Interviewer: Jan 'DasJan' Schneider
Charles Cecil is the head of Revolution Software and worked on all of the Broken Sword games. After a presentation of Angel of Death (see our preview) we had the opportunity to ask a few questions.
Adventure-Treff: "Thank you for the interesting presentation. You mentioned that the concept of the crate puzzles is not a bad thing..."
Charles Cecil: "Okay, two things. First of all, for a Broken Sword game - other games are very different - but in a Broken Sword game I want to set the player under pressure. In Broken Sword 3, the mechanic of the creeping didn't work at all well. You didn't know when you were in light, when you were in dark, when you should be heard, when you shouldn't be heard, but the principle of putting the player under pressure is absolutely right. So we have elements of creeping as we did before, but with a much better control system.
And also the crate puzzle. Now the crate puzzle, when it was used correctly in Broken Sword 3 like in the beginning on the plane it was absolutely correct because it gave the world a sense that it was... everything didn't just change for the player and then return back again. So we do have the moving around of boxes. What we don't have is enormous great blocks where you have to move boxes around, push them on top of each other and so on. So the idea of simple physics is absolutely right. What we did wrong in Broken Sword 3 is: we put these crates in points in which the players would expect to be able to move quite fast in the scenes and then he reached a block. So I promise you we don't have frustrating crate puzzles, but we haven't abandoned the idea."
A-T: "By 'physics' you mean the ability to push and pull the boxes?"
C.C.: "Yes. And the ability of things to fall off an edge, things like that."
Charles Cecil being interviewed
A-T: "Because the game world feels more real this way?"
C.C.: "Absolutely, yeah. And that's why in the game we have a lot of technology in terms of steam, in terms of particles, in terms of bloom, pigeons running away and then flying off, because what I want is a world that feels alive and I think that's one of the things that really cursed adventures, the fact that they were so dependent on what the player did at any time."
A-T: "Do you think the average adventure 10 or 15 years ago was better than the average adventure today?"
C.C.: (smiles) "Well, I don't, no. If you look back at the Monkey Island games which were absolutely brilliant... I would say the classic games with the Monkey Islands and Day of the Tentacle were. Clearly they were seminal 2D titles, as Broken Sword was a seminal 2D title. Now a lot of people think with 3D we lost something.
What I am trying to achieve is a 2D look, but in a 3D world. You take advantage of the fact that you got 3D, you got cinematography, you got puzzles, you got the ability to move crates if you want to, you got the ability to have lights and rain and all of these things. But visually I hope that Broken Sword 3 and Broken Sword 4 look like it could have been 2D games, but in a 3D world."
A-T: "What are the advantages of 3D?"
C.C.: "One of the advantages, the key advantage, is the ability to have cinematography. You can move the camera around... the position of the camera makes a huge emotional impact on how the scene is displayed. You can also move the camera to make the game feel like it's dynamic. I guess the other thing is: when we were doing Broken Sword 3 in 3D I felt that when we move to 3D it is really important to have puzzles that will work in 3D but that wouldn't work in 2D. You can have a larger environment, as you saw there are quite big landscapes that you can actually run around, so you have closed areas and then open areas. There are quite a lot of advantages in 3D."
George has a problem
A-T: "In your presentation you mentioned that the pacing is also very important in your game because you want it to feel like a movie. You also mentioned that you don't want to go the way that Fahrenheit and Dreamfall went avoiding hard puzzles which would slow down the story. Isn't that a contradiction?"
C.C.: "What you find in Broken Sword is that the puzzles are quite logical, so hopefully you will not get stuck for too long. To me it's really important to have a pacing and a difficult puzzle, provided that it's got a logical outcome, you spend a few minutes working it out, then you got the satisfaction having worked it out, then that was a low point in the pacing, and then as you put the player under pressure the puzzles get deliberately easier so that the player can get forward fast, then the pacing gets faster. That is what I am trying to achieve."
A-T: "You produced the game in a very different way than you produced Broken Sword 3. You sized down your company and worked with partners. Now in retrospect how do you think did that work out?"
C.C.: "In retrospect it worked really, really well. Without doubt it was the right thing to do, because one of the problems about having a studio like Revolution which works on one product at a time is that you have to rump up at the beginning, you have a big team and unless there is project which overlaps there is gonna be downtime. What happens is either you have a huge overhead or you make people redundant. And then, when you have your next project, you rump up so you have to employ people again. It's really very very bad, it's a very difficult way of working. So unless you have continuous work it just simply doesn't work anymore. For Broken Sword 3 people worked very hard but we just had to lay some people off. We had no choice. And that just seemed not a fair thing to do.
The advantage to work with an established developer which has multiple projects, and they might be 50 to 60 strong, is that they can balance their work. With big projects like Broken Sword they can bring the ressources there when they're needed and move them on to other projects once they are not needed anymore. They have the flexibility to balance the ressources and their staff, which we simply didn't do. So, one: you have a much more stable team. But from my perspective, designing the game and running the company, talking to the bank manager and all this stuff was just too much to do. And then at the end of a project I also had to worry about the next one starting.
The really nice thing now is: we are reaching the end of Broken Sword 4 and, yes, I am thinking about what I am going to do next, but there is no pressure to find something for 30 people to do, which I had before. So, one: it's much more fun. Two: it means I can focus on the game, much more than I could previously. And I think the two together mean that you get a better quality game."
Nico in Arizona
A-T: "How many developers who worked on the third worked on the fourth game while being with other companies?"
C.C.: "Well, the joke is, the only person that's worked on... maybe Tony, Tony Warriner, because he did a bit of work on Broken Sword 4... but the only one who really worked full time on all of the games is myself and Rolf Saxon, Rolf being the English voice of George.
But a lot of people who worked on Broken Sword 3 worked on Broken Sword 4: the composer, Ben McCullough, was actually employed by Revolution and now he worked freelance and composed the music of Broken Sword 4, so it's a nice continuity. A few of the design implementors like Ross Hartshorn worked for Revolution and now they work at Sumo. A number of the people at Sumo actually worked for Revolution at one point as well because we are geographically quite close. So there is a lot of continuity in the way the team has moved on."
A-T: "I guess you've been confronted with this question quite often in the past months, but I just have to ask it. Before Broken Sword 3 came out you said that you think point & click is dead. Why did you change your mind?"
C.C.: "In a way, I didn't. I still think that point & click as it was done years ago is dead. What I am talking about is that the genre is too static, the game world absolutely reacts to the player and doesn't have an own live. In Broken Sword 3 we threw the baby out with the bath water, if you know that term. Now in Broken Sword 4 I think it works very well."
A-T: "Now that you almost finished Broken Sword 4: what are you doing next?"
C.C.: (hesitates) "Well... I can't say... it's not Broken Sword 5."
A-T: "Thank you very much for the presentation and the interview and good luck with the game!"