The charming industry veteran gets the rapid-fire question treatment

FAQ: Charles Cecil

[Develop’s archive of FAQ interviewees can be found here. Next month: Peter Molyneux, round two]

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Charles Cecil. I am managing director of Revolution Software where I write and design narrative-driven games, which recently we have started to publish directly. I also work with license holders on how best to translate their properties to games.

What are you working on right now?
Just before Christmas we completed and published the iOS versions of Broken Sword – The Smoking Mirror: Remastered, and I worked with Sumo to complete the fourth Doctor Who Adventure Game which was released on Christmas Eve. Right now I am working on an original Revolution adventure.

What was the first video game or product you worked on in the industry?
The first video game that I wrote was Adventure B: Inca Curse on the Sinclair ZX81. I was in my first year at university reading Mechanical Engineering and I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that engineering wasn’t my dream vocation. A fellow student had just disassembled the ZX80 ROM and published the results. Over a pint he suggested that if I were to design and write a text adventure then he could code it. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

What was the first video game you ever played? Did you enjoy it?
I’m afraid that, like most of us who were lucky enough/are old enough to have been around to experience the birth of our industry, my first video game was table top Space Invaders. Shortly after that I got hold of a Radio Shack TRS-80 and loved many of their games including Scott Adams’s adventures.

What is your favourite game ever, and for what reason?
I really love the casual games coming out on iOS – there are just so many great titles from Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, through Game Dev Story and the range of adventures. But the game that still gives me a twinge of excitement whenever it is mentioned is
R-Type – visually stunning, extraordinary game mechanics, perfectly balanced. One of the few arcade games that I really was good at, it was, and remains, truly brilliant.

What do you enjoy about the video games industry today?
I really loved the industry in the early ‘80s when everything was so fresh and exciting. One person could design, code, create graphics and compose music for their masterpiece, and back then innovation really drove everything.

That changed radically in the ‘90s but has now returned – once again, games development is about having a strong vision, and innovating in the creation of, as well as the publishing of games.

Small, creative teams of talented individuals can come together and not only create extraordinary games, but get them to market. Long may it last.

What disappoints you about the video games industry today?
As a continuation of my last answer, the dev scene in the few years that spanned either side of the millennium were profoundly depressing. In the midst of the hardware cycle trough, and with limited retail space, and escalating dev costs, decisions came to be driven by balance sheets rather than passion. The wrong people drove the industry in the wrong directions. Digital distribution has changed everyone’s mindset and freed all aspects of the industry.

What hobbies, collections or interests do you have that are completely unrelated to video games?
My work is a jealous mistress. With children that love games, and my wife who works with me, family life and work life are wholly intertwined. Holidays involve going to exotic places that could feature in a game. I love history and physics-based science. I row and enjoy competing in regattas and attempt to play various other sports – football and tennis. I just wish that I had the time to play more games.

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