Every day is an adventure at Revolution, so JULIE HAYES speaks to the remarkable man behind it..

IT’S NO WONDER York-based games guru Charles Cecil has an epic imagination. The managing director of Revolution Software, the creator of the BAFTA-nominated Broken Sword adventure series, has had anything but a normal life.

His exposure to adventure started at an early age when he grew up in Belgian Congo while his father worked as an accountant for Unilever. “When I was two years old and my mother was about to give birth to my sister, there was the most terrible massacre about 1,000 miles from where we were living on the River Congo,” he says. “Then this incredible revolution spread very quickly to the local town where they lined up everybody in the square and shot them. We all had to be evacuated very quickly and my mother and I were airlifted in horrendous conditions.”

Or maybe it was his father’s influence that gave him a taste for adventure. Only women and children were airlifted, he says, so his father had to travel overnight on a boat, which was transporting beer. “He had the most wonderful boy’s own adventure!”

And it doesn’t stop there. Charles’ reputation enables him to do consulting work in the gaming industry, which is still taking him exciting places, such as Los Angeles where he advised Sony Pictures on the making of the game and film of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. He has also been approached by the BBC to consult on its Doctor Who game for the PC and Mac, which is being developed by Sheffield developers Sumo.

So how does this 47-year-old BAFTA-level games expert then find himself in York? When he returned to the UK and finished school in Hampshire, Charles decided he was fed up with attitudes in the South of England. “I was so appalled by the society that Margaret Thatcher created,” he says. “Particularly in London with the rise of the yuppies. That’s when I decided I wanted to come up north.” He read engineering at Manchester University, but soon realised he wanted to create computer games. “It was interesting, new and funky. What I loved about computers and games was the mix of the creative and technical and it is every bit as exciting now as it was then.” He joined Hull-based business Arctic in the early 1980s and fell in love with the north. “It was just so much more exciting. It was full of energy and full of interesting people who weren’t obsessed with money.”

It’s a good job Charles isn’t obsessed with money, because the development of BAFTA-winning games can unfortunately defy perceptions and not earn a great deal of money. However, in the past six months, Charles has been cashing in on the opportunities of mobile technology and uncovering a very exciting time for the games industry. Charles spoke on this subject to gamers from across the UK when they convened on York Racecourse on Thursday for the independent gaming industry conference State of Independence, and he also teaches at The University of York. Revolution is also about to launch two brand new games rekindling a relationship with Dave Gibbons, the comic book artist responsible for Watchmen, with whom it collaborated on point-and-click adventure game, Beneath A Steel Sky in 1994. Charles also says he’s developing a “top secret” narrative game.

Revolution, which uses freelancers for projects and employs only Charles and his business partner and wife Noirin Carmody, who he met in the games publishing industry, has been converting its Broken Sword series to play on the iPhone. It is also rewriting Revolution’s back catalogue to fit new formats on the PC, Mac and iPad. “There’s so much going on, it’s just insane,” he says. “It is an amazing time to be in the games industry at the moment.”

Mobile technology, particularly the iPhone, has given the industry the ability to self publish, he says, which has blown a hole in the normal business models.

“When games were a boxed product, the distributor and the retailer took about 50 per cent of the revenues and the publisher took about 80 per cent of the remaining 50 per cent. So only 10 per cent is allocated to the developer. When all the development costs are taken off, it’s very difficult to make any profit whatsoever.

“Self publishing has made things completely different. It allows us to sell our games much cheaper and sell them directly. We can control how we communicate with our audience, how we market it, and how we price it. The old business models and the old ways of marketing don’t exist anymore.”

Revolution’s iPhone version of Broken Sword: Director’s Cut sold 100,000 units in its first month in Apple’s AppStore at a price of £4, with cuts only being taken by Apple and the taxman. Charles’ mother, Veronica Cecil, has written a book about the family’s experiences in the Congo. It has already been published in South Africa as “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo” and will be published in the UK later this year.