The Player wakes up in a cryotube on an abandoned space station. They soon discover another lifeform that inhabits the space station with them: a tall, humanoid type Creature that stalks the environment. The space station is shaped like a rotunda and they soon begin to realize that as they walk back to where they started that time has shifted.
When the Player first sees the Creature, they believe it is a monster or an alien. Coupled with the knowledge that they’re on the Moon, the Player will assume that they’re on a lunar Moon station with the Creature.
However, as the story progresses and they collect clues, the Player comes to learn that because time has shifted, nothing is certain. In the final portion of the game, the Player realizes in the final loop that the Creature has in actuality been them the whole time – they’ve been witnessing themselves in a different loop. The Player surmises that they were the one who killed the other crew members after becoming the worst version of themselves under the Moon’s influence.
Game Design Needs and Considerations
From the beginning, We Went Back was intended to be an environmental storytelling experience inspired by Hideo Kojima’s P.T. Later, we would look to escape room style gameplay influences to inform the design of the game as well.
Given careful study of these references, we intentionally avoided rich text insertions into the game and relied on OST (on-screen text) for everything we included so that immersion would not be interrupted and that focus would remain on the primary gameplay loop.
We also didn’t wish to make the story too explicit because we wanted the nature of the game to leave players guessing and going back to search for other shifts and changes. Essentially, we wished for each player to develop their own narrative assumptions based off the conspiracy theory of the Moon we’d crafted for ourselves. We were fortunate to be successful in this goal.
With these considerations in mind, all story was conveyed through events that happen within the game, such as the timing of the scares and the dynamically changing environments that happen in each of the seven stages of the game.
Game Development Pillars
It took our team over two months to ultimately settle on the pillars we did, but once chosen they were fully adopted, implemented and influenced every design and narrative decision on the game. The two pillars were:
Move Towards the Horror
+ We wished to encourage players to move players towards the horror rather than rely on the three primary mechanics typical to the horror genre in video games: stealth, combat, and running away.
+ Moving towards the horror would allow players to experience a sense of dread that they come to accept as never-ending.
+ This pillar also helped them realize by the end of the game that the ultimate horror comes through what they confront in their own experiences. The Player realizes that they themselves are the ultimate horror.
+ Coined by our Art Team, Cultification was the term that referred to amping up the Player’s excitement in all aspects of development. We fundamentally asked ourselves over and over, ‘What would excite the Player here?’
+ We wished to help players think, analyze and become conspiracy theorists themselves.
+ We wished to leave players wanting more.
Game Interpretation and Intent
Our team worked hard to respect and adhere to Roland Barthes famous essay, The Death of the Author, which asserts that once a piece of art, whether it be a painting, poem, book, etc. has left the creator’s hands, their personal interpretation of it does not matter, because it now belongs to those who have received it. Given that our team is creating a video game experience, our players are those who receive the game we have made.
In that spirit, we wished for our players to participate and own their individual experience with the game. All and any of their theories about the game may be valid according to their personal interpretation.
However, what is outlined below details the intent which guided the production of We Went Back throughout its development.
Three major influences impacted the story of We Went Back.
+ C. Scott’s Waring’s Conspiracy Theory
+ Particularly the theory pertaining to the Moon and aliens
+ The Moon Landing
+ Particularly Kennedy’s speeches
+ The Apollo 11 mission
+His teachings and theories
C. Scott Waring’s Conspiracy Theory
The inspiration for this was based off a real-life popular conspiracy theory by Scott C. Waring who contests that the Moon isn’t real, but an alien space station. Waring based his theory off of two 2013 NASA Image Atlas photos that were later deleted. He claims that the photos show the Giordano Bruno crater, a real location that named by NASA in 1961, that exists on the dark side of the Moon. He stated that the two photos show evidence of structures that are millions of years old, complete with ships and roofs, which substantiates that aliens exist on the Moon. Below is a picture of the Giordano Bruno crater that can still be found on the IAU website.
Based off Waring’s theory, many believe that the entrance for the alien space station on the moon is the Giordano Bruno crater. The crater, which is 14 miles wide, was named after Giordano Bruno in 1961, coincidentally the same year that Kennedy announced America’s intent to go to the Moon.
The Moon Landing
An important influence on We Went Back’s story was Kennedy’s influence on the Space Race and his famous Moon Shot Speech at Rice Stadium in Texas on May 25th, 1961 in addition to all Apollo 11 research, footage and history.
We have tied the Kennedy’s announcement in 1961 directly to the Giordano Bruno crater, which is the alleged site by conspiracy theorists to be the location of an ancient alien race who. More importantly, we tied the real historical figure of Giordano Bruno in the game in multiple ways, using the backdrop of Waring’s conspiracy theory to support it. In effect, we crafted our own, unique backstory by combining Renaissance philosophy and science to a modern-day conspiracy theory about the Moon landing in 1969.
Giordano Bruno: An Introduction
The crater listed in Waring’s theory and as named by the IAU and NASA pays homage to the famous 16th century philosopher Giordano Bruno, who has been remembered throughout history for:
+ Advocating the multiplicity of worlds without number within an infinite universe. Although this is accepted science now, at the time science and religion dictated that the Milky Way Galaxy (as it is now known) was the boundary of the universe. His advocacy of this claim later led to his being charged with heresy by the Roman Inquisition.
+ Teaching mnemonic studies – the science of memory that involves sacred geometry and the concept of a mind palace. His work in sacred geometry and memory studies made him famous and he often would be invited to reside in different European courts, such as France, to teach his work to royalty.
+ Popularizing several other teachings and philosophies on the nature of being and the universe that were immensely controversial.
+ Bruno was charged with heresy by the Roman Inquisition in 1600. He was burned to death at the stake across the street from the Vatican in the Campo De’ Fiori for advocating and refusing to recant both his religious and scientific views. His statue still stands in the square where he died today. The anniversary of his death also coincides with the anniversary of the Catholic Church, thus whenever there is a celebration of the Church’s history, Bruno always crops up as a topic of discussion. To date the Catholic Church has apologized for his execution, but has never rescinded the charges of heresy.
Bruno work influenced our game, its design and narrative in multiple ways. Here are the following ways in which Bruno emerged as a central figure in our game:
+ Bruno’s sacred geometry influenced the design of our space station environment.
+ Symbols he used were deliberately placed on all collectible objects and clues within the game.
The narrative arc in which the Player discovers they are Bruno, as well as the Creature lurking in the space station.
+ The ending sequence of the game has our space station lit on fire. This was influenced by Bruno’s execution.
Looking below shows how each one of these gameplay elements was impacted by Bruno’s work.
Sacred Geometry and Environment Design
Bruno published several books and writings on his studies and philosophies, which include several drawings of sacred geometry. We have tied his sacred geometry into multiple layers of our game. The picture below is one of Bruno’s drawings, from which we have narratively tied to the shape of our space station rotunda, which can be seen on the right.
The rotunda shape also denotes another important aspect of Bruno’s teachings about God and the forces that shape the universe. There are eight rooms in the game’s space station, which correlates with the eight phases of the Moon.
Symbols on Objects and Clues
Bruno believed that there were three aspects to God and the forces that shape the universe:
+ Bruno used the term ‘Mind’ to denote substance, as in physical substance and matter. The symbol he used for Mind was a circle with a dot drawn in its center
+ Bruno used the term ‘Intellect’ to denote the fountain of ideas, wisdom and thought. The symbol he used for Intellect was a moon shaped symbol
+ Bruno used the term ‘Love’ to denote feelings, emotion and connection. The symbol he used for Love was a star shaped symbol
Below is an image of his writing that depicts the three symbols:
These three symbols became fundamental parts of the game, as the first symbol for the Mind also reflects our space station. As the player progresses through the game by collecting items and clues, they are also progressing symbolically through Bruno’s philosophy on the nature of existence, life and death. This symbol is seen early on in the game with the first collectible object the Player encounters – the Polaroid camera.
The second symbol for Intellect, the crescent moon, was seen repeatedly throughout the game as different moon phase symbols appeared on the four clues a player must collect: a cassette player, the gloved hand, the petri dish, and the eye speared on a pencil.
Eyeball on Pencil
The third symbol for Love, is a star that can be found on the last clue in the environment: the Voyager Record.
The Player as Bruno
The game relies on the philosophical premise of Bruno’s work to undergird its approach to the Creature. There are four crew members that are referenced in We Went Back, the primary of which is Giordano Bruno. As the game progresses, the Player will surmise that they are in fact Bruno out of the four crew members.
After solving the game’s puzzle, the Player attempts to crawl through the vent in order to go back into the regular space station. However, the are stopped when they discover that the vent has appeared back on the vent entrance. They see a person’s spacesuit boots walk past the vent, after which the vent pops out. It is at this moment that the Player can reason that the boots walking past was in fact themselves at the beginning of the game – they have now become the Creature.
Space Station on Fire
After solving the password and discovering they are the Creature, the Player emerges from the vent to discover that the entire space station is on fire. This is in direct reference to Giordano Bruno’s execution and death when he was burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1600.
As of the current date of writing, there is a planned patch on May 1, 2020 that will add other narrative elements to reinforce this reference. When the Player is near the Loop Door and ready to pass out, they will be attacked by a spacesuit on fire. The attack will use the same animation as an earlier scare in which the Creature kills the Player, which will further reinforce these ideas.
While not as prominent in the premise of We Went Back, other influences did impact the game. Below are listed some of the elements that were included within OST, animation, as well as other assets.
+ Other Renaissance thinkers
+ Leonardo Da Vinci
+ Discovered how ‘earthshine’ works, which is the glow that surrounds the Moon
+ Robert Hooke
+ Wrote and included some of the first recorded sketches of the Moon’s surface
+ First person to truly uncover the potential of microscopes and their impact on science
+ Margaret Cavendish
+ Arguably wrote the science-fiction novel, , in which a woman captains a voyage to another world and discovers a planet filled with aliens and strange Creatures
+ Also wrote extensively about all matter pertaining to matter, nature, and the materiality of the imagination. She argued that anything a person thinks is in fact real because it is comprised of matter. Therefore, what you hallucinate, imagine, or dream is real
+ Alexander Pope
+ Essay on Man
Extremes in nature equal ends produce,
In man they join to some mysterious use;
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
+ Apollo 11 Mission
+ Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
+ Richard Nixon’s phone and planned speeches to the Moon
+ Other Apollo Missions
+ Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, Phooey
+ Another team member found reference to these five mice that went to space with the Apollo 17 mission. Four mice returned and one was never found
+ Physics-Based Theories
+ Golden Ratio
+ The number Pi
+ Time-space theories
We would do an injustice to our game if we did not acknowledge that there are light ARG elements that we used on the website and on social media. Too numerous to list here, everything in-game from the posters, the butterflies, the rat, the post-its, the whiteboards, etc. fed into an online ARG that dropped clues to what was contained in our game long before its release. Our players are just now discovering these elements, analyzing them, and piecing together their own theories.
This document is not fully complete at the time of its writing, simply because the game is still evolving. With planned patches throughout Q3 2020, we fully intend to add substance and allow our players to experience a narratively evolving game in much the same was Bruno evolved into the Creature. Thank you for reading.