GB Feature: Spiderweb Software Interview

With the recent release of Avernum 6 (Gamebanshee review here) and a new series announced to be on its way, we interview Spiderweb Software founder Jeff Vogel about Avernum 6 and get some details on the upcoming franchise.
What are the main things you learned from Avernum and Geneforge that you are taking into your next franchise?

Many things. Even after fifteen years, I am learning new things all the time.

For example, I've learned a lot about the difficulty curve. My last few games have been, frankly, too hard. I want a smoother, gentler difficulty curve with fewer surprises. For people who want a challenge, that are what the tough difficulty levels are for.

I've also learned a lot about graphics. Avernum 6 is the nicest looking game we've ever done, and the next game will be even prettier.

Please expand upon what you mean exactly by "too hard". Should I expect the new game to simply have an easier standard combat difficulty setting? Or are you also referring to quest design, meaning that I should expect the game to "hold my hand" while resolving quests?

I like the quests the way they are. Some of them should be simple, and some should require more digging and thinking. In terms of puzzle-solving, I think we're in a good place.

By difficulty, I am referring to toughness of fights. I have allowed my difficulty curves to get too spiky and unpredictable. I've always liked to put the occasional tough monster early in the game, to give players a chance to face a challenge. I then put warnings that a tough encounter was ahead. But people either miss those warnings or ignore them, fight the tough monster, get killed, and get angry at me. I am going to do less of this in the future and be a lot more careful about how such tough encounters are placed.