VideoGamer.com: LucasArts is making big waves with the re-release of Monkey Island on XBLA. Will Broken Sword come to XBLA?
CC: Probably not, because XBLA is basically all about HD. These original assets were intended at 640x480.
VideoGamer.com: You can play Monkey Island with the original graphics turned on. There is that option.
CC: There is. But they've spent an awful lot more money than we could afford to spend in up-ressing it. I don't know what you think of the new graphics against the old ones…?
VideoGamer.com: I prefer the old ones.
CC: I do. Yes they produced it in high res because they had to, but in doing so they've lost something. That's the really interesting thing. I think that I like the idea of selling our old games, where the re-mastered version of Beneath a Steel Sky has a lot of new cool stuff in it. It's the same game but with a new experience. If you loved the game play it again, there's new stuff, remember what you loved. I'm not trying to redo it, in the same way that I didn't try and redo Broken Sword. There's an important balance.
But I would say, in the same way that we've always cooperated with LucasArts – they had a broken sword in Monkey Island 4 I think it was – I really hope they're successful. One) because I like their franchises, and two) because if they're successful we'll be successful. Broken Sword 2 outsold Monkey Island 3 in lots of European territories. It was every bit as big in Europe as Monkey Island was. We shipped within a month or so, we were a month behind them, and it made no difference whatsoever.
VideoGamer.com: What’s most exciting about self-publishing Beneath a Steel Sky?
CC: It's very exciting to be able to take control of some of the elements that traditionally would have gone to the publisher, like coordinating our relationship with people like Apple, marketing plans, PR. When you do this, when you self publish, you put your money where your mouth is. You put your balls on the line. It's very easy for a developer to whinge about publishers, and I hope that I haven't done it because I do respect the relationship between developer and publisher. But now, if you think as a developer you should have been doing it yourself, now is the time. If you can't do it, it'll prove you were wrong to think you could have done.
We’re very lucky at Revolution. We retain the IP to all of our games, not because we’re incredibly smart, although obviously that’s something we wanted to do, but because back in those days IP wasn’t considered. When I was at Activision, I remember having a debate about whether we should get the IP for the games that we published or whether we should just license them. It was like, well we might as well license them because then the IP holder has the responsibility of registering the trademark, so it’s probably cheaper. Let’s just license them. That was late 80s. That was 20 years ago. It was in that environment that we wrote all our games.
We kept the IP, so we’re in a position now to exploit it. Previously publishers, they like to take the IP from you, and then they don’t do anything with it. Our first publisher was Virgin Interactive. Imagine if they had the IP for Beneath a Steel Sky or Lure of the Temptress or even Broken Sword. Nobody would have done anything with it. It’s this insanity that prevailed for so long – it’s essential that we take the IP, and even if we don’t do anything with it we don’t want to give it to you because we funded it.
The great thing about digital distribution is it’s broken the status quo. It hasn’t necessarily given us many more options, but even more profound, it’s changed the relationship between developers and publishers, because developers now have a choice. Before they had no choice. They had to go down that route. There was an oligopoly of half a dozen good publishers and many more mediocre, and even more than that rubbish ones. Unless you could work with one of the top tier ones, you had no choice but to sell your soul. That was the way it worked.
The advent of digital distribution has changed all that. But, a company like Ubisoft, which is really very far sighted, which spent a lot of money focus testing, QA-ing the game, I hold the highest regard. No other publisher we’ve ever worked with has put anything like that sort of effort into it. I think ultimately it’s because some of the publishers grew to have a sort of contempt for their consumers. They said, there’s this product, we’ve got the consumers, we will sell X amount, but actually we don’t care about them. Ubi has always felt that the relationship they have with their consumers is very important. Certainly as a developer the relationship we have with our audience is absolutely paramount. It’s coming back to the idea of maintaining and building respect with your audience, which probably has been lacking for some time between most publishers and their audience.
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.