A Voice Indie Wilderness: Jeff Vogel on Gaming

I’m not sure when the transition occurred, but back in the proverbial day, the name for games produced by small companies and sold online via unlockable demo was Shareware. You downloaded the demo on your creaking 22.8k modem, played until you got to the dreaded Shareware barrier, and then either ponied up the money to keep going or moved on to some other game.

Now this self-same business model goes by the name “indie.” Whatever. It’s still Shareware to me and, I get the sense, to Spiderweb Software‘s Jeff Vogel as well.

Spiderweb has specialized in single-player computer RPGs since 1995’s brilliant Exile, a game that had a literal Shareware barrier blocking off the majority of the map from exploration until you paid to unlock the rest of the game. And it was worth $25 fourteen years ago to keep going, no question.

Avernum 5 Screenshot

Is it worth that much today, when you can get older big-budget games with installations spanning multiple CDs for $10? Jeff Vogel’s new blog, The Bottom Feeder, takes on these questions and more:

I can’t compete on price with old classic. Nobody can. To expect me (or anyone) to match price with a handful of old games is completely ridiculous. Can’t happen.

But my games have an advantage. They’re new. Go ahead and play the old classics, or at least the ones you haven’t played already. Go play Fallout or Planescape: Torment. They’re SWEET.

You’ll be done soon enough. And, when you are, I’ll still be here.

Admittedly, I’m not completely objective here. I beta tested seven Spiderweb games and even got a NPC named after me in one of the Geneforge games—talk about niche geek cred! Jeff and his small team at Spiderweb produce huge games, with amazing amounts of text and great storylines, for Mac and PC. On a cost-per-hour basis, these games are bargains.

As gamers, we need games like these to continue being produced, so check out them out if you haven’t already.

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