The Brad­well Con­spir­acy

Un­cover the truth with a pair of talk­ing glasses and a 3D printer

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TBA

Grow­ing up in Aus­tria in the ’80s, game direc­tor and A Brave Plan founder Ge­org Backer is no stranger to con­spir­acy. “I re­mem­ber the Cold War to­wards the end – it was ev­ery­where,” he says. us. “We were close to West and East Ger­many, it was in the daily news. It was just one of those things; it was just there. Dis­in­for­ma­tion, and all that stuff dur­ing the Cold War, was re­ally in­trigu­ing.” Thus be­gan a life­long fas­ci­na­tion with con­spir­a­cies. “I’m not one of those peo­ple who says, ‘Oh, the moon land­ing was fake’,” he says. “But I do of­ten won­der what goes on be­hind the cur­tains of big in­sti­tutes.”

The ex-Lion­head de­vel­oper’s lat­est casts you as a visi­tor to a mu­seum: you clam­ber through its ru­ined halls in search of an­swers. The place is oddly beau­ti­ful, in spite of hav­ing been blown to bits: half-full cham­pagne glasses twin­kle like stars among the re­mains of a party. “The Mary Ce­leste was in­ter­est­ing to me,” says art direc­tor and nar­ra­tive de­signer Holly Pick­er­ing. “The boat was left in pris­tine con­di­tion – chairs were pushed over and things, but gen­er­ally the scene was still as it was. And no one knows what hap­pened.”

This fa­cil­ity hon­ours the Brad­well In­sti­tute: ex­hibits tell of its tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments and char­i­ta­ble ini­tia­tives. Read­ing swathes of text on walls cre­ates an un­com­fort­able ten­sion: we skim it while the build­ing au­di­bly crum­bles around us, urg­ing us on. “I think the feel­ing that you get is ac­tu­ally quite nice, from a de­sign per­spec­tive,” Backer says. “The mu­seum was a re­ally good set­ting to do that.”

There are shades of Gone Home in the un­set­tling sense that some­thing’s about to pop out at you. Of course, it never does: in­stead, the floor gives way. Here, The Brad­well Con­spir­acy takes a turn from creepy walk­ing sim­u­la­tor into droll puz­zler, as you pose as an em­ployee to ac­cess more of the un­der­ground fa­cil­ity. Dur­ing a hu­mor­ous, thor­oughly cor­po­rate in­duc­tion, you’re given an SMP – a sci-fi tool that lets you use the in­sti­tute’s great­est (se­cret) dis­cov­ery, ‘sub­stance’, to 3D-print ob­jects. It can help solve puz­zles, let­ting you safely cross a room in a game of ‘the floor is lava’, or com­plete a per­son­al­ity eval­u­a­tion. It’s all very Portal, then, al­though Backer as­sures us that the game opens up in later lev­els, as you use your new toy to ex­plore parts of the In­sti­tute not even the em­ploy­ees are sup­posed to see. Your mu­seum-guide spec­ta­cles are your sec­ond tool: un­able to speak due to smoke in­hala­tion, you com­mu­ni­cate with the per­son­able Dr Am­ber Ran­dall – who re­sponds to your guide’s distress sig­nal fol­low­ing the ex­plo­sion – by tak­ing pho­tos of your sur­round­ings. Send her one of a locked door, for in­stance, and she may be able to help you open it re­motely. In the same way that the SMP side­steps the tra­di­tional in­ven­tory sys­tem, com­mu­ni­cat­ing via pho­tos means that pic­tures are of­ten worth a thou­sand words. Not that writ­ing the game hasn’t been com­plex: the ob­ject tags and logic trees re­quired for Am­ber’s re­ac­tions to pho­tos are ex­ten­sive. “It’s worth do­ing be­cause it ac­tu­ally gives you some im­mer­sion if she’s like, ‘That looks like a smaller ver­sion of that thing that you sent me be­fore’,” Pick­er­ing says. “Those lit­tle de­tails make you think, ‘She’s lis­ten­ing to me’.”

Pick­er­ing de­scribes her­self as “the per­son with the big cork board and the red string ty­ing every­thing to­gether,” as she pup­peteers the many out­comes be­hind what you do and don’t share with Am­ber – you may not want to snap every­thing you see. “Be­cause the player doesn’t have a voice, there are things they can’t talk about that they would want to, she says. “Then there’s dis­in­for­ma­tion: maybe you know some­thing she doesn’t know…”

Half-full cham­pagne glasses twin­kle like stars among the re­mains of a party

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