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The Almighty Doer of Stuff

FYI: Mr. Vogel is AMAing on Reddit right now, until 6PM Pacific Time.

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This is a good AMA. Among other highlights, the next new series will feature a "dead on" perspective more like Exile than the isometric view of all the other games; and this:

 

"I did have a cool idea for a Nethergate sequel. In SPACE. Not kidding."

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Jeff went linear because it's easier to balance the game. Everyone is closer in level when they reach a major required fight so someone skipping side quests can get through.

 

I do prefer open exploration where the limit is you keep dying if you go into too hard an area.

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sylae   

the next new series will feature a "dead on" perspective more like Exile than the isometric view of all the other games

sybeam.png

 

finally, i can be excited for a new jeff game, rather than reluctantly irritated!

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Owenmoz   

I want it to be exactly this.

 

Not "sci fi game where you can play as either opposing faction".

 

I want "literal Romans and literal Celts IN SPACE".

 

Yes! The roman empire expansion through the multiverse!

Though if both factions are thrown into space it streches plausibility if they keep on fighting even there.

 

 

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Kelandon   

I mean, the Nether Gate leads to many places...

I always assumed that it led to nether regions.

Edited by Kelandon
Precisely whose nether regions remained an open question, though.

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Kelandon   

Separate post for a separate thought.

 

The interaction that I found most interesting was:

 

Jeff: Somebody should ask what stories I would heavily rewrite if given the chance.

Fan: I'll take that bait, what stories would you rewrite if given the chance? Particular games, entires series, anything.

Jeff: When I redo Geneforge 3, I'll have to have lots of talks with people. That game never went over well, and I'd like to figure out why.

But the game I really want to rework the plot of is Avernum 4. Its story was thrown together and just didn't click. The game after that, Geneforge 4, was the first one where I put serious time into the story, and it helped a LOT.

I agree, and I could probably articulate problems with Avernum 4, but Geneforge 3 is the more interesting case. We've talked about this from time to time: G3-why do you dislike it, what do you like about G3? (which ironically contains a number of complaints), Getting bored...help!, New GF3 twist, and probably lots of others that I'm not immediately finding.

 

But it's interesting to think about what could be done to GF3 to make it better.

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I missed it too. There were places where Jeff came back later to answer questions.

 

I would love a rewrite of Avernum 4 to change the emphasis on the enemy to the Darkside Loyalists.

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Lilith   

G3 I can't say much about, but put me in the minority where I actually really LIKED Avernum 4. Don't really get why it's hated so much...

 

The main complaints are that the plot is a rehash of A3 and the entire Eastern Gallery area is a drag to play through (which leaves a bit of a bad impression when it's basically the first thing you see after finishing the demo).

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Also the change into a continuous world map makes places in the Eastern Gallery too close together. Cast a buff spell from the safety of the town and then go into combat mode and clear a good part of the Gallery before it wears off.

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Owenmoz   

G3 I can't say much about, but put me in the minority where I actually really LIKED Avernum 4. Don't really get why it's hated so much...

 

I liked g3 a lot, the gameplay, the maps, greta and alwan, i liked almost everything cept the storyline and factions so im glad he's remaking one of my favorites into something better.

Oddly i actually liked a4 too, as people said it was like a3 but in the caverns. The thing is, i was very interested in it, like oooh shady shade monsters in cities... Ohh lake monsters in lakes... What did this? Is it a new ark for a powerful enemy? If even the vahnathai are contacting us it must be something big indeed. All the way until i find out its rentar. Then im like... You again? Pls stop. Overall i liked the game though.

Still lots of complaints in both games so i think a story re hash would work very well for them. I just hope it doesn't ruin direct plot build up to g4.

A4 though liked it as i might it could have been completely erased from the avernum series and no one would notice. It lacks any sort of relevance and the quirky writing is not there.

 

 

 

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I think one of the big problems with A4 was that it was the first game where Jeff moved to a continuous world view. As was mentioned, it made Avernum seem TINY. Especially coming after what was the biggest game (in terms of area to explore - A3) it was really jarring & felt horribly wrong. Add to that it being the first game using the new game engine causing the look & feel of the game to be completely different from what people were used to. People don't deal with big change all that well in general and combined with a relatively weak story & the overall 'wrong' feel to the game you wind up with A4 way behind the power curve from the very start.

 

It might be interesting to know people's thoughts on the game based on when they discovered Spiderweb. If they found the games around that time frame or later, I'd hazard a guess that their thoughts are much more positive than those of us who've been playing since the Exile days.

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1. G3's biggest problem is sprawling, IMO, and revolves around pacing and newness. 80% of everything in the game (especially at the beginning) is a dry repeat of things the player has already been through twice, with no added spice, flavor, or variety. The worst offenders here, I think, are the melodramatic moments of "omg spawners?!?" and "omg canisters?!?" It's not that those aren't appropriate for the PC's situation as described: it's just that it's a really dull choice to set the game in such a similar situation that the player goes through a ton of exposition that might as well have been copy-and-pasted, for the third time. Oh look, I'm a shaping student in an isolated area that is forced to encounter taboo things (that I have now been familiar with for three games)... again. While there were some moderately successful flavor additions, like Alwan and Greta, those additions are basically unconnected to this 80% rehash-of-a-rehash.

 

This situation was exacerbated by the reduction of the philosophical debate. G2 was largely a rehash of G1 with more humans involved, but one of the key things that kept it interesting is that it expanded the space for this debate, by explicitly separating shaping restrictions from the treatment of creations, with the Barzites, and offering an additional moral element in the choice of what to do with Zakary. Because G1 had so few humans, G2 also offered far more individual perspectives on these issues, from Shanti and Sharon and Tuldaric and Aodare and so on. G3 went the opposite direction and compacted the game's philosophical space. This was a deliberate choice, and not without merits, but in the context of a third-time-around rehash, it just made things worse. The sole exception, in G3, was Khyryk: not for nothing was he so beloved to fans of the series.

 

2. The boats.

 

3. Ultimately, Geneforge 3 is the Spiderweb game that best represents the current American presidential election cycle.

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Owenmoz   

 

3. Ultimately, Geneforge 3 is the Spiderweb game that best represents the current American presidential election cycle.

 

I was gonna say haterz gonna hate out of actual good come backs but now i have to grudgingly concede.

 

Still my favourite spiderweb game. Probably though cause it was the first game i played with any literacy in english. So i'll agree with the person upstairs on their assessment on different generations of fans getting a different feel to the games. The first geneforge for me was killing people and making beasts. So ya,

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Triumph   

1. YES to all of it. I would add, though, that it's not just that there was a removal of philosophical variety, it's the absence of meaningful debate at all! I think one of G3's major flaws was the lack of opportunities to engage sympathetically with the rebels. Yeah, you can do quests in ways that will make the rebels happy, and you can say kind things about serviles, but you don't encounter any "nice" rebels or get a really sympathetic look at the rebellion until Icy End. Which is in the endgame...after you've already had to commit yourself to a faction! The Shapers as a whole look worse than ever in G3, but there are "nice" Shapers (such as Fanjul, Khyryk) and nice non-shaper humans fighting on the Shaper side. As a Shaper, you protect refugees and kill out-of-control monsters. The face of the rebels is Litalia, who goes around murdering your teachers and spreading wild monsters everywhere. (Plus, the leading human "rebel" you meet earlier in the game (Lankan) is a total moron, which doesn't help either.) I never exactly LIKED working for the Shapers in G3, but I always felt bad about joining the rebels in that game. The Shapers look bad in G3, but no game makes a case for rebellion worse than G3.

 

2. YES, the boat system got *really* tiresome.

 

3. I'll put forth Litalia as Donald and General Greiner as Mrs. Clinton. LOL. The great difference is that in the election, I can refuse to do quests, I mean, err, vote, for either one, but in G3, I'm forced support one of them! #Khyryk2016

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Owenmoz   

The great difference is that in the election, I can refuse to vote for either one, but in G3, I'm forced join one of them! #Khyryk2016

#Feelthekhyryk quit the elections in favour of Lord Rahul.

 

 

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I hadn't meant to assign political avatars, but if we're going there, I think Rahul and Akhari Blaze are the obvious choices.

 

Akhari Blaze: #MakeTerrestiaGreatAgain

 

Lord Rahul: @therealakhariblaze Delete your genes.

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I think a lot of the criticism of A4 would have been avoided if the Darkside Loyalists were the primary plot and Rentar-Ihrno were the secondary plot. In fact, it would have been interesting and character establishing for Dorikas to be the one to get the shades going, maybe by approaching Rentar. After all, despite having eventually differing goals they agree that Avernum must suffer and could have collaborated on that. Ultimately a missed opportunity. Even the Eastern Gallery could have been less miserable if all those miserable chitrachs were explicitly a monster plague problem that could be pinned on someone, The vahnatai did it!

 

—Alorael, who can see a glorious new political idea. What if Trump decided to banish all those immigrants to a giant cave system? Surely there's one under Louisiana... And that's your moment of 15 year old nostalgia.

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Triumph   

Thinking about G3 because of this thread, it struck me this evening how much Litalia in G3 is basically a walking caricature constructed by the Shaper propaganda ministry of why shaping must be controlled.

 

Reporter: Mr. Shaper, sir, why is it so important that you strictly control knowledge of shaping?

Shaper Propagandist: Because if we don't, a murderous psychopath will come along and travel the land using her shaping powers to spread wild monsters everywhere she goes. Duh.

Reporter: That sounds kind of paranoid and farfetched, don't you think?

Shaper Propagandist: Nope, that's totally exactly what will happen. Trust me.

 

It might help the rebel cause in G3 look more appealing to players if their leading representative didn't going around validating every Shaper critique of uncontrolled shaping. LOL.

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Geneforge games from the start have no faction that is good. No matter how much you might think a group is great because of its propaganda, like the Awaken wanting equal rights for creations, when you look at them in practice they are all blood thirsty opportunists. Just watch what happens in G1 when you turn in a spy.

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Owenmoz   

Oooh this reminds me; maybe the lack of dialogue and very uncharismatic rebels are because Jeff wanted people to choose shapers? On previous games the go to faction was awakened. By removing any middle ground the choice turns out harder. And tilting to shapers.

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You know, the way people feel drawn to a faction, and even drawn enough that they'll argue fervently in its defense on these forums, speaks to Jeff's abilities as a writer. The fact that those fervent defenses are present for just about every faction, even the ones that seem like they're obviously eeeeevil and not even serious contenders in the philosophical arena, says volumes about how well he does his writing.

 

—Alorael, who doesn't know if Jeff can turn out character writing as strong as his general writing. He certainly doesn't, for the most part, and hasn't even tried until Avadon. But very strong characters tend to be what really grab attention and devotion, and if he were doing that from the beginning Spiderweb might have more accolades and success. Probably not tons, because there's only so much you'll get with outdated isometric graphics, but more.

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Owenmoz   

True on both accounts. Though weather on purpose or simply as a smaller piece of the big faction figure he has written characters well, the most obvious being greta and alwan. One could say they are simple figure pieces for their faction it is quite possible to be pro shapers and dislike alwan as well as being pro rebel and disliking greta. Other examples are khyryk and shanti(who by herself makes barzite an unappealing faction to the player) and Lankan. Now that i think about it most of the better written characters are or were shapers.

Avernum doesn't have much in the way of factions but the characters are well written too(though usually there are no hearty/fervorous arguments on their worth. The only difference avadon seems to bring is how personal it is to you, all your partners put you in difficult situations. Tueir motivations and personality affect your life directly.

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Lilith   

—Alorael, who doesn't know if Jeff can turn out character writing as strong as his general writing. He certainly doesn't, for the most part, and hasn't even tried until Avadon.

 

i mean, people liked erika

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I would distinguish between characterization through exposition, of which Shanti is definitely the earliest and one of the strongest examples, and characterization by statement and situation, where Jeff had some early success with Erika and (initially at least) Solberg.

 

Within the world of SW games, the former really requires someone who you interact with repeatedly, in different situations, which they are allowed to have personal reactions to. It's hard to do this with a non-mobile NPC, so category is small and mostly contains people who travel with you. It also requires good writing: Alwan and Greta, the other early prototypes, didn't have enough of that, and came off feeling one-dimensional to many players as a result, at least in their first appearance.

 

The second category is more about concept than writing. Erika's dialogue doesn't all live and breathe the way Shanti's does, but between what she says and what other people say about her, you get a detailed and nuanced picture of her. I would say that this category does best in the places where the most meticulous effort is put into world-building: Redbeard and Miranda benefit from this in Avadon 1, while Avadon's long string of one-shot villains do not.

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Owenmoz   

I don't think he meant characters we liked or well written characters as much as he meant characters we can argue strongly in favour or against. Something that devides our opinions on. Like with factions. Or with nathalie where some heavily dislike her while others strongly like her.

At least that's what i understood of what he wrote.

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Alorael contrasted "character writing" with the strong, debate-generating factional/philosophic writing he was praising from Jeff, and then you used variations on "well written characters" 3 times in your comment, so if that's not what we're talking about I'm very confused.

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There are a lot of factions, and we know what they stand for, what they believe, and often their dirty secrets as well. For the characters, we often get similar versions, often tied to their factions. But we don't get very personal people. What do the characters do for fun? Who are their friends, and who are the non-enemies they just can't stand? What are they like over dinner? All that's missing.

 

Nathalie, and her Avadon compatriots, get more of that than pretty much anyone prior to Avadon. She has some personality and quirks and you interact with her for a long time. But that was not just underused, it was virtually entirely absent from, depending on how you count, something like 12 games before Avadon came along.

 

—Alorael, who also likes Erika. She's a good concept and plays an interesting role in the world. But personality? Beyond vengeful, powerful mage, not very much.

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Edgwyn   

In some ways, Cheeseball helps give Solberg a little more personality that Erika has. I mean beyond powerful mage, afraid of his shadow.

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Owenmoz   

Alorael contrasted "character writing" with the strong, debate-generating factional/philosophic writing he was praising from Jeff, and then you used variations on "well written characters" 3 times in your comment, so if that's not what we're talking about I'm very confused.

I suppose i shouldn't have said "well written" though fervour inducing doesn't come out as easy. To be fair until Alorael explained further i was also a bit confused.

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Owenmoz   

 

—Alorael, who also likes Erika. She's a good concept and plays an interesting role in the world. But personality? Beyond vengeful, powerful mage, not very much.

I agree with the rest. But this is blasphemy xD

Ok but as slartibus was saying in previous games while you dont usually get to know first hand of their quirks as much, you do by other peoples opinion on the characters. On their own they don't ammount to much of a personality. But coupled with what others say you get a decent picture. Flaws included. Its just not personal which diminishes their direct impact on the player.

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Alex   

"it's not a Spiderweb game if you can't switch sides and help the bad guys"

 

Hm, can you join the bad guys in Exile/Avernum?

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Triumph   

"it's not a Spiderweb game if you can't switch sides and help the bad guys"

 

Hm, can you join the bad guys in Exile/Avernum?

 

You can in A5, but not so much in the other games of the series. The next closest might be working for Gladwell in A6 (he's definitely a terrible person, but it's not quite the same as having a discrete antagonist faction that you can formally join).

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You can't switch sides, but you can play as either side in Nethergate.

 

The whole moral ambiguity thing really got rolling with Geneforge. Yes, the second Avernum trilogy comes afterwards, and so does some of the first trilogy technically (although the plot of course dates back to Exile) but the Avernum universe lets you be the clear good guys generally.

 

—Alorael, who sees A5 as the departure. Among other things, you arguably start off as the bad guys. No one likes the Empire.

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In Exile we are the bad guys, that's why the Empire sentenced us to live down here. :)

 

It isn't until Nethergate that you get to see and play as both sides in the struggle. Geneforge allows for picking a path.

 

 

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Sudanna   

just a bunchas skinny pale cavepunks fighting the man, living in a cave, bein grumpy, yeah.

 

part of the reason the early avernums are so much more interesting imo :/

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It started with BoE (A Small Rebellion), Nethergate, and then Geneforge in succession. In fact, since BoE, there has only been one non-remake release that does not offer an ethically and pragmatically charged choice of allegiance at some point in the story -- Avernum 4.

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Owenmoz   

Well you get the option to help the vahnathai cure rentar. Or you can kill her. Both affect the end in a way. The moral dilemma being; do we try to save a murderous powerful psycho or do we kill it and by doing it ostracise the race. Such difficult choice... What to do. What to do...

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That would be true if the humans were willing colonizers, rather than, well... Exiles...

 

Not to mention the fact that some (all?) of the Nephil were also sent to Exile from the Surface. Politics of desperate necessity don't easily conform to easy moral judgments.

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