Thursday, November 3, 2011

Geneforge Saga Now Available On Steam!

When Steam started to carry Avadon: The Black Fortress in August, it was a big thrill for us. The money, the prestige, the ability to feel like real developers. It's awesome. And it didn't stop there.

On Wednesday, Steam released another of our games. Well, five games. You can now go to Steam and, for twenty bucks (20% off the first week) get our entire Geneforge Saga.

The Geneforge Saga is a series of five huge fantasy RPGs, telling one epic tale of rebellion, war and devastation. I am immensely proud of these games. Sure, they are old and very low budget, and the earlier games have pretty rough interfaces. They're also genuinely innovative and cool, and I'm thrilled that a bunch more people can be exposed to them.

I wanted to write a little bit about them and what I think makes them unique.

1. The Setting

People often complain, with good reason, that role-playing games are too mired in fantasy. I have always lacked the courage to totally break out of the fantasy thing, but I've tried really hard to push it as far as it will go. For example, we wrote Nethergate, which was a fantasy game in an actual historical setting: ancient Britain under Roman occupation.

Geneforge was originally going to be science fiction, until I realized that it really would work better as fantasy. It is based in a world ruled by the Shapers, a secretive sect that used magic to create life. Intelligent plants, servant humanoids, living tools. The games are about what happens when the creatures they make to serve them decide to rebel.

The player is a Shaper, and the characters in your party will be loyal mutant monsters made by you. Older gamers play Geneforge for the story. Younger gamers play it because you get to have an army of fire-breathing dinosaurs.

It's a unique setting, and I think it's really cool. And, I don't deny it, I had several strong influences when I made it.

2. The Morality

The Geneforge games are very morally open-ended. I have long been annoyed with fantasy's over-reliance on characters who are all-good or all-evil. I wanted to write a game where you could play through the whole storyline looking for this guy who is evil, meet the guy, listen to his side of the story, realize he has a point, and join him. And I did. It's called Geneforge.

The Geneforge games are full of factions you can join. Some are sensible. Some are insane. Some are peaceful, and some are violent. Only a few of them are truly bad people, trying to do horrible things. I tried to be truly even-handed when making the factions. When writing them, I always had them make the case for their point of view as clearly and convincingly as possible. When I wrote a faction, I was really trying to convince the player to join it.

This is what I am most proud of about Geneforge: I have gotten many e-mails that said, "I loved the games, but I had one problem. I joined [some faction], but I thought you made it too obvious that [that faction] was the right faction and I was supposed to join it."  They were all convinced that I was secretly supporting their own pet faction. Hee!

3. The Open-Endedness

I wanted the Geneforge games to be as open-ended as possible. Play by yourself or with a group. Use magic or melee. Use combat or get by with stealth and diplomacy. Join the rebels or the Shapers. Even play as a pacifist and never kill anything outside of the tutorial. Writing the games to allow this much freedom was truly maddening, but the result was something unique. (And I had one very specific, awesome influence.)

Interestingly, this led to what I think are the games' greatest flaw. You see, to create paths through the world for different specialties, I made some routes that required serious combat skill and other that required lots of diplomacy or stealth or tool use skill. The problem was that, to make the choices meaningful, I had to make it so that not all characters could travel down all paths. I didn't want everyone to be able to do everything, and, for any given character, there will always be some zones they can't do.

Some players hate this. Hate, hate, hate it. To be told they can't defeat a place, it drives them nuts. Infuriates them.It's not the sort of design that appeals to all players, to say the least.

Old Games For New Gamers

Yep. They're old. They're rough. They're pretty ugly. But if you like Indie gaming for it's creativity and ability to take risks, they're worth a look. They're five huge games, an almost ridiculous amount of gameplay for sixteen bucks. And, if you just want a sample to see what's going on, there are five big demos on our web site. Hope you like them!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. For some reason only the Windows version is on Steam? Please, if there is anything you can do, we need SteamPlay enabled! ;(

  3. Was interested in this bundle when it arrived on Steam.
    But one thing held me back and I was wondering what your opinion was.
    If I am going to make the time to finally play one of your games then it should be your newest one as it should be your best one as well?

    SO in your opinion if someone was going to choose between them then is Avadon the obvious choice or is that like comparing Deus Ex to Halo.

  4. Yeah, what happened to SteamPlay?

  5. Agreed. I'd love to buy them, but not for Windows. Any chance of a Mac version on Steam? (yes, I'm a Steam-*****)

  6. That Geneforge was a sort of rebellion against the status quo is one of the reasons I love it. I've been playing RPGs and reading fantasy novels long enough that I now actively seek out the unusual. After your 50,000th dragon, they all start to blend together.

    Jonathon: It's not quite Deus Ex and Halo, but... actually, it kind of is. Geneforge is all about choice, while Avadon is more about combat tactics. Avadon does have an edge in graphics and particularly interface, but... c'mon, Geneforge lets you make an army of fire-breathing dinosaurs.

  7. Fire-breathing dinosaurs do sound intriguing...

    Been wondering how integrated are the plots. Do you basically have to play it in order, or would starting on the last one be doable?

  8. I picked up the Geneforge bundle at the October sale in 2010 and loved it.

    The grey morality was definitely a plus. I frequently had trouble deciding which faction to support and even after making the decision I always continued to have doubts about my choice.

  9. Sadly, technical issues kept the Mac versions of the Geneforge games from being available on Steam. Basically, the file format used by older Mac applications prevents the files from being transferred properly to the platform. We're sorry about this, but we'll make sure the Mac versions of all of our new games go wherever the Windows versions go.

    - Jeff Vogel

  10. Would it be possible to store the files w/ resource forks in some format/encoding that doesn't get messed up by steam and then extract them at launch (via a wrapper application if the application itself is a problem)?

  11. Is the source code of Geneforge too old for a quick recompile? If that is the case: awwwww... ;(

  12. For some reason only the Windows version is on Steam? Please, if there is anything you can do, we need SteamPlay enabled!
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  13. Another lesson in how valuable it can be long-term to own your IP. ^_^

  14. Very unfortunate about steamplay, the only thing that holds me back from getting it is the non-mac version...maybe some scheme where if you bought it from steam you can get the non-steam mac version or something similar? (ala Humble Indie Bundle where you get multiple keys for steam and non-steam)


  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Thanks, Jeff. Geneforge is yr. best creation. Really hope to see remake someday, not dumbed down remake, of course)).

  17. Any word on how well Geneforge runs under WINE?


  18. Wait, what are you talking about "some areas were just off-limits?" Making a character who could get through all the areas was not that hard, and given the mass experience involved from the multiple paths, was very, very rewarding. Then again, I always play RPGs with the difficulty turned up to 11, so maybe my perspective is off.

    I really enjoyed the Geneforge series, though. They were some of my favorite games. Y'all gotta give 'em a shot.

  19. Thank you Jeff, for these wonderful games. I have bought every single one of them, and it is these games that keep on bringing me back to your work.

    Avernum and Avadon are okay and all, but please don't forget to give Geneforge a shiny update when the time comes.

  20. Hi there,

    First off, I just wanted to say "Thank you" for getting your games onto Steam. That (and the fact that they're discounted) got me to buy them and I'm really looking forward to playing them.

    Would you be willing to release sales stats for the game now that it's on Steam?


  21. 'Wait!I can CHOOSE freely a faction in this game? Wait! This is not the standard-fantasy- setting-for-rpg-games?I can choose several ways to do stuff?This is incredible!'
    I thought this when I first played Geneforge.
    It was something unexpected.
    Avadon was okay, but a bit too much ...ehm..'Dragon-Age-ish'.
    Be original, Jeff. Maybe someone has a bigger budget and all, but good ideas are difficult to find,no?
    P.S.And your Miranda was FAR better.

  22. Wow I just checked out Wikipedia - it's TEN years since GF1 came out! I can't believe it's been so long.

  23. Hey Jeff,

    I must say I did smile when I saw the Geneforge series appear in the steam store :)

    I was just wondering if you had considered giving steam keys to people who had bought the games in the past, at least those who request it? I'm sure I still have my order numbers somewhere in my email archive...


  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. To get all 5 games for $20 is an absolute steal. Why are the individual games being sold at $20 as well?

  26. @Paul: Jeff wrote about the reasons in one his recent blog posts.

  27. @lordík: I don't think so, but do you have a quote? Maybe I missed it. He's talked about the difference between his website and steam but this is different. I don't see a rationale behind having a 5-game package and each individual game set at the same price.

  28. @Paul: I am not sure about the pricing status of the games him own website but on steam last I checked the individual games were not even sold separably but if that has changed Steam is rather renowned for pricing strangeness/errors.

    For example I have seen bundles that cost more then the sum of there individual games.

  29. Picked this up from Steam, even though I have the CDs lying around somewhere. Gotta give Spiderweb some Steam-y love and all :)

    Now, if only Jeff would fix Geneforge games to run in a window. Retro is great and all, but who out there is still running at 800x600?

  30. Either something changed on Steam or I was a moron earlier. It doesn't look like these are individually for sale at all. Maybe I was basing it off the search lookup or perhaps I did see it on the main screen. No matter, all 5 for $16 is ridiculous I have given Jeff my $$. Hopefully valve did not take a huge chunk!

  31. I think I actually bought Rebellion before, but it's hard to argue with that price.

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. Congrats on getting Geneforge on Steam!

    Actually, those 3 points you mentioned are exactly why I love your games and exactly what I've been missing in today's games. I mean, Mass Effect 2, for example, is still a superb game, but it's no where near as open-ended as Baldur's Gate or Deus Ex. Plus, choices are narrowed down into good/evil a little too much. I love that you have various factions which we join that transcend the typical good/evil duality.

    Keep up the good work Jeff.

  35. I bought Avadon and the Geneforge series on Steam the first week they were each released. I'm enjoying the hell out of Geneforge 1! It's so refreshing to have a unique setting in an RPG. Keep up the good work, man.

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