Three years ago Orbit published BEDLAM, a science fiction novel by Scottish crime legend Christopher Brookmyre, with a protagonist who gets trapped in a video game. Fans of the book included Iain M. Banks, Charles Stross and comedian Ed Byrne.
Chris has been hard at work with Brighton-based games company Redbedlam to bring his dreams into reality (well, virtual reality) and now the video game they’ve designed has been unleashed! You can play Bedlam on PS4, Xbox One or download on Steam for PC.
‘BEDLAM’s world and story are immensely likeable. It has a rare, caustic wit we don’t usually see in video games thanks to Brookmyre’s sense of humour, and Heather is the sort of leading lady we should see more of’Gamesradar
The writing ‘provided a veritable Halloween-candy-stash-sandwiched-between-sofa-cushions-for-eight-months of unexpected treats’Kotaku
‘Heather Quinn earns a spot as one of the best video game heroines ever, by virtue of tremendous writing and some stellar voice acting’Venturebeat
‘BEDLAM plays just like shooters of old – you skate at high speeds through levels, circle-strafing enemies and even performing the occasional rocket-jump. There are countless name-checks of and references to familiar franchises’Gameranx
We’ve just released BEDLAM, where Ross Baker, an overworked scientist from Scotland, is shocked to wake up inside what seems to be one of his childhood favourite computer games – a mad, violent world where cyborgs fight humans and skies are filled with explosive space battles. How did he get there, and how will he ever escape? Read Christopher Brookmyre’s BEDLAM (UK|ANZ) to find out!
We asked Chris about the moments in his gaming history that shocked him, where he had felt a little like Ross, thrust into a hyper-real world he’d never experienced before, and this is what he had to say . . .
Game-changers: Five era-defining moments in my personal playing history:
Up until this point, the games I played had taken place in environments contained within a single screen, which had to be completed before the player was rewarded with access to the next one. MANIC MINER, adored though it was, had followed this model, meaning that players became grindingly over-familiar with the early levels, traversing them over and over again in their quest to glimpse virgin territory, usually for about three seconds before being killed. MANIC MINER’S legendary sequel allowed the player to roam free, exploring anywhere their split-second timing allowed them to reach. Willy’s mansion consequently felt like a true place rather than a sequence of screens, even if it didn’t quite geometrically add up.
An early wonder of the Commodore Amiga, POPULOUS effectively created the genre of the ‘god game’. For the first time, instead of navigating an environment, the player could shape it: raising the land, flattening mountains, raining down vulcanism and, of course, being worshipped by your people.
Its story was back-of-a-fag-packet stuff and its visual design was a confused mismatch, but none of that mattered much when you were flying through the air, courtesy of your own splash-damage, blazing death upon your enemies below while you followed the graceful arc of your rocket jump. DOOM gave us a convincing first-person perspective, but QUAKE was the first game to be truly three-dimensional, memorably showcasing its physics early in the game with the low-gravity secret level, Ziggurat Vertigo.
By the late Nineties, the AI in even the most advanced games meant that enemies seldom bothered following you out of a room. They would wait, patiently and politely, for you to come back and resume hostilities. I recall following the usual protocol the first time I encountered the enemy soldiers in the Black Mesa Complex: quickly ducking behind a stack of crates while I readied myself for an offensive. When I heard a clunk and looked down, spotting that a grenade had been lobbed over and landed at my feet, I realised things were never going to be the same.
Contrary to the impressions given by years of moral panic and tabloid hysteria, I’d never thought a video game could be genuinely frightening. My own imagination imbued various games with atmosphere over the years, and I still remember a few well-designed jump-scares in QUAKE 2, but the idea of being terrified by sprites, pixels and polygons was absurd. Then came DOOM 3, with its constant steam-choked darkness, penetrable only by a flashlight which you had to hold instead of a gun. I recall playing the game late at night with the lights off and my headphones on, but not for long. I think there are still stains on the chair.
Feast your eyes on this cover for Christopher Brookmyre’s amazing SF novel – BEDLAM! (UK|ANZ) Cover design by Mark Swan and Nico Taylor.
Would it be your ultimate fantasy to enter the world of a video game? A realm where you can fly space-ships, shoot zombies and slay dragons, yet all of it feels completely real. Or would it be your worst nightmare? Stuck in an endless state of war and chaos where the pain feels real and from which not even death can offer an escape . . . This is where you find out if you’re in a prison or a playground. This is BEDLAM.
Coming February 2013.
“Like the best Science Fiction books, Bedlam utilises an alternative reality to pose deep philosophical questions about the human condition. Like the best Christopher Brookmyre books it also has funny jokes, characters you can empathise with and devastatingly employed swear words . . .” – comedian Ed Byrne
A bit of fun this Friday – can you beat our computer games quiz by naming the ten characters who uttered the quotes below, and the games they’re from?
You all enjoyed testing your geeky knowledge on the urban fantasy heroines quiz we created a few months ago, and as we released GEARS OF WAR: THE SLAB (UK | ANZ) this month as well as MASS EFFECT: DECEPTION (UK | ANZ) in February we thought we’d create another quiz, this time on the subject of computer games. Here come the quotes!
1. “You had a cat named Ser-Pounce-a-lot?”
2. “Oh, right. I know a lot about lifting curses. That’s why I’m a disembodied talking skull sitting on top of a spike in the middle of a swamp.”
3. “I am the very model of a scientist Salarian! I’ve studied species Turian, Asari and Batarian . . .” [sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General’s Song]
4. “I am sworn to carry your burdens.”
5. “The Enrichment Centre is required to remind you that the Weighted Companion Cube cannot talk. In the event that it does talk The Enrichment Centre asks you to ignore its advice.”
6. “When’s the last time the wind said ‘Hoosssttiiileesss’ to you?”
7. “Watching you guys is like a night in, watching my favourite movie. What was the name of that movie again? Oh, yes. Attack of the stupid bungling idiots who can’t find an even bigger idiot running around dressed like a bat!”
8. “Somebody set up us the bomb.”
9. “Well, I see that the President has equipped his daughter with ballistics too!”
10. “What are you, Desmond, a vegan? You’d be the first vegan assassin in history.”
When you find the answers, comment with the number of the quote, and the character and game that the quote came from – will you be the first to answer correctly?
Answers will be posted on the blog next Friday. Would you kindly try not to use Google to find these quotes, because, well, it’ll just spoil the fun, really! Super sneaky bonus points if you can identify the source of the hidden gaming quote in this paragraph.
Edit as of Friday 25th May: A week has passed and we’re posting the answers, so here they are, under the cut!