Jeff Vogel Interview
Welcome back for another interview. This time it's with Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software. He is a veteran of the game industry, and released multiple indie RPGs over the years.
He was kind enough to answer a few questions while getting his latest game Queen's Wish ready for release at the end of August.
RPGWatch: You have been in the business for over 20+ years. In that time a lot has changed in the industry. What advice would you give someone who wants to develop their first indie game?
Jeff Vogel: When I got into the games business, it was extremely competitive and difficult. Making a living in art is always hard. It has gotten more so with every passing year.
So I think the main thing I would say to a prospective developer is: "You have to compete with Free." All of the most popular games in the world, the Fortnites, the Leagues of Legends, are big budget, highly professional, fun games, and they are FREE.
Is your product compelling and unique enough to compete with Free? If not, rethink your path.
Failing to Fail: The Spiderweb Software Way
RPGWatch: Something that is brought up in my latest interviews is about small developers having limited resources and having to meet player expectations. Do you have an opinion on that topic?
Jeff Vogel: Indie games always specialize in filling unmet demand, in finding underserved niches. I write turn-based, story-heavy RPGs. That is a market that will always have fans, but it's a really hard sort of game to write. I can get away with being low-budget when I write such a boutique sort of product.
RPGWatch: On the topic of indie games I remember a time when you mentioned there were too many indie games. Has your opinion changed?
Jeff Vogel: There were over 11000 game releases in 2021 on Steam alone. The VAST majority of those games will go almost completely unplayed. For most of the indies that do find some success, if they suddenly vanished, players could immediately find a suitable substitute.
When most games aren't being played, there are too many by definition. Note that I'm talking entirely about games as a business. Hobbyist developers are doing their own thing. Once they try to sell their hobby games, though, they are entering a glutted market.
So of course there are too many games. I think the next recession is going to be a rough one, though I hope I am proved wrong.
RPGWatch: I check out your blog when it's updated, and found some of your thoughts very intriguing. Especially the one about games not needing a story to be successful, and selling games at certain prices. Can you elaborate more on both those issues?
Jeff Vogel: Video games and storytelling have a very weird, arm's-length reputation. I think a good story can really help a game stand out and sell better. Yet, a good story is absolutely, totally not necessary to have a hit game. Formal storytelling is just not the main thing video games offer.
As for prices, nobody really knows the best way to price a game or DLC or in-game purchases. It's a new business model, and there are a lot of open questions. Rampant inflation is only making the topic more confusing.
Some links to Jeff's blog:
RPGWatch: Years back you did a panel about phone games and in recent years some of your games are ported to phones. Has it been profitable?
Jeff Vogel: I port all of my games to iPad and some of them to iPhone. They make an amount of money that makes us happy, but we are also a very small, humble company. We are nowhere near being able to make a living just from mobile, and I doubt we ever will be.
RPGWatch: Recently you have been using Kickstarter to raise funds for development. Do you have any opinions on crowd-funded games, and the whole process?
Jeff Vogel: Kickstarter has been awesome for us. It works as pre-sales, and it lets players get involved in the development process. We let high-end backers provide design ideas for the games, and this has been an enormously successful experiment. Turns out our fans are very, very clever people.
Because the business has gotten so competitive, I really wonder if we would still be in business without Kickstarter.
RPGWatch: You mentioned during the development of Queens Wish that the trilogy would probably be your last? Has that opinion changed?
Jeff Vogel: Not really. I am well into middle-age. I don't have that many working years yet. There are a lot of remasters I want to do. At some point, almost every creator has to say, "I have said what I wanted to. I'm going to close out my career touring and playing the old hits."
RPGWatch: Also for the first time in Queen's Wish you allowed players to create a save when the game is completed. Will the decisions players made in the first game affect the sequel?
Jeff Vogel: There are a few changes, yes. Most of the decisions you make that carry forward will take effect in the final ending of the trilogy. There are going to be a LOT of endings, some of which can be affected by decisions you made early on.
RPGWatch: Now comes the dreaded question I'm sure has been asked over a thousand times. Have you ever thought of updating your game engine?
Jeff Vogel: Updating in what way? Remember, we're a niche, tiny, low-budget company. I create full-length games almost entirely by myself. We have to be very careful what we spend money and time on, because we have little to spare.
My engine creates very fun, playable RPGs in a reasonable amount of time. Nothing is perfect, but everything is fine, and we've achieved a lot of success with it.
A lot of our success in this business comes from knowing just the right amount of resources we need to spend on every part of the game, and not one bit more. Real artists ship.
RPGWatch: Thank you for your time to answer a few questions. Do you have anything you want to add before the interview is concluded?
Jeff Vogel: Just the standard self-promotion, because attention is very, very hard to get for an indie. If you want our innovative, unusual stuff, try Queen's Wish 2: The Tormentor. If you want to try one of our more beloved, cult-classic type games, try Geneforge 1 - Mutagen.
If you like role-playing games, especially ones with interesting stories, settings, and choices, we are worth a look. Thank you!
Information aboutQueen's Wish 2: The Tormentor
Developer: Spiderweb Software
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2022-08-24
· Publisher: Spiderweb Software