Q&A: Revolution Software

We speak with the developers of the Broken Sword series about the development of the Game Boy Advance installment and the company's future GBA projects.

Although the company is currently working on other projects, Revolution Software is primarily known for its successful adventure series Broken Sword. Two Broken Sword games have been released thus far, and the third installment in the series is in production for the PC, the Sony PlayStation 2, and the Microsoft Xbox. Titled Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, the game is set for release sometime in 2002. A Nintendo Game Boy Advance version of the original Broken Sword adventure, subtitled The Shadow of the Templars, is also in development. To catch up on the development status of the upcoming Game Boy Advance Broken Sword game, we sat down with Tony Warriner, lead programmer of the GBA version at Revolution Software.

GameSpot: Adventure gaming has never really been a major genre on portable platforms, mostly due to technical restrictions. However, games like Alone in the Dark on the Game Boy Color prove that it's possible. What direction will the genre take on the GBA, with its robust technical capabilities?

Tony Warriner: We see adventure-type games doing extremely well on the GBA. We had a surprise hit with Broken Sword on the PlayStation, and we're confident the same will happen on the GBA. People enjoy stories, and they like games that are easy to play--younger players especially. So, there is every possibility that the genre will enjoy a revival with new gamers discovering the adventure gameplay style on the GBA.

GS: How did you come up with the idea to port the game to the Game Boy Advance?

TW: A while ago, we wrote a demo of Broken Sword to run using Java in a browser window. We also have an iPAQ Broken Sword running very nicely. This got us thinking about how easy it would be to approach other platforms such as the GBA.

GS: When did work start on the project, and how many people are involved?

TW: Work started in earnest during May, and the Broken Sword team will build up to around five or six people.

GS: Did you have to adapt the gameplay to match the interface of the GBA?

TW: The biggest change is the control interface, of course. We're using a direct control method, which sounds wrong, but in fact it works just fine. We did think that the screens would not work at such a small resolution, but to our surprise they are also really nice.

GS: What were the biggest technical problems that came up, and how did you solve them?

TW: Like most GBA developers, we have to look very hard at compression techniques to ensure we get as much as possible into the cart. It's easy to think that you'll never get any more to squeeze in, but it can always be done. Broken Sword has a lot of animation, and to some degree, we have to be realistic about what goes in and what isn't required.

GS: Do you plan to have any additional elements in the GBA version?

TW: Yes, we're going to put a hidden-treasure Easter egg feature in. I don't want to tell you too much about it right now. (smiles)

GS: Do you have plans to port the second game in the series, Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror, to the Game Boy Advance as well?

TW: Yes, absolutely. And [a version of] Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon as well.

GS: What were the biggest technical restrictions you had to accept with the GBA?

TW: Definitely the cart size, without question.

GS: The Broken Sword series also has a very movie-like soundtrack by Barrington Pheloung. How do you re-create that music on the GBA?

TW: As best we can. Clearly, we aren't going to fit all those samples into the GBA. In fact, most of the music samples in Broken Sword are, individually, larger than our entire GBA cart size. That said, we can create some music in the GBA format and re-create the feel of the original game quite easily. If you hear just a few seconds of Barrington's music, you think straight away: Broken Sword.

GS: Having worked with the GBA for some time now, what are its biggest strengths and weaknesses?

TW: Its biggest weakness is the cart size, but this is also its strength. If we think about games on the CD-ROM format, the problem for developers is in keeping costs down. Because some companies have massive budgets, they can create truly massive games. After this, gamers expect all games to be as large. The trouble then is that not everyone has these resources. We can see how that damages the games market, in the end. The good thing about the GBA is that the cart limit means it's all down to gameplay and simple creativity. I think that's a really good thing.

GS: Have you had the chance to play some of the early Game Boy Advance games? If so, what were your impressions and which one do you like best?

TW: I bought a Game Boy Advance in LA, but so far I've mostly been playing the Game Boy Color Zelda games. (laughs)

GS: Are there plans to develop more games for the GBA?

TW: Yes, we want to do Beneath a Steel Sky as well. After this, we'll make original Broken Sword and Steel Sky adventures for the GBA.

GS: If there were one classic that you'd like to see resurrected for the GBA, which one would it be?

TW: I have to say Elite!

GS: Thanks for your time.

TW: Thank you.

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