Revolution Software's Charles Cecil has told us that he rejected advances from major publishers who wanted to release the newly announced Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse.
In an extensive interview, Cecil says the industry's "biggest thirdparty publisher" was interested in taking the new Broken Sword. Instead he decided to seek $400,000 in funding for his new point-and-click adventure through Kickstarter.
"The publisher approached us and asked ‘what do we need to do to publish Broken Sword?' I was enormously flattered, but decided it was better if we self-published," he tells us.
Cecil, though, is keen to remain free from publisher influence, though he clearly remains respectful to many of those he has worked with. "Publishers that fund projects have every reason to be cautious and I totally understand why they control the schedule," he says. "But when we have control of budget and schedule we can make decisions that are best for the game.
"This is the first Broken Sword we have written in which we have been totally unrestricted.”
He won’t spell out the identity of the publisher, though EA and Activision Blizzard are the obvious candidates. Both companies will doubtless have noticed the success of the iOS re-releases of the first two Broken Sword games, which have been downloaded five million times in the last 12 months.
Activision has been a cautious player in the mobile space, and the recent release of a Pitfall reboot for iOS suggests the company's smartphone efforts will be led by classic IP. Broken Sword 5 would, then, have been a fine fit for a company still finding its feet in mobile.
At times Cecil has faced an uphill battle to convince traditional funders that audiences still want adventure games, and admits he bowed to commercial pressure with the switch to 3D for Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon.
The pressure resulted in a game that was maligned for its over-reliance on its box-pushing mechanic. And that’s a source of embarrassment for Cecil. "It was a naive mistake to include so much box-pushing – that should have been obvious," he admits. "Ideas such as moving a box to trigger a door and moving it again to climb on the ledge worked and we had some great animations. But it was my fault that I allowed us to over-use the mechanic."
Broken Sword 5 is a return to the series’ 2D roots, albeit with 3D cut-scenes – a sign of the freedom the Kickstarter model has afforded the reformed development team. Cecil has promised to avoid box-pushing puzzles too.
And while independence is key to Revolution’s decision in the end another reason for choosing the Kickstarter model may be financial after all.
"Publishers take all the risk when they fund a project," says Cecil, "but they also take what a developer would see as a disproportionate cut of the revenue. At Revolution we had not made royalties on a game for over a decade until digital distribution which pretty much saved us." And now, he says, they are in a position to channel resources raised through crowd-funding into creating the best Broken Sword yet.
Cecil feels the time is right for an all-new adventure game after a challenging period for the genre. "We worked with Sony and I have an enormously high regard for PlayStation, but the success of PlayStation killed the non-hardcore market," he says. "All publishers saw visceral 3D games as the only solution and abandoned cerebral 2D games, as did retail. But in the current climate, adventure is ideal."