Think Revolution Software and you think Broken Sword, but Charles Cecil’s point and click love affair began with this unforgettable Amiga, Atari ST and PC adventure.
As far as UK graphic adventure fans are concerned, Charles Cecil long ago cemented his reputation as a national treasure. Yet while Ron ‘Monkey Island’ Gilbert and Roberta ‘King’s Quest’ Williams may be point and click royalty, Cecil can at least claim to be heir to the throne. After all, his most famous point and click series – Broken Sword – still thrives (The Angel Of Death’s release in 2006 came almost precisely a decade after The Shadow Of The Templars debuted to near-universal acclaim).
Revolution Software’s winding road would eventually end at the doorstep of a certain George Stobbart, but Cecil’s breakthrough in the genre initially came about thanks to another, far less renowned protagonist – peasant turned reluctant hero Diermot. That game was Revolution’s first title, 1992’s Lure Of The Temptress.
moscalloutThe games industry was extremely young at the time, and many people assumed it was nothing more than a fad that would die out/moscalloutPassionate about historical and conspiratorial lore from a young age, Cecil – like so many pioneering game designers – stumbled into the industry by accident. “I began my career back with the Sinclair ZX81 when I was sponsored as a mechanical engineer by Ford after I left school,” he recalls. “A friend of mine had managed to disassemble the ROM for the ZX80 – a very impressive thing to have done, and invaluable for machine code programmers – and he invited me to join his development company, Arctic Computing.”
The games industry was extremely young at the time, and many people assumed it was nothing more than a fad that would die out in time, Cecil continues: “I worked at Arctic for a bit, writing text adventures like Inca Curse, Espionage Island  and Ship Of Doom , before moving to US Gold as a development manager. At the time, the department consisted of two people – myself and a tester.
“In 1988 I was approached to become a manager at Activision, where I had a wonderful couple of years, before the US parent company ran into some difficulties. So, in 1990, I finally decided to set up Revolution with Tony Warner – with whom I’d worked at Arctic – a friend of his, David Sykes, and Noreen Carmadie, another Activision employee. The four of us started up the company, initially based in Hull – helped out with a £10,000 loan from my mother. Bless her!”
Lure Of The Temptress and the early days of Revolution are linked so deeply as to be virtually indistinguishable. Financing for the project initially came courtesy of Mirrorsoft, a publishing company owned by doomed media tycoon Robert Maxwell and one of the industry’s heavy hitters back in the early ’90s. Blasteroids, Bloodwych and a little game called Tetris could all be counted among its roster. It was a huge opportunity for the then fledgling Revolution, as Cecil recounts: “Sean Brennon, the then deputy MD of Mirrorsoft, phoned me up and said: ‘We desperately need great product; if you want to set up a studio, we’d definitely support you.’”
At the time, the graphic adventure genre was dominated by LucasArts and Sierra – yet Cecil reveals he hoped to inject some originality to liven up what he saw as the ‘repetition’ of series such as King’s Quest (already up to part VI by the time Lure saw release). “While I enjoyed Sierra games, I felt that there had to be more than yet again saving King Graham of Daventry from a – let’s be frank – fairly unlikely series of events. It was all a little bit twee. So we came up with the idea of writing an adventure game that didn’t take itself too seriously, but did have a serious story – something in-between Lucasarts and Sierra.” Lure certainly lived up to Cecil’s aims, with its fair share of death and the presence of the enchantress Selena’s bodyguards – the inhuman, thuggish Skorls.
Nevertheless, Cecil remained cognizant that Revolution was about to enter into perhaps the most competitive genre of its age; established series like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Police Quest, Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry all successfully weaved high-quality narrative, side-splitting dialogue and complex puzzles. “Oh yes, you had to have an awfully good game with an awfully good script, and very intense gameplay,” he recalls.
As far as Cecil was concerned though, laughter remained the key to success. “Humor’s a very clever way of creating rhythm, rather than a monotone gameplay pace which can soon grate. Mind you, that rule is not as applicable nowadays as it was back then – advances in technology have made contemporary games more immersive.” Not forgetting burgeoning budgets; whereas Lure cost a mere £20,000 to make, the third entry in the Broken Sword saga, 2003’s The Sleeping Dragon, came in at a hefty £2 million. Times have certainly changed.
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