This week we get Avadon: The Black Fortress from Spiderweb Software on the iPad in the iTunes App Store. I have already gushed about the Mac and PC versions of the game, and will have my full review (hint: it is also gushing) of the iPad version this week.
Almost immediately the forums of traditional computer role-playing games – in theory the biggest supporters of an ‘old school’ developer like Spiderweb – exploded with loads of vitriol. It came from all directions – and it is pretty much all wrong-headed. Rather than celebrating one of the few advocates of traditional role-playing games on the PC who has stuck by the platform while most developers have abandoned it or changed their games into generic multiplatform action-adventures (e.g. Bioware), those forum members are unleashing their rage on Avadon, Spiderweb and Jeff Vogel.
One important thing – almost none of this has anything to do with the actual game.
So I figured I would take a moment and explain why they are wrong:
- Avadon is a GREAT game – this bears being the first thing I mention. I gushed about this game for good reason: great story, excellent characters, loads of exploration, varied enemies that present a combat challenge, and a solid turn-based combat system all wrapped up in an experience lasting ~25 – 40 hours depending on your speed and style.
- This is a ‘first of its’ kind’ event – there are certainly RPGs on the App Store … but there is nothing to approach the type of story-centric, turn-based game that hearkens back to classic PC games of the past. Nothing.
- You aren’t owed ANYTHING – the first question to ask: was Avadon for Mac worth $25. My answer is YES! Was Avadon for PC worth $25. Again my answer is YES! Heck, as I said before Avadon is better than Dragon Age 2, and folks happily paid $60 for THAT! If you played and felt you got value for your money, then why do you care if someone on a different platform pays a different price?
- Linkage is the wrong idea – PC gamers railed against pricing-parity when EA and others started making PC games $60 to match consoles in spite of not having the $10 ‘console tax’ – it is not reasonable to turn around and try to impose pricing parity now.
- Other Ports are similarly priced – look at Final Fantasy 1 & 2 for iPhone – they cost less than half as much for iPhone as for the PSP for example. And in that case you really ARE getting the same game down to almost the same resolution and screen size!
- It isn’t quite the same game – people complained when the Mac App Store of Avadon was priced at $20, but you can’t edit the game files or access scripts. For many fans that is a MAJOR thing that is worth the $5. The iPad version has no demo, no refund (Jeff offers a full 1-year no questions asked refund policy), no mods, no editing, and fixed resolution. You get the core experience, but not the full extent of what has been possible with Spiderweb games through the years.
- Apple/iPad is not destroying gaming – it is amazing to me the amount of anti-Mac/Apple hate on RPG forums, which has changed from pity to vengeful disdain as the company went from near death to dominance in the last decade. Apple didn’t invent cheaper pricing of mobile games, they merely arrived with the iTunes App Store with great pricing at the right time – everything else we can blame on customers.
- Touch screen isn’t perfect for long-time fans – when playing the Mac or PC game I regularly tap keys on the keyboard and ‘stuff happens’. I never even thought about it until my kids pointed it out. There is extensive keyboard shortcut support, whereas every action requires at least one tap on the iPad.
- The game is not new – Avadon has already been out for nearly 4 months on the Mac and 2 months on the PC. Any movie released in theaters when the Mac version released is long since gone, and many games released in early March have seen permanent price drops. When the Mac gets a PC port, typically the PC version is already lower priced and has been on sale for 50% off. None of this stuff is new.
- Someone else’s price does YOU no harm! – when Amazon sold Lady Gaga for $0.99 whereas everyone else was selling it for $15, were those customers suddenly owed $14 for the difference? And this isn’t even the same format! It isn’t like you can run the iPad version on the Mac or PC! If you bought the earlier version and enjoyed it, why worry? If you were torn but decided to buy the PC/Mac version assuming the iPad would cost the same, I feel sorry for you but surely you have to understand the App Store ecosystem wouldn’t allow that.
But there are also some good points being made:
- The App Store model IS hurting gaming – the ‘race to the bottom’ has been discussed many, many times including by me in the past. It puts a constant downward pressure on game prices at the same time customers clamor for better visuals and better experiences.
Actually, that is about the only point that really makes sense.
Jeff Vogel actually addressed some of this stuff personally on his own forums, saying:
Ever with the lower price, it is still one of the most expensive games for the iPad by a fair margin. We are charging pretty much the highest price for the game we reasonably can, in part to keep from annoying other users.
Someone there was terribly affronted, and another user said that if you feel such an injustice you should just write and ask for a refund. Vogel addressed that as well:
Finally, I think that asking for a refund for a game that you purchased, played, and enjoyed and obtained at a fair price (and yes, $25 is a fair price for PC/Mac Avadon) is, well, it’s pretty shady at best. We will honor the commitments we made, but I like to think that our fans, annoyed or not, would not take advantage of a small indie developer in such a way.
In other words, a pretty slimy move.
I have written before about how some of the worst enemies to a developer like Vogel are actually the so-called fans of the genre; these are the ones who regularly decry the trend towards console action games instead of traditional games with great stories and deep character progression. These are the same folks out there saying that Jeff is deliberately saying ‘FU’ to loyal customers. To which I can only say ‘huh?’ …
But I want to end where I started – the good news! Spiderweb Software has released Avadon: The Black Fortress from Spiderweb Software on the iPad in the iTunes App Store for the price of $9.99. If you are looking for a traditional ‘old school’ PC-style RPG for your iPad, look no further. And as I said, I am finishing up my review of the game now … and will have it up in a few days.