I don't really make a living selling games. I sell an ethical life.
February 12, 2012 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Principles of an Indie Game Bottom Feeder Jeff Vogel makes videogames. The oldest of old-school videogames. In this Gamasutra article he argues that there's never been a better time to be an indie developer.

Vogel also has a cynically hilarious blog about fatherhood.
posted by Sebmojo (13 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Vogel is awesome and deserves every god damn penny of his success.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Just sent this to my brother who recently had his first kid. My brother thanks you for your contribution to his campaign to retain his sanity.
posted by tempythethird at 3:21 PM on February 12, 2012

Vogel is awesome and deserves every god damn penny of his success

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:32 PM on February 12, 2012

This is particularly interesting. I've been considering embarking on this path myself, with a similarly obscure genre/niche of game that I think might sustain myself on an indie basis. It's good to see people having long term success on the same general set of ideas I would approach it with ("I sell an ethical life") especially since being successful in business requires everything but ethics these days.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:36 PM on February 12, 2012

Even if "Think back to the sort of game you really loved once, the sort that nobody makes anymore. Then write one of those" wasn't perfect advice for an aspiring game developer, PARTICULARLY since a metric buttload of people who remember old-school consoles fondly now have iPhones/iPods/iPads and expendable income...

This is someone who claims to be the first presidential candidate to show up at a gala luncheon wearing a crotchless Barney suit. He deserves your money. QED.
posted by delfin at 3:37 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of any of these games. Where should I start?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:47 PM on February 12, 2012

Start with Avadon: The Black Fortress. That's his newest one. It's pretty good!

I like Jeff Vogel a lot, and his games finally showing up on Steam is what pushed me over the edge.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2012

I've never heard of any of these games. Where should I start?

Here's a rundown:
Exile Series
Very rougelike gameplay-wise in just about all aspects but permadeath. It's also much more heavy on story than your average rougelike. You control a party of four adventurers who usually start off punching rats for a living. Things pick up from there as you are usually recruited for a reasonably ambiguous mission that is more important than you deserve, and probably far more important than you can comprehend. Its all open world, free exploration, run around do quests for people(or otherwise) until you run across something that leads you to a clue in the main quest -sort of thing.

Nostalgia goggles may have skewed my opinion slightly, but Exile III is still one of my favorite games ever, and blades of exile was a great bit of extra shenanigans. Unfortunately I can't say as much about Exile one or two as I never got as deeply entranced by them.

Avernum Series
The Avernum series is essentially a remake of Exile, but with an improved (and 3D!) game engine. A couple of things were simplified in the remake, most noticeably were the spells. Where Exile had a spell list that was nearly two pages long, Avernum only gave you a handful of spells. Whether or not this was an improvement is still a bit undecided for me. Part of me loves the absurd complexity of having a huge list of spells with their own little quirks, but another part of me would admit that a lot of those spells were unnecessary, and even more were redundant, and it really did make sense to sift them down into a couple that people actually use. Many mechanics were tweaked to be made simpler for better or worse, but one thing they left almost completely untouched was the writing. My favorite thing about any Spiderweb Software game is that everything has a story behind it. There's always interesting townspeople to talk to no matter what town you're in, and even the most banal looking cave will have something interesting hiding within.

All the Avernum games are worth a try, but if you only try one, go with Avernum 3. It's a bit more polished than the first two, and it has Exile III's awesome story.

Geneforge Series
While Exile holds a place in my heart for favorite game, Geneforge will always be my favorite overall series. Instead of a party, you control a single character who is capable of creating permanent creatures to fight for -or alongside- the character depending on your playstyle. The best part about Geneforge is the choices you can make, both in play style, and in the direction you want to take the story, and often one will affect the other. The moral ambiguity of being able to create (often sentient) life from essentially nothing is taken to every possible extreme. What's best is that every choice is viable; shunning shaping entirely, and relying on just your cunning and your own two hands can be just as effective as steamrolling everything in your path with an army of gibbering monstrosities.

In terms of specifics, Geneforge 2 would probably be the best place to start. As you go deeper into the series, you'll be able to shape more diverse creatures, but its good to start early in the series if you want to get the full story.

Anyways, that's that. I apologize if I got a bit rambley in parts; I've sunk more time into these games than I would care to admit, so you can understand I tend to get this way whenever people mention them.
posted by BucketOBees at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

The other neat thing about Geneforge is you can buy the whole mess on Steam now. I bought it as a package deal during the Christmas sale.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:22 PM on February 12, 2012

I became aware of this guy when ikkyu2 wrote a glowing review of Avadon. Avadon is great! I'm waiting for more iPad ports.
posted by painquale at 8:26 PM on February 12, 2012

Haven't had the chance to try Avadon yet, but it looks like everything you can expect from a Spiderweb game. I've got a serious urge to go back and play one after writing all that... maybe I'll give Avadon a try instead.
posted by BucketOBees at 11:23 PM on February 12, 2012

I tried Avadon after reading some of the hype. The game is ok, but it has real flaws and rough spots.

1) The character abilities and tactics really aren't that interesting. There are 4 possible classes, and each one has literally two possible builds. It's not nearly as free form as something like Baldur's Gate. Also, some of the classes are completely gimped relative to others, which you will find out mid-game when your main character becomes useless in combat.

2) A certain puzzle halfway through the game. The only solution to the puzzle is for the player to get frustrated to the point where they leave the zone, at which point one of your party members comes up with the solution.

3) Repetitive battles. I have never played a game where I killed more spiders. There are literally two dozen species of giant spider in this game, and you will fight each one of them, on many, many occasions. The quests are similarly copy-pasted; first you defend the region from goblins, then from orcs, then from giants.

If I had the money/time to spend again I'd try one of his earlier games which sound more open, complex, and thought provoking.
posted by Balna Watya at 8:01 PM on February 13, 2012

I’m not really one for reading parent blogs (I get enough from first-hand observation to keep me busy), but the blog about his daughter is hilarious, or at least what I’ve read of it so far is. Just one taste of the wisdom it contains:

One Way To Tell When You Are Becoming An Adult

You start to root for the Coyote instead of the Road Runner.

posted by rory at 3:25 AM on February 14, 2012

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