As Spiderweb Software’s fantasy epic hits its 18 year anniversary, the final game’s App Store debut is looming on the horizon. But it’s not just the second iOS release for the series, not counting Avadon as it’s a separate thing, it’s the final chapter to a second trilogy. That’s six games, total. And I was lucky enough to be able to ask series creator Jeff Vogel about it.
First and foremost, what made you all decide to create a role playing game in the first place?
I’ve been obsessed with role-playing games since I first learned to play Dungeons & Dragons, around 32 years ago. Sometimes there is something about a genre that just grabs you and doesn’t let go.
I have to ask, when you all began work on the first Avernum, did you have plans for a 6-part series?
Avernum is a rewrite of my very, very first game, Exile: Escape From the Pit, which I started in 1994. When I began it, I honestly thought it was just a hobbyist thing, and I didn’t look for one second past the first title. Happily, the world I created turned out to be very versatile and have a lot of stories in it.
And why six games specifically?
Two trilogies. I think three games is a really good length for telling one epic story. So the whole series is two almost self-contained arcs.
I imagine you’ve learned quite a bit from working on so many titles, and not just the Avernum series. Were there any particular bits of experience you’ve gained along the way that have been more useful than most?
I have learned so much since I started, and 18 years in, it feels like I learn more every year. Things about how to design, to code, to test, to market. It’s a huge, complex field, and there is no shortage of mistakes and foolishness on my part I need to correct.
In that vein, have there been things that you know now that you wish you knew back at the beginning?
I wish, when I started, I knew to pony up the money and find good freelance artists. I made a lot of the art in-house, and I should have had real people doing it. Especially the interface.
Have there been any unique challenges in developing any of the Avernum titles for iOS as opposed to Mac or PC?
Adapting from a mouse/keybords interface to a touchscreen was difficult and required a lot of thought. Touchscreens don’t work as well for hardcore, tactical games. Happily, people seem to be happy with the interface we developed.
I imagine iOS distribution is fairly different than Mac/PC. Have you found there to be any specific hurdles in releasing, selling, and supporting a game on the App Store?
Marketing. Visibility. It’s a hugely, HUGELY busy and competitive platform. It’s so hard to stand out from the teeming masses. Happily, we are about the only ones writing this sort of game for iOS, which helps.
Has there been more notable success on one platform as opposed to the others?
Avadon: The Black Fortress continues to do really well for us. I recommend it. It’s fun.
Now that the final game in the series is coming to iPad, might there be plans to bring earlier titles to the platform?
Yeah, a few. I’m adapting Avernum 6 now, and I hope to have it out in October. However, the older games use an old code base that would be extremely difficult to adapt to iOS.
On a similar note, are there any plans to make the series available for iPhone?
No. The screen is too small. I will need to rewrite the engine from scratch to adapt to it.
I hope to someday write games for the iPhone. I’m really thinking about it. But that sort of thing needs to be baked in from day 1.
Lastly, how’s Avadon 2 coming along? I noticed the little blurb about it on the website. Will that be available for iOS alongside the first one?
It’s going. Slowly. I want it to be out next summer, but I’m having a little bit of mid-life burnout. But it is happening. And it will absolutely be out for the iPad.