Monday, March 23, 2009

How Many Games I Sell, Part Two

The first part of this column, in which I gave the full sales figures for one of my games, Geneforge 4: Rebellion, attracted a fair amount of attention on the Internets. This pleased me. I really want this blog to be a useful discussion point for people interested in Indie computer gaming, and I'm off to an acceptable start. I'm not really doing this for sales. And, if anyone is curious, I only sold three or four more copies of Geneforge 4 last week than I probably would have otherwise. But that's all right, because it's not why I made this blog.

So, on to some more information and conclusions about the previous post.

Platform Sales Breakdown

We release all of our games for Macintosh first and then port them to Windows. The Windows version almost always comes out about three months later.

So far, the Windows/Mac sales of Geneforge 4 break down to about 55/45. Before that, it was about 60/40. Now it's about 50/50. Macintosh market share went way up over the last couple years, and this has helped our sales a lot.

Releasing games for two platforms has always been the key to our profitability. Porting games is free money, and it's awesome. I suppose this is the sort of thing we should keep secret, as it'll only get us more competition on the Macintosh. But, on the other hand, more games makes the Macintosh more viable as a gaming platform and thus attracts more potential customers for me. So I don't worry about it. Write Mac games! Please!

Was Geneforge 4: Rebellion a Success?

Picking Geneforge 4 as the game I released sales figures for was the right choice, as it really was in the middle in terms of sales for us. However, it created a false impression of how Spiderweb Software is doing. This business is more profitable than it seemed from looking at that one case.

Geneforge 4 cost about $120K and has made about $117K. Given current sales rates, it should be in the black in at most 2-3 months. After that, everything it earns is pure, tasty profit. And we will sell it in bundles (we sell a Geneforge 4-5 bundle already, and a Geneforge 1-5 CD is coming), making more money. So I don't regret the time spent writing it at all.

And it gets better. What was my reward for the year spent writing Geneforge 4? It wasn't just the cash. I also own the game! That means, in ten years or so, I can return to it, give it better graphics and interface, add a bonus 2-3 dungeons, and release it to a new generation of gamers. I've done it before, with my games Exile 1-3, Blades of Exile, and Nethergate, and the resulting products, since I didn't need to write them from scratch, were immensely profitable.

Don't underestimate the value of owning your own intellectual property.

Can This Success Be Replicated By Others?

Yes. But it is difficult.

I had two advantages with Geneforge 4. First, I already had a large and loyal fan base. New developers don't have that. Every game I write attracts a sizable new batch of fans, but the existing base is what makes much of our money.

Second, I was writing for a market, fans of single-player RPGs, that is painfully underserved. When you write your Indie game, you have to write a very good game, so good that it'll get the customer to pry the credit card out of the wallet. But, just as importantly, you have to write something that they can't get easier and cheaper elsewhere.

There are very few single-player RPGs these days, so I have a good market. But if you're writing another Bejeweled clone, even a really good one, you got your work cut out for you.

There is totally room for new developers to build a business. But you have to be good, and you have to be unique.

Is $28 a Good Price?

I think so.

A lot of people have commented that I should lower the game's price to $10. The idea that this would increase my profits is, I feel, purest nonsense. Bearing in mind that the percentage cost of credit card processing increases as the price goes down, and, to make the same profits from Geneforge 4, I would have had to triple my sales. Triple! As in, go from a conversation rate of about 1.5% to almost 5%. This is just not realistic.

Or, to put it another way, Geneforge 4 was the game where we raised our prices to $28. Our sales did not go down from Geneforge 3 (which was $25). They went up. A lot. And Avernum 5 ($28) sold a lot more than Avernum 4 ($25).

The Indie games market seems, pricewise, to be on a full speed race to the bottom. I will deal with this in more depth in a later post, but take this one thing away: I charge a fair price. I write big, good games (with 30-40 hours of gameplay, easy), and they easily provide enough fun to more than justify the $28. I will not be shamed into charging less, not when my dollars and cents bottom line is telling me that it's working.

Do Geneforge 4's Graphics Suck?


Does It Matter?


Look, graphics are expensive. Really expensive. We keep our costs low, and our games thus become profitable quickly. We've had some games that did worse than others, but I've never, in fifteen years, written a game that lost money.

And here's the sad truth. Suppose I spent a bunch of money, busted my hump, and wrote a game with graphics as good as, say, Eschalon. Then people who really care about graphics wouldn't look at my game and go, "Wow! He's really doing good now!" They'd go, "His graphics suck. They haven't improved at all." And then they'd go play Fallout 3.

Don't get me wrong. My next game, Avernum 6, will look much nicer than Geneforge 5. I've been working really hard on it, and there are a lot of improvements there. And the next game after that, which will have an all-new engine, will look even better. And you know something? Everyone will still say they look like crap. Big budget games will ALWAYS look better. I can't compete there, there's no hope, so I don't try very hard.

And, once again, I make good money overall. So who knows? Maybe I'm onto something. After all, I'm more profitable than Electronic Arts right now.

In Closing

Thanks everyone for the comments, kind and otherwise. I hope all of this was interesting and helpful. I plan to keep plugging away on this stuff on at least a weekly basis, hopefully in shorter posts.

Keep watching the skies, and support your local Indie.


  1. Thanks Jeff. Good to see your blog and the insightful posts. As a long time follower to your games, and a developer in Blades, I am glad to hear things are doing well. Keep up the good work.

  2. Well I can only speak for myself, but Ive found these posts quite inspiring.

    Im a young programmer just starting to get into hobby/indie game programming and to see a breakdown like this makes it feel very visceral... a quantifiable measure of what a successful indie looks like, with a heap of interesting pointers to boot (like the sections on ports and the under-serviced markets).

    My only wish is that there was some way to get a look at salaries without getting into privacy issues. It would have been nice ot be able to play around with the figures in my head, eg: "Well, Im only young without a mortgage and family, so I could manage with a lower salary and the break-even point would change like so..."

    A great read in any case.

  3. I didn't say you will increase your profits by selling your games at $10, I said $28 is a price point too high for me, at such money I would not be a customer for you.
    For $27.57 I could buy a Baldurs Gate compilation (BG1, BG1: TotSC, BG2, BG2: ToB) which I find a much better value for the money.

  4. bv-games is similar to me, I'm a young programmer who's also looking into the indie game scene. I have to say open source games have been a huge help, being able to play freeciv and then look at the source is just too cool.

    The one thing I'd really like to hear more about than any other subject is the graphics, how do you make the graphics you have, what tools do you use, how much time is spent on that versus coding. I understand code well enough, but the graphics side of games is a mystery to me.

    Great blog1

  5. I think your (supposedly) high price point is somewhat offset by the willingness to offer demos, and long demos too, by the sounds of it. I downloaded the GF5 demo yesterday... I have yet to find time to play it, but if it's good and I enjoy it, I'd rather spend my money on that than buying a new, untested AAA game for $60...

  6. May I suggest porting the games to Linux? You said that porting is basically for free, and while there are not as many of us as Mac or Windows users, there certainly is a market for Linux games aswell. Since hardly anyone else talks about it, I have no idea about any numbers, but for example the World of Goo-Makers said that when they realeased a linux version, they set a new weekly purchase record.

  7. Did the Eschalon devs comment on the game's Linux sales? I think they're planning to release their second game for Linux, too, so perhaps it wasn't a total disaster.

  8. Damn. I wrote a huge comment here and that damn OpenID implementation is so glitchy that it just dumped it all when I tried to post.

    Anyway the short of it is that I disagree that your graphics suck. I play high-end console RPGs and I don't want or need your graphics to look like that. Anymore than I want South Park to go motion capture 3D VR.

    Your games are enormously compelling and well-balanced, and the graphics are attractive, simple enough not to strain my laptop, and bright and clear enough to make playing fun. I HATE when game makers try to add a bit more "realism" and end up with blurry, fuzzy sprites.

    Like you say, big budget games are a whole different ballgame. But loads of people still play simple card games (the most addictive game for me ever is still Minesweeper, the only decent element of Windows ever) and it really makes little difference if the cards are some kind of virtual reality casino experience, a basic flat solitaire pattern, or even the ancient physical-world paper variety that some of us may remember, and even still use.

    Gameplay is what ultimately counts, every time. Particularly in an RPG. Gameplay, balance, character development. And a tonne of interesting treasure for those of us that bother to nook-and-cranny every last square and chest and barrel and cupboard of every single screen ;)

  9. Oh yes and I really think BoE should come to iPhone. Particularly now you could sell the extra scenarios in-game when iPhone OS 3.0 arrives.

  10. Nice to see you sharing my exact thoughts (just check my gameproducer interview which I did a few months back).
    Beside that, I want to play more SINGLE RPG games myself! I'm sick of MMORPG.

  11. Ditto on the gist of the "Linux, eh?" comments above, but on a somewhat more technical level. I'd noticed that Exile 3 was ported Linux -- was that just a total failure? And have you considered / are you now using a layer like SDL to easy portability?

    OTOH, maybe you don't need a Linux port to get the "Linux market." I played Exile on Linux using the Windows version under Wine and am now doing the same with Avernum. Maybe all you need for Linux support is to not do anything crazier than Wine can handle.

  12. Thank you for yet another insightful post!

  13. I forgot to ask. Do your other games allow customizable keyboard commands or windowed play? I'm not sure how much more development this would add, but I know it would be a huge plus for gameplay.

  14. Very interesting stuff.

    As a comment on your pricing, you're probably already cheaper than you could be; Your target customers* aren't particularly price-sensitive. People would be happy paying $50 if the game was what they were looking for (and the demo lets them see that).

    Price just isn't a brake on sales. I expect that the (deliberately) limited audience and (worth considering) the subset of that audience that have actually heard about the game are the main limit on sales.

    *Players of single-player RPGs who've probably already completed the BG series and want more.

    Andy Krouwel

  15. While I was (and still an) enamored with Eschalon and it's lickably retro graphics the way you extend out the tiles on Geneforge 5 blew me away. To me this is the way to do it, you can satiate folk like me with big 1680x1050 resolutions while maintaining compatibility with much smaller monitors. And I'll say it again, these aren't bad graphics, there's a reason people still look at games like Chrono Trigger and say man that still looks good. Sprites have an artsy, timeless quality to them that the latest 3D gobbldygook can't match. I'm sort of a nerdy completionist, so as long as I can get the latest game, disk, and Guide (you keep making those print guides *shakes fist*) for around 50 bucks I'll be happy.

  16. "For $27.57 I could buy a Baldurs Gate compilation (BG1, BG1: TotSC, BG2, BG2: ToB) which I find a much better value for the money."

    You can get those good games at that price because they already made back all their costs when they sold for full price. No one could possibly produce them even today and sell them for that price.

  17. We've had some games that did worse than others, but I've never, in fifteen years, written a game that lost money.

    I thought word on the street was that "Blades of Avernum" nearly bankrupted you. Is this incorrect? Is it in the black as well?

  18. I didn't say you will increase your profits by selling your games at $10, I said $28 is a price point too high for me, at such money I would not be a customer for you.
    For $27.57 I could buy a Baldurs Gate compilation (BG1, BG1: TotSC, BG2, BG2: ToB) which I find a much better value for the money.

    And his older titles sell in cheaper compilations too. If you want to wait as long for his titles as you have to had to play BG (assuming that you haven't played them), then go ahead. Internet distribution means that he can easily continue distributing the titles until they reach a point (say 5+ years) down the line where you might be willing to pay.

  19. Thanks for the great posts! I'd be interested in learning more specifics of how you develop games that are "free money" porting to Windows from the Mac. Do you use C++ instead of Objective-C, cross-platform libraries, etc?

  20. It can't exactly be free money since you are paying for 3 months of your time... but I see what you are saying.

  21. As I mentioned Eschalon in my comment to the last blog post, let me say, sure, there's always going to be people that compare your games with AAA commercial titles, and you can never rival those graphically, but I think there's more to graphics than 3D and explosions and stuff, even to people - like most buying your games - not focused on gfx.
    I don't think your graphics suck, they just lack a dose of crispness or something.
    That's why I quoted Eschalon.

    Anyway, I'm sure you'll work on graphics as other priorities permit, and like I wrote, personally, I actually preferred Exile's 2D tiles, so what do I know. ;)

  22. As far as price goes, I agree with those who say the cost means little. If you release a new intellectual property; not Geneforge, Avernum, or Nethergate-I'm going to buy it. It can be $50, I don't really care. For me, the stories are too similar so I'm waiting for a completely new game. I have only played the demo portions of the last few games, because there wasn't enough new stuff gameplay-wise to purchase the full game. Story means very little to me, personally, so the fact that G1 tells a different story than G5 doesn't warrant a purchase for me. I still hope to see more stuff from you, just waiting until it is all new. I'm sure I'll play the demo portion of A6. Unfortunately, if we're still dealing with the same world and the same groups of people, it'll be demo only. My 2¢. Now if A6 has a completely different skill system, spell system, weapon and armor upgrades, etc. that's worth $50 to me.

  23. I don't know what incentives you do (besides allowing people to finish the game) to get people to switch, but I think the most effective enticement for ID's Doom to get the remaining levels wasn't the extra levels.

    It was the BFG9000 and the plasma rifle.

    They were smart and made the socialization/viralization free (deathmatches), but the extra weapons and better opponents were key to the success of the game.

    As a single player RPG, you have class restriction, item restriction, party size restriction, etc. Lots of things you can do besides finishing the game.

  24. Hi Jeff.. I have been enjoying your recent posts and now, your software. You may have sold only "three or four" more copies of Geneforge 4, but I for one have started at the beginning with Geneforge 1. Looks like I'm about half way through and have had a lot of diverting fun with it. I'll see if the enjoyment level remains high enough to carry me through all the followups. Over a long enough period of time, I don't see why not. Thanks!

  25. This is a great article. I'm a programmer with a good bit of experience, but none writing games. Do you have any advice on how to get started down this path?

  26. I just tried playing Baldur's Gate last week and couldn't make myself get into it- the eyestrain was killing me. It is very difficult to go back and play on 800x600 resolution when you are used to higher. But I had no problem at all getting back into Avernum 5 last week... the graphic aren't necessarily "fancy" but they can do my native resolution and that is all that matters to me!

  27. "Maybe I'm onto something. After all, I'm more profitable than Electronic Arts right now."

    That makes me laugh out loud because it's funny and smile because I'm happy it's true!

    Small developers like yourself inject the sorely needed focus on gameplay and story that are later picked up by the big guys (and often neutered). I *still* fondly remember playing the original Exile on my ancient Mac because it was a great deal of fun and had so much depth.

    I'm just now returning to your games after a much too long hiatus and am looking forward to your new IP (to me). Keep up the good work, it's a pleasure to do what little I can to support it.

  28. Dammit.

    Reading this is making me want to buy more games from you. I miss playing Avernum 1-3.

    Expect to be rolling in my $50 soon.

  29. Honestly I disagree with your evaluation of whether or not you will make a profit if you reduce the cost of your games to $10 instead of $28. It's a simple fact that for $10, people are willing to try something out, and for $28, much fewer people are willing to try something out. You're using an old market model, and you are, I think, terrified of trying something new.

    Consider, for example, Steam's experiment with Left 4 Dead, where they halved the price for one weekend. Their sales went up dramatically, and many new users were attracted not only to Left 4 Dead, but also to steam itself. You can find the numbers yourself.

    This would translate, for you, into making a game for $10 a stepping stone to more of your games. Believe it or not, gamers do get more of the same, if they like what they saw. If people liked your $10 game and decide to buy more, then you get more sales, total, whereas if they didn't like a $28 game, how likely are they to come back and get more?

    Just because you've never done something before doesn't mean it's a bad thing =).

  30. Wow, more comments then I expected.

    I will definitely write more about the linux issue on a future date. The short version: We ported our most popular game ever to the platform, and it tanked. And my brain isn't big enough to learn how to program for a new platform.

    @crpgnut: Alas, I don't think I will ever please you. At the heart of it, storyline is what I sell. It is my strength, it's what my fans are after, and it's what I pour the serious time into. I don't replace my skill system, etc. every game because I don't like getting rid of components that already work well.

    @WDS: Thank you. Couldn't have put it better myself. Pricing to compete with decade old games in the discount CD rack is a sure path to bankruptcy. As worthy as those games are, my games have an advantage they can never match. They are new!

    @baizei: But I already give gamers a large demo they can use to try things out. Your logic applies well to the iPhone, where you're shooting for quick impulse buys, but I'm not sure it extends to the Mac/PC, where a demo culture is already firmly entrenched.

    - Jeff Vogel

  31. @baizei I'm not sure your logic pans out with me. Spiderweb offers demos that can contain upwards of 1/4 of the game. By that point you've either decided you like the game or not. Price may factor into that a bit but I'm not convinced selling the first game cheap to get them addicted works here since they pretty much get their taste free of charge.

    Now maybe 50% off weekend or something might work well, similar to the steam and impluse weekend deals. I find myself buying stuff just because it's a deal (and I even understand the psychology behind it and still do it). But spiderweb does have the traditional 10% off fall sale, however I think they might do well to offer a BIG discount on one game once a month or something. Might pull in a few new sales. I'm not convinced in this particular niche market if a huge discount would translate to the nececcary increase in sales to make up the profits though. Wouldn't hurt to try maybe. Offer Avernum 1 for 10 bucks or something for a weekend.

    Even barring all that, it's hard to argue with the value of the A1-3 bundle for 45 bucks. If you're even remotely interested in this type of game you're not going to find a better deal anywhere.

    As for linux, anyone who's followed Eschalon knows the quandary that has put the developers in. The increased support costs for Linux are staggering given the lack of standardization on the platform (as I see it Linux's biggest draw, openness is it's biggest downfall in garnering commercial support). Basilisk is constantly battered by linux support questions that frankly are often due to slight system differences related to different distros or builds. Regardless of your philosophical or technical reasons for choosing Linux as a primary OS (While I prefer the Mac, I could care less what anyone uses, if an Amiga does the job for them more power to them) it's hard to refute the argument that the support costs related with a commercial Linux product are much higher than releasing a Windows or Macintosh product.

  32. I think Avernum 6 should be about rebuilding the Tower of Magi, and then spending the rest of the game walking around the Tower of Magi. (Just kidding.)

    Thanks for this second part, I was reading a lot of silly comments about your last blog entry (such as on Slashdot) and it's nice to see you answer them.

  33. "For $27.57 I could buy a Baldurs Gate compilation (BG1, BG1: TotSC, BG2, BG2: ToB) which I find a much better value for the money."

    Or you might try Nethack, which is free. In theory you will not get more value for the money :)

    I think a lot of people just like to try different games and are willing to pay a reasonable price for them. They are not that worried about the amount of quality per dollar.

    I'm glad to hear that indie game developers can make a living doing what they love.

  34. Wow dude, thats a LOT of games!


  35. "For $27.57 I could buy a Baldurs Gate compilation (BG1, BG1: TotSC, BG2, BG2: ToB) which I find a much better value for the money."

    And then you can buy Spiderweb Software titles after you've finished playing them ;)

    There simply aren't enough decent RPGs around, particularly for those of us that go for the plot/story, and don't replay so much. The situation is even worse for Mac (though it's got a lot better).

    I don't know if such a company exists, but if not then I think there is a gap in the market for a brilliant programmer prepared to port older and "abandonware" games to iPhone. Many of the RPG titles on the iPhone are older games anyway, but they're perfect for it.

    The three I'd most like to see on iPhone are Blades of Exile, Jewel of Arabia and Systems Twilight. None of these are actually abandonware, but the last two may as well be, seeing as there aren't even OSX versions available.

  36. The graphics don't matter much. But the INTERFACE matters a lot. Compare Might and magic 3 or Zelda 1 with your latest game, you have a lot to learn and it's EASY and CHEAP to implement. Some quick hints: Don't require a keyboard, don't require a mouse (in mm3 and wow). Don't have a right click and a popup I have to close, show the popup on mouse over (wow) or on mouse down (mm3). Don't have walls of text, show a segment at a time, and a next button. Play a little Heroes of m&m 2, some zelda 1 and super mario bros, some wow and some might and magic VI, learn from their interface design decisions.

  37. Love your games. Played just about every demo you've made available. Look forward to anything new that comes out. Really enjoying your blog which provides some real insight into the work behind the games. I note you commented on the cheap graphics - the graphics have never held me back from playing your games because I thoroughly enjoy the game play and complexity of the stories. Thank you so far for the games you've produced and I very much look forward to future projects!

  38. Jeff, i admire the work you do! Thanks for sharing all this info, it is greatly appreciated.

    I'm on a "quest" myself, trying to find out wether going indie is a viable thing to do for me - and if so, how and when and why. I think i got the "why" pretty much covered by now. :)

    So articles like yours are incredibly valuable for me. I noticed a fair number of "how do i go about this?" comments here, so i'd like to link back to my current Indie Game Development research efforts. It's an ongoing thing, atm not more than a link list of a lot of interesting websites (blogs, sales, charts, e-commerce, portals, etc.) with a few comments - i do it mainly for myself but apparently there's such a great interest i started to share at least where i've been. My guess/hope is, the passionate and dedicated will follow my footsteps. Because unless you're willing to do that kind of research, you aren't going to make it as an Indie anyway, so i have no intention to make it particularly easy.

    Since people have been talking about graphics, i think if i would do a classic RPG it would look exactly like Geneforge. Meaning iso tiles with lots of cute little details, in the same style as yours. Don't know what style that is but it has that certain retro look i adore. I think of Angband tiles if i see Geneforge screenshots.

  39. About the Linux porting: I tried the windows demos of Geneforge 1, 4 and 5 and Avernum 5 on a 64 bit Linux using Wine 1.1.9. All of those except Geneforge 1 seem to work without a flaw, so the need for a port would not be that big I guess.

    Wine became quite stable meanwhile, and if there are no dirty OS-specific hacks at work for porting from Mac to W32 (I suppose this was the case with Geneforge 1) everything will probably work.

  40. Thank you for this blog! I'm personally preparing to break into the industry in one way or another and I'm now seriously considering taking the indie path. This blog just goes to show how beneficial it can be with a bit of hard work and dedication. I wish you the best of luck in your future projects!

  41. Wow! Came here via Jeff, I remember playing Exile and Exile II. Registering these was the first software purchase I made. Now, I am a few years into a software career, and don't play as many games as I used to; but, for those I do play, story and gameplay trump graphics any day.

    Keep up the stellar, high-quality storytelling and game production, and thanks for the memories.

  42. Thanks, another great article - honest and to the point. I'm looking forward to the next.

  43. @baizei:

    "This would translate, for you, into making a game for $10 a stepping stone to more of your games. Believe it or not, gamers do get more of the same, if they like what they saw. If people liked your $10 game and decide to buy more, then you get more sales, total, whereas if they didn't like a $28 game, how likely are they to come back and get more?"

    But there's a different problem: people who bought a $10 title could just say "now, that was fun; but what's the point of paying $28? I'll just wait until he sells another one for $10." And this could be disastrous.

  44. Forgot to mention: Playing the "newer" games (Avernum 4+) on Wine requires a SIGNIFICANTLY better rig than playing on Windows. The demo lags on my Athlon 3600+ with 3 GBs of RAM and nvidia 6600GT.

  45. @Erik

    Personally I prefer walls of text over text that I need to click through. Because at least then I know that that part of the conversation is over and it wastes a lot less time. Conversations that I need to click through usually end up with me clicking through everything and then not actually reading anything.

  46. Have you ever considered selling on a platform like Steam?

  47. crpgnut: "Story means very little to me, personally"

    You aren't Jeff's target audience. Jeff's games are all about story.

  48. Hi,

    "The Windows version almost always comes out about three months later."
    -Yes, and we the windows user suffer big timeee!!! :-)

    If you type "geneforge" in Youtube there's a couple people recommending your games!
    I hope spiderweb games' sales get even better in the future so we have more entertainment and addictive games for a looong time!!!

  49. Jeff - I'm not surprised that your last game for Linux tanked! - that was _years_ ago and back then Linux had almost no market share.

    Today, you can buy Linux laptops from Dell all set up and working already, and there are quite a few netbooks running Linux (e.g. eeePc). It's market share is still small but really starting to take off. It's a completely different story from even a year or two ago.

    Gamers are also starting to move over to Linux - WINE is starting to get good enough to run many games.

    If you use a cross-platform base (e.g. SDL as someone mentioned) a lot of the work is removed. It's really worth exploring this - even if you didn't develop for Linux for now you might well even find that this saves you time when porting.

  50. @Ian M: "Today, you can buy Linux laptops from Dell all set up and working already, and there are quite a few netbooks running Linux (e.g. eeePc). It's market share is still small but really starting to take off. It's a completely different story from even a year or two ago."

    Very true, and it hasn't escaped my notice.

    However, my future games will be utilizing the graphics card (not a lot, but some), and most of those linux laptops seem to use the GMA and other low-end graphics processors, which means that it's up in the air whether my games would run at all on those new machines.

    I totally applaud this path putting Linux on more desktops. Go, Linux. But they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, gaming rigs.

    - Jeff Vogel

  51. As for netbooks, there's a problem for example with the MSI Wind: it is more than capable to deal with e.g. Avernum 4 in terms of CPU & RAM, but the game doesn't launch because the maximal vertical resolution is 600. (This was discussed in the Spiderweb forums and iirc no solution was found, even though the game was supposed to run at 800x600.) I'd say indie games should be perfect titles to play on a netbook, and I actually played a few adventures as well as some pretty demanding DosBox titles on the Wind; pity about A4. I wonder if other "newer" Spiderweb titles share the same fate.

  52. Great post Jeff!

    You're releasing a CD of Geneforge 1-5? When will that be?

    I'm interested in buying all the Geneforge games (already have all the Avernum ones) and was going to buy the CD of 1-3 and then 4-5 but if I can buy them all together that would be awesome.

    Also, I would totally disagree that the graphics suck, I love playing Spiderweb Software games and have never had a problem with the graphics.

    Keep up the good work! :)

  53. I prefer to look at Jeff's games as a sort of choose your own adventure sort of novel, but instead more digital and interactive. It has always been the brilliant story that's sucked me in and to be able to get immersed into 30 to 40 hours into a digital novel for only $28 dollars is definitely a great buy.

  54. Jeff -

    I really enjoyed this blog.

    I run my own business, and like yours it is extremely niche. In many ways your story and point of view is very similar to my own, and yet we are dealing with a very different format.

    I started out running a punk rock/hardcore record label, and eventually found myself doing a distribution company for other small punk rock/hardcore labels.

    I have been very successful, and the key has been knowing my niche. The real world sees growth as constant necessity for success. But sustainability is far more important in my opinion.

    My business no longer grows, but that is more important than growth.

    I have never had a release sell more than 13,000 copies. In the real world selling small numbers like this would be considered a failure, but giant corporations selling millions and millions of copies is a rather recent trend in business.

    Small businesses like ours were once the norm.

    In any event I applaud your efforts.

    Spiderweb Software is successful as BOTH a business and as a vehicle that allows you to make the games that YOU want.

    That can't be over looked. Autonomy has a value just like $$ does.

  55. Hmm, on the graphics issue, would you consider soliciting or accepting art from normal/non-professional people? Not that all (or any!) of them would be any good, but it seems like a possible solution to the 'graphics are expensive' problem.

    Given the enthusiastic nature of the fanbase and the broader indie community, it seems quite possible that there's plenty of people out there willing to do this for free, and not tie you down with restrictive licenses in the process, just for credit or kudos or playing a prettier version of games in the future. Something like Battle for Wesnoth, which admittedly is an altogether different sort of project, shows that decent artists do exist out there who are willing to do things for free.

    Would this be something that would seem possible for Spiderweb Software in the future?

  56. "However, my future games will be utilizing the graphics card (not a lot, but some), and most of those linux laptops seem to use the GMA and other low-end graphics processors, which means that it's up in the air whether my games would run at all on those new machines."

    Even though integrated graphics is still far behind actual cards its still pretty decent. Most of the netbooks use Intel GMA 950. While it does use the CPU for vertex processing, it has hardware pixel processing. And since your games are 2D, you're likely not pushing a lot of vertex data to the GPU. Thus I'd say its a good bet your games would run just fine.

    Of course you won't really know unless you try. My advice is find someone who has an ASUS Eee with Windows XP and see if they'll spin the game up and tell you how it runs.

  57. I'm a young programmer who just finished school, in fact what made me interested in programming was the 1st Nethergate when the windows demo was released... I'm 21 now, so i was very young at the time. I've always had relatively low end computers, and never really cared about the graphics as long as the gameplay and story are good. Could you give me some advices about making games?
    Thanks for your insightful posts, Jeff

  58. Your newest game won't run on my Mac. I've bought every one of your games (well, 95%) and they have all worked fine and given me hours of enjoyment.

    Can't you make this game work on a Power Mac? All your others work just fine on it.

    Write a patch. Wave your magic wand. I don't want to lose a good source of RPG games, and you really don't want to lose a loyal customer either, do you?

  59. I like the sound of your games using graphics cards a little! (don't worry, I'm here for the story, graphics is mere icing)

    I also like FZ's comment a couple of posts ago, you could make a general appeal to your user base for graphics, in exchange for credit + reduced price copy of the game, (i.e. x$ per graphic used) + a better looking game!

    I think people would do it just for the sake of a better looking game - I would, but the credit and reduced price would be a just (? ~ mind blank on a better word here) response.

  60. Jeff,
    Your games have the best storylines of any games I've played (I'm too young to have played anything older than Avernum 3). The current generation of games leans heavily towards graphics, but I'd much rather play a game with a great story than look at pretty things for a few hours, then get bored. Keep up the good work!

  61. Hi Jeff.
    Happy to see you have a blog as your ironycentral page is pretty much dead.
    BTW, I'm a fan. Not of your games, but of your book and satire. Now, for the question: is it more profitable to write games or to write books? How did The Story About the Baby sold? It's really one of my favourite books: I first read it just for laughs, now it is my baby raising bible ("Is the child covered in ants? The Story About the Baby says it's perfectly normal" or "What the hell, let's give the baby ice cream. After all, The Story About the Baby says it's just like yogurt without the bacteria...").

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  63. Avernum is a great series, even if there is the liberal theme present in some of the later storylines.

    Regarding the $28 v $10 question, I believe $28 is the way to go. People see $10 and associate it with low quality. Someone who is willing to pay for quality content will pay the $28.

  64. I really wish there were some people who would not use isometric graphics. Is there really some sort of efficiency benefit or cost benefit as opposed to 2d overhead view? (Ex. Secret of Mana or Legend of Zelda). I understand not doing 3D, thats expensive, and how often do 3d games age well? While sprite based 2d games are still played. I'm not trying to troll here, I'm just curious if its anything other than an ascetic decision (which is the reason why I can't play isometric games... just not my thing.)

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