I had heard about Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam before I went to Gamescom. I am a writer, I write and as such I end up following the printed prose form and its news. So to hear that a book and a game had been created by the Scottish author, I was naturally intrigued. I’d also been hankering for something for a while. I wanted a game that was like Quake. I’ve been missing the fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of my youth in the mid to late 90s. I know there’s Quake Live but I’m sure you can guess what I mean.
Meeting Christopher at Gamescom along with Nick Witcher from RedBedlam who has made the game put a whole new perspective in to which for me to wax lyrical over. Normally books about video games come in the form of tie-ins or licensed works, with the exception of Ready Player One. Bedlam however is very different. What’s clear about the game is how much the two entities, prose and code, are in tandem. Whilst not necessitating having to read the book before you play or visa versa. But you can of course do both.
The story behind it is that Nick, a fan of Brookmyre’s work, noticed something in his novel Pandemonium that hinted at Christopher’s history as an appreciator of video games that was the way his characters were organised in to clans, much like first person shooter gaming clans. Nick himself was quite the Counterstrike player so it was quite easy for him to spot. This led to Nick emailing Christopher to ask if he wanted to make a video game. Lots of communications later (and apparently a few ‘creative’ binges between Glasgow and Brighton) an idea was forged.
Christopher’s gaming love came from playing lots of games but this focus was on his first person appreciation of Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and the like. Those fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of his time in the mid to late 90s… You sense a theme here. The staff at RedBedlam grew up playing games like Doom and Wolfenstein. So you can see where this is heading.
So enough about the history? What about the game? Well it is currently on Steam Early Access with the first two levels available. The first of which you can see on our special preview video coming shortly. It plays like a Quake or an Unreal game. But that is only the first part of this game. The game itself, along with the book has become a homage to the first person shooter genre and especially its history. Whilst you’ll see the first level has the element of that futuristic space shooter it is a lot deeper than that. Plus it is very important to point that this isn’t a port or a clone so to completely create not only a game that can replicate the mid 90s FPS genre but others as well in the same engine and controls, it is incredibly impressive. You can tell the research that went in to playing the games they are inspired by to recapture that feeling was well spent.
There will be many ages of games seen from the first person perspective in Bedlam. Inspired by the likes of Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty and even Pac-Man, the game successfully makes you feel like you are in the games of a certain era. The has to go down to the incredible art direction of the game. The level design and the style of the detail both in the textures and in the weaponry (which is interchangeable between each era) are excellent and really evoke that nostalgia whilst making you enjoy what you are currently playing just as much as any of the games it takes inspiration from.
Speaking of inspiration, we have to discuss the writing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and the dialogue, voiced by BBC comedy Burnistoun’s Kirsty Strain and Robert Florence (along with some extra from Christopher Brookmyre) takes its inspiration from Science Fiction comedy legends such a Doug Naylor and Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide stories. There is a very traditional and stoic British humour about it which not only adds to the aura of the game and the tropes of the time they were made, but also adds a great and entertaining story element.
To dismiss Bedlam as a clone of the 90s FPS genre would be a terrible disservice. There is a lot of love that has been put in to creating this game from people that love gaming of all ages and times. It isn’t just a jog down memory lane but a new and welcome addition to the history of the genre that has transported itself across mediums. I can’t wait until it’s finished.