|20 Years Of Spiderweb Software|
August 16, 2013 | Cord Kruse
In 1993 Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software, began work on Exile: Escape from the Pit. The turn-based fantasy role playing game thrust players into the stygian depths of a mysterious underground cave complex, a realm populated by outcasts, criminals, monstrous denizens, and ancient evils powerful enough to exterminate even the mightiest heroes. It would prove to be only the beginning for Spiderweb, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. As Vogel gets ready to release Avadon 2: The Corruption, his twenty-first game, the veteran world builder recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the webs he weaves.
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Congratulations on 20 years. That's quite a feat. I'm sure you're used to questions about how to get into the game creation business, but now you're uniquely qualified to answer the question of how to stay in business over the long haul. What's your secret?
Jeff Vogel: We found a gaming niche that was loved but underserved (turn-based, story-heavy role-playing games), sat it in, and served it well. Also: Making good games, providing good support, general friendliness, and proper business practices help a lot. No real surprises here. Just simple consistency and hard work.
When you consider the changes in the past 20 years: the growth of the internet, the ups and downs of Apple computer, the rise of social media, mobile gaming devices that seem to have come directly from Star Trek, etc. can you believe how much has happened in such a relatively short span of time?
JV: I can believe it's all happened, but it's still amazing. When I started out, the world wide web was barely a thing, it took me months to convince a bank to give me a credit card account because they didn't believe you could run a business on the internet, and Inside Mac Games was mailed to me on a plastic disc. A plastic disc!
What do you think the next 20 years holds in store for gaming?
JV: I believe that the game industry will continue to exist and thrive. People love games, plain and simple. No crash can take that away. I think the AAA space will contract and have lots of issues, and Indies will continue to flourish, to a point. Beyond that, no idea. Every big development that ever happens catches me totally be surprise.
You frequently release updated versions of your older titles to keep them playable on modern machines, usually adding new content in the process. What makes the stories so compelling that they can still draw in new players years after their initial release?
JV: A good story doesn't ever stop being a good story, and a game that's fun never becomes less fun. I like to do the rewrites to bring the games better game mechanics and production values. Also, the rewrites tend to be necessary to adapt the engine enough to do iOS ports. (Don't sell this reason short. This is a HUGE part of why I do them.)
And, what brings your veteran fans back again to revisit the world with each reimagining?
JV: Our fans love our stuff. They really like our settings and our stories. Also, we tend to wait a full decade or more between rewrites these days, so I suspect they've usually forgotten enough of the original game to make the new one fresh.
The Exile/Avernum series has a unique setting for a fantasy role playing game. What inspired you to set the game in a subterranean landscape populated with mushrooms, angry lizard men, and a society of outcasts?
JV: When I got a PowerMac and decided to write a game, I had to think of a setting. For some reason, I'd always been attracted to the idea of a game that was all dungeon, but also huge. One huge cave system. The idea took a hold of me and didn't let go, and that's how Exile/Avernum happened.
In the past you've mentioned the possibility of returning to the series, perhaps in the form of a prequel to the existing tales. Is that still a possibility?
JV: I did sort of have a maybe-idea about one more game in the Avernum world, but it's just an inkling. Nothing more than that. I have enough projects to keep me busy for the next four years, so, happily, I don't need to think about it for a while
Would players have the chance to participate in the initial discovery of Avernum?
JV: That's the idea. That's ALL of the idea. I literally haven't thought beyond that. I'm swamped enough doing Avadon 2 to worry about the far future. (Far future being defined as five years from now.)