Thursday, December 15, 2011
Avernum: Escape From the Pit Is Out
We have released our newest game, Avernum: Escape From the Pit, for the Macintosh. As I have written before, it is a ground-up rewrite of one of our earlier games that desperately needed it. We've tried to put a lot of cool new graphics, design, and polish into it. A big demo is available, and the Windows and iPad versions should be out in April.
This is a rewrite of the first game I ever wrote for money, Exile: Escape From the Pit, which first came out in January of 1995. It has been fascinating to go back to my first full-length design. I'd forgotten how weird and silly my work could get.
A few examples:
Huge, Sprawling World.
Skyrim has provided a fresh reminder of how much people love a huge, sprawling world full of details, cul-de-sacs, and side quests to get lost in. When I started out, I made games like that. Avernum is really, really big. It's possible to wander out into the wilds, get lost, and be eternally distracted by all the stuff you can do and dungeons you can explore. I was heavily inspired by the early Might and Magic games, some of the first games that really tried to overwhelm you with a huge world.
I love games like this. However, writing them is difficult for the obvious reason: A huge world takes a lot of work and a lot of energy. I'm old now, and I don't have the limitless drive I used to. I tend now to write smaller, more focused games. Less terrain to explore, but with a more intricate story.
Three Game-Winning Quests.
I am constantly accused of never innovating, and this vexes me. I have worked hard to try new things in my RPGs and stretch the genre, and I've been doing this from day one.
Example: Avernum doesn't have one storyline. It has three. The game has three long, arcing, game-winning quests, each of them almost entirely separate from each other. It is possible to achieve one of them, say escaping the underworld, be told you have won, pat yourself on the back, and never realize that the game still has two epic storylines remaining.
They aren't three different endings. They are three different games.
I did two games this way, and I've never seen another RPG that does the same thing. I eventually let it go to focus on more detailed single stories, but I still think it was a really cool idea.
In my spare time, I have had some success as a writer of humor. My games have always had funny elements, some more than others. Avernum contains some bits that are so weird and off the wall that I could never see myself doing now. I don't want to give precise examples, but if you play the game for more than a little you'll start to see what I mean.
Years Pass. Nothing You Can Do About it.
Since 1995, my work has gotten a lot tighter, more controlled, and generally less eccentric. This has been both good and bad. It's also unavoidable. I'm older and more experienced now, and that sort of fresh, unfocused enthusiasm is just not available to me anymore. I still write good games (or, at least, games that sell), but my changing tastes and increasing age have made me unable to do some things and more able to do certain new things.
For example, if you tried Avadon: The Black Fortress and didn't like it, I'm sorry. That is the sort of game I write now. This will change. Five years from now, I'll do something entirely different. (I really, really want to return to open-ended non-linear games at least once before I retire.) But for now, that's it. If you hate my new games, then there is nothing I can do about that.
But, if you don't like the new stuff, I suggest trying Avernum. It's old-school, and it's really neat. I hope you like it.
(And I'll post a link to this article in April when the versions for the other platforms come out.)