Last minute interview
25 Sep 2008 | 1 Comment
Only a few more days until the fan project Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars is released. Time for a last minute interview with some of the guys of mindFactory, the team behind the game. Revfans sat down with a few of the team members and asked them about their experiences while making the game and they gave some interesting answers.
Revfans: Thank you for finding some time in these last few hectic days to answer these questions. There have been quite a few interviews about the project already, although most were in German. One of the most important questions remains: did you actually know what you were getting yourselves into when you started the project back in 2001? Did you never think that you were in way over your heads and that it would be best to throw the towel into the ring? And thank you for never actually doing that by the way ;-)
Daniel Butterworth (project leader, writer): Yes, there were moments when we actually considered throwing the infamous towel into the ring. But all the support we received from the fans and from Revolution Software kept us going. We had no idea what was awaiting us when we started on the project seven years ago. The first drawing, dialogues and artworks were relatively easy to produce, but then there came the expectations. Both from us and from the fans. All of a sudden just sticking as close to the original as possible wasn’t enough any longer. Suddenly it became: you must be as good as the original! Naturally that put a huge pressure on us! Of course we couldn’t make a game as good as the original; no one can! But we do hope that people can sense the spirit of the original in every piece of code, in every pixel, in every piece of music and in every piece of dialogue.
Revfans: Well, it seems like you handled the pressure pretty well, because now the game is finished and we will all be able to play it before the end of this month. But you also had to deal with a lot of people leaving the team, mostly because they couldn’t find the time to work on the project any longer. Wasn’t it hard to find new people every time? How did this affect the progress on the game?
Sebastian Nisi (webmaster, marketing, co-writer): There have been a lot of people on the team indeed. Over the years we’ve had more than 50 people on the team. At the start of the project it was definitely difficult to find motivated people for the team. That was definitely the main reason for the many delays and new recruitments. But as our project got more renowned in 2003 and 2004, it became a lot easier to find new team members. Our last recruitment was only a few months ago: Michael Rother, one of our composers. He composed the complete music for a few chapters of Broken Sword 2.5.
The new recruitments have always influenced the project in a positive way, because our standards became higher automatically with every new member on the team. We never strived for perfection, but we came closer to it with every new team member. These days I often look back and can hardly believe what a great team is working on Broken Sword 2.5.
Revfans: Wow, 50 team members! That is a huge amount for a fan project.
Sebastian Nisi: There were actually a lot more people involved. Apart from a team of over 50 people, we also had 30 to 40 voice actors who have contributed to the game. And on top of that comes the personnel of the professional sound studios in which we did the voice recordings.
Revfans: That’s probably over a hundred people! You would think that mindFactory has made a professional game and not a fan game. But the number of team members is only part of the work, of course.
Since Broken Sword 2.5 is a fan based project, all of you put a lot of your spare time in the game. Has working on the game never affected your professional working life? Like starting late at work or being grouchy all day because of a long night working on the project? Was it easy to find a balance in working on the game and… well, the rest of your life?
Bernd Bachmaier (lead animator): A lot of our spare time has gone into the game indeed and that often ended up in working through the night as well. I worked on the project in the weekends and during holidays mostly. That’s why it didn’t affect my job. It did cost me a few holidays, though. But would I be part of such a great project again, I would gladly give up my weekends and holidays once more.
Revfans: How many hours do you think, considering all the work everybody has done on the team since the start of the project, have gone into the development of the game in total?
Daniel Butterworth: Wow, that’s a tough question. There were times when we were working non-stop on BS 2.5. And even at times when we weren’t behind our computers, drawing with our pencils, typing on our typewriters, or playing our music instruments (we also had our regular jobs, you know), the project often was in our heads. And as soon as we’d cast off our work coats, we went back to our project.
Revfans: It sounds like you had a lot of fun in making the game. Of course having the support from Revolution Software helps with that. The company has supported you since the beginning of the development of Broken Sword 2.5, provided that you don’t profit on the game. Wasn’t it strange contacting a professional developer about wanting to make an unofficial sequel? Did you just send them a mail and did they take you seriously from the start or were they initially more like: ‘in about a month we’ll never hear from this project again’?
Daniel Butterworth: On the contrary: Revolution Software was very enthusiastic about our project from the beginning. And that’s quite unique in the gaming industry. Other fan projects have been forced to shut down, because the license holders didn’t want a game created by the fans. This has often happened just before the release of those fan games. That is annoying to say the least. We feared something similar might happen to our project when we wrote Revolution Software. But we didn’t need to worry, because then we received a very kind letter from York in our mailbox, which even included a starter kit with the original sprites of George. All our fears dissolved and we knew: we’re gonna do this!
Revfans: And indeed you have. In an older interview you said that you weren’t going to do any voice acting in the game, because among other reasons the game would get too big. When and how was it decided to include voices in the game anyway? Did something similar often happen: at first deciding not to include something in the game and later adding it nonetheless? And hasn’t that slowed down the development of your game much?
Sebastian Nisi: In the spring of 2002 we decided that we wanted to include voice acting in the cut scenes of the game. We thought that this would give us some nice results with only a little bit of effort. We wrote an e-mail to Alexander Schottky immediately. He does the voice of George Stobbart in the German versions of all the official Broken Sword games. We were a little bit surprised that he immediately agreed to help us.
The actual voice recordings took place halfway through the year and they were presented to the public on December 30th, 2002: A trailer which showed parts of the game’s intro. Schottky’s voice was heard during this trailer. I must admit that the 3D-scenes in that trailer weren’t really that eye-catching. Because of that we decided to redo those scenes. But Schottky’s voice immediately enthralled all. So eight days later we decided to include voice acting into the entire game. The search for voice actors went on simultaneously with our other work on the project, so we didn’t loose any time on that.
Revfans: You make it sound so easy. As for the English voices: Rolf Saxon said he was prepared to do the voice of English George as he has done the voice of George in all the official Broken Sword games. He was also prepared to do it for free. However, on the Revolution forums it was said by one of your team members that you were unable to contract Rolf for the role of George because of ‘certain agreements’ that have been made. Is this an agreement with Revolution Software, not to use Rolf Saxon’s voice as the voice of George Stobbart, or is this another arrangement?
Šarūnas Ledas (2D graphic artist, animator): Yes, Rolf Saxon had agreed to voice our game originally, but he changed his mind later. But there was no particular agreement with Revolution Software about not using his voice in Broken Sword 2.5. Mr. Saxon just stated that he decided not to voice our game because of ethical reasons. As a main reason, he said that if he voiced George in our game, it would become too similar to the originals. Therefore, the fans might not recognize it as a fan game and our team wouldn't be noticed as individual game developers, who are not related to Revolution Software.
Revfans: I think a lot of English fans will be somewhat disappointed by his decision, although it is a valid reason. But these decisions were made when the game was far into development already. Let’s go back to the beginning again.
The idea to make an unofficial sequel probably started with the idea for a story. Did you have the story in your mind from A to Z from the beginning? Or did a lot change or get finished along the way? And did you all contribute to the story or did one or a few of you come up with the story?
Daniel Butterworth: When I started working on the script it was nothing more than a concept. We knew at what point Nico and George were standing in their lives at the end of Broken Sword 2 and we had to work with the characters and story from that point. Back then we were only newbies in the world of storytelling and you may find some hints of that back in the game at a few points. But on many occasions during development the team came together to polish the story so that both characters and story got a bit more depth.
Revfans: You are making us very excited about the story, now. But it was a long way coming from the story in your minds to the end product that we’ll get to play. At first you decided that you would make the game in QBasic, which later made way for DarkBasic and finally C++. How did you envision the game back then when you were still working with Basic?
Malte Thiesen (lead programmer): I wasn't even aware that the game was to be made with QBasic or DarkBasic. This must have been in the very beginning of the project when I wasn't even in the team (I joined in October 2002), so I cannot comment on that. Now the entire engine is written in C++ and all of the scripting is done with Lua.
Revfans: But as with many projects, things around you changed as well. Somewhere during development Windows Vista came along. Will the game run on that system as well? And what about other systems, like the Mac: are those supported as well?
Malte Thiesen: The game will run on Windows Vista. In fact no changes had to be made to make it run on Vista. Macs will not be supported at the release date. However a port may follow at a later time. The engine was written with portability in mind but we haven’t tried to port it to another platform yet.
Revfans: So, a possible plan for the future maybe?
Some years ago, when the game was still set to be released in 2004, you told Splash Games in an interview that you’d made a deal with the gaming magazine PC Games that they would put the game on the DVD of their magazine once it was finished. Are they still willing to do that? And have you managed to convince other magazines to do the same?
Daniel Butterworth: Both the magazines PC Games and PC Action are still very interested in distributing Broken Sword 2.5. But it is also a legal matter. Both Revolution Software and publisher THQ have to give their permission before we can distribute the game in this way. When that happens, Broken Sword fans around the world can play their little treasure from an old fashioned CD-ROM. The most important part is of course that we won’t make a dime on it!
Revfans: Ah yes, the life of a fan can be tough sometimes. We have run out of questions, but is there anything you would like to add to this interview yourselves?
Sebastian Nisi: Just one thing: Enjoy the journey which will take you back to the start of Broken Sword!
Revfans: Thank you all for taking the time to answer these questions. Revfans wishes you the best of luck in these last few days before the game is released and is really looking forward to playing it.
Denis | Friday 26th of September 2008 10:50:28 AM
Great interview :D Can't wait for the game, a dream come true :)