Jump to content


Spiderweb Software: Why all of our games look like crap


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Cougar

Cougar

    Master Blaster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1658 posts
  • Steam Name:FuzzyPuffin

Posted 23 August 2019 - 05:22 AM

As someone who has felt shame for not being able to get into Spiderweb games on account of the graphics (while not considering myself a graphics person) I found this post on the subject enlightening: http://jeff-vogel.bl...e-crap.html?m=1

#2 Thain Esh Kelch

Thain Esh Kelch

    Admin

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4146 posts
  • Steam ID:thaineshkelch
  • Location:Denmark

Posted 23 August 2019 - 06:51 AM

I read the post and thought long and hard about it. I have several of his games, but have actually never played any of them. Shame on me, yes, but at least I can say that the reason is absolutely the way the games look.

Personally it comes down to three things I believe (Since I haven't played them, some of the following may be incorrect, but I've based it on videos I've seen of the games.):
• Everything is square. Roads are made from squares. Water edges are square. Woods are square grids. Line of sight is based on squares. Fog of war is made from squares. It absolutely helps with the grid system for the actual gameplay and world creation, but it sure looks artificial. He really needs to add more curves and randomness to everything, such as walls, water edges, roads, etc., and make sure that repeated things such as trees don't just stand in the exact same spot on every single grid.

• There's no life. Characters stand completely still. They don't say anything. No NPC's moving about. No animals running around. No birds. No water movement. No changes based on weather. Trees all look the same, as in copy-paste.

• Everything looks to be in pristine condition. The walls have never been touched, and have been made by identical planks of wood. Benches have never been sat on. Tables have all come straight out of Ikea. Floors have never been walked on.

Now, as he says himself, making more stuff costs a lot of money! But I think he could get really far if he had just a few more corner images, some of which are round. A few more tree models. And I really think he could get very, VERY, far, by have some kind of randomised texture overlay system, to make things look unique. Either just cloudy colored textures, or some kind of dust/damage/scratches/wear textures.

That being said, I have enormous respect for him and the open way he speaks about these things! Which is also why I own most of his games...
"They're everywhere!" -And now, time for some Legend of Zelda.

iMac 2011, quad 3,4Ghz i7, 1TB Samsung EVO 840, 8GB RAM, 2GB Radeon 6970m. + 2016 Macbook m3 + iPad 2 64GB + iPhone 4S 64GB + Girlfriend + Daughter

#3 Cougar

Cougar

    Master Blaster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1658 posts
  • Steam Name:FuzzyPuffin

Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:22 AM

The post blew up on the gamedev subreddit: https://reddit.com/r...look_like_crap/

Some of the comments are interesting, some are very...reddit. Jeff responds himself to a lot of the misconceptions.

What I’m left wondering about is his claim that it’s the right business decision. For that to be true, any investment in art would not be made up by the potential increase in sales. But how does he know this? What if there are a lot of people like me out there that would make the investment worth it?

I suppose “business as usual” is the safe choice when it comes to niche games like this, (after all, it’s worked for him for 25 years) but maybe they’d be a bit less niche if they didn’t look so bad.

#4 macdude22

macdude22

    Like, totally awesome.

  • Forum Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2280 posts
  • Steam Name:Rakden
  • Location:Iowa
  • Pro Member:Yes

Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:29 AM

View PostCougar, on 23 August 2019 - 08:22 AM, said:

What if there are a lot of people like me out there that would make the investment worth it?



Jeff is VERY risk adverse now that he has kids. He knows he can make a living with the current model. He doesn't know if extending himself will pay out. I think it's likely it would but it's a very saturated market these days. A lot of "sure sells" end up being failures.
IMG Discord Server | | http://www.trueachie....com/Rakden.htm
Enterprise (iMac18,2): i7 @ 3.6 GHz || 16 GB RAM || Radeon Pro 560 || 2TB Micron + 6TB Toshiba
Defiant (MacBookPro 9,1): Core i7 @ 2.3ghz || 8GB RAM || nVidia GT 650M 512MB || 512GB Toshiba SSD

#5 Thain Esh Kelch

Thain Esh Kelch

    Admin

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4146 posts
  • Steam ID:thaineshkelch
  • Location:Denmark

Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:36 AM

View PostCougar, on 23 August 2019 - 08:22 AM, said:

What I'm left wondering about is his claim that it's the right business decision. For that to be true, any investment in art would not be made up by the potential increase in sales. But how does he know this? What if there are a lot of people like me out there that would make the investment worth it?
In any event, this gives him a LOT of exposure, so that post was worth it. And he absolutely knew it would happen I am sure.
"They're everywhere!" -And now, time for some Legend of Zelda.

iMac 2011, quad 3,4Ghz i7, 1TB Samsung EVO 840, 8GB RAM, 2GB Radeon 6970m. + 2016 Macbook m3 + iPad 2 64GB + iPhone 4S 64GB + Girlfriend + Daughter

#6 macdude22

macdude22

    Like, totally awesome.

  • Forum Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2280 posts
  • Steam Name:Rakden
  • Location:Iowa
  • Pro Member:Yes

Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:56 AM

I thought he made a lot of graphical improvements in recent games that made them very pleasant to look at. I think Queen's wish looks a lot worse than the last batch of Avernum releases but being able to play on iPhone will probably make up for that.

Personally I've always liked the rigid tile based movement as it plays quicker. Geneforge always felt so slow to me because of the animations. So many modern games feel like a slog waiting for animation this and animation that.

I really feel like the majority of these reddit comments come from folks that don't have family to worry about. It's easy to take a risk when it's just you. It's not so easy when 1 or more walking flesh bags rely on you for their survival. So many folks saying just spend time on this that and the other. Time is money! Yes doubling his budget MIGHT double his sales but it also MIGHT tank the business. How many businesses go south because they overextend themselves with loans. Yada Yada I know the Wall Street line if you're not growing your dead. I don't subscribe to that mantra. And lets be honest, what are you going to go do when the business tanks and you spent the last 30 years writing low budget RPGs.
IMG Discord Server | | http://www.trueachie....com/Rakden.htm
Enterprise (iMac18,2): i7 @ 3.6 GHz || 16 GB RAM || Radeon Pro 560 || 2TB Micron + 6TB Toshiba
Defiant (MacBookPro 9,1): Core i7 @ 2.3ghz || 8GB RAM || nVidia GT 650M 512MB || 512GB Toshiba SSD

#7 jos

jos

    Fanatic

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 59 posts

Posted 23 August 2019 - 10:59 AM

View PostThain Esh Kelch, on 23 August 2019 - 06:51 AM, said:

• Everything is square. Roads are made from squares. Water edges are square. Woods are square grids. Line of sight is based on squares. Fog of war is made from squares. It absolutely helps with the grid system for the actual gameplay and world creation, but it sure looks artificial. He really needs to add more curves and randomness to everything, such as walls, water edges, roads, etc., and make sure that repeated things such as trees don't just stand in the exact same spot on every single grid.

Which is why I've never understood the appeal of Minecraft and how it became so populair. In Jeff's games it's just the world that's made out of 2D squares, while in Minecraft absolutely everything is made out of big 3D cubes. Minecraft looks even more like crap than Jeff's games. Not just a little bit more, but that pile of crap looks much, much worse than Jeff's games. However, strangely enough Minecraft has become one of the most populair games ever. Makes you think why everyone wants to play this piece of dung called Minecraft without ever complaining about the graphics, while almost no one wants to play Jeff's games. I'd rather play his games than Minecraft.

I think getting rid of the squares shouldn't cost too much time and money and it'd make a really big difference. Just look at the screenshots on his website: In the top-left corner I see detailed images of the characters in the game, I see a detailed image (sprite) of a dragon being attacked in the middle of the map, I see detailed images of the characters attacking the dragon, I see detailed images of mushrooms and so on and on. Not everything is made out of squares. It's only (or mostly) the map. He's spend time and money on all of the other textures/sprites that are not square, so I can't imagine it'll cost so much time and money drawing some curvy images. Just take a look at Age of Empires. It too uses a map that's completely made up out of squares, but the textures that are placed on top of these squares have images of curvy coastlines. He already has textures of people, dragons, mushrooms, land, sea and all kinds of things, so why not create some textures of curvy coastlines, curvy roads and those kind of things that can be used to make one kind of terrain flow into another one? Instead of having just two squares with a texture of land next to one with a texture of sea, just use three squares where the one in the middle has the texture of a curvy coastline. It's just a few extra textures, but it'd make a whole world of a difference.

#8 nick68k

nick68k

    Heroic

  • IMG Writers
  • 404 posts
  • Location:Not here. But close.

Posted 23 August 2019 - 07:11 PM

I can see both sides of the argument here; yes, Jeff's game could (perhaps ungenerously) be described as 'looking like crap', but also Jeff has a family to feed, and knows what works (and sells) for him.

Personally I don't have a problem with the presentation of his games; I find the sparseness quite stimulating for the imagination, enjoy his writing and the world he created for the Exile/Avernum series in particular. That said, these are huge games, and you can quite easily spend years playing them. So much so that I haven't got around to Avadon yet. I'm also appreciative that these are games with very low system overheads and storage demands; they're made for MacBooks (compare with the 40+ Gb installations with the PoE series that'll also destroy your fan bearings).
You must gather your party before venturing forth.

#9 macdude22

macdude22

    Like, totally awesome.

  • Forum Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2280 posts
  • Steam Name:Rakden
  • Location:Iowa
  • Pro Member:Yes

Posted 23 August 2019 - 09:31 PM

Many fond memories of settling in with a cup of coffee and OG Avernum on an iBook.

Personally I THINK if he doubled the budget he could double his profit. But I look at the market and figure there's a 30% chance that's not the case and it would kill the business. If he keeps the cheap party line and his usual 100kish budget it's 95% chance he doesn't. Honestly I think when his kids go to college, if he's still feeling up to making games and who would blame him if he isn't, we'll see him take some real risks.

Or maybe he'll just write a novel. I'd read an avernum series.
IMG Discord Server | | http://www.trueachie....com/Rakden.htm
Enterprise (iMac18,2): i7 @ 3.6 GHz || 16 GB RAM || Radeon Pro 560 || 2TB Micron + 6TB Toshiba
Defiant (MacBookPro 9,1): Core i7 @ 2.3ghz || 8GB RAM || nVidia GT 650M 512MB || 512GB Toshiba SSD

#10 Frost

Frost

    Secretary of Offense

  • Forum Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6196 posts
  • Steam ID:CaptFrost
  • Location:Republic of Texas
  • Pro Member:Yes

Posted 24 August 2019 - 03:10 PM

I dig why his games look like crap, but if I had a few million or so to blow I'd still like to pull Jeff onto a Nethergate: Resurrection with Ryse: Son of Rome graphics just the same.
Kestrel (Falcon NW Tiki) – 3.6 GHz i7 9900K / 32GB RAM / 2x2TB Intel 7600p (RAID0), 2x480GB Intel 730 (RAID0), 10TB STX BarraCuda Pro / TITAN V 12GB
Iridium (MacBook Pro Mid-2012) – 2.7 GHz i7 3820QM / 16GB RAM / 4TB Samsung 860 Pro / GeForce GT 650M 1GB

Eric5h5:
When there's a multiplayer version, I'm going to be on Frost's team. Well, except he doesn't seem to actually need a team...I mean, what's the point? "Hey look, it's Frost and His Merry Gang of Useless Hangers-On!" Or something.

#11 Matt Diamond

Matt Diamond

    Uberspewer

  • IMG Writers
  • 2800 posts
  • Location:PA; US
  • Pro Member:Yes

Posted 26 August 2019 - 08:29 AM

I think the longevity of his business speaks for itself. Not many game companies have lasted that long, and I'm guessing the majority of individual game developers (regardless of whether they are solo or work for a studio) switch careers long before the 20 year mark.

Noone needs to feel guilty about liking or not liking his stuff. I personally love the RPGs made my big teams that look great, but I'm very glad Vogel is out there doing his thing. Just to know that, somehow, there's a solo developer who is still making it work gives me a weird kind of hope for the future that I can't easily explain.
www.mindthecube.com

Current setup: macOS 10.14.x/2018 Mac Mini 3.2GHz i7/16GB RAM/Sonnet Breakaway 650 eGPU w Sapphire Radeon VEGA 56 8GB