Spiderweb Software Has Eaten My Soul

In many ways, I am an ideal customer. If I find an artist or a company that I really like, I tend to latch on to them. Back in the day I would play anything by LucasArts or Sierra. I’ve played many games just because they had the BioWare label. Last year I became a convert to Wadjet Eye Games. I am prone to loyalty.

Over the holiday I had an itch to play a classic CRPG, but for some reason Planescape Torment and Baldur’s Gate weren’t scratching that itch. Then I stumbled across the Geneforge Saga on Steam. At the time, it was $10, which was a ridiculously good price for five games, so I snapped them up. Within a week or so, I bought Avadon: The Black Fortress as well.

Just now I did a little math. Assuming my Steam account is accurate, I’ve put in 150 hours into these games. It’s probably more than that — Steam has a habit of not tracking the occasional session of gameplay, and I’ve also put a few hours in on the demo of Avernum VI. I’ve finished Avadon, I’ve essentially finished Geneforge 1, 1 and I’m starting on Geneforge 4. From there, I’m planning on trying Geneforge 5 again, and then hopefully Avernum: Escape From The Pit will be out for Windows.

This is a bit odd for me. Granted, I am prone to mild obsession. I’ll spend a few days watching an entire season of a TV series, or listen through hours of an audio drama I like. Once I reread the first ten books of the Dresden Files all in a row, just so I could remember the context for the eleventh novel. But it’s only now, over a month later, that I’m feeling the grip of Spiderweb games letting me go enough that I can think a bit more rationally on why these particular games have snagged my attention.

If you’re not familiar with this company (and I certainly wasn’t), it’s very small. In fact, it’s more or less one man — Jeff Vogel — who runs everything. Wikipedia tells me the company’s been around since 1994, back when shareware was a thing. The games he makes aren’t particularly pretty, and have little to no music. They don’t have voiceovers, and often the assets are reused between games. The games have small, incremental improvements within the series. They are games in a very specific genre — turn-based, isometric RPGs — catering to a very specific audience.

And yet, I think these are strengths, in a way. It’s like playing D&D 3rd edition, and then moving to another D20 game — you recognize a lot of the parts of the game, and it’s easier to drop in. The assets and lack of music score starts to become a voice, something noteworthy and distinct. The parts that are new and distinct stand out more, and can be appreciated more.

I’m planning to dig into more details about the games I’ve actually played in future. But for now, I’m continuing to enjoy the feeling of finding a new company to obsess over.

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  1. I’m two maps from the end. I’m stuck, and don’t want to spend several hours figuring out yet another way to get to the Geneforge. So I did a YouTube search of the ending, and called it a day.