Interviewer: Sebastian 'Gestur' Nisi
Charles Cecil works for the gaming industry since the early 80's. Adventure game fans will most likely know him as co-founder of Revolution Software, where he was, amongst others, responsible for the creation of the Broken Sword brand.
Adventure-Treff.de: „Unlike the original version the director's cut starts with the story of Nicole Collard. When will the player start to play George?“
Charles Cecil: „The game starts a day before the original, with Nico witnessing a brutal murder by an assassin dressed as a mime. This introduces a whole new sub-plot involving secrets – she soon discovers that the victim has a dark secret, and is devastated to discover that she has her own. This additional story interweaves with the original – so you play Nico, then experience the start of the original game with George, then return to playing Nico etc. When the game was given to people who had not played the original, they were surprised to discover that there had been any additions – so hopefully this indicates that the integration is pretty seamless.“
A-T: „You seem to enjoy writing for Nico. Can you imagine developing a game in which she is the main character?“
C.C. „What an interesting question! The dynamic of the game is very much driven by George and Nico’s different outlooks on life. George is the more laid back and flippant, which makes writing humorous dialogue for him easier. Nico is more sassy and determined which makes her character deeper. I wouldn’t want to show any favoritism, but going forward, we will certainly be giving them equal billing.“
A-T: „Will the DS version contain voice-over? After all, BS1 had a lot more dialogue than the sequels.“
C.C. „The DS version won’t have voice over. There simply wasn’t room on the cartridge to include it, although we do feature all the original music. The Wii version does, of course, have full voice-over.“
A-T: „In the original game, at least in the German version, the sound was a little tinny due to high compression. What measures did you take regarding this problem?“
C.C. „My approach was that anything that happened first time around was set in stone and could not change. This means that all the original assets are used, except where higher quality versions exist (for example, the original backgrounds were created in 16 bit rather than the 200 colours of the original). And we have added alpha layers to the original sprites. Obviously all new content audio is provided at a high sampling rate. I was delighted that we were able to use the original actors for both George and Nico.“
A-T: „Dave Gibbons already cooperated with your company Revolution Software on Beneath a Steel Sky. Why didn't he work on other Revolution games, apart from the recent DC?“
C.C. „We kept in touch after Beneath a Steel Sky, but the obvious collaboration was on a sequel to that game rather than a new one. And it still is – we just need to find a stretch of time when we are both free.
The opportunity to collaborate on the Director’s Cut came about because I wanted someone to draw the facial expressions that are displayed when characters are in conversation. Dave was finishing one project and was about to go on to supporting the Watchmen movie so had a window of opportunity. Obviously I am delighted that he was free. He also drew the new sequences, and is currently drawing a comic to accompany the game.“
A-T: „In the 1980s you studied mechanical engineering in Manchester. Even during your studies you already worked on video games. From todays viewpoint, would you rather study something else? Or was it one of the routes one had to take to transfer into the game industry? After all, game design academies didn't exist till a few years ago.“
C.C. „I often wonder what would have happened had I given up my degree in the early ‘80s and worked full time for the publisher that I was helping to run at the time, Artic Computing. There were so many entrepreneurial opportunities at that time. I did run Artic after leaving university but by then the opportunities for small developer/publishers had diminished as large, well funded publishers used marketing clout to wrestle control of the market. In terms of practicalities, my engineering degree included modules such as law, accountancy and my sponsorship by Ford included such things as being trained for television interviews – so all in all the degree did provide me with some valuable knowledge. Now, of course, there are many degrees related to games – but I am still ambivalent when asked to recommend degree courses for people wanting to get in to games: whether to read straight Maths, which is so valuable, and then learn computer sciences: whether to undertake a classical art course and then learn computer graphics skills. It is very tough for people leaving school these days…“
A-T: „How did you meet Tony Warriner and the other founders of the company?“
C.C. „I was at Artic computing in the mid ‘80s and we were desperately looking for great products. Then a game called Obsidian was sent for consideration – it was brilliant. And the young author, Tony Warriner, lived quite close to where Artic was based. I invited him to the offices, took him for lunch, and convinced him to let Artic publish the game. As was usual for those days, Tony had designed and programmed the game, created the graphics, and composed the music and sound effects. He had drawn the graphics on graph paper and calculating the hexadecimal values directly. I don't think that he even had an assembler - he really was a hardcore ‘80s bedroom coder. Tony then came to work for Artic.
Artic closed down, and I then set up a small development studio, Paragon Programming and employed Tony again. Then I was approached by the publisher US Gold and agreed to work for them, and Tony and I parted ways.
When I decided that I wanted to return to development, I approached Tony who was, by then, writing aviation software. He brought a fellow programmer, David Sykes. And I invited my girlfriend, later to become my wife, Noirin Carmody. Revolution was born.
David Sykes has subsequently left the industry and got a proper programming job. But the rest of us are very much working as a team still enjoying each other’s company. I think.“
The console versions of Broken Sword
are not just 1:1 ports but feature new some new content.
A-T: „In an interview with John Walker from "Rock, Paper, Shotgun" you said "We’re right on the peripheral in trying to create profound emotions, or, in inverted commas, ‘games that make you cry.’" In your opinion, which game has achieved this in the best possible way up till now?“
C.C. „I still think that wanting to make people cry is a worthy ambition. I feel proud that so many people were so emotionally moved by the death of a character, Bruno, in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon and John’s article was prompted by fans who claimed that they had cried at his self sacrifice. The classic reference, the death of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, is still considered by many to be the benchmark – although the game is now ten years old. The core issue is that the interactive medium is able to provoke visceral emotions very effectively through the gameplay, but we find it much harder to produce more profound emotions.“
A-T: „In 2006 you received the award "Legend of the Game Industry" by the developer magazine "Develop". How do you handle this fame and where do you see yourself in ten years?“
C.C. „The emergence of digital distribution as a viable method of selling games directly to gamers has disrupted the market and thrown up extraordinary opportunities that have not existed for well over 10 years. My ambition is to work with publishing partners, while also directly exploiting emerging opportunities. I felt very honoured to have received the award, but expect and hope to achieve much more over the next ten years, both creatively and commercially, than I have over the last.“
A-T: „Can you tell us anything about the future of Revolution Software? What's up next?“
C.C. „Obviously the main focus is the launch of the games on Wii and DS. I am doing some advisory work on a couple of projects, but the next major project may be work on a Broken Sword movie. I was hooked up with a production company, Radar Pictures, who produced The Last Samurai, Chronicles of Riddick amongst many other successful movies and they have expressed great interest. I am ambivalent – on one hand it would be incredibly exciting, on the other I wouldn’t want yet another poor game-to-film adaptation. I am currently re-writing the story to fit into a film rather than a game structure. Intellectually it is very interesting to explore the core differences in how the character motivations are driven between the two mediums. It is interesting that ‘convergence’ really has come of age and now it is all about ideas and properties rather than technology – and games development is the perfect place to be in terms of understanding and exploiting these opportunities.“
A-T: „Thanks a lot for your time. We wish you good luck with your projects!“