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Charles Cecil On Broken Sword 5, Ancient Myths & Movies


The announcement of a fifth Broken Sword game from Revolution certainly seems to have excited people. In just five days the Kickstarter for the game has raised over $300,000, with the $400k goal looking extremely likely to be met, perhaps even exceeded. So we got in touch with the series' creator and lead, Uncle Charles Cecil, to find out more about the new game, the success of the series, and where adventures fit in today. We also spoke a great deal about the Kickstarter itself, why it was necessary, issues with publishers, and the complexities that arise around such an endeavour, and that'll be on the site tomorrow. For today we find out about the surprisingly controversial central themes of this new game, why George and Nico are such engaging characters, and what exactly happened to the film.

If you ever get the chance to meet Charles Cecil, I really strongly recommend that you ask him a question about Medieval Europe. I'm not kidding. Every time I've chatted with the adventure developer there's been a point where things have become a history lesson, and an absolutely riveting one. It was no exception this morning, when I ventured the question of this fifth game's themes. I was pretty sure there would be the standard, "We're not talking about that at this point," you'd usually hear less than a week after a game is announced. But of course not here.

While the game's story remains under covers, Cecil was very happy to elaborate on the mythology being explored. Because a lot of it merits further research, I've put in Wikipedia links for key words. Then we talk about whether George and Nico will ever smooch or be on the telly.

RPS: Each Broken Sword game has centred around a piece of mythology. Are you willing to talk about the themes that will be the core of The Serpent's Curse?

Cecil: We don't want to talk too much, and I don't want to give anything away on the story, but I can talk briefly on that. Obviously the first game was about the Knights Templar, and how the mythology of the Templars resonated with the present day. And of course after The Da Vinci Code took up the mantel - as you may know, a lot of our fans think Dan Brown must have played Broken Sword because there are so many similarities. Clearly I wouldn't make that accusation myself, but they're very welcome to. But after The Da Vinci Code and the myriad of Templar films, really the Templar became very cliched, and I think it's important to look back to 1996 and realise many people hadn't heard of the Knights Templar. I like to think we're a major part of creating that zeitgeist.

What since then has really excited me was reading about the discovery in about 1940 of Gnostic gospels. They were the gospels that were attributed to Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, and it became quite clear that even back in those days, the days of Jesus, there was a schism between the Gnostics who claimed to have knowledge that he wouldn't tell the others, and the much more orthodox - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter. This resonated with this conflict in beliefs that then developed as the Orthodox church declared the Gnostics to be heretics, and obviously persecuted them. And then in the 13th century, are you familiar with the Albigensian Crusades?

RPS: I'm afraid not.

Cecil: They're fascinating. They were at the beginning of the 13th century, when the Pope and the king of France got together, and launched a crusade against the people of the Languedoc, which is south-west France. It was incredibly brutal, and it was ultimately to try and finally destroy the Cathar, who were Gnostic.

There's a very brutal, and a very bloody story, that they arrived at Béziers, which had a population of 30,000 - they made their way in and then shouted to Amalric, who was the Pope's holy man, "Who shall we kill?" Now, only ten percent were Cathar, ninety percent were Roman Catholic, and his reply was, "Kill them all. God will know his own." And they massacred them. They went from city to city, massacring everybody, because the church was so determined to destroy Catharism. They went on to found the Dominicans, founded specifically to destroy heresy, to destroy Cathars, and I think this is very interesting.

What was it that the church was so appalled by? Why were they so determined? And then what really caught my eye was a testament - part of the Gnostic gospels - called the Testament Of Truth. In the Testament Of Truth, the story of Genesis is told, but told from a different perspective. It's told from the perspective of a jealous God, and the Bringer Of Light. The Bringer Of Light comes to liberate man to give them knowledge. Of course the Bringer Of Light is Lucifer. So Lucifer has a totally different slant from this gospel's perspective.

And I think this throws up really interesting ideas, both from a theological perspective, from a social perspective in the way that we are effected by religion, and these are the ideas that we are exploring in the story. From my perspective it's a really fascinating subject, and it's very rich. I hope that we convey that level of enthusiasm and excitement in the game. I'm confident that we will.

RPS: All the Broken Sword games have touched on what some would view as heretical positions. Do you fear going this far you may incite the wrath of the wrong sorts of lunatics?

Cecil: I certainly hope not, and we certainly, certainly don't ever go out to offend anybody. I was asked by a group of Christians to talk a little bit about Cathars and Gnosticism, and I did, and it was received pretty negatively. I will state that these are not my views - this is the result of the research that we undertook. We will do our very best not to offend anybody. If anybody does get offended, then there's nothing that I can do. It's very much a family brand, we don't choose to offend people. But sometimes you can't help it.

RPS: So what is it about George and Nico that makes you want to tell more stories?

Cecil: The sexual tension between the two of them is what's really important. That was triggered by Rolf Saxton in particular [the actor who provides George's voice] who is a wonderful actor, and his relationship with the people around him in the recording studio. A lot of people ask when George and Nico are finally going to get together, and we of course ask ourselves that question, but it would be rather sad if they did - the sexual chemistry would cease to exist. So for the moment I think they're going to continue to dance around each other in that regard. But they do have a great relationship, and that's certainly what underpins the series.

RPS: Yes, as soon as they get together, that's the last game in the series. But there's more to those two than just the sexual tension.

Cecil: I think also the difference in attitudes is really important. That allows us to create drama and humour. We chose a sassy Parisian French girl, and a laid back American, because we thought the combination of the two would create interesting situations. And it appears to have worked.

RPS: Of course I'm obliged to ask you about the film, and I know your answer will be that right now you're working on this game, but it was optioned? Is that correct?

Cecil: It wasn't formally optioned. There were plenty of people who wanted to option it, but our view was that the moment you option it you lose the control of both the creative, and to an extent, the commercial. So we've always said, we want to find the right partner, we don't necessarily want to get lots of money for it, what we want to make sure is that if it does go to production then it's a film that supports rather than damages the brand. My feeling is that it would be much better not to have a movie at all, than to have a bad movie. So we are very protective. The terrific thing again is that a lot of film makers now in their early 30s played Broken Sword the first time around, so they have a lot of affection, and a number of them know a lot about the brand as well. So I'm sure there will be a film, but as you say, the real focus is on this Broken Sword game. Much to the frustration of the film people we've been talking to. And I do feel very guilty. But I'm sure there will be a film at some point, and I'm sure it will be really good, because we'll do our utmost to make sure that it is.

You can read part two of this interview tomorrow.

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Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse

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Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, we killed John out of jealousy. He now runs buried-treasure.org