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Avadon: The Black Fortress Interview

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Avadon: The Black Fortress Interview

Interview - posted by Jason on Sun 13 June 2010, 08:47:48

Tags: Avadon: The Black Fortress; Jeff Vogel; Spiderweb Software

1. What sort of party system can we expect in Avadon: The Black Fortress? The screenshots give the impression of a single PC with joinable NPCs. Will any party members be player created? How large can your party be and how many of them are romanceable?

You will start out making your main character, and then you can recruit two more from a total of four possible joiners. There are four character classes, and each of the joiners has a different one, so you always will be missing one class. You’ll have to shift strategies as you go through the game.

Each joiner has his or her own personality and story and issues, but no romance.

2. Another aspect of the screenshots that's hard to miss is the skill/spell tree. What's the rundown? How do Specializations fit into this?

Each level, you can put more points into the skill tree. As you go higher in the tree, you get new abilities. As you put more points into specific skills, you get other abilities. Thus, you can gain potent powers by putting lots of points in down low or higher up.

Different parts of the tree give skills that work in different ways (melee vs missile, nukes vs blessings) and specializations help with specific areas.

3. Why the switch to skill/spell trees? It almost seems "un-Spiderweb-like".

If I’ve been doing one thing so long that it’s “Spiderweb-like,” I really need to do something else. The way I keep myself interested and my mind fresh after fifteen years is to try making new systems and to write games for new platforms.

4. Speaking of Diablo 2, describe the crystal upgrade system for weapons/artifacts.

That, on the other hand, is pretty close to what I had in the Geneforge series. You can find a bunch of different crystal augments, and these can be stuck into weapons and armor. The effect of an augment will depend on the sort of item you put it into.

5. What are the four classes? How do they play differently other than being a spellcaster/non-spellcaster?

There are blademasters, shamans, shadowwalkers, and sorceresses, each with dozens of different offensive and defensive abilities. I have worked hard to make them play differently. For example, a shadowwalker can duck in, do a lot of damage very quickly, and use evasive abilities to confuse foes and leap to safety. A shaman will summon beasts to aid her.

6. Will the player likely see all four classes in one playthrough (i.e. wind up with a balanced party at some point) or will the initial class choice set you on a particular path (i.e. the fighter playthrough vs the mage playthrough)?

Your initial class choice only determines what you will always have with you. As you pass through the game, you will have to play with each character class for at least a little bit. You’ll have to devise new strategies from time to time, which I think is cool.
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7. You've mentioned that tactical combat in the new game will be "more elaborate". In what ways? How do the changes square with your previously stated belief that "if you want lots of tactical choices, single-player RPGs, any of them, are really not where you should be going"?

Like all of our previous games, you will find yourself in a wide variety of tactical situations and fight through scripted encounters with lots of phases, tricks, and so on. In addition, because of the occasional shifts in the characters in your group and the distinctive ways the different character classes play, there will be a lot of opportunities to evaluate your strategies and develop new ones.

As for the quote given, what I was saying there (and what I still believe) is that computer RPGs will never reach the level of tactical sophistication of Go or Chess or large-scale wargaming, simply due to the smaller number of units involved. But RPG battles can still make you think, and that&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m going for.

8. What are you aiming for in terms of difficulty? Will the player run into any high level encounters at lower levels?

I am determined that Avadon will have a smooth difficulty curve without any unfair party-slaughtering surprises. The default difficulty will be relatively unchallenging, but the tougher difficulty levels will get pretty hairy.

And I plan for there to be a few entirely optional fights of great difficulty and coolness.

9. How will dialogue be handled? In what ways will it affect the course of the game? Are there any skills related to it? Any dialogue between party members?

Dialogue will be similar to our previous games, but with more role-playing type choices, places to express your opinion, and so on. There will be quite a few conversations between party members.

There will not be skills related to dialogue. Right now, I think it fits the game world better to make the best conversation trees I can and make those available to everyone.

10. Going back to the screenshots, some of those spell icons look awfully familiar. Will we be seeing more variety in the spell department or are you sticking with the tried &amp; true?

There is a ton of variety in the spells, and the spell system is entirely different from any of our games before. We&rsquo;ve reused a few icons, but most of the spell icons are new.

11. What are some of the skills/abilities/spells that will be available?

Most of the skills are linked to the abilities. When you buy a skill, you immediately get an ability. Buy more of the skill, and the ability does extra stuff. Buy enough of the skill and you get a new, more powerful version of that ability.

Hmm. Just some examples. A cone attack that does cold damage and flings foes farther away. A spell that teleports you away leaving a decoy in your place. The standard suite of poison clouds, blessings, charms, and summons. Abilities to keep your opponents from noticing you or that draw their attacks.
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12. Have you considered adding more quickslots for spells/abilities? I have it on good authority that 4 out of 5 Germans prefer more quickslots.

At this point, it will still be four and four.

13. Expand on the story and background lore a bit. You've hinted that there's more going on than just a basic fantasy story. What are the factions involved? Who is Redbeard and why should we care about his wives?

The land of Lynaeus, where the game takes place, is split into two parts: The Pact, an uneasy alliance of five nations, and the Farlands, scattered lands full of barbarians, monsters, raiders, and other forces that wish the Pact ill. Avadon is part of the Pact. It exists outside the law and is tasked to find threats to the alliance and to destroy them before they become serious. Redbeard is the leader of Avadon. He is a friendly fellow, utterly devoted to the safety of the Pact, and completely lethal.

However, not everyone likes Avadon. Even some in the Pact believe that it has grown too powerful. Others want to assassinate Redbeard and take his place. Though the player starts as a servant of Avadon, it soon becomes clear that loyalty to Redbeard and the Pact is not the only option.

14. Since you've taken that first step into the Void with a new IP, why not dabble in something other than fantasy?

Every once in a while, I dream of dabbling in different genres, but I&rsquo;m too much attached to fantasy (and too much of a coward) to go through with it. Nethergate and the Geneforge games were already genre-bending exercises. I really think I&rsquo;ve done my part there.

15. Anything else we should know about Avadon?

Dragon Age: Origins, whatever you might think of it (and I loved it) showed that it&rsquo;s possible to have a gritty, hardcore RPG with lots of system complexity and still appeal to a wide audience. I want to do the same thing with Avadon. I want it to have depth, still appeal to the more casual player, and, above all, to be really fun. I don&rsquo;t know how well I will do, but it won&rsquo;t be for lack of trying.

16. Any future plans not related to Avadon?

Quite a few. We&rsquo;re looking hard at the future, figuring out if we have a place in it. In the near future, will will be releasing new, highly upgraded versions of the first Avernum trilogy. They are about a decade old and really showing their age.

We are also looking hard at other platforms. Specifically the little ones that you carry around everywhere.

17. By upgraded, we assume you mean it will be the same content (quests, characters, dialogue, etc) from Avernum 1, 2, and 3 done in the latest engine, correct? Any changes other than on the graphics/interface side? <!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } -->What sort of release timeframe are you looking at?

We want to use the Avernum 6 engine (with a lot of interface improvements, like better tooltips) to rewrite Avernum 1-3. There will be a lot of cool changes to the game system and more dialogue, quests, and dungeons in the world. Generally, when I return to these games, I tend to come up with a bunch of cool ideas to add to them. They're settings that lend themselves well to long, baroque side quests.

I'm hoping to release the Mac version by Christmas 2011. Ports to different platforms will follow shortly.
18. And since all interviews should end with a fluff question: what's your least favorite BioWare game and what did it do to deserve that honor?

The honest answer is MDK2, a well-reviewed shooter from about a decade ago that just never really caught on. I couldn&rsquo;t get too far into it.

But I suspect that you mean an RPG. In that case, Neverwinter Nights never grabbed me that much either.

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