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Interview with Charles Cecil

Charles Cecil, head and founder of Revolution, was kind enough to receive us in the offices of THQ Spain on the occasion of the presentation of the fourth instalment of Broken Sword.

# By J. Cadenas y P. García |

Interview with Charles Cecil

BS4 looks like an improvement compared to its predecessor, which we celebrate. But when promoting that part of the series you gave the press some particular and polemic explanations. Live and learn but how much difficult is to withdraw from what was once said?

There’re certain things that one says in a rush moment, that come back and forth, and as I said, the statement about BS being a trilogy is one of such. But obviously the one that I’m best known for is saying is that point and click adventure is dead. Now clearly I was being very provocative, and deliberately so, but I would argue that actually what I was saying was the point and click is, and I mean the traditional point and click here, is dead. So while I loved Monkey Island 1 and 2, and I loved Day of the Tentacle -those are my three favourite adventures- in this day and age you can’t keep producing games, I didn’t think, that are static, until the player moves things forward, so visually I wanted things going on in the screen, but also from a dramatic perspective I wanted the sense that the world was going on; the story was developing., In particular we tried to make antagonists active, so as the game goes on instead of the antagonists just waiting the end going “HA HA HA, I shall wait for George Stobbart, and whoever he’s going to bring along, to come, so I can have a confrontation”, you got the sense the whole world was developing. So my statement about that was very much a generalization, on what point and click adventures had been, rather than specifically the interface.

Now that Revolution’s work has been stretched only to direction and script writing, what advantages and disadvantages have you found compared to previous experiences?

That’s a very good question. For Broken Sword 3, I wrote the story, I designed the high level puzzles, I made sure that the landlord was happy with the lease, I paid the milkman, because he’s my friend apart from that he supports Manchester United and because our PA (personal assistant) was never in by the time he arrived, I had to work out to lease my old MACs and the cost implications of that, I did the cash flow, I talked the bank manager… It was just absolutely impossible!

And also even worse than that was that, as we came to the end of Broken Sword 3 I had started a new project to make sure the team had something to come onto, because it was quite big, and our overheads were a hundred thousand pounds a month. And you don’t make much money in development, if you’re lucky to make any money at all, so one month wipes out any profit you’d ever make.

It was my wife that said to me “this has stopped being fun, we really need to do something different”, and then a project was cancelled in 2004 very early, so I had no choice but to lay people off. And the great thing was that these people were loyal, they worked hard, they were good people, they had worked in Broken Sword 3 and they knew there was no choice, so it wasn’t like I was a complete bastard who exploited them. We had to cut the company down and the people stayed for as long as they needed to, to do whatever they needed to do, and they had keys, all day long, so there was a very good relationship and the really nice thing about that is a lot of them came back to Broken Sword 4; not for Revolution though, some of them went to Sumo, some of them went freelance; so probably half of the people on the team actually worked on previous games through Revolution although in a different way, and it meant that I still have a very good relationship with them because I didn’t fire them, I laid them off but I had no choice, which is very important to me, from a moral point of view; and then again that meant that I still had very good relationships to enjoy working on it and that I could really concentrate on what was important. Now I don’t even have an office, I have very few people working and they tend to work with me on a freelance basis when projects come along, which means that my relationship with them is now as well as itwas, but while previously it was and employer/employee relationship which has also some tension, now is on a freelance basis, which is a much more creative way of working and a much more friendly way because you work for as long as you need to and then everybody goes off to do the their own thing.

So I answered your question in a very long way but basically because one it’s more fun, to be honest; two is also cheaper, because you don’t have the overhead; and three from a creative perspective I think it was a lot more satisfying because I could really concentrate on the areas that are my skills and the other people worked on things where they were particularly skilled at. And Sumo had a very strong project management, so while previously I would have been involved with that, this time I didn’t need to, so all in all I think it’s very interesting. Some people call it the Hollywood model, which I think is a bit pretentious; it’s not my term is somebody else’s, but it is very much the way that movies are made now and creatively it just works. It’s fine.

Looking at BS4 you can discover that, besides your typical historical mysteries, there are also new elements included: a kind of femme fatale character, the main character’s professional and personal decadence, mafia involved… Could this be interpreted as an attempt by Charles Cecil to escape from the previous style in the series?

No, not to escape from, no. What it is, as I’ve said many times, and forgive me for repeating myself, there were never any plans to do a fourth game. When I decided, and I was delighted to do a fourth game, I decided that it had to be significantly different, we simply could not just repeat the same thing, we couldn’t have the same relationship between George and Nico, so what it is, is deliberately going out to break the structure that we had, and hopefully come up to a more interesting one, put in terms to the relationship between main characters.

Also, obviously the game involves a knight templar, but it has to, and it has to because the games are about forgotten knowledge, all of the games have been about forgotten knowledge, and the forgotten knowledge inevitably comes through the Temple of Solomon and the excavation by the Templars in 1187, when they found these incredible secrets. So, whatever; nobody quite can agree what these secrets were, and nobody can quite agree how they went back out, but you’d be a brave man not to say that actually the central point, the bottleneck of the games, was the templars’ excavation and findings, we discovering their secrets. So even in that, we are well aware that the Templars are quite cliché these days, because it's so obvious to use, but anyway we had already come up with the first, so we were allowed to be.

And then you got films like National Treasure, a dreadful film; it’s a weak film but it uses the idea of the Templars going to America... it involves the knights of Jesus or something like that, but anyway, the idea of the Knights Templar as a story structure has been used so many times, so even that we tried to turn out its head, we tried put reversals in, making you expect one thing and then reversing it. That’s very much trying to break away and I think the result is actually more dynamic, because in movie script writing it’s all about reversing expectations, leading the audience to expect something and then reversing it, so in the example that I showed you [in the presentation of the game] we are trying to break out of the cell and the player goes “Yes! I worked out that I can use the bracket, that I can pull the break out and I could escape”, then we reversed it, because the guard is coming, and saying “well, that was so obvious, that we all have bets on how quickly you could work it out”… so yes it’s not escaping from what the games were before but rather trying to make sure that it’s got a different feel, because to undertake the fourth game I refused to just simply use the same thing again.

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