In this Q&A IMG's Franklin Pride interviews Spiderweb Software founder Jeff Vogel. The veteran indie RPG developer discusses bringing the long running Avernum series to a close with the release of Avernum 6, and offers some insight into the challenge of creating the entirely new RPG: Avadon: The Black Fortress.
Franklin Pride: Let's start with your most recent game, Avernum 6. I know you've probably been asked this a million times, but are you planning on revisiting it at some point, perhaps with an epic about Avernites and Empire citizens living together?
Jeff Vogel: I seriously doubt the story will ever continue from the end of Avernum 6. In an interview a few months ago I mentioned offhand that I might like to do one prequel game, from the earliest, wildest days of Avernum. Maybe someday, but not for a long time.
FP: It seems like the earliest history of Avernum would be a lot of territory capturing, fight mediation, and city building. Should you come back to do Avernum 0, would it be more of a non-static world where locales are created as the story progresses?
JV: It is so far in the hypothetical future that I want to say very little about it. It might never even happen, after all. But it would definitely be about the building of Avernum, so some evolving locations would make sense.
FP: What originally inspired you to add the teleporters to the series? After running around in the original Exile, they're quite the welcome relief.
JV: Simple sanity. All RPGs need a quick way to travel around, or they are just too painful.
FP: What does it feel like to move into creating a new world? After spending so much time on Exile/Avernum, it's got to be at least a little daunting.
JV: It's been a huge amount of work. Creating a new world, the nations, the history, the culture, all that stuff take a lot of thought. Add to that the new game engine, the new system, redoing all the graphics, and Avadon: The Black Fortress has been a big job. Fun, but draining.
FP: Are you planning on having clear-cut good and evil factions, or will everything be a bit grayer in Avadon?
JV: I want almost all of the moral choices in Avadon to be pretty gray. You are warriors tasked with uncovering people who pose some sort of threat to the Pact, the alliance you are from. However, when guilt is ambiguous or when the tactics you employ can be pretty questionable, in the end the player will have to make a lot of tough (or cool) decisions.
FP: How many games are you planning on creating in the Avadon universe? Is it going to be more of a "make them as I go" sort of thing or do you have a story arc planned out between the games?
JV: I don't do as much planning for the whole story arc as I should. Just developing the first game has taken so much thought that I haven't had energy to spare for plotting out the next two games too. I have a vague idea of how the story will go, but I've left myself a lot to flesh out later.
FP: One of the more time-consuming tasks has always been starting your party from scratch each game. Do you think you'll eventually allow a party importation from a previous Avadon like the Mass Effect series does?
JV: The simple truth is that simultaneously balancing a game for a party that starts at level 1 and a party that starts at level 50 is incredibly difficult. RPGs work best when they are about people who start weak and develop or earn great strength. To let the party keep their mega-powerful characters from the previous game really defeats a lot of the appeal.
Also, for what it's worth, Mass Effect 2 kept around individual decisions the party made, but your character had to go back to good old Level 1 and re-earn everything.
FP: Will the enemies still be along the same lines as the previous games: tank, spawner, magician, and archer?
JV: One class is definitely a tank and one is definitely a caster, but the other two are a bit different. They don't fit into established archetypes as closely.
FP: And last, but not least, what major changes are there between Avernum and Avadon on the combat side?
JV: Oh, it's very very different. It's a class-based system, where each class has its own suite of abilities. There is very little healing, and each ability can only be used every few turns, which means you have to use lots of different powers. Because of these changes, combat works very differently. I'm hoping for an experience with a lot of variety and "What power should I be using now?" tactical thought.
FP: Thanks for the answers, Jeff!