Revolutionary Gaming

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In 1990, Charles Cecil started a gaming revolution, Revolution Software to be precise. They are the masterminds behind such games as Beneath A Steel Sky and the legendary Broken Sword. On 13th September 2009, the Urbis in Manchester hosted a talk with Cecil as part of their Videogame Nation exhibition. The exhibition was put together by games journalist David Crookes and explores the timeline of gaming from the ZX80 all the way to the DSi, offering gamers the chance to play some of the great games that changed the industry forever. I went along to take a look at the exhibition and have a few words with Charles Cecil myself.

Charles Cecil gave a great talk on the history of gaming and an inside look at getting involved in the industry. Cecil is the Founder and Managing Director of Revolution Software and is perhaps best known for designing adventure game Broken Sword. During the talk he described his job, ‘You will have an autocrat who is a basically a bastard, that’s me, who will come up with a story and drive it forward’.

The first Broken Sword game sold one million copies worldwide, and Broken Sword 2 was ranked 5th best game ever by PlayStation Magazine (ahead of Resident Evil 2 and FIFA 98!). For those who are not familiar with the series, Broken Sword began as a 2D point-and-click game, moving to 3D and direct control with Broken Sword 3, then back to point-and-click with the fourth game. He remarked that his mistake with the games was returning to point-and-click with the fourth game, and that he felt that the 3D graphics were ‘a little too realistic’. When I asked Cecil about the decision to move away from 2D which divided many fans, he explained that ‘A lot of the grammar conveyed in a 2D image cannot be conveyed in 3D. It created a division. For me, it was about cinematography. In 3D you can have camera movement and in terms of cinematography, the move to 3D was extremely helpful’.

I asked Cecil whether he thought that the popularity of the Wii is returning back to the point-and-click game in a new way, ‘Yes, definitely. The PlayStation 3 has the brand, XBOX 360 has the money, but the Wii and DS won. The audience is everyone‘. Cecil explained to me that he is particularly fond of the Wii and DS and has recently helped Disney to design the game ‘A Christmas Carol’ for the DS.

Cecil talked about the future of gaming; he spoke about how Apple and the iPhone have changed all this. ‘If a game is sold in a shop, the developers get 10%. If it is sold as an Apple application, the developer’s receive 70%’. Beneath A Steel Sky and Broken Sword are both being remastered for the iPhone. Beneath A Steel Sky will be available in October, Broken Sword is yet to be confirmed. I asked him whether he thought that Microsoft’s Project Natal for the XBOX 360 could change all this, his answer was simply ‘No, not at all. I have my doubts’. Revolution really value their fan base, ‘We rely on them and are flattered by them getting communities together. Forums are so valuable; people are not scared to say what they think. If you don’t listen to them, you are a fool’.

Charles Cecil’s favourite game is Day of the Tentacle which was created by LucasArts; ‘Lucas Arts really shook things up, I really admire them’. He also enjoyed Grand Theft Auto 3 and the first Metal Gear Solid games. Cecil is currently developing a Broken Sword film based on the first game with Radar Pictures who produced films such as The Last Samauri and The Invention of Lying. Cecil remarked that he would rather ‘there be no film, than there be a bad film’.

For those interested in getting into the games industry, Cecil has some useful advice. He recommends the Skillset accredited courses, particularly for programming. He said that the industry is always looking for people with good maths, physics and electronic engineering degrees. For artists, classical training is an advantage, along with technical training.

Meeting Charles Cecil was a great opportunity. He offered an excellent insight in to the games industry and certainly deserves the title of Industry Legend.