Solium Infernum’s Vic Davis Leaves PC Game Dev

Who will rule hell? No longer Vic Davis and Cryptic Comet, creator of the RPS-beloved turned-based strategy game Solium Infernum. In a post over at his blog, Davis explains that he’s leaving computer game development behind in order to take his boardgamey design skills off to the land of actual board games.

Why? “I’ve been selling computer games for over 7 years and it’s been a great ride,” starts the post. “Selling games directly from this website has been an increasingly difficult task. My programming skills are so tied to an aging and abandoned development platform that making even a niche title like my previous games is a dubious proposition at best. So I’m leaving the digital space and moving over to the card board arena where I hope my design skills can shine.”

Off to that damnable temptress world of card and plastic. Oh Vic.

Tech support and downloads of previously released games will continue, but otherwise it’s all curtains for digital works. “I have a working prototype of a 2-4 player game that involves players trying to accumulate enough “influence” points to win the game,” as the same post explains. “The theme is a fantasy setting set in a fictitious city of splendor named Vance. I’ll reveal a lot more about the theme and mechanics as things progress. In general it is played in rounds with each player choosing 2 of 7 possible actions. It involves a card and dice system, screw you cards played face down and an end of round secret bidding phase for important cards from a special deck.”

Which sounds swell, and a similar sort of experience to those Davis made for PC. He’s planning with fingers crossed to update his site once a week from now on with more information on the game’s design.

Games is games are games am games and it’s great that Davis is still going to be making them in whatever format they come – but, in some ways, I still feel the loss. I missed the boat on both Armageddon Empires and Solium Infernum, but I’ve had them in mind these past twelve months and have repeatedly visited Davis’ site for signs of new work. That’s largely because, despite never personally getting a completed match of them going, the aforementioned games consumed the 2009ish formation of the RPS Hivemind, prompting the production of a six-person, eight-part Solium Infernum diary, from which this post’s header image is stolen; a Kieron hands-on and Quinns review of the same game; an interview with their creator; and a 2007 advent Game-o-Calendar pick for Armageddon Empires.

Now we can’t write much about his future work. I guess I’ll have to set up a board game site with an abrasive name and a malignant avocado.

33 Comments

Top comments

  1. Soren Johnson says:

    Please consider voting for Vic's Occult Chronicles on Greenlight: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=308529886&insideModal=0&requirelogin=1
    It would be nice if at least one of his games made it onto Steam.
  1. ScottTFrazer says:

    > I guess I’ll have to set up a board game site with an abrasive name and a malignant avocado.

    And a better commenting system. Heyooo!

  2. unimural says:

    This is looking quite serious. First Quentin went with the pear, now Graham’s contemplating avocados. Who knows what abominations of the plant kingdom Adam will end up conjuring.

    Personally I’m very much looking forward to what Vic will come up on the physical side. I was going to make a silly comment about buying board games and never playing them due to the difficult of gathering enough people for that. But looking at my Steam library that’s not a significant departure from how things are for me on the computer game side either.

  3. Soren Johnson says:

    Please consider voting for Vic’s Occult Chronicles on Greenlight: link to steamcommunity.com
    It would be nice if at least one of his games made it onto Steam.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jarmo says:

      Done and done. Thanks for the heads-up, Soren!

      I hope Vic finds with physical games the success he has already deserved for a looong time.

      Hey Vic, how about a Kickstarter for your board game project? You should have a cadre of proselytisers already from all of us who already know and appreciate your work.

  4. Core says:

    >“Selling games directly from this website has been an increasingly difficult task.

    Such a shame he never took his game to steam or made a partnership with a good publishing partner like paradox. His games are genuinely amazing and far too few people know of them. He would be making bank if the audience had a better way to finding them.

    • jonfitt says:

      Yes. I’m not married to a particular download platform (although Steam may one day propose), but I never liked the idea of buying direct where the developer’s page is the only place to get the game. You have to create a new account, give them your card details, download from there and either keep a perpetual backup or hope that they stay in business. The only game I can think of where I did this was Minecraft way back in the day when it was just Notch and a dream.
      Steam, GoG, Desura (seems like a no-brainer fit), Origin, I don’t really care, but for me it should be on a platform bigger than some guy’s website.

    • malkav11 says:

      He’s tried to get on Steam and been rejected. I have no idea if he ever considered publisher partnerships, but there are obviously potential downsides there.

  5. Moth Bones says:

    I don’t think I’m the only person who discovered both Solium Infernum and Rock Paper Shotgun via the fondly remembered diaries. The former is a unique game with a fabulous aesthetic, and consequently I will always have a high regard for Vic’s imaginative powers. Good luck to his boardgames.

  6. b0rsuk says:

    I can see why he’s doing this – he wants to design games instead of programming. But I don’t think this is a wise move. Vic’s games were fairly unique among PC games because they came from a different school of design. Board game design. Board games often have mechanics very rarely – found in PC games(such as bidding) and this is in part because of technical limitations. You can only provide so many pawns or cards, humans can only keep tracks of so many tokens.

    Why unwise ? Because competition among board game designers is immense. He’ll be HARD pressed to come up with something fresh that plays well. On PC, you can get away with rehashing the same few concepts.
    It’s a little sad, really, because turn-based PC games are the least demanding when it comes to programming skills. He could learn a nice language like Python, take the PyGame library and get nice results. Programming good AI is a completely different matter, but his games were known for their multiplayer community anyway.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Hell, he could hire a programmer, given sufficient bankroll.

      I don’t know how achievable or not that would be in his situation. Kickstarter may or may not work at his scale; I guess there’s a risk all your customers will be backers, and you won’t actually sell much.

      • Pockets says:

        Hell, I’d do it for zero upfront.

      • Malcolm says:

        It would seem the obvious course of action. Seeing as he would appear to enjoy the design elements far more than the technical side (entirely speculation on my part) he might be open to licensing his designs to another interested party to turn into PC gaming. Although from the looks of things, browser based versions would seem sensible – which might make it much easier to find some opponents too.

    • malkav11 says:

      They weren’t really. Armageddon Empires, Six Gun Saga and Occult Chronicles are all singleplayer only. Solium Infernum is his only multiplayer game. But it’s a doozy.

      • RogueLiking says:

        People are talking here about bankrolling, with kickstarter perhaps, or other methods, and also about multiplayer. He wrote that he couldn’t afford to hire a programmer for Solium Infernum so it’d have TCP/IP in addtion to PBEM. Now, I’m no programmer by any stretch of the imagination, but if it has PBEM, the foundations should be there, and I don’t think it should take that many hours for a programmer to write something that basically sends the file that’s used in the current system, but in real time. I am certain that if he kickstarted/indiewentwent just this project of hiring someone to make it TCP/IP, the…anywhere between 500 and 5000 dollars it’d take to accomplish this, would be funded withtout a hitch, and it would bring a ton of pleasure and joy to the people who will have no doubt contributed.

  7. The Sombrero Kid says:

    It’s a shame he never put them on steam, I always liked the idea of these games but I wasn’t very trusting of random websites distribution back then :(

    • Shardz says:

      Vic submitted his request to sell his games on Steam, but the boneheads rejected them. Apparently, they told him that his games not “the types of games Steam wishes to publish”. Valve apparently won’t publish anything created from Adobe Director, but I just blame their lack of good taste.

  8. ExitDose says:

    Did any of his games migrate over to mobile at all?

  9. Crafter says:

    I would be curious to learn more about the technical side of this.
    Does anybody know which languages/tools he used to create games ?

    • LionsPhil says:

      I have a dim memory it’s Macromedia Director or something equally unpleasant.

      Edit: Interview linked above confirms. (‘Course, it’s Adobe Director these days.)

      • Crafter says:

        Yikes, now I see why it is difficult for him to move to a new language and why the games are windows only.
        Too bad he has not been able to get a skilled dev on board.

    • Shardz says:

      Yes, Macromedia Director, as it was before Adobe purchased it. The native language inherent in that package is a form of javascript, which today would actually be ActionScript.

  10. Shardz says:

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! No, no, no, no, no, no, nonononononoooo!!!

    Well, Valve will always rule Hell, but this is just too much to handle. Vic made some of the best games with the freshest ideas in PC gaming. OK, Adobe Director didn’t fare too well with most, but it really doesn’t matter as his genius would always shine through the shortcomings of the game engine, ultimately.

    I do wish Vic the best of luck in his endeavors and I feel as though he will do quite well in his cardboard quest to deliver the goods in another medium. After Valve’s uncanny rejection letter to Vic with his amazing catalog, I think he decided that there was little revenue to be had unless the Giant Evil Behemoth had accepted his plea, which is seemingly the case.

    Hooray and cheers for Vic, we will miss you in digital land. Boo and jeers for Valve for being the leader of the 5 minute gimmick collection.

  11. Sic says:

    Solium Infernum as an actual board game needs to be.

    Pretty please with sugar on top, Vic. WITH SUGAR ON TOP, VIC!

  12. TaylanK says:

    “The theme is a fantasy setting set in a fictitious city of splendor named Vance.”
    I wonder if it’s in any way related to this: link to theonyxpath.com

  13. cptgone says:

    Sad to hear this. I’d always hoped that one day, these games would be remade in a more user friendly way, or that new such CC games would appear.
    Best of luck to the dev.

  14. SimianJim says:

    The “Who Will Rule Hell?” diary is RPS’s finest moment to date and the main thing that made this site a first-stop for games news for me.

    Solium Infernum was an incredible game sadly hamstrung by a poor multiplayer implementation. I would love to see it on Steam as I know a bunch of people who would absolutely love it if it were a bit more convenient to play

    • Guvornator says:

      It was fantastic. If there’s something I really miss on modern RPS is the lack of that sort of diary. There’s a bit of sense of a group of people who share an interest and passion, but aren’t actually in the same room or even mindset that often.

    • Shardz says:

      Valve rejected Vic’s entire catalog. Blame them for everything.

      • epmode says:

        Was this before or after Valve switched their focus to Greenlight? I can’t see how it wouldn’t get accepted these days.

    • Malcolm says:

      Judging purely from the screenshots it might work well as a browser-based game?

  15. imperialus says:

    I still play Armageddon Empires pretty regularly. I’m pretty psyched to see what he does with board games though. I’ve got a group of people I play around a tabletop with pretty regularly so I’m certainly interested in seeing what he does.