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Interview with Charles Cecil

Once more, Aventura y CÍA has had the chance to speak with one of the most important designers of the adventure game industry: Charles Cecil. Creator of lost treasures such as Lure of the Temptress or the wonderful Beneath a Steel Sky, he founded in 1989 what today's still Revolution Software, and since then he's wanted to do honor to the name of his company offering little outbursts of originality to his adepts. But innovation comes for a price...

# By Paco García |

Interview with Charles Cecil

It's been a long time since Revolution got into the gaming world. From its beginnings the company has always been closer to adventure games than to any other genre, and, yet basing your games in the purest concept of the genre, you've always been a step ahead with innovation. What is your current objective, getting that step further or creating a brand-new concept?

What a flattering question! The smart answer is we’re trying to step forward and in doing so create a new concept. In pushing the adventure genre into 3D, we’re actually creating a new type of game. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is very much an adventure game at heart. The game is about investigation, and the players will need to navigate through a complex world, speaking to characters and solving a mystery. However, they will do this using a control system that, at first glance, may appear to be closer to an ‘action’ interface. But make no mistake, despite the move to 3D and the similarities in look to, say, a Metal Gear Solid or Tomb Raider-style game, the emphasis here is very much on the adventure (in the widest sense). We’ve been able to use the additional dimension to increase the variety and level of interest in the obstacles and puzzles. Rather than solving them all through a variation of a point and click interface – the standard use this on that solution – we’re now able to include puzzles in 3D and in real-time, something practically impossible using the previous traditional mechanic.

It seems that most designers who had worked in this world for some time (at least those I have interviewed) agree picking quite old adventures as their favourite ones. It's the opinion of great professionals of course, but maybe they're too nostalgic. What do you think about this, were games better years ago or is it just that they were the first ones?

This may be because most of the successful adventure writers of the late 90’s have not created games in the genre for a number of year. A key reason, as I have said previously, is that the ‘point and click’ genre has declined commercially and is too restrictive creatively. What was noticeable at E3 this year is that the genre is making a strong resurgence – and that is good news for all of us and, of course, adventure fans. The genre had to move forward and different designers have come at it from different angles. From another perspective, expectations have changed so we look back to times when we expected less. When CD-ROM became popular, we marvelled at the pre-rendered sequences. Of course, the games themselves remained essentially the same, but with prettier graphics. But titles such as Day of the Tentacle and the original Monkey Island games remain in my mind – not just for the visuals, but for the script.

Although now it seems to be something habitual to hear that adventure games are dead (with arguments like 'the genre needs to undergo a renewal which it hasn't had for a long time') under our personal point of view we consider that the adventure games are one of the genres that have evolved the most. Although the main concept is still kept intact, one can say that there is a big gap between King's Quest and Monkey Island, so between Monkey Island and Broken Sword... In your opinion, how big will this difference be between Broken Sword and Broken Sword 3?

In reality: Huge. The transition is made because we can, for the first time, move into a 3D environment while maintaining the quality of the graphics, and this opens up huge gameplay opportunities. So the changes come from a position of strength. One of the key reactions when we demo the game is that once people start to play, they immediately recognise the spirit of the game as fundamentally an adventure but with more dynamic gameplay, a varied pace and much greater levels of cinematography.

Now that we have mentioned BS3, let's keep talking about it. In between your first thought of making a new BS and the final game we'll soon enjoy, I guess there were some 'preliminary versions' of the game which didn't make it at the end. Tell us about these versions, or, if there actually weren't any, how did you got the idea of making something like BS3 when you first thought of it?

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon has been on our minds since we completed Broken Sword 2. We wanted to wait until technology allowed us to make a really big leap, rather than simply updating the engine, as we did for the first sequel. That technology is now here – the next generation consoles are perfectly adequate for accommodating our vision. Although you could consider the GBA version of Broken Sword a small progression, the move to direct control taught us a lot. Despite it being very similar to the original, the player could move George around directly within the Broken Sword world. I greatly regret that we didn’t go to direct control for the PlayStation one version!

It seems that lately in the gaming world the prevailing thing is to make a quick best-seller and then get the product forgotten; games don't last in players' memory anymore. We are aware that you, as a designer, wish your games to stay for months on the shelves, pretty much in the way a sculpter wishes his work to be admired for generations. We sincerely can't understand how people can give themselves away to the market. You've been in the industry for some years now, please tell us, why do you think this is happening?

I think much of this has to do with the typical sales cycle of a game, and that so many are so similar to each other. Most peak within the first week and then fade pretty quickly. A few manage to hang around the top of the charts for a few months or, in extreme cases, years – and these are the games that really do sell huge numbers. We’re hopeful that Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon can be one of these games; we’re certainly not aiming for a short-term sales blip. We’re putting more into the development of this game than we’ve ever done before. Certainly my dream is to write games that are considered seminal and are remembered long after release.

As the releasing date of BS3 gets closer, the first previews of the game have been released. We've noted a discrepancy when it's up to setting the game into a certain genre. Some say it's clearly a pure adventure game, others state it's a hybrid of action and adventure. One might blame for this discussion on Revolution itself, since you've been dropping a very confusing amount of information. We know it's good to keep the expectation, but what is the benefit of confusing the audience?

We have certainly tried not to confuse people. We have always said that the game is an adventure – but that it includes adventure-driven action sequences. The confusion has probably come from the interpretation of this statement. Perhaps the waters were muddied by the original ECTS trailer we released last year. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to really show off much of the game – it was essentially a technology demo with a few characters running around the scenery.

To settle this controversy, please tell us what will be the percentage of pure adventure and what percentage of action in BS3.

100% adventure with 20% cerebral-orientated action!

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