Haven’t you heard the news? Beneath a Steel Sky is coming to iPhone and iPod touch. The classic sci-fi point and click adventure has been given the official Remastered treatment from York developer Revolution Software, and creator Charles Cecil himself was on hand at the Brighton Develop conference to give VideoGamer.com a personal showing of the game, and answer some key questions. Here’s what he had to say.
VideoGamer.com: Why are you self-publishing Beneath a Steel Sky on iPhone instead of going through a publisher and releasing it on Wii and DS like you did with Broken Sword?
Charles Cecil: Beneath a Steel Sky was in DOS. Once the Windows 95 format stopped supporting DOS, people just couldn't play the game any more. And then we were approached by some very cool guys called ScummVM, who wanted to rewrite the game. They took the source code and they rewrote it. The guy who rewrote it was called Joost Peters, who's writing the Apple version for Revolution. He gets very passionate, because he loves Beneath a Steel Sky. To him it's the best adventure ever written. He gets very protective of the brand, which is great.
The point is, because we felt we couldn't exploit it, we saw no reason why we shouldn't give the game away for free. Since that time millions and millions and millions of people have played it, and it's actually achieved quite a cult status. Unless we did a major rewrite, I don't think it's legitimate to charge more than a few pounds or dollars. That's what our intention is.
VideoGamer.com: What's changed?
CC: We've redone the intro completely, with Dave Gibbons. The original comic book looked fantastic. We'd actually got quite a crude scan, animated it crudely. We've redone the intro. We've got higher quality audio, both in terms of the speech and the music. We've tweaked some of the puzzles that were a little bit strange. There's lots of improvements around the edge. It's primarily a similar gameplay experience, but hopefully better. As such, we very much hope that our audience will be happy to pay a couple of quid.
We will probably release the PC version again, give it away for free, but actually say this time, play it for free, enjoy it, if you enjoy it pay us a couple of quid, because that will then help us to write more adventure games. Don't pay us if you don't want to, but then don't complain if we don't write any new games, because actually it's more cost-effective to write a first-person shooter or whatever.
So it is very much about this idea of building a direct relationship with our audience. Support us and we'll write games that you enjoy. Don't support us and we won't. It's up to you guys. You choose.
VideoGamer.com: Have you redone the outro?
CC: We’ve got a new outro, which is completely different as well, with sort of hints of what could follow.
VideoGamer.com: Describe the new interface.
CC: You go around the screen looking for hotspots. You can see that they light up, and then you touch. Then also if you’re stuck you can go to hints. The door’s locked. How do I open it? Hint one or two? What we got from our feedback with Broken Sword was people really liked the hint feature.
There’s your inventory. Pick something up, metal bar, drag it across, use it on the door. It’s easy to say it’s better than point and click. You’re really exploring the environment with your fingers. It’s wonderful.
I don’t think it’s fun to pixel hunt in the way that you used to. I’m within that radius, I move over it, but the point is it’s indicating there’s an area of interest.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned that you're making some of the puzzles easier. Could you give us an example?
CC: We are tweaking some of the puzzles that were a little bit hardcore. For example right at the beginning, it is really difficult to get the spanner because Hobbins turns up. My view is that probably, when that game was written, that was quite legitimate. Now, as long as the player realises that you’ve got to distract Hobbins to come back and get it, then actually they’ve done the hard work. Why frustrate them through the interface? We’re changing it so we don’t give you a lot more time but we give you another couple of seconds.
Revolution aims to release Beneath A Steel Sky – Remastered through the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch during Autumn 2009, pricing to be announced.