The funding campaign of The Serpent's Curse was a success; on Kickstarter, more than $771,000 of the request $400,000 were raised, and together with PayPal donations, over $823,000. Due to the achieved "stretch goals", the game's release date was moved from the first quarter of 2013, to October/November
Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse is a 2D adventure game played from a third person-perspective. Via a point and click or touch user interface, the player will guide protagonists George Stobbart and Nicole "Nico" Collard. One of the new gameplay elements explored in the game will be the manipulation and combining of knowledge, so the player will have to connect threads of knowledge in order to draw logical conclusions, allowing him to proceed. While death scenes were removed from The Shadow of the Templars Director's Cut (2009), in The Serpent's Curse, the player character's death will be possible if the player will make a wrong decision or won't complete an action quickly enough; however, unlike in the original two Broken Sword games, where the player then started off from the last save point, he will restart from right before the death scene, like in the 3D installments.
The player will have the option to choose between the modern and the classic inventory, the latter being in the fashion of the first two Broken Sword games, and the former in the fashion of their 2009 and 2010 Broken Sword remakes. The player will also have the option of switching the hint system or hotspot highlights on or off
Plotting, Setting and Characters
The game begins with a painting that is seized by a man in fascist Spain just before World War II. The game then jumps to modern day Paris, the painting is now in a gallery and we witness a pizza delivery guy robbing it, whereupon George and Nico meet by chance at a Parisian art gallery, where they witness a man disguised as a pizza courier murdering another man and stealing the seemingly worthless painting. The adventure soon takes them across the globe, with Paris, London and a Middle Eastern location (Turkey) confirmed, on the trail of a conspiracy regarding the Gnostic Gospels. A conspiracy whose roots lie much deeper.
Confirmed returning characters apart from the protagonists are Hector Laine, the France's art critic from The Smoking Mirror, Lady Piermont, the English aristocrat from The Shadow of the Templars, and as part of the achieved Kickstarter stretch goals, Duane and Pearl Henderson, the American couple who were featured in the first two Broken Sword games, with Duane making a solo appearance in The Angel of Death , as well as the "infamous goat" from the first title and two characters based on Kickstarter backers Kat and Adam. New confirmed characters include Maria de Santos, Eva Sanchez, as well as the killer disguised as a pizza courier and a Russian henchman, both still unnamed
When writing the first two Broken Sword titles in the 1990s, Revolution Software's games were published by Virgin Interactive, who wanted to ensure that the games were of quality, putting Revolution under no pressure and giving them much creative freedom and little time restriction (moreso with the first game, The Shadow of the Templars). Towards the end of the 1990s, however, adventure games, largely 2D and PC-exclusive, were declining in popularity during the rise of visceral, 3D platformers and were viewed as "commercially unfeasible." Cecil credited the decline to Playstation, which introduced a new audience of University age interested in visceral, 3D games. As a result, publishers would rather pitch titles such as 3D shooters to retailers. This "drove away the audience that wanted more cerebral games like adventures, so sales for the genre dropped even further and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy."
This meant the Broken Sword sequels The Sleeping Dragon (2003) and The Angel of Death (2006) could be commissioned by publishers only by switching to 3D. When Revolution signed a contract, the publisher took control of the schedule, in which Revolution's creative process was limited by tight milestones that would compromise the game and guide the design to appeal to retailers rather than audiences. In this publishing model, the publisher took the financial risk, benefiting from the game's success, while the developer didn't– after the publisher and the retailers took their cuts of the revenue, a modest 7 percent was assigned to the developer; despite the Broken Sword series earning "hundreds of millions," Revolution was, to quote Charles Cecil, Revolution Software's CEO and Broken Sword creator, "developing very successful games at a loss."
However, when Apple contacted Revolution in 2009 to produce their games for the iOS, Revolution self-published Broken Sword - The Shadow of the Templars: Director's Cut and Broken Sword - The Smoking Mirror: Remastered on the iPhone/iPad Store, and later on for other PC and Mac on GoG.com, Steam and iTunes Store and for Android on Google Play; in the self-publishing model, Revolution was commissioned 70% of the revenue rather than 7%, meaning that the company was in a far stronger financial position than before. – The commercial performance of the Broken Sword I and II reimaginations were also considerably stronger than the series' 3D entries, particularly on handheld platforms: The two remakes were purchased 500 thousand times, with downloads totaling five million through promotions, on the iOS in 2011 alone, and is currently doing similar numbers with the 2012 Android releases. Cecil credited Apple and digital distribution to saving indie developers such as Revolution, and reviving the adventure genre. This enabled the studio to partially self-fund their next title, The Serpent's Curse with 500 thousand dollars, earned with the success of the self-published releases, were spent on the game. Revolution than had too choose between making a shorter, more linear game with $500,000 with the length of the shortest Broken Sword - The Smoking Mirror, or try to raise money through crowd-funding to make an overall better game.
A few months before the announcement it was largely believed in the game press that Revolution was working on a fifth instalment in the Broken Sword series. Cecil didn't confirm the speculations though, but did confirm that they were working on a new high-definiton title, which would return to Revolution's 2D roots which was planned be announced in July 2012.
Annoucement, Fundraising and Release
After a few delays, Revolution announced Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse on August 23, 2012, starting a Kickstarter project with a $400,000 goal. Until then, the production of the game had been self-funded and $500,000 had been spent. Despite interest of the "industry's biggest third party publisher," Revolution preferred to self-publish the game, giving them creative freedom, which Cecil felt allowed them to make decisions that are best for the game. However, Cecil has also noted that he still plans to work with publishers in the future for retail releases. The game's Kickstarter goal was reached in the project's 13th day. It was successfully funded on September 22, 2012, raising $771,560 from 14,032 backers, and a total of $823,232 counting 1,218 PayPal backers who raised $51,672.
Cecil stated that the game is expected to be released "in the first quarter, or right at the very beginning of the second quarter of next year , so probably, end of March." In a GameSpot UK podcast on October 31, 2012, Cecil stated that the game was expected to be delayed "for a month or two" because of the achieved stretch goals that increased the development time due to the promised additional content. It was delayed a few times before landing on October/November 2013. Although originally expected to go to alpha at the end of 2012, The Serpent's Curse is now expected to be completed to alpha quality by early September 2013.
The game will be released for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android and PlayStation Vita, with a large possibility of a PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace release. Regarding Revolution's choice of platforms, Cecil said that the point-and-click interface of the PC platforms translated very well to the "slide-and-touch" user interface on mobile platform, but that the direct control interface on a console controller differs greatly from the former two interfaces. He noted though, that there he is still very keen to bring the game to consoles, but that it is not a certainty. Cecil has also noted that Revolution would have to publish the console versions through the format holders rather than self-publish. At the 2013 Gamescom, Revolution released a teaser trailer for The Serpent's Curse and announced a PlayStation Vita release.
Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse was built by four main programmers, using Virtual Theatre 7, Revolution's own in-house developed game engine based on the company's original Virtual Theatre, used to create their 2D titles in the 1990s. Tony Warriner, co-founder and technical director of Revolution, programmed the game's engine, in particular its user interface (UI) and game scripting system, wanting to warrant the UI was "as smooth, simple and intuitive as possible." As an engine developer, Joost Peters, who previously co-programmed the two Broken Swordremakes with Warriner, had to ensure the engine was portable and ran optimally on a wide rage of platforms. Coder Peter Brooks had to implement features between various platforms andapplication programming interfaces connectable to the game. Andrew Boskett, who previously worked on The Sleeping Dragon, returned to program The Serpent's Curse. Warriner and Brooks both usually used OS X, Peters used Linux and Boskett Windows, to ensure that all the game would remain in sync on all platforms.
With The Serpent's Curse, Broken Sword returned to its 2D roots, in high-definition (HD). While he latter two Broken Sword entries had been generally well received by the series' fanbase, the move to 3D graphics was met with mixed reactions. The backgrounds for The Serpent's Curse were originally planned to be pre-rendered 3D ones, but Cecil felt they "just didn’t give [the crew] the look that [they] wanted." He also believed that while 3D was accurate and realistic, it "lacked character" and the "classic" feel of the "clarity and beauty" of backgrounds hand-drawn by skillful 2D layout artists that Cecil felt could "cheat perspective to achieve maximum emotional effect while remaining believable" and "create environments that are more interesting and it creates a much better overall feeling."
Revolution sourced experienced layout artists that have worked for companies such as Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Universal Studios, Aardman, Sony Pictures Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, including lead art director Tori "Cat" Davis, who has worked on acclaimed works such as animated films The Illusionist (2010), Arthur Christmas (2011) and Frankenweenie (2012), as well as the children's animated television series Shaun the Sheep (2007–); she created and managed the hand drawn environments for the game and oversee the work of the background painters. Craig Gardiner, the game's lead animator, oversaw the work of the animation team, to ensure the character animations were consistent and didn't feel out of place, fitting within Cecil's vision of the game. Tim Robins was the graphic artist; he created text information seen on the screen, such as icons, menus and maps, was responsible for the visual style of interactive elements in the game and also served as an assistant layout artist. Backgrounds were traditionally hand-drawn and then colored in Photoshop, while Robins usually worked in Photoshop and Illustrator.
While the return to 2D had been met with high praise, the characters were modeled in 3D and then pre-rendered and saved in 2D sprites rather than being hand-drawn 2D sprites, which was initially met with mixed reception from fans. Cecil explained that the game was in full HD in order achieve the highest visual quality possible, but the original animations from The Shadow of the Templars and The Smoking Mirror were created in 640×400; a move to HD would require animations three times larger, and hand-animating so many pixels might be possible, but would be a "massively complicated job." To further quote Cecil, "The massive advantage of rendering and then modelling is that obviously the data is much more manageable, we can connect animations much more smoothly, we can continue to tweak to optimise the 2D look which we’re in the process of doing, and you can hand-touch them at the end. A lot of people have said that we should be doing 2D, and I totally respect their comments, but my opinion is that it’s just not feasible. I’m also very pleased with the way the sprites are looking anyway. What we probably need to do is communicate that the end result is they look like they’re sprites, they look like they’re 2D. So I don’t regret the decision at all, and I’m absolutely convinced it’s the right one. I just don’t think we’ve communicated as well as we should have done that the end results will look like cartoony 2D sprites." He also stated that 2D and 3D in HD brings the "best of every world." Technology written specifically to give the sprites a more "cartoony" look was written.
Dan Brown's best-selling The Da Vinci Code (2003) brought the Knights Templar theme into the mainstream, despite negative reviews, inspiring a slew of often panned Templar films, games and books, and as a result, the Templars became cliche; although Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was released seven years prior to The Da Vinci Code to great acclaim as part of the Templar "zeitgeist", bringing them into the public eye, with the game's fanbase and various media outlets even believed that Brown was inspired by Broken Sword when writing his novel, Cecil felt that the Broken Sword series could no longer trade on the Templar, a theme three of the four Broken Sword games were based on.
Cecil had since been fascinated by the Gnostic Gospels; in 1945, a local farmer near Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt discovered a clay cascet with twelve leather-bound manuscrpits that comprised fifty-two Gnostic texts; one of the texts particularly caught Cecil's attention, the Gospel of Truth, which tells the story of Genesisfrom a different perspective: From the perspective of a jealous God, the creator of man, and the Serpent, Lucifer, the bringer of light, who gives knowledge to man but is not once called the Devil – these were written by Gnostics, who were considered heritic by the Orthodox Church; the Cathars, who were Gnostic, were brutally suppressed and massacred during the 13th century in the Albigensian Crusade in Languedoc, Southern France, by Pope Innocent III of the Catholic Church and the newly-set up Dominican Order. Cecil was fascinated that a piece of Christian history with such importance hadn't yet been brought into public consciousness, and hoped to start the new zeitgest with The Serpent's Curse, which would explore what secrets the Gnostics held and why did the Church feel threatened by them, resonating the story to the present day.
Charles Cecil has confirmed that the game will be dubbed into German, French, Spanish, and Italian. Polish and Russian translations of the subtitles will be available as well. Rolf Saxon will return to voice George Stobbart. Emma Tate will voice Nicole "Nico" Collard. Other voice actors from earlier instalments of the series will also return.Alexander Schottky, the original German voice of George, Emmanuel Curtil, the original French voice of George, and Nathanièle Esther, the French voice of Nico, are also confirmed to reprise their roles. Hazel Ellerby, who voiced Nicole "Nico" Collard in the original Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars and its director's cut, will no longer be reprising her role due to not being available, she will be voicing other characters in the game however. The voice recording will be split into two sessions, the first taking place in mid July (starting on the 16th) and the second in mid September 2013, in OMUK, a video game voice recording studio in London. The Shadow of the Templars and director's cut composer Barrington Pheloung will return as well. The soundtrack will be synthesized rather than orchestrated.
Kickstarter Expansion and Other Options
The Serpent's Curse, without achieving its Kickstarter goal, would be a more linear game, quicker to play through, circa eight-hours long, of similar length to the shortest Broken Sword, The Smoking Mirror. However, the funds raised and stretch goals achieved enabled Revolution to make a longer, more ambitious game with further external locations with associated puzzles and characters to ensure the game doesn't feel "claustrophobic", as well additional characters making the game more free-form and giving players a genuine choice in how they choose to approach puzzles. In the game, the player is also offerred the option to choose the prefered of two text fonts: one resembling the stylized, colored and bold font of the early series' entries, and one resembling the boxed comic-book font found in the Broken Sword remakes.
TheSixthAxis named The Serpent's Curse one of the top 100 most anticipated games of 2013, while Micro Mart named it one of the best PC games of 2013, even prior to its release. In Adventure Gamers' Hype-o-Meter, the game came second in a list of most anticipated games. It was declared one of the 36 most anticipated iOS and Android games for the rest of 2013 by Pocket Gamer in a July article.