Following the success of narrative-led exploration games like Firewatch and Gone Home, many doors were opened on the indie scene for developers who prioritised telling stories and creating interesting environments over designing complicated mechanics. This was the exact motivation London-based studio A Brave Plan needed when producing its mystery thriller, The Bradwell Conspiracy.
“We saw Firewatch get a warm reception, and we felt validated that we were on the right path,” says The Bradwell Conspiracy director Georg Backer, whose previous work includes Fable and The Movies at Lionhead Studios. Backer calls the game “Spielberg-esque” as it doesn’t lean too hard into sci-fi or horror, and that it remains accessible for everyone to enjoy.
You are an employee of the tech conglomerate Bradwell Electronics in the near-future year of 2026. At the launch of the company’s latest innovation in humanitarian aid, an explosion occurs that puts the facility on lockdown. Trapped in an isolated environment, your only companion is Amber – a Bradwell worker stuck in another part of the building.
Your primary form of communication is from using a pair of augmented reality glasses, which lets you take photos you can send to her. This allows you both to work together to find a means of escape. You can photograph anything you come across, from doors to signs, to random objects within the facility, with each point of interest yielding unique dialogue opportunities with Amber.
“I wanted to design a unique way to communicate with another character that doesn’t use dialogue trees,” Backer says. “We have a system that tracks where Amber is within the story, so when you send photos to her, she might react differently depending on what point you’re at. If you don’t check in with her after a while, she may get in touch with you to see what’s up. The story is all about you both having the same goal, so it feels natural for her to be concerned about the player.”
This type of relationship with an AI character immediately calls back to Firewatch’s Delilah, and how you would communicate with an unseen individual via a walkie-talkie. While Amber – like the protagonist – is an employee of Bradwell, she doesn’t know everything. As you explore the facility, there are areas you discover together. This is where the Induction Narrator, voiced by television personality Jonathan Ross, steps in and acts as a personal adviser for the player, like a museum tour guide, and fills in the blanks where Amber can’t.
Puzzle segments also form a large component of the game, with many involving the use of a 3D printing mechanic to create objects that help you progress through an area. The setup of these puzzles as self-contained rooms is reminiscent of Portal’s test chambers, areas that acted almost like playgrounds for testing the game’s limits while also providing narrative clues that added to the overall plot. Bradwell’s environments act similarly but have a much bigger focus on telling stories.
According to art director and narrative designer Holly Pickering, the team’s main intention is to use these environments to create profound stories. “When we first started work, we looked up games like Portal and Firewatch. We’re also big fans of the immersive sim genre, and we love how deep those stories can go. We’re a small team so we can’t do a big, physics-based game, but we can build up smaller things to help you get a further understanding of the world.
“You draw lines and build the story up in the background as you see how this relates to your adventure with Amber. We want to reward players who take the time to reach into this information, and they’ll come away with a deeper understanding by the end.” Pickering had previously worked on Ether One while at White Paper Games, which took a similar approach of prioritising narrative over puzzles.
The Bradwell Conspiracy is A Brave Plan’s first game, created as a collaborative effort between “award-winning BAFTA luminaries and triple-A veterans” with a team consisting of developers from games such as Fable, Assassin’s Creed, and Tomb Raider. “It was all about picking the right people for the right project,” Backer says. “Whoever we needed, we knocked on their doors and asked them kindly. Most of them said yes, which was great.”
While keeping further details under wraps, A Brave Plan has since shown the game at public events. “Everyone’s been really positive; it’s great to see people are taking the time to let the worldbuilding sink in,” Pickering says. “Normally when we get developers to playtest, they’re so concerned with the mechanics and technical side, but the narrative and art is really hitting home with the public. At the end of the day, we’re building a game for people to immerse themselves in when they play at home.”
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: A Brave Plan
Publisher: Bossa Studios
Release: Autumn 2019