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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
 
Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel Interviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment

RPG Codex recently published the results of an interview with Spiderweb Software's Jeff Vogel. The 25 question interview touches on a variety of topics including his game design philosophy, upcoming additions in Avernum 6, and whether or not RPGs are a good environment for showcasing in-depth tactical combat.

5. How about Avernum 6? What changes are in the pipeline for this one? Will character creation see any changes?

The game engine will be much the same. Character Creation won’t change much. If it did, it wouldn’t be Avernum. I’d get a lot of angry E-mails.

Much of the work for Avernum 6 has gone into the graphics engine. It will be the nicest looking Avernum game by far. And, of course the story. Avernum 6 has a really cool and detailed story. About the end of Avernum.

6. One gripe of many Spiderweb fans is that combat doesn’t offer enough in the way of interesting tactical choices for non-spellcasters. Battle Disciplines in Avernum 5 partially addressed this. What other changes (if any) are in store for the combat system?

I get a lot of suggestions for how to add “depth” to the battle system. Most of them, frankly, aren’t very good. Stuff like, “Oh, I see the monster is using a power attack. I’d better press the Block Power Attack button. There. Done.”

It’s a turn-based game with small-scale combat. To be honest, there is only so much tactical depth you’re going to get. And, heck, please point me to an RPG that has rich and varied tactical combat, because I’d sure like to play it.

As RPGs go, I think the Avernum games have a really good variety of challenging fights and tactical situations. But if you want lots of tactical choices, single-player RPGs, any of them, are really not where you should be going. That isn’t what the genre is about. And, if I had big, epic, chesslike battles where you had to think about your battle plan until sweat poured down your face, a huge portion of my fans wouldn’t like that. At all.

...Look, in a turn-based RPG, with a small number of dudes fighting a small number of dudes, there isn’t much in the way of tactics that is possible. The math isn’t there! I think you’re wanting something closer to chess. Sure, chess is complex, but that’s sixteen pieces on sixteen. For a single-player RPG, the fun is in the story (on a high level) and the stat building and lewt finding (on a low level). The combat is a means to an end. So make it fast and lively, end it, and get on to the next fast, lively combat. I do put in fights with odd tactics, generally weird or boss encounters. It’s nice variety. But combat is still the means to an end.

If you really want tactics in an RPG, play chess and give your pieces cute names. Like, “I declare, forsooth, that Queen Zzelma, my 18th level Rogue-Paladin, doth move 4 spaces diagonally in defiance of the Darkbeetle Empire. Hark, she hath slain a Knight, and is thuseth Level 19. Huzzah.” Chess is about quality. RPGs are about quantity.

The whole structure and pace of RPGs is based on having many small fights, occasionally interrupted by a big one. Everything people like about the genre comes, in some way, from that. And small quick fights can't have strategic depth. Because they are, after all, small and quick. Prospective designers ignore this at their peril.

Read the full Q&A at the page listed below.

RPG Codex: Jeff Vogel Interview
Spiderweb Software


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Archives  News  Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel Interviewed