Thursday, June 3, 2010

Avadon Developer Diary #1 - Where Ideas Come From.

Last week, after six months of hard work, we were finally able to announce Avadon: The Black Fortress to the world. Avadon is our next, all-new, Indie fantasy role-playing game. And, hopefully, trilogy. We're really excited about it. It's the first time in quite a while that we're doing something really new, and these monthly development diaries will say a bit about the new series and the ups and downs of making it.

So, for the first post, I wanted to write about where the idea came from. I am often asked where I get my ideas. So, if you ever wondered, here is one answer.

The First Idea

About three years ago, I saw that the Avernum and Geneforge series were drawing to a close, and I needed to come up with something new. This was, of course, both exciting and terrifying. Coming up with an idea that will determine the course of years of your life (and possibly put you out of business) is a stressful process.

About this time, my wife and I went to see a Hungarian one-act opera called Bluebeard's Castle. I am normally not a fan of opera. Exactly the opposite, in fact. But some friends had cheap tickets, and we had babysitting, so, you know, whatever.

And what was it like? Well, I will quote Wikipedia.

"The basic plot is loosely based on the folk tale of Bluebeard, but is given a heavily psychological reworking—some would say psychoanalytic or psychosexual"

So you know it was a totally fun time. As far as I'm concerned, an evening out is a failure if it doesn't involve the word "psychosexual."

Anyway. The opera is about Bluebeard, this incredibly scary guy who lives in this huge, dark castle. He brings home his new, young, pretty wife and is showing her around. His castle has seven doors, and he unlocks and opens them for her one after the other. Each door looks out onto some cool room or vista. Some open onto treasures. Others onto subterranean realms. Or far-away lands. (So this is already sounding like a Paper Mario game.) When each door is opened, they sing about it. At length.

So then they get to the last door. Bluebeard refuses to open it. His wife begs for him to. He refuses. This goes on for a while. Finally, Bluebeard gives in and opens the door. Bluebeard's other wives (!) walk out silently. They take his new wife and pull her through the door, which closes behind them. Bluebeard sings about how sad he is. Opera ends. Very psychosexual.

So I'm sitting there watching this, and what I'm thinking is this: Who is this Bluebeard guy? He's very powerful. Very rich. Has a castle full of magic doors. He mentions how he has great influence with the court. What's his deal? Where did all that wealth come from? What does he use those portals for? What is his day job?

And here was my idea. He's a warrior. Or an assassin. Or a spy. He can go wherever the king wants, and do whatever needs doing. Something needs to be found out? Some rebel needs to die? That's what Bluebeard does, and he is well paid for it.

Turning a Glimmer Into a Game

These ideas bounce around in my head for a few years, getting massaged into a more video-game-friendly form. And that brings us to Avadon.

In Avadon, the land of Lynauus is split in two. There is the Pact, an uneasy alliance of five nations, banded together for safety. On the other side is the Farlands, the enemies of the Pact, barbarians and monsters and old, crumbling Empires, kept weak and divided. But they long to get their revenge on the Pact. To put together armies and destroy these upstarts.

And the Pact is protected by Avadon. Avadon is a fortress in the wilds, a law unto itself, separate from the government. Its warriors are tasked to find problems when they are small and do whatever it takes to remove them. Avadon is ruled by Keeper Redbeard, the smiling, jolly, utterly ruthless master of the Black Fortress. He has been in charge for sixty years, though he doesn't appear to have aged a day.

As the game begins, you have just arrived at Avadon's gates. And you have found that, after decades of steely, unbroken control, things are going terribly wrong. Redbeard wants to see you. He needs a pair of fresh eyes, and it is a bad idea to disappoint him.

And that is where the new series came from. Over the next few months, I will say more about the world and the gameplay itself.


  1. Heh. I love how the opera got translated into the idea of Avadon.

    You seem to like the idea of 'agents working for a lands-ruling power.' Exile/Avernum, Geneforge, and now Avadon seem to have that theme. Actually, even Nethergate had that theme, at least for the Roman side. Reminds me, I need to go play Nethergate again.

    Rock on, Jeff. Looking forward to the next posts, and the new game.

  2. You know, Richard Burton started in a movie version of Bluebeard. There is an epic, epic I say, review of it over at (fabled bad movie review site).

  3. FINE. FINE. I'll buy it already! Stop mocking me with these teasers!

    (refreshes page to see if new teaser has come up yet.)

  4. Will there be a Linux version? I'm so tired of wrestling with Wine. :(

  5. Is the name "Avadon" chosen on purpose? It means "doom" in Hebrew

  6. @Yuval: I was not aware of that, though it doesn't make me like the name less. :-)

    - Jeff Vogel

  7. You might be interested to know that there was a short freeware indie game called "Judith" a little while ago that was inspired by the same opera. Although it's not really much of a game, more like a story that requires you to push some buttons to continue. Made by Terry Cavanagh and Stephen Lavelle.

    Check it out here if you're interested:

    Avadon sounds pretty cool, I'm looking forward to it.

  8. Sounds more and more awesome, and I'll definitely be there day one.

  9. Ah Blue beard, I remember reading that story (shortened version, with detailed pictures too!) in elementary school.

    I'm liking this idea, and am waiting to see where this will go.

  10. "He needs a pair of fresh eyes, and it is a bad idea to disappoint him."

    After all, you don't want him to get literal.

  11. This sounds quite interesting. It might be the first Spiderweb game I buy.

  12. Taking a setting/character from that opera and running with it reminds me of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Inspired by a poem he took the setting/character and created an epic story within a "multiverse". This has a similar feel, which is cool.

  13. Three years, hum? AND the months yet to came, programing.
    I am starting a project that will take that much before any results. I can relate to "exciting and terrifying"! I hope your game will sell much more than your best expectations.

  14. I already love the two character portraits shown.

    Please keep it as customisable as possible (so we can choose any face/gender for any class).

  15. I like the idea. I like the screenshots, the way you guys experiment with the hud and all. But please, please replace the new skimpy A6 minimap with the good-old one from A5. Or similiar. Just screw the tranparency! Details FTW!
    Sorry, i couldn't help it >_>

  16. Um, you've got some sort of Chinese spambots hitting the comment section there....

    That said, this form just asked me to do a word verification. So the problem has already been noted and acted upon? Or can the spambots read warped text and enter passwords now?

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