Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Avadon Black Fortress - Can a retro rpg survive in 2012?

I have been playing a bit of "Avadon, The Black Fortress" from Spiderweb software. This is an unashamedly old school party based rpg that looks like it could have been made twenty years ago but hides a rich gaming experience underneath its ugly exterior. With its strong storyline and deep character development the game reminds me of the original Fallout and even Planescape Torment which is high  praise indeed. I have about twenty hours played and I am less than half way through my first play through so there is plenty of entertainment value in here.

Even as I was enjoying the game myself I did wonder if a younger audience would be prepared to see beyond the dated graphics and somewhat clunky controls. Happily Jeff Vogel the owner of Spiderweb software which created this game is a vocal member of the indie gaming community and he keeps an informative blog. Spiderweb is doing very well, thank you very much. Games like the Avernum and Geneforge sagas have been paying the bills since 1995 and they have actually seen a huge increase in sales since the recent release of their games on Steam and the Ipad. Perhaps the Steam buyers are old timers like myself but I doubt that is the case for the Ipad. I think it is safe to conclude that this is not just a nostalgia kick.

One of the most interesting things on Jeff's blog is following his reactions over time to the falling price of indie games. Spiderweb used to be a company that sold a small number of games at €25 a pop. Back in 2009 Jeff railed against services like Steam which were pushing the prices of indie games down to a few dollars. As Jeff says they were "creating the impression of insulting cheapness" through constant sales. Although Jeff maintained this line for quite a while he eventually gave in to market forces and experimented with discounted pricing on both Steam and the Ipad. Happily this was a success and Spiderweb appears to have successfully transitioned into a company which now sells a much larger volume of games at lower price points with overall revenues  increased. This sorted list of of Jeff's blog posts on pricing should allow you to follow the shift in Jeff's thinking.  Start at the bottom and work up for correct chronological order.

Many of Spiderweb's games are still $20 which puts them beyond impulse purchase territory for many gamers. They have sizeable free demo's however so just download one of their games and try it out to see if it is worth spending your cash. You can pick up a couple of the games on Steam for less than a tenner and Avadon itself is currently on half price sale so well worth it.

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