Jeff Vogel Interview
I managed to get a hold of Jeff Vogel, the founder of Spiderweb Software and so I arranged an interview. Enjoy.
1.) Tell us a bit about yourself and your game company Jeff. How did your company start-up?
I started Spiderweb Software in 1994, which feels like a long time ago. I was in grad school studying math, and I hated it. So I decided to take a summer off and write an RPG called Exile: Escape From the Pit and release it as shareware. Much to my amazement, people actually bought it. I quit grad school soon after that.
Now we’re a humble 3 person mom and pop operation based in Seattle. Small, modest, and happy.
2.) Do you mind telling us a bit about your latest game release?
It is called Avernum: Escape From the Pit, a ground-up rewrite of the game that established it all those years ago. It tells the story of Avernum, a giant prison far under the surface of the earth. The exile of Avernum must struggle for survival, escape, and even revenge on the cruel Empire that cast them there.
It’s an indie, old school, hardcore role-playing game in the old style, part of a series that has been a huge cult classic for many a year.
3.) You really seem to like selling your games as shareware. Is there a particular reason why?
Shareware is basically a marketing technique, where you make a free demo available and it serves to sell the main game. But, since I started out, shareware became mainstream. Everyone has demos now. It’s just a really, really good way to sell software.
4.) It seems you have stayed with your classic-style RPG niche. Have you ever thought of making a game in another genre to sell?
All the time. I’ve had a thousand cool ideas over the years. However, I’m kind of a coward, and selling indie games is a difficult way to make a living. In the end, I always write more RPGs. I love the genre, I’m good at it, and I don’t want to build a whole new fan base from scratch. Not when I have kids to feed.
5.) I know you recently started selling your games on the iPad (and Steam too I believe?). How has this shift been for you? Was it tricky to get into the App Store, let alone make the game’s UI work with a touchscreen? How has Steam been for you?
Our games are now on iTunes and Steam, and it has made a world’s worth of difference for our business. Our sales have gone through the roof, and it’s terrific. Getting into the App Store is easy, but getting attention once you are there is not. It’s very crowded.
Steam is the opposite. It’s tough to get in, and I had to make a strong case before they accepted our games. Once they were in, Steam was hugely supportive and it’s a fantastic place to sell games.
6.) Have you been playing any good indie games lately?
A ton. Legend of Grimrock. Fez. Binding of Isaac. Realm of the Mad God. There is so much good stuff out there. The world is so different now than it was when I started.
7.) How is life like in your studio? Any funny/interesting/frightening stories that happened while making a game that you mind telling us about?
It’s boring. Three people in a room, making stuff, until the game is done. The three of us have been working together for a long time, and there has been an enormous lack of drama.
8.) Any tips for starting developers?
Get enough sleep. Invest in a chair that’s good for your back. Pay attention to how much competition there is out there. Getting someone to actually pay actual money for something requires a unique product of high quality.
9.) Any parting thoughts?
Just more cynical shilling of my games. We write deep, old school role-playing games with low budgets but great stories and lots of fun. If that sounds good, give Spiderweb Software a look. We have a big demo for each of our games, so you can be sure it doesn’t suck before you pay any money.
Thanks for your time, Jeff.
His blog can be found at:
And his games and website can be found at:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathan – He prefers his last name not to be known. He’s probably a high-class superspy, but we don’t mind. For a temporary amount of time, he is the editor of Indiegraph. He’s our point man for interviews, and occasionally he takes a blowtorch to a game to see whether it measures up to his standards. He runs Gamesbydesign, an IndieGraph affliate site dedicated to game design articles. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/VGR_Reviews.