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Trenton.

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I miss this place. Is there any chance at all that Spiderweb will come back alive? It only made a blimp when A:EFtP came around.

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Late July to early August is traditionally the lowest posting month of the year back when Lambda Closure (Arancayatar) posted the monthly posting stats. School hasn't started and there is no new game.

 

If you have a Mac, Jeff is looking for beta testers. Not that you can talk about what you see, but it does keep you busy.

 

There just isn't as much to talk about here.

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There is little in the way of flaming and Blades is all but stagnant, so I doubt there will ever be a huge spike in activity, unfortunately.

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The death of this community has been predicted numerous times since at least 1998. I recall the days before Spiderweb hosted its own forums, when the primary place for our community to interact was Aceron's (you still reading this Aceron?) forums and there would occasionally be posting droughts (no posts, not a single one) for days. Those were depressing, especially considering we didn't really have now over a decade and a half's worth of history to inform us that these were temporary blips of inactivity.

 

So yeah, things are pretty quiet right now for reasons others have said. Nonetheless, we've seen much quieter times before. Expect a bump after summer and a flurry of activity in the weeks following the A2 release.

 

Moreover, I don't really see this community fading away until Jeff finally decides to retire. People go, but new ones arrive.

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There are two things that keep the boards lively.

 

The first is Jeff creating content. A game gets made and people talk about the plot, make wishlists for the sequel, find ways to minmax, and ask for hints.

 

The second is the users creating content. This thread is an example, but it's the kind of shortsighted content that doesn't go far. People will say, "Yep, this happens. It'll get better," and the thread ends after a short discussion. The other extreme is something that spawns continual investment and even spin off threads. I'm not particularly a fan of them, but AIMhacks are an example. (Is that what Bloodstained Sky even is, or has that format been abandoned?) Debate threads are another example. Play-by-post RP's, games of Mafia (Avernum-themed "Darkside Loyalists"), and others, which have all been variously popular here, are yet another.

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I have a slightly different view. I think the history makes it clear how much less activity there's been here over the past 5 years or so. It's not going to die completely, but it's been very quiet for years now, and that shows no sign of changing.

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The only thing that pulls me to this board is my total posts, and some people who need tech support

 

and if I need some answers to a question

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Maybe, but there was a year-and-a-half gap at one point during the heyday of the boards, too.

 

We talk about this every so often. I think the two clear contributors to this effect are (1) not having a massive scenario design community, and (2) changing habits (some generational) as regard the use of forums versus social networks and other internet socializing.

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No argument that things have been quite a bit slower in the last few years and the issues you identified have much to do it.

 

Trenton's original post implied that the community is effectively dead. I disagree with that statement. And my point being is that it has seemed a lot worse in the past and yet the community is still here and doing fine, albeit not as strong as it once was.

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Personally, I've been too busy to post much (or at all) the past year, between finishing grad school, starting a new job, and kids growing up and having more activities ... but I still skim the boards every week or so, and once A2:CS comes out, I'm sure I'll start posting more regularly. I imagine plenty of others who've been eagerly awaiting it will start to show up more regularly as well.

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clearly the solution is for everyone to go play blades

 

go on, then

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I really wish I could say why Blades of Avernum never took off like Blades of Exile seemed to. Unlike the sequel to Neverwinter Nights, my all time favorite "module" based game, I didn't think Blades of Avernum wasn't bad or unworthy at all.

 

Still, from all sources I've heard, it flopped with enough force to yield a "NEVER AGAIN!!!" from Jeff's end.

 

Then again, I also remember him saying something to that effect about having to re-re-RE-do the Tower of Magi... and then Avernum 4 happened, so... who knows, maybe someday?

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making a scenario in BoE is easy. Like, really easy. Making a good one is harder, but even making utter crap is pretty simple.

 

There's a much higher bar for BoA. You have to at least know the basics of scripting, how programming works, to be successful in BoA. Even if it's not that much harder than BoE, it's still going to draw a lot of people away. BoE was successful because any fool could smash a keyboard for a week and have something playable. It'd suck, but it'd be playable. Due to how BoA is set up it's a lot less forgiving, so a lot less people designed for it. Less scenarios to play means less people buying the game.

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And, as I frequently point out (I'd find a post to quote myself to fit with my gimmick but I'm too lazy to do so), BoE was based off the E3 engine, which was one of Spiderweb's best of all time. BoA was based off the A3 engine, which was one of Spiderweb's worst — for my money, it was actually the worst — of all time. So you didn't have to try very hard to make passable combat in BoE. You have to work at it pretty hard to make passable combat in BoA.

 

Add to that the fact that painting BoA towns takes longer — floor and terrain and height, not just floor — and learning scripting, and the difficulties of working with the tools as they were released (before the 3D editor, before Alint, etc.), and you have a hell of a time making a scenario back in 2004.

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A bit of data regarding BoA:

 

The Randomised Scenario Contest forced people to fill out a form in order to participate, so not only do we know how many people finished a scenario (7), we also know how many people intended to finish a scenario (21). It's not clear on how indicative these stats are: it was a wonky concept, maybe people got discouraged by their assigned description, maybe non-designers signed up out of curiosity. But as far as I know, it's the only time we've gotten an idea of how many people set out to make a scenario -- we've seen failed hype threads before, but we never see the people who silently start a scenario and just as silently quit.

 

I don't find these numbers too unreasonable: there's a reasonable amount of people who want to design, but only a third or so finish their projects. This is nothing new. I'm curious what the numbers would have looked like for BoE, both the number of attempts (how popular the game is) and the percentage of attempts completed (how difficult designing is).

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I really wonder how many people are just lurking instead of posting. I, for one, post far less than I used to, in part because I'm not really playing the games anymore. I still lurk several times a day, though.

 

I'm new here and I when I joined I was kind of surprised at how few subforums there are. I've been joining a bunch of indie developers' forums (finding internet homes after leaving Reddit) and most of them have several different off topic forums for things like debates, other games, etc. Those subforums keep the community alive between releases or when people aren't currently playing the developer's games. Maybe something like that would be good here. Then again, maybe that would cause this forum to lose focus and make the community bad.

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In theory "General" pretty much covers most things people would want to talk about so long as the discussions remain civil and do not stray into things like cracks for Jeff's games, illegal activities, or not family friendly things that would scare off Jeff's customers. I'm not convinced personally that having separate subforums for different types of non-Spiderweb discussions would really help.

 

On BoA, agree with what people have already said. Jeff released a product that was difficult to use with a subpar engine. Sales were poor and almost tanked this place. It's too bad, because Jeff will never try anything like that again, even though, IMHO, if done right it could really spur activity here.

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It's been about 10 years since I joined the community - I was in my teens for a good portion of the time it was more active, and feel I missed out on some things. While I'll admit some things I don't miss (i.e. excessively negative members/comments), I do miss things such as discussing scenarios.

 

I've enjoyed working with the scenario editors, but if no one's playing the games, I hardly see the point. That being said, I feel that my skills lie more with interpreting information than creating, which is why (IMHO) my OG&E port turned out better than any of my scenarios.

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Having a scenario design community also really helped the broader community. I suspect this comes from the level of investment one has to put in to make a high quality scenario. This investment of time and effort often translates into having an emotional investment into the community of people who play it. For much of the history of this community, the scenario designers and the fans of the scenarios formed its nucleus. Most of them are gone now because life moves on, and we're seeing the effects of it.

 

A new Blades of Avernum could work to revitalize this, but it would be tough to pull off. Blades of Exile hit the sweet spot in simplicity of design but offering enough power for some incredible work. Blades of Avernum had a lot more power, but the learning curve was too high. A Blades of Avernum remake, which is not going to happen, would bring back GUIs for writing dialogue/narration, nodes, etc. that would write the basic scripts for a casual user, but leave the scripting options open for a more advanced user to do really great and unique things.

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Having a scenario design community also really helped the broader community. I suspect this comes from the level of investment one has to put in to make a high quality scenario. This investment of time and effort often translates into having an emotional investment into the community of people who play it. For much of the history of this community, the scenario designers and the fans of the scenarios formed its nucleus. Most of them are gone now because life moves on, and we're seeing the effects of it.

 

I think the problem is that (1) without an active community, no one's really interested in participating or making scenarios, and (2) the inactivity discourages many from designing, and (3) we're back to (1). I'm not sure how many people are playing the Blades games at this point. I agree that a new Blades game might spur activity, but if history is any indication, a new Blades game won't help BoE or BoA get off the ground again. The thing is, Jeff has to make games that will sell, and can't worry about creating an active community if it doesn't help his sales.

 

I ported Alcritas' Of Good and Evil to BoA recently because I liked the story (more than almost any new movie I've seen, for sure) and wanted more people to see it, but BoA nowadays doesn't have such a large audience either - while it did sell poorly, there was a time where, lots of people talked about BoA on the forums and were eager for new scenarios.

 

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that a remake of BoA (or reprogramming it to make designing easier) will bring many new players in. Maybe a new Blades game in the new engine would revitalize a community for a short time, especially if the design process was easier, as *I mentioned.

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BoA sucked. Empirically speaking, that is, in that it almost did Spiderweb in due to its low sales. As a result of that, Jeff has said that he's not going to make another Blades game.

 

Of course, Jeff has gone back on his word before, such as when he made the second Avernum trilogy, but I feel like this is a more deep seated taboo for him. Making an easy to use design engine isn't easy, and the reward is limited. Moreover, as time goes on, both Blades games get less and less appealing to the general audience just due to age and old engines. I'm definitely not predicting any sort of Blades revivalism. If I were, it would only be a small bump from Jeff releasing the BoA code like he did with BoE.

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plus, barriers to entry for independent game design are as low as they've ever been -- a lot of people who aren't married to old-school RPGs as a genre are going to ask themselves why they should design for Blades when they could make something in Twine or Construct 2 or Ren'Py or whatever and potentially reach a much wider audience

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If it's complicated to do anyway and requires scripting then yeah, there's no point in making an "editor" when there are so many great alternatives.

However, if you have a niche and create a very limited but super easy to use editor, then that's still much better than using the more general editor that take longer to get into.

 

What I really would like to see in that regard is some kind of SRPG maker that is as simple as defining hero growth/skills, monster stats and then placing heroes and monsters on a map and then let them fight SRPG style (basically already like the current spiderweb engine does it, just with more heroes and monsters) and then the possibility to chain these battle scenarios together. Something like that really doesn't seem to exist yet at all. Easiest way would be to use an RPG Maker and apply scripting and that's not only pretty complex to do but also ends up being fairly glitchy to play.

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BoA scenarios are just that, scenarios. Not being standalone, they can't be played independent of a paid copy of BoA and are therefore limited to the BoA subsection of the SW community, which includes those like me who only open up BoA like once in two months.

 

plus, barriers to entry for independent game design are as low as they've ever been

 

My favourite links for a comparison of game engines and where to deploy them.

 

If it's complicated to do anyway and requires scripting then yeah, there's no point in making an "editor" when there are so many great alternatives.

 

I've noticed that interesting games (and most of the really good BoA scenarios I've played so far) always require some level of scripting, and the visual drag-drop logic that most game development kits offer as an alternative are clunky and limited.

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It only made a blimp when A:EFtP came around.

 

4e4ba8d6db163.image.jpg

Edited by Lambda Closure
(that was actually a zeppelin)

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I've noticed that interesting games (and most of the really good BoA scenarios I've played so far) always require some level of scripting, and the visual drag-drop logic that most game development kits offer as an alternative are clunky and limited.

If you don't want to be limited then yes you need scripting.

However if there are engines for very specific types of games that people actually want to make, then they can do so without scripting. And those are usually much more popular because they are easier to access.

 

Just think of the Warcraft 2 map editor if you still remember that one. It's very limited, you can only do Warcraft 2-like games, didn't even allow scripting, but still hundreds of people used it and some even managed to do some unique maps with the limited abilities of the editor.

If I compare that to the Starcraft 2 editor which is a lot more complex, I get the feeling that a lot less actually playable maps are created with it, because it's just too much work.

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I have been amazed at how well the Spiderweb Software community has stood the test of time. In my 35 years of playing computer games I have seen many strong game lines wither and fade away to obscurity. I have been playing Spiderweb games since Exile 2 was the newest and enjoyed them all since. Will Spiderweb last forever, of course not. I however will continue to enjoy the games and community while possible.

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If I compare that to the Starcraft 2 editor which is a lot more complex, I get the feeling that a lot less actually playable maps are created with it, because it's just too much work.

Part of this is undoubtedly true, but time also plays a big part into it. Back in the day with games like War3, there wasn't (relatively-speaking) a lot going on in the market. If you wanted to play something online you weren't exactly spoiled for choice. The reason modded maps went so well back then was because making a "real game" wasn't much of an option. In addition, if I were to make a War3 map, my audience would end up being all online war3 players. They already have the game, they know how the basic controls work, and so on. Whereas, if I were to vomit out my own made-from-scratch game I'd have the whole marketing process to do.

 

The primary reason there seems to be less user-created content is simply because people have moved to just making their own game. The barrier to entry is much lower (what with Steam and the vomit of libraries available now) so a lot of the people who would have made these maps and mods back in the day are deluded into thinking that they can make a buck off of it because "dota did it" or "something something mojang early access bleeegghg".

 

If you ask me, War3's WorldEdit (notably the Frozen Throne variant) is probably the best editing tool I have seen. Making the physical map was so easy a two-year-old could do it, and the script/node engine functioned in a fashion similar to BoE's, but was actually intuitive and could do many things in the right hands. It put the basics front and center so anyone could make a pretty good map.

 

Unfortunately the golden age of mapmaking is long-gone. Everyone is either making naked mods for skyrim or trying to fight their way to the top of steam greenlight.

Edited by sylae
A scenario editor should not be judged by how many great things can come from it, it should be judged by how many okay things can come from it

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Unfortunately the golden age of mapmaking is long-gone. Everyone is either making naked mods for skyrim

 

this is priceless ^^

 

But you can still create new maps in Skyrim's CK, althugh only a few have risen, like "Falskaar", which was made in a span of a year by a guy who wanted to be a game developer.

 

I do agree that people concentrate more on creating godly badass armors, or rebalancing the game, or those trying to turn skyrim into graphically realistic lands rather than map-making.

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I still maintain that the biggest block to "Scenario" scale development for platforms like Skyrim is the voice acting factor. This, unfortunately translates to map making being dissuaded as well.

 

Almost every single aspect of game design can be done by a devoted community to a downright developer shaming level of quality. Textures, monsters, environments, music, items, spells, story, plot... all of it. I've seen examples for each which basically make the original makers of numerous games look downright incompetent. But voice acting? ...

 

Maybe I'm just missing out, but I find just about only the absolute worst game voice work can be eclipsed by the public. This is often on top of a big fat handicap based around equipment. Even halfway decent community voice actors are often stuck sounding like they're talking over a poorly hewn ventrillo server with a string and tin can. Even in the cases where you can get past this, how can your average Joe fan developer even compare? Yes, most of the voice work in Neverwinter Nights 2 reads with the same gusto as a high school intro to theater class, but the best? ... Oblivion's intro was lead by Sir Patrick Stewart for godsakes. That's just not even fair.

 

Add into the mix the fact that properly voicing an entire scenario would take numerous voices, and thus numerous people and you're no longer talking about a solo endeavor. Sure, a good developer may use resources created by the public at large, but those don't even have to be custom made for what they're doing. How many BoE/A graphics fall into that category for instance? Music? Same. Heck Neverwinter Nights had many straight up scripts created independently of a parent mod for widescale public use. But voice acting? ...

 

You need not just a voice, but a specific voice for a specific line. You can't just go out and grab it, you 100% need to create it for your content. And then chances are it'll never be of any other use to anyone else ever again. These levels of demands, the coordination, and the fact that the quality will always be glaringly off compared to the original game you're developing for... That in and of itself is going to kill a lot of notions that even building a Falskaar is even possible.

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Yes, most of the voice work in Neverwinter Nights 2 reads with the same gusto as a high school intro to theater class,

 

EDIT: I guess the thirty seconds I was linking to counts as a mild spoiler, so don't click it if you still plan on playing NWN2.

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You need not just a voice, but a specific voice for a specific line. You can't just go out and grab it, you 100% need to create it for your content. And then chances are it'll never be of any other use to anyone else ever again. These levels of demands, the coordination, and the fact that the quality will always be glaringly off compared to the original game you're developing for... That in and of itself is going to kill a lot of notions that even building a Falskaar is even possible.

 

Well, if you want a game that's near-realistic, the best we could get is real life, it's free, but a thousand times harder than dark souls 2 there's only one save file for every character. At least it does run in ultra settings without trouble, no lags and yes.

 

While Skyrim is a decent game, it's flawed. I prefer combat and gameplay over graphics and such, that's why the combat is so bad that no amount of mods would fix it...

 

Wait, is this the thread named :( ? How did it turn into wat

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Learning voice-acting is actually easier than learning to compose music.

 

Maybe so, but it has a more general application if you're doing fan development for a game.

 

Yes, "Epic Battle Theme 3" is going to take exponentially more work and devotion than pretty much any number of lines you're likely to find in fan created content, however, that music score can be widely applied and used and reused by anyone and everyone.

 

Dialog, unless you're doing something like reworking existing dialog (and, as mentioned, there ARE some games and examples that would benefit from this) chances are it'll only ever be used in the exact context it was made for.

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