Ingmar: I’d like to move on to Broken Sword now. I’m sure you’ve talked a lot about it in the past, but not everyone will have heard it. How was the idea for Broken Sword born?
Charles: Okay, so we were finishing Beneath a Steel Sky, and wanted to work with Virgin [Interactive Entertainment] again, so I prepared a pitch for an Egyptian game – a game set in Egypt, to do with hieroglyphs. Sean Brennan had moved from Mirrorsoft to Virgin, and we moved with him – sorry, I should have made it clear that when Mirrorsoft collapsed, Sean and a number of others went to Virgin, and we took the games and licensed them to Virgin, so we swapped to Virgin. So Virgin had published Lure of the Temptress, and were about to publish Beneath a Steel Sky and we pitched this new idea. Sean suggested that we meet at a restaurant and have dinner together – this was a restaurant, I don’t remember the name, on the King’s Road, in Chelsea, in London – and he looked at the presentation, the pitch, and said “Egyptian games don’t sell, what else?” And that kind of flummoxed me, because I spent a fair bit of time coming up with these ideas, which he’d just dismissed. And he said, “Look, I’m reading a book called Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco, and there’s a really interesting group called the Knights Templar. They’d be fantastic anti-heroes.”
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
Now the thing about Sean is that he’s got a great eye for games and ideas. We drank lots of wine, and ate lots of great food, and talked further. I then started looking into the history, and I bought a book called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail – which of course is what Dan Brown used for The Da Vinci Code – and while most of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is utter nonsense, there was some really interesting information about the Knights Templar and how they may have morphed into the Freemasons, and all of that felt reasonably authentic and well worth exploring. The book also suggested the existence of the Priory of Sion, which is just the biggest load of rubbish ever – so for Dan Brown to state that it is a fact suggests that he didn’t spend too much time doing scholarly research.
Charles: But I can tell you another story actually, which is again to do with fate; I mean it is extraordinary. A number of years later, I was canoeing down the Dordogne with my son. My wife Noirin was waiting in a beautiful little village called Carennac, and went into a little art gallery and picked up a book about the Knights Templar. The owner of the art gallery walked over and asked her in French – she speaks no French, he speaks no English, but they kind of communicated – why she was interested. She explained, and it turned out that he was a guy called Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who had actually interviewed a guy called Pierre Plantard – Pierre Plantard was the one that claimed to be the Grandmaster of the Priory of Sion! We met and drank champagne and ate saucisson and talked about the truth behind the Prior of Sion.
Ingmar: Wow, that’s fate, indeed.
Charles: That is fate. Jean-Luc had actually revealed Pierre Plantard to be a fraud many, many years earlier, so by extraordinary coincidence, in this village of 313 people, we’d stumbled on the one person in the world – the one person in the world! – who knew all about the Priory of Sion and what a load of old nonsense it was. So that was just quite extraordinary, wasn’t it?
Broken Sword intro story sheet
Charles: So that’s how it started. Another bit of serendipity was that [gaming magazine] Edge had written a piece about a college called Ballyfermot, that was producing really talented animators, and at Revolution we needed animators, so I made a plan to go out and meet with some staff there. I was met by the head of layout, a gentleman called Eoghan Cahill. Eoghan used to be a layout artist for Don Bluth Studios. I showed him some of the layouts we were planning to do, and he just burst out laughing. He said “Really those are not good enough,” and he showed me his layouts, which were stunningly good – stunningly good – so I convinced him that he should leave Ballyfermot and come over to Revolution.
He drew all the layouts for Broken Sword 1. Halfway through he teamed up with a colleague of his called Neil Breen, and from Dublin they drew these beautiful layouts. We decided stylistically that we would paint under the line, so the line would be maintained. A lot of the success of Broken Sword and the unique look, I think, rests with the excellent work that Eoghan did in creating really interesting layouts that viewed the locations from a perspective that we wouldn’t have thought possible.
One of the things – my God, he could talk the hind legs off a donkey and he would never let anything go – that he started hassling me for was whether we could change the camera angle of the layouts. And I went back and I said “Look Eoghan, of course we can’t, because the sprites are drawn at a fixed camera angle; of course you need to draw the layouts at that same angle.” So he drew a couple of layouts at different angles, and said “Can you try it, can you see?” And to our absolute amazement, we found that actually the eye didn’t worry about quite a range of layout angles despite the sprites being at a fixed angle. That meant that he could change the camera angle and create a range of emotion that we wanted to convey. Eoghan was brilliant.
I have to say that our own team at that time was also fantastic – I’ve mentioned Steve Oades; Steve continued as a sprite animator and we got some very talented background artists. And Steve Ince, who’s now very successful in his own right, came in and did a bit of art, and then did a bit of production for us, so we were beginning to build a great team at that point. Oh, I should also add that a few years earlier I’d played cricket with an Australian, a young composer called Barrington Pheloung. I’d kind of read that he was doing really well – he was writing music for television series like Inspector Morse – so I got back in touch with him and asked him if he’d be interested in writing music for Broken Sword, and he said "absolutely". I worked hard to get a really strong team – a dream team – for this particular project.Continued on the next page...