Musing on Avernum

AuthorTopic: Musing on Avernum
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #0
Reading these topics, including peoples' opinions of Avernum IV and requests for the future direction of the series has put me in a philosophical mood.

I, like several other board members, have been playing Jeff's games since Exile 1. Unlike others on these boards, I hated Exile 1 so much when I first played it that I didn't touch a thing Jeff made until I tried Nethergate and got hooked. I've now learned to appreciate the Exile series for what it is, and while I doubt I'll ever play it, I can see its charm.

The Avernum series was a different story, for me. Avernum 1 was much more polished and accessible than Exile 1 - and I was no doubt more favorably predisposed toward it due to the interface features it shares with Nethergate. So in a sense, Avernum 1 gave me the best of all worlds - the interesting Exile setting with the engine improvements from Nethergate.

Avernum 2 was also very enjoyable. It felt well constructed. The story elements fit together nicely and the improvements to the engine enhanced the overall experience.

But things started, in my opinion, to go wrong with Avernum 3. I never really "got" it. I purchased it, but every time I've tried to play it, I found I was bored before long.

Blades of Avernum had the same effect on me. I only finished VotDT, which was okay. I tried a couple of user-created scenarios (a couple of which were better than VotDT), but I still found the overall experience unsatisfying and boring.

Avernum 4, alas, is the least enjoyable of the Avernum series. There isn't anything in particular that I didn’t like about it. The engine is better, I think, than the previous Avernums. But the engine improvements couldn't make up for an overall dull game experience. I felt very little motivation to advance from one area to the next, since nothing much seemed to happen. It was just another dungeon full of things to kill. Take a game like Baldur’s Gate 2 – each new area revealed new and often surprising plot twists, and the characters felt very much alive. This emotional connection with my own character, her party, and the world made it difficult to stop playing. These emotional aspects are largely missing in A4. Someone mentioned that A4 feels like a MMORPG and I couldn't agree more.

I've bought all of Jeff's games (E1-3, BoE, A1-4, BoA, G1-3, NG, & GC), and I certainly would like to support his further efforts. Spiderweb games have always been hit-or-miss with me, but lately it feels they're much more miss than hit. I have hopes that G4 will reverse this trend of mediocre products, or at least, provide a game interesting enough I feel like finishing it.

Z

--------------------
Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
Profile Homepage #1
This makes me sad. How far did you get in Avernum 3, exactly? Did you battle the montrous Alien Slime? Did you marvel at the endless trash pits of the Filth Factory? The surface is, in my opinion, more difficult to navigate than the caves, but once you get your bearings I think that Avernum 3 probably has the best plot of any other Spiderweb game. There are so many things to do! The only thing about Avernum 3 that disapointed me was the lack of shifting floors in the Tower of Shifting Floors, which was actually renamed the Golem Tower or something.

As for Avernum 4, I really don't see what made the plot so much worse than the other games. If your saying that the plot was reused and you were disapointed by that fact, then you would have more of a case.

--------------------
You lose.
Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #2
For what it's worth, I do think GF4 is an improvement. I can't really compare it to other Geneforges, but it does well on the plot, on the tactics, and on the nifty things to see and do.

—Alorael, who likes A3 but concedes that it has a large amount of aimless wandering compared to other Avernums. A4 seems to get a lot of hate, as discussed elsewhere, for its plot. Jeff has at least acknowledged this and he's said that A5 will be different. GF4 certainly is.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Agent
Member # 2820
Profile #3
E3 and A3 were not meant to be rich in unique plot. They were to convey mythical grandeur befitting of a fantasy game in which you can be the hero. The feeling of grandness partly comes from the huge world and relative freedom you can have from its many side quests and little subplots. The main plot had a couple twists and some shallow turns, but I think it was as good as any to propel you through many different dungeons and tough challenges.

The BoA scenarios unfortunately have a little too much hack and slash. The encounters and dungeons set themselves up to be good, but fail upon actual play. This I think is another unfortunate consequence, one of Jeff using his previous game plot making skills to make a microcosm of what he is used to.

--------------------
Thuryl: I mean, most of us don't go around consuming our own bodily fluids, no matter how delicious they are.
====
Alorael: War and violence would end if we all had each other's babies!
====
Drakefyre: Those are hideous mangos.
Posts: 1415 | Registered: Thursday, March 27 2003 08:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #4
quote:
Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:

This makes me sad. How far did you get in Avernum 3, exactly?

<snip>

As for Avernum 4, I really don't see what made the plot so much worse than the other games. If your saying that the plot was reused and you were disapointed by that fact, then you would have more of a case.

In A3, I defeated the slime-producing monster, and shortly thereafter lost interest.

Also, my problem with A4 wasn't that it has a similar plot to A3 (as you correctly note, I hadn't played A3 for any meaningful length of time). The reason I lost interest was because the world didn't feel engaging. Things were mostly static. New areas were just basically rooms full of things to kill. Characters were not memorable. Also, I didn't like how un-human your player characters are - by this I mean that, unlike say BG2 or the Geneforge games, your characters never develop independent personalities. They're just basically a collection of stats (Warrior "A", Warrior "B", Cleric, Mage).

Geneforge appeals to me more on two levels -

(1) Your character has a tremendous impact on the world based on your (the player's) decisions. In Avernum, the only decision is whether or not to continue playing. The plot does not change based on your actions, it is only advanced.

(2) The game responds and rewards your play style - some people like to play Shapers that use creations to kill everything, others like to become skilled infiltrators avoiding combat. These styles are not only viable, but they are rewarded differently. So your character becomes better at using the skills and strategies that you, as a player, like. Avernum is better than some RPGs on this element, but much more limited because of reason 1 – your goal is to kill things. You can choose how to kill things, but not whether or not to kill things, or even what to kill.

In A2, you can't decide to join the Empire and assassinate King Micah. In Geneforge 3, you can decide to join the rebellion and kill Lord Rahul.

I guess, for me, an RPG holds my attention if I'm able to make an emotional connection to the game. That connection is what drives me to care about the story, even if the plot is somewhat hackneyed. This can be done my giving me a compelling character to play, compelling characters with which to interact, and/or a dynamic world in which my decisions mean something. BG2, for instance, is strong on compelling characters, and somewhat weak on dynamic world (since the end goal is pretty much the same, no matter how you choose to play). The Geneforge games have less well-developed characters (compared to BG2), and a very dynamic world were it seems like nearly any decision (major and minor) have some impact on the world's evolution. If the characters are strong, then the emotional connection is with them – I care what happens to them and I want to find out. If the game has a dynamic world, then I want to find out what the results of my actions were on the world.

A4 lacked (for me) compelling characters or a dynamic world. This resulted in me losing interest. The engine was great compared to A1-3 (in my opinion), but it wasn't enough, on its own, to do more than propel in to finish the first 1/4 of the game.

Z

[ Tuesday, September 12, 2006 13:41: Message edited by: Zorro ]

--------------------
Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #5
I agree with you about Avernum 3, Zorro, but Exile III for me was completely different. I replayed Exile III the most of any spidweb game. It was absolutely amazing and so easy to play, the gameplay was great, and surface gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted and a huge world to explore.

So far, Geneforge 4 is looking good.

For me, the biggest part of whether or not I like a game is how much fun it is. How do I measure fun? How long I can play straight without getting bored. How many times I can play the game without getting bored. Whether I want to know what happens next in the story. Exile III gave me the first two long after the third expired. BoE gives me all three.

*moves to General*

EDIT: I think that a lot of Exile III's appeal is just how simple and clean it is to play. It has great interface design, simple dialogue, and a long list of fun and somewhat useful spells.

[ Tuesday, September 12, 2006 15:43: Message edited by: Drakefyre ]

--------------------
"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #6
For me the single biggest advantage that Geneforge has is the Leadership skill. I know that E had reputation, but I was never so sure on how that affected dialogue, other than plot advancers. It would be nice to have something of that nature added into BoA, although at this point I have serious doubts about that ever happening.

Zorro, you may want to try Druids of Krell, by Ephesos, for a slightly different BoA experience.

--------------------
quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

Well, I'm at least pretty sure that Salmon is losing.


Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #7
Avernum has reputation, not Exile, and even in BoE it's not too hard to add a stuff done flag for reputation. I imagine that making a variable/SDF for it in BoA is simple.

—Alorael, who likes reputation in principle but generally finds it poorly executed unless each faction involved has reputation tracked separately. Geneforge does just that.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #8
Avernum had reputation, not Exile. And BoA can have something like Leadership really easily if someone wants it in their scenario. I believe a lot of people were talking about a "Charisma" skill.

EDIT: Alorael snuck in there. And GF doesn't track reputations separately - default is 100, shapers are above, and rebels are below.

[ Tuesday, September 12, 2006 17:19: Message edited by: Drakefyre ]

--------------------
"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Agent
Member # 3364
Profile Homepage #9
Plus with BoX it really depends on the scenario. There are a handful out there that give you significantly different stories based on what you do in the scenario. Jeff's A Small/Mild Rebellion gives you two sides to join and you can only join one without starting over. Tatterdemalion has three...

More suggestions from those who've played more please.

--------------------
"Even the worst Terror from Hell can be transformed to a testimony from Heaven!" - Rev. David Wood 6\23\05

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." - John Wesley
Posts: 1001 | Registered: Tuesday, August 19 2003 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #10
Of Good And Evil has you choose sides too, Redemption has several endings, so does Quintessence, and Falling Stars has an intricate reputation system. There are plenty more.

--------------------
"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #11
Exile always had better spells. There is nothing like watching the carnage of shockwave going through the ranks of Empire troops in Exile 2. Geneforge's (and Avernum 4) Aura of Flames just doesn't cut it. Sure the graphics are more primitive in 2D, but the art was great and the combat system was fun. I started in Exile 3 and played it more than any of the others.

I hear it will be finally fixed in GF4 where actions decide your side in the Rebellion and not mouthing the party line. Somehow saying the Rebel replies while slaughtering them makes you a suspect Shaper loyalist.

Avernum 5 needs something different from the earlier plots to keep the series going. Plus the return of elevations to give it a real perspective (I know its a pun). Having a villan whose motivation and identity you can't guess in the early part of the game will be a change. Even better will not knowing there is a villan out there behind some of the encounters.
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
Profile Homepage #12
I would like to see a reputation system similar to that of Fallout. Even though the game had a single plot and a single enemy that you fought in the end, it let you choose to follow a good or evil path up until that point. If you were good, you helped the common people and they helped you against the final enemies. If you were evil, you attacked the common people alongside the bandits and whatnot, and using the strength thus gained you went up against the final enemies.

It wasn’t really faction oriented, and each town you visited was like a new beginning, unless you were renown as particularly good or evil. Are there any Blades scenarios that take this approach?

Edit: Amazing how a single typo can make your entire post mean the opposite of what you really meant.

[ Tuesday, September 12, 2006 19:35: Message edited by: Emperor Tullegolar ]

--------------------
You lose.
Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #13
quote:
Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:

I would like to see a reputation system similar to that of Fallout. Even though the game had a single plot and a single enemy that you fought in the end, it let you choose to follow a good or evil path up until that point. If you were good, you helped the common people and they helped you against the final enemies. If you were evil, you attacked the common people alongside the bandits and whatnot, and using the strength thus gained you went up against the final enemies.

It wasn’t really faction oriented, and each town you visited was like a new beginning, unless you were renown as particularly good or evil. Are there any Blades scenarios that take this approach?

Falling Stars, by Alcritas, is probably closest to your description. It's a huge scenario with a lot of different things to do and a reputation system that has a big impact on what you can do. Be warned that it can be a little frustrating, though -- several quests have tight time limits, so you can't see everything in a single playthrough (although no matter how much time you waste the scenario will still be finishable).

FS is part of a larger series of scenarios, though, so parts of it won't make all that much sense unless you've played the earlier scenarios. The good news is that you'll probably like Al's other scenarios as well, especially Of Good and Evil.

[ Wednesday, September 13, 2006 00:15: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

--------------------
The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Master
Member # 4614
Profile Homepage #14
Responding to Zorro, it seems you just have a classic case of the novelty of something wearing off. Sometimes there is something that you get into that really excites you; something that you do and do and can't stop doing. However, after a while, you start exhausting the intriguing areas of that thing, and before you know it the experience becomes more and more mundane, and eventually you lose the urge to continually do that thing.

This may have happened with you. Exile 1 was new and exciting, and the subsequent exiles all had new plots and new features and were very engaging. Then Avernum came around, with basically the same plot but a different engine. You know what will happen next, and you're fine-tuned with the world and tactics of gameplay, and eventually the sense of discovery and intrigue wears off.

As good as Jeff's games are (and they are indeed very excellent), one could only see that six full-length games, the latter three repeats of the former three, are enough to drag out this feeling. Avernum 4 just furthered the effect. Indeed, this may be just the thing that has halted the production of BoX scenarios to a trickle lately.

My solution for this is to find something else that you enjoy and do that for a while and discover something else, whether it be a new computer game or hobby. Often times, after time spent away from something overplayed like Avernum will reinstill the desire to play it again, and it will be much more enjoyable when you do.

Am I making any connections to people here, or do some people just never get tired with SW games?

[ Thursday, September 14, 2006 16:19: Message edited by: Sturg ]

--------------------
-ben4808
Posts: 3360 | Registered: Friday, June 25 2004 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #15
I play lots of CM 03/04 or FM2006 (soccer management sims) and switch between them and spidweb games.

--------------------
"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Dollop of Whipped Cream
Member # 391
Profile Homepage #16
quote:
Originally written by Sturg:

Indeed, this may be just the thing that has halted the production of BoX scenarios to a trickle lately.
What in the world are you talking about? There are several scenarios in production at the moment.

[ Thursday, September 14, 2006 16:35: Message edited by: Tyranicus. ]

--------------------
"Tyranicus is about the only one that still posts in the Nethergate Forum." —Randomizer
Spiderweb Chat Room
Shadow Vale - My site, home of the Spiderweb Chat Database, BoA Scenario Database, & the A1 Quest List, among other things.
Posts: 562 | Registered: Friday, December 14 2001 08:00
Master
Member # 4614
Profile Homepage #17
I know. I was talking about an overall slowing in production, over time, or at least lately.

Don't stop making scenarios. ;)

--------------------
-ben4808
Posts: 3360 | Registered: Friday, June 25 2004 07:00