Monday. I got the hang of it, I levelled up once and saw how the core works. The game is quickly drawing me in and I can already see the sinister potential the story holds under the introductory fluff I have to go through. It might not look it, but it’s been a joy to play after I got over the initial annoyances and disappointment with certain details. It’s basically fun like Infinity Engine games used to be, though not as ambitious. It’s trying to be more accessible too, so don’t expect the same depth in every way (such as combat, it’s neat but it’s no d&d).

    For those with a Mac, it’s a little cheaper on the Mac App Store. I’m happy with it so far, happier than I’ve been with recent (ish) RPG purchases I’ve made, which include flawed gems like The Witcher and Risen. The premise of an outfit that wants to keep the tribes divided at all costs with authority to use any means necessary so that they never unite against your nation is pretty interesting and I’m sure that there are real, involving choices and consequences here, in true Spiderweb tradition. I want it, but it would be nice to have the Mac App Store price on Windows…

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      I’m actually interested in the screenshot. Do the boxes denote zones of control? Also, how come you get party members? Do you get to control them?

    • Alextended says:

      When you’re out of combat party members walk together (you can still manage their inventories and things separately though), and when in combat you control them individually each with their own movement, melee or ranged attacks, skills, etc. The grid shows the tiles surrounding the characters so that you can gauge the distance to enemies and what not, only when you’re in combat, which is turn based but speedy. I think you can choose to have it show a full area grid rather than only show the tiles around the characters if you prefer that.

      In this game you can only take 2 more party members with you in areas of potential danger (such as dungeons). There are more to choose from so you decide who you want to bring with you (think Mass Effect). In other Spiderweb games you can have more anywhere and make your own party rather than get preset characters from the story (think Icewind Dale vs Baldur’s Gate).

  22. fupjack says:

    Jeff Vogel’s writing is pretty fun to read on its own; he’s written a book about becoming a parent that is A: funny and B: completely different from the usual sappy new parent books out there. There’s chunks of it still out there on the web since that’s where the writing went first.

    link to