The Average Gamer

Creating Bedlam

Bedlam - Planetfall
Christopher Brookmyre may be better known for his series of crime novels, but he”s been a gamer for over two decades. Teaming up with developers RedBedlam, he”s written an entire novel as a treatment for their new PC and Mac game called Bedlam. Partly inspired by Tron and other sci-fi classics of the 80s, it”s about a man who volunteers for a brain scan at work and wakes up in a game world. Brookmyre told me that it”s not as simple as you”d think.

“What if you were actually transported inside a game but the twist, the Eureka moment for me was instead of being the hero and it being all about you, you”d realise that you are one of the legions of grunts whose role is basically to get gunned down by the player in the first level,” said Brookmyre.

“What if you can then escape from that game and into another game and discover an entire universe of games. It would be great if you could go from a 90s style shooter and suddenly find yourself in a shooter from a different era but you”ve got the weapons you had before. And suddenly the gamer would now see that the textures had changed, the graphic quality evolved.”

With influences ranging from Pac-Man to Quake II, there”s a huge range of worlds to visit. RedBedlam showed me a World War II setting, a Skyrim-like village world called Calastria and, if you look carefully, you”ll see the cracks between the game worlds, rather like Portal”s behind-the-scenes scrawlings.

This is the original pitch trailer made to show off the concept to investors. It”s worth noting that while the camera pulls back to reveal the game world at the end, you”ll still be playing it as a first-person shooter.

“We played from Z Spectrums going back to the 1980s and the Commodore Amigas,” said Brookmyre. “We”d observed how the games had evolved. How the ethos within some of the FPS genre in particular has changed, in some cases for the worse – certainly according to us, whether we”re just being old school gamers or old-school FPS enthusiast but this was one of the things that sparked the idea of a game that would look at how the games had evolved and changed.

“From a very personal point of view, I felt they became less fun because of casino online the evolution of the cover shooter. What I liked about the 90s ones was [you could] just run around at that pace, [the] almost arcadey feel to it, rather than stealth and ducking behind stuff. Also, I don”t understand why in an age where you can employ a team of like, 70 people to design the artwork for the world, you end up seeing none of it because you”re crouched behind a wall for most of the game. It is just personal preference.

Bedlam - Starfire “I like that sense of the unrealism of it, taking on thousands of people, thousands of monsters at the same time. Also, it”s just the games you play when you”re first discovering the world are the most exciting, so it was also an admission of becoming old.”

When the initial game ideas were being pitched in 2011, the team were excited that the concept had never before been done in a video game. Then Wreck-It Ralph came along.

“I”d written the first draft by about Spring 2012 and I”d given the manuscript just to a friend,” said Brookmyre. “He sent me a link to Wreck-It Ralph and it was actually meant to come out in December at the time. I was like “Shit, it”s coming out three months before the book,” and I was rather annoyed – I”d completed the book a good six months before I even saw a trailer for Wreck-It Ralph.

“My reaction was of great relief when I finally saw Wreck-It Ralph. I did enjoy it and I”m not ashamed to admit that I did shed tears when watching Wreck-It Ralph but what disappointed me (and also relieved from the point-of-view of my own book) was that they didn”t make enough of moving in and out of game worlds. They made a nod to that in the first ten minutes and then spent almost the entire film in the candy racing game world.”

Bedlam - Calastria It”s a fair point and Bedlam”s story will be very much about exploring the how and why of its universe. Brookmyre explains, “In this world when you see NPCs you”re not necessarily having to worry about them because they are just NPCs. The enemies that exist within the story of each world aren”t actually your problem. There”s a greater menace at work, those people who are trying to shut down these portals between worlds.”

Known as The Initiative, they”ll pop out and confront you from time to time, while other factions will guide you through the intricacies of each world. Bedlam is an independently-funded game so they”re not working with the famous licences from each era. Instead, locations will be recognisable but different. Steve Finn, Head of Production at RedBedlam explained.

“We can”t have Pac-Man but what we can have is a 2D arcade game from that era which could have been one of the Pac-Man clones that was made back then, making our own fake authentic IP from the era. So we”re homaging eras and sounds and visuals from those.

“Crucially, we don”t emulate any of the gameplay from any of those things. This game at its core must be a good FPS shooter and when you enter something like a 2D maze game you”re not suddenly having to change the control scheme to play a maze. You are still running in first-person around in that maze.

Bedlam - World War II“That”s how we deal with Frogger trying to cross the road and Space Invaders. You”re just trying to get to the other side, avoiding the bombs and everything like that. There might be some NPC doing crouch to cover, [you can] fire over the top. Rocket jump over the top of them. Ignore them. They”re the ones who ponce about with that sort of stuff.”

It”s an ambitious game and one that could be very enjoyable. The team definitely have passion for the history of video games and already have plans for what comes next. Bedlam will actually be the first in a trilogy, accompanied by a trilogy of books. The next game will be co-op and the final will be multiplayer. I wish them the very best of luck.

The Bedlam novel is out now and the game is scheduled for PC and Mac in August 2014.