Monday, November 30, 2009

I Released A New RPG For the Mac

Spiderweb Software just released our newest game for the Mac, Avernum 6. And when I say Just Released, I mean I made it available about ten days ago. I haven't blogged about it yet because I am really, really terrible at PR.

But this isn't the worst of it. I am sending press releases to web sites today too. Why didn't I send them a week ago, like a sensible business owner? I forgot.

I mean, it's sort of expected that programmers and designers aren't so great at PR, but sometimes I'm amazed that I remember to breathe.

Anyway, Avernum 6. Despite my efforts, it is doing very well. So far, it is selling better than Avernum 5. Which sold better than Avernum 4. Which itself sold fantastically well. So I am pleased about that.

And yet, I have a lot of angst, because it is the last Avernum game. Avernum games have always been our best sellers, so it pains me to drop it, but, if I don't start doing new things soon, I will go mad. So I have to step off the sequel-train for a while for my mental survival's sake.

(Though, actually, I have a really cool idea for Avernum Zero. Basically I one-off prequel set in the years before the first game. Maybe in four or five years, if I think I can come up with something actually good, I'll go back to the well one more time.)

My main source of stress for Avernum 6 is system performance. I recently switched to more elaborate graphics that require hardware acceleration. This means that older machines and machines with quirky or flawed video hardware are falling off the back of the train. These people tend to make sure they let me know just how much they hate me and feel betrayed by me before they go. This tends to be accompanied by cheap shots about how graphically undemanding my games should be. Yeah. Right. Because throwing pixels all over your 1900 x 1200 monitor 30 times a second stops taking processor power just because it's not in 3-D. Look, I am a Cool Indie Developer, but I still have to obey the laws of physics.

On the bright side, Avernum 6 looks so much nicer than any game I've ever released. I went back and rerendered all of the icons, added shadows, and moved to a different system for storing and drawing icons. It does require more power, though I think the results are worth it. I really do need to move forward sometimes to keep engaged in the process. And many of my beta testers used Mac G4s, so I know the game can run on old machines. Not super fast all the time, but it works.

Anyway. New game. Bad at PR. I suck at programming. That is a good summary of the process. If you like Indie RPGs and have a Mac, I hope you give it a try. If you like Indie RPGs and run Windows, I'll have something for you in March.

94 comments:

  1. Congratulations on releasing Avernum 6!

    I am surprised to hear you consider it to look "so much nicer" than any previous game you've released. I really think Geneforge 5 has the best visuals among your titles. It was quite impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jeff:
    Suggestion for your next releases, specifically the demos. Put cliffhangers at the end of the demo. I've known a few of my friends to finish the demo, say "that was pretty cool" and not come back despite liking the story and gameplay.

    A6 is going to sell pretty well, all things considered, but for your next games, please seriously consider adding a captivating cliffhanger.

    On a less serious note, Avernum 6 plays very nicely. As soon as I'm not drowning in finals, I'm going to go buy it and gleefully destroy... I mean, save... Avernum ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  3. Question: why release for Mac first, and not Windows? Is their indie gamer market that much bigger?

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ mos: It's because porting from Mac to Windows is substantially easier than porting from Windows to Mac.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'll 2nd the congratulations! And I like how realistic and honest you are. That's what blogs are really about, imo. Sometimes, if your just a simple consumer, you can forget that a normal person, with flaws just like any other, is working day and night to make these games happen.

    Btw, I have a Windows system, and wondered if you ever considered pre-orders? I highly doubt it, and understand that it would ensue a whole new load of complications, but couldn't help wondering if you ever thought about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gotta say, your games are one of the few things that make me miss using a Mac. Be seeing you in March, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Though, actually, I have a really cool idea for Avernum Zero.

    Yes please.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am also holding out (in vain) for the Nethergate sequel (not remake).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I played Exile 2 back when you had to wait forever to download on (not even 56k) dialup. I've since played every Exile/Avernum game. I'm going to miss the series. I'll probably get sucked into the next thing you do.

    I feel like the cannon-fodder undead that your game's necromancers spew out.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hooray!
    Looking forward to this. Please release the Windows version soon. When are you going to get your development environment set up to release on on both platforms simultaneously?

    ReplyDelete
  11. When are you going to get your development environment set up to release on on both platforms simultaneously?

    Snicker.

    You don't want them simultaneously. He uses the Mac owners for beta testing (I kid, I kid).

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Calvin: "When are you going to get your development environment set up to release on on both platforms simultaneously?"

    Never. It only takes a few days to do the port, but months to get it properly tested. In the time leading up to the Mac version, I am so busy I honestly don't have time or. more importantly, room in my limited brain for the other job. The thought of another big task in the months leading up to release makes me want to weep.

    - Jeff Vogel

    ReplyDelete
  13. As a Windows/Linux user, still waiting for A6, but I have to say that judging by the screenshots you still haven't beaten Blades of Avernum for raw interface beauty.

    That said, I seem to be the only one who thinks this, but Blades of Avernum was a legitimately lovely-looking game. I'm not sure why but it fires some synapse in my brain that makes me feel like I'm looking at some really well-done piece of 18th-century woodcraft.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I hope there'll be a PC deal for Avernums 4-6, too. (I bought the first three games bundled together and just finished the third one last summer.)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jeff, why not task one of your workers to remember to remind you to do PR before the game is released? :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'd really love a change of setting, personally. I've seen tons of fantasy caves and cities, but what about a game placed in space with space stations, space ships, and planet exploration? It sounds big, but the small sections you enter on planets could be the new caves, space stations and sections of the planets could be the new cities, and you could try something you've never done before.... vehicle combat.

    I'm just a gigantic fan who'd love to see your plot expertise put to work in a sci-fi environment. The system could even work roughly the same, with technology as spells, electricity as mana, guns as bows, and laser swords as well.... swords!

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  17. It's so hard to decide whether I should spend the last of my student financial aid money on Geneforge 5 or Avernum 6. I guess I'll have to wait until march to decide :(

    ReplyDelete
  18. Haha!! Releasing music, I catch myself off guard sometimes, like "Oh yeah, I need to actually submit it for reviews". ;) I'm a terrible PR guy too, we oughta form a support group!

    I'm on windows too, so it'll be some time before I can try in vain to save Avernum! I've been thinking about getting into a mac system, but the resources just haven't been there for much of anything lately. :x I've also been trying to start programming in such a way as to make porting easier, but I need a mac before I can even joke about putting something out on it.

    Moving on to a new universe does have to be a bit "spooky" feeling, but I'm sure you'll great. I dunno how well something like this would do, but I've always thought a game centered around undead could be pretty cool and new. Not like Left 4 Dead, but YOU'RE undead too! There could be living stuff too obviously. I think your sense of humor could really shine in a world like that too!

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  19. "I have a really cool idea for Avernum Zero. Basically I one-off prequel set in the years before the first game. Maybe in four or five years, if I think I can come up with something actually good, I'll go back to the well one more time."

    I'd love that, really! I'm a sucker for world-building and side plots.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am sure you have a bunch of customers like me, who frantically check your website to see when the game is actually released, and don't need the PR. Somehow, my Thanksgiving/December is period is now associated with obsessively playing your games until I have done every single side quest. Will miss the series, but curious to see what comes next.

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  22. Jeff,

    My name is Kate Brown and I am contacting you on behalf of the Westwood College Game Design Program. http://www.westwood.edu/programs/school-of-design/game-art/

    I have a question for you about your blog.

    At Westwood College, we emphasize traditional 2D artistry, 3D modeling and animation, while students also learn how to apply critical thinking, logic, communications and problem-solving skills in managing challenges that occur in a game development environment.

    Please contact me.

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  23. As a Windows-user, I can't wait for the next game to come out!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Congrats on the release, the visuals are really improved this time! Looking forward to the PC release and all your future games!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ok, Jeff. I've finally been bitten by the game development bug. I too want to make a living designing games :)

    My passion for RPGs also runs deep--aside from playing D&D as a child, my first RPGs were Dragon Stomper on the Atari 2600 (via Starpath Supercharger) and years later, Phantasy Star II (Sega Genesis). Obviously, I am still hooked.

    I've been kicking around ideas for awhile, but I believe I finally put aside enough to fund development for an entire year. I will be developing my first RPG using the Torque Game Builder (TGB) on my new iMac. I plan to jump into game development full time on January 1st and am targeting a release date of November 1st, 2010 for my first game.

    I want to thank you for this blog. If it wasn't for your article "So Here's How Many Games I Sell" I wouldn't be comtemplating this.

    BTW, I own a copy of Avernum 4 on my PC (via Big Fish Games) and will be placing an order for Avernum 6 for my Mac shortly. Thanks for the inspiring words!

    --Scott

    ReplyDelete
  26. "Because throwing pixels all over your 1900 x 1200 monitor 30 times a second stops taking processor power just because it's not in 3-D."

    I know this is a bit of hyperbole spoofing the haters, but I still think there's a little too much truth to it.

    If you haven't taken a look at OpenTTD, you should. That game is the all-time champion of most-things-going-on-with-least-cpu-usage. It's just uncanny. Even on my vintage 2.4ghz single core laptop w/geforce4, the very busy title screen is only using around 20% cpu. It proves such things can be done.

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