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  • Road 96: Development And Inspirations

    [08.17.21]
    - Jesus Fabre
  • The first video game project Yoan Fanise was involved in was the original Beyond Good and Evil, as part of Ubisoft, where he contributed as an audio engineer. Before that, he was working in movies. Yoan has always loved technical and creative challenges, "games represented the next step for me, I had to work on all the sounds separately and then the mix in the game happened in real time, depending on the interactions of the players. At that time the technology of the PlayStation 2 only allowed for 2MB of memory, so we were absurdly limited compared to today's standards", he said. After 14 years at Ubisoft, Yoan quit Ubisoft in 2015 to create games independently. He has a passion for crafting new experiences that connect players with the issues of the real world. Like he did with Valiant Hearts, his last project at Ubisoft, and later on 11-11 Memories Retold, in his new game Road 96 Yoan also brings a story full of emotions and strong characters that is very much related with real world situations.The need to emigrate from your country and search for a better life is a big issue that affects more and more people each year (UN Refugee Agency estimates that global forced displacement surpassed 80 million by June 2021).

    How was the conception, structure and atmosphere of Road 96?

    We started from scratch with the intention of building a system that was not typical from narrative games. Something really new that could give us a lot more possibilities and allow each player to have a totally different experience each time he plays. So the first 2 years were spent developing that system. Only when the system started to work, we started to dig deeper into the story and a narrative structure that could work well in those limitations, like a reduced number of game overs, or avoiding events that imply too many consequences over time, like a storm where after everything is destroyed.

    We already knew the game would be about a road trip, because it was built around the world trip system. We can move from one spot to another, with the ellipsis we can change places and time quite easily, so we were able to spawn something totally new for the player in the middle of the road. There is no geographical reality in the world, it's the opposite of an open world. The system also dictated us that the player couldn't be the same person all along, it would have multiplied the number of dialogs exponentially, if the NPCs have to remember you and all your past actions. Instead, it is the narrative IA who remembers them all and decides what comes next.

    We wanted the player to feel very involved in the country issues by playing different teenagers in each run of the game. When you have already played with several of them you are familiar with all the characters that populate the world of the game, their stories, the situation of the country, as you see it all from different sides. It is interesting because you feel like you ARE all of those teenagers in a way. It is also very emotional when people you encounter tell you something that you did in the past with another teenager (and you were playing as the person they talk about). Is a chance for the player to be able to be different, and we saw some players changing their minds, they start playing the game without caring much about the context of the country, and the more they play, the more they understand the social situation and what happens, and they take action and position themselves more clearly. At the end of the game there is a cave where you can paint a wall, and you can see all the messages and drawings you left in previous runs and you can see your evolution along the game.

    We tricked the system to not be linear because at the beginning of the game we were assimilating the knowledge of what the player is doing depending of his decisions and actions, we have like an internal balance that determines your position in the story according to your decisions, the choices taken have more weight as you progress further in the game story, as you have more knowledge about the world. We want to be forgiving with the people regarding those early decisions, but eventually things will start affecting the world around you according to what you did, say or how you look (for example you may not get a car to carry you hitchhiking because you did certain things or look dirty, causing you to pass a bad a karma to the drivers).

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