Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Avadon 3, Announcing New Games, and Facing Your Inadequacy.

Aaaaaand ... we're off!
We have just announced our newest game, Avadon 3: The Warborn!

It's the final game in the series! At last, you get to end the war, pick a winner, and decide who lives and who dies! (Though we are making sure that the game will still make sense and be satisfying even if you didn't play Avadon 1 and 2.)

It should be out in September, unless things go wrong. Completing this series will bring an end to five frenzied years of my professional life.

I wanted to talk about the game a little, for people who don't know about us, people who do, and people who are interesting in making games in general.

I'll try not to be boring.

If You Don't Know Who the Hell We Are ...

Hi! We're Spiderweb Software. Since 1994, we have created indie, retro, turn-based, huge, epic fantasy role-playing games. We specialize in games with intricate stories that give you a lot of interesting choices. We also like making fun game systems and varied combat with lots of unusual encounters and tactical options.

If that sounds cool, just stop reading this. Go here or here and download a big, free demo. We have always had the biggest demos in the business. If you like what you try, all of our stuff is on Steam.

If You Already Play Our Games ...

Thank you for your support!

We asked for a lot of fan feedback before we started Avadon 3, and we put a lot of it into effect. There are a ton of changes and improvements in this new game. Many long-overdue interface improvements. A lot of rebalancing and new abilities. Fewer trash fights and greater encounter variety.

I managed to generate some pretty decent screenshots this time around.
What Is Avadon About?

If you want the basic facts of the story, they are on the main game page, and I'm tired of rewriting it. (This is the sort of disciplined approach to PR that has enable me to maintain decades of consistent anonymity.)

I'm more interested in talking about the process.

In the 20+ years I've been doing this, I've always had one main habit: I write the sort of game I enjoy playing. They are always RPGs, because I am obsessed with that genre. It's a genre that allows for great variety. (And the basic, addictive elements of which have infected just about every other genre.)

Whenever I'm not sure what to do with a game, I always make the choice I would prefer if I was a player. It's a compass that has almost never steered me wrong.

When I decided to write Avadon, I'd just played Dragon Age: Origins, which is still, for my money, one of the finest RRPGs every made. It made me want to write a similar game: An epic story, full of intrigue, dark fantasy, and touch choices, set in a huge and complex world. I wanted the battles to have their own flavor, with lots of different tactical options and unexpected events, and in which movement and positioning are really important.

I think I succeeded. Kind of. I will say that I enjoy playing Avadon games more than I enjoy playing any of my other games. A lot of my fans don't care for Avadon as much, but that's ok. We write a lot of different sorts of RPGs.

Actual gameplay footage!
But I'm Ready To Move On and Feel Bad About What Has Come Before

Like many creators, I hate looking at the work I've done. Even if it's good, it still pales in comparison to the beautiful image I had in my mind when I began. Looking at the final work can be a painful process.

A painful process, but a helpful one. When you fail to do what you wanted to do, well, failure can be very educational. You just need to look hard and honest at you failures and see what you can do to correct them.

So, some things I'm unhappy with about the Avadon series.

When I was designing Avadon, I was very ambitious. Lynaeus, the continent on which the series takes place, has 5 friendly nations and six hostile nations, each of which has its own politics, history, and so on. I wanted to make a whole world.

In the end, however, I was just one designer.

There are so many factions, wings of government, conflicts, controversies ... Too much for me to keep track of, too much to fully develop. I wrote so much lore I could never find a place to fit into the game. There were so many locations I just wasn't able to give enough time to.

My eyes were bigger than my stomach on this one.

Also, i didn't put as much polish in these games as I should. Avadon 3 will have a lot of careful rebalancing and useful interface improvements. However, these changes should have been in Avadon 2. Honestly, a lot of these things should have been in Avadon 1 so I didn't have to fix them in the first place.

I have a good excuse for some of this. I'm only one person, and I'm getting older and slower. Still, a problem is a problem, and, if I'm asking people for money, I'm still responsible for flaws.

Finally, I've stuck with this particular engine, graphics style, and world style for too long. After I remaster Avernum 3 (our most popular game over the years), I'm going to do something way different. It's well past time.

Actual gameplay footage!
I Also Have Reached My Own Limits

However, the Avadon games have also reached the limits of what I am capable of holding in my single brain. They are the limit for how complex I game I can make without going mad. There's just too many characters, story threads, and so on. After a few months of keeping everything balanced and in my head and making sense, it gets exhausting.

One of the great pleasures in my job is finishing a game and being able to forget everything I've had to hold in my mind, ready for fast access. It's like putting down a heavy weight. I'm really looking forward to letting Avadon drift away. It's been like having to have a second family, only in my head. A weird, dysfunctional, non-existant family. I want it to fade away and leave a blank canvas, that I can fill with other fun stuff.

And, in Avadon's sprawling messiness, I think we made something really neat. Among all of the treasure hunting and epic battles, this is a story about running a fading Empire. You have borders to protect and unlimited power to do so. Will you be cruel or merciful? Will you be dutiful to your country, or will you focus on power for yourself?

Avadon 3 is full of choices, and your decisions will lead to a multitude of possible outcomes. No cop-out twist endings. It won't all have been a dream. We will make sure that the series caps off with a satisfying ending.

We'll be starting an all-new series soon. When we do, it will still be a big, complex game, but it will be big and complex in a different way. At the very least, there will be fewer than 11 countries for you to keep track of.

Back To Work

And that's all for now. Hope you like the screenshots and the trailer. If you're new here and like RPGs, we have 20 years of back catalog to tempt you.

Time to go write a few thousand more words of dialogue!


  1. Hi Jeff,

    I first started playing your games in 1996, when I was a 9 year old girl. Exile 3 was the first computer game I ever bought and also the gateway drug into my RPG addiction. I look forward to every Spiderweb release, and Avernum 3 in particular is making me squee (probably like a 9 year old girl) in anticipation. Thank you so much for creating all these amazing games! As long as you are making games, I will always support you.

    1. I also started as a kid with Exile 3! I seem to have lost the free time and attention span though, which sucks, because I can finally afford to buy Spiderweb games for my very own. :/

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who's start was Exile 3. :)

    2. I also started as a kid with Exile 3!

    3. Me too. Well, sort of... I'm pretty sure I'd graduated college by that point, so not so much with the kid part.

    4. Exile 3 wasn't my first game by a long shot, but my first from Spiderweb. I'm still buying them!

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  2. Thank you for all your work! The wait for September is going to be a long one :) I wish I could say that my own advertising efforts widened auditory for Spiderweb games (because I tell everyone who cares to listen how great they are), but it seems like people around me don't quite understand me :(

  3. It's very niche but I love your work and it's inspiring how long you've managed to keep it up. I love the dark complex world that Avadon creates and can't wait to see what's next!

  4. I look forward to seeing how things will change graphically in your next titles. I've really enjoyed what I played of the Geneforge series (and Avadon), but many of the titles that I haven't played look and feel so similar that I have trouble getting into them.

  5. I'm glad to hear you are going to update the engine. I like your games, but after a while, they do all sort of blend together.I would love to see you take on another genre (sci-fi , post apocalyptic, etc. ) Also, you don't have to do everything yourself. Why not bring on a couple people to help. I would love to work on these games with you and I have some experience.

  6. Love your updates, Jeff. It seems like you enjoy crafting the story, immersive world, and dialog in your games. It might be worth considering picking up an engine like OpenMW for your next game. Morrowind had amazing immersion and freedom, and now that there's an open-source version of the engine along with tools to create content for it, it might be a great way to bootstrap your next generation of games. It's fully cross-platform, but might be tough to adapt to mobile, though are there efforts along those lines underway.

  7. Thanks for the update. I too have been a fan of Spidweb since the 90's. And Jeff was part of my inspiration to pursue a career in software development.

  8. Thank you for being a creator Jeff!!

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  10. I'm kind of amazed at your ability to hold the story in your brain and follow all the threads. I'm sure you must have some mind mapping software or something! I just do a little interactive fiction and I always find it stressful to keep the threads and interactions held together. I'm amazed you can do it in a game that has pictures and battles and stuff!

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