At 60 years old, Dave Gibbons has been writing and drawing comics for over half his lifetime. From his formative years working on British institutions such as 2000AD and Dan Dare, Gibbons became best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on the seminal 1980s graphic novel Watchmen, which single-handedly legitimised a medium previously dismissed by mainstream culture as childish.
If we had a new point-and-click adventure game for every time someone said: "That was definitely the last point-and-click adventure game," then we'd pretty much be where we are today. Long pronounced dead, the adventure game never really departed. From Broken Sword 4 to Grim Fandango to Zack & Wiki, new releases in the genre may be sparse but they are undeniably steady. And as a slew of LucasArts and Sierra classics make their way onto the Steam download service, just as Monkey Island introduces a new generation of console gamers to insult sword-fighting, the genre is enjoying, if not a resurrection, then certainly something of a resurgence.
Beneath A Steel Sky (BASS) is the latest venerable adventure game to undergo a nip and a tuck in preparation for re-release. While less iconic than some of the LucasArts big-hitters, it is nevertheless the most widely played adventure game of all time. Nine years after its original release in 1994, British developer Revolution Software released the game's source code as freeware, to be offered for free to all users of ScummVM, the popular adventure game emulator. As a result, millions have played it. So why now choose to bring it to the iPhone? And why charge players for the privilege? By combining a mobile telephone, a map and a diary, we solved these puzzles and more at a meeting with the game's creator and MD of Revolution Software, Charles Cecil. And when it comes to talking to the grandfather of the adventure game about his genre's future, passions run high.
"Everything is f***ed up." Something dark flashes behind Cecil's normally kind eyes and his bald pate turns a darker shade of rosy. "When it comes to retail, everything is f***ed up, all the way down the line. If we sell a game in a shop, the retailer takes 40 per cent of the cover price, the format holder takes 15 per cent and the publisher pays us 20 per cent of what's left. That money has to be set against our development costs, so you can imagine how many copies of a game we have to sell to recoup. But on iPhone we receive 70 per cent of the game price immediately and we can sell direct to our audience. So we can charge a fraction of the price of a boxed product."