Charles Cecil’s Broken Sword franchise is back in the limelight thanks to the release of the Kickstarter-funded Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. With that in mind, we felt it was the perfect time to speak to the founder of Revolution Software about the original adventures of George and Nico.
Recently the point-and-click adventure has had a welcome revival, with a number of classic games appearing – some new, some based on classic franchises. Arguably the greatest time for the genre was the mid Nineties, when companies like LucasArts were delivering classics left right and centre. Among the games causing a stir was Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars, a title created by Charles Cecil, boss of the highly acclaimed developer Revolution Software. Indeed, such was Broken Sword’s popularity it has spawned four sequels.
George meets plenty of interesting characters on his travels.
The original, Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars introduced US law graduate George Stobbart and French journalist Nico Collard and took the player on an adventure which transcended the globe and drew in more than its fair share of cults, murder and conspiracies, all laden thick with the hand of the Knights Templar. In what, in hindsight, looks like a precursor to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Broken Sword was ahead of its time.
Charles was certainly a fan of adventure games and had knocked out three text-only titles – Inca Curse and Espionage Island in 1981 and Ship Of Doom a year later – while studying mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester.
They were sold via student friend Matt Wallace’s games firm, Artic Computing, and encouraged Charles to establish Paragon Programming, a gaming development company that worked with US Gold, upon his graduation in 1985. Two years later, he became US Gold’s Software Development Manager before being approached by Activision to manage its European Development Studio.
The locations were exquisitively detailed and still hold up today.
But then, in 1990, he decided to go back to his roots and he set up Revolution Software.
At this time, Charles was taken by the point-and-click interface mastered in 1990 by LucasArts’ The Secret Of Monkey Island, a classic game with a fantastic script. He realised the possibilities that lay ahead and took on board the principles of point-and-click for Lure Of The Temptress, Revolution’s debut title. The game took two years to make and cost between £20,000 and £30,000.
Charles, as director, constructed it with precision, combining elements of fantasy and comedy to such perfection that Virgin Interactive Entertainment was only too happy to snap it up, publishing it for the Atari ST, PC and Amiga.
“Lure Of The Temptress was certainly the beginning of what would become the Broken Sword story,” says Charles.Temptress was followed up by science fiction adventure Beneath A Steel Sky in 1994 for the PC and Amiga. And then Charles read the controversial book Holy Blood And The Holy Grail.
Authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln argued there was evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. The book claimed the pair had one or more children who had emigrated to what is now the south of France and that a secret society called the Priory of Sion was set up to keep the ‘truth’ alive, creating the Knights Templar, their military and financial wing. Charles became fascinated by the conspiracy theories and he decided his next game would be based upon them.
George constantly risks danger in order to uncover the truth.
“I was looking for a subject which could bring in elements of humour but was predominantly based upon drama,” he continues. “The most successful adventure games at the time were centred on humour, like Monkey Island, but I wanted to depart from that, to create a game that had good pacing and a storyline that seemed real and involved. That’s why I felt the Knight Templars would be a great subject. It felt fresh – this was ten years ago when it was hard to find details of the Knight Templars and few people had heard of them. After reading Holy Blood And The Holy Grail I felt there was enough history with the Templars to make it a good subject on which to base a game.”
Once he had finished the book, he began to scribble down some ideas with scriptwriters Dave Cummins and Jonathan Howard and he decided he wanted to continue with the point-and-click theme of his two earlier efforts. His desire was to create a cinematic style for the new game while keeping faith with the traditional structure of adventure titles. By doing this, he mused, he would avoid going down the path that the glut of interactive movies had trodden in the early 1990s.
“When Broken Sword came out, we were riding on the back of these interactive movies,” he says. “They were a disaster. The people knocking them out were being blinded – they wanted to rub shoulders with movie stars and producers and the gaming elements were lost. They were out of touch with games. Of course, I am interested in film script writing and I felt then and still do that there can be parallels with games. I felt we needed to learn from the movies with Broken Sword but not mimic them. It was my intention to make Broken Sword cinematic, with great gameplay.”
Trust me, I’m a doctor…
After making his final decision upon the theme, Charles jumped on a plane to conduct a spot of research. “I visited Paris, going around the catacombs and checking out locations and sights,” he said. “It’s important to get references like this and I’ve done it with all of the games I have written. In actual fact, each game I have produced has reflected areas of life I’m interested in or place I have been to.
“For instance, Broken Sword 3 was set in the Congo. I was brought up there and had to leave under the bloody revolution so to create a game with that setting was very personal to me.”
Once he arrived back, he began to formulate the way the game would run and, as with his early games, he decided again to take full control – “someone has to have a vision in their head, of the characters, the story.”
His first decision was to make the game believable. “Believability is key and is preferable to out and out realism,” he says. “The characters had to be motivated, as we would expect in real life, and everything – right down to the smaller touches like the background lighting – had to be dramatic but not out of place.
“The same was true of the puzzles. We had to be very careful and so we went through lots of them, seeing which ones would be fun. These drive the story on, providing rewards as the players goes along, so we had to get them right.”
You can read the rest of our Making Of Broken Sword: The Shadow Of The Templaters in issue 31. Buy it now from GreatDigitalMags.com
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