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  • Road 96: Development And Inspirations

    - Jesus Fabre

  • Along the trip players can feel many different emotions, happiness, sadness, regret, fear, etc. How do you handle a balance between those types of narrative episodes?

    The narrative system is very complex, with tons of parameters, many of which are defined by player actions during the first hours of gameplay, starting with the questions the player is asked at the very start of the adventure. Explained in a simplified way, we attach a color to each narrative bubble, and that way the system takes care of not having 3 sad sequences or a lot of action sequences in a row, for example, and that way we want to find a good balance in the variation in the narrative and emotional pacing. I don't like when, in certain games, you have only a particular type of emotion (color), so it makes things more predictable from the beginning to the end. 

    I really love games that surprise me, to provoke emotions that go from laughing to tears like a rollercoaster of feelings we usually had when we were a child. When I was recording music for Ubisoft's Rabbids games, I went to record gypsy musicians in a very poor village in North Romania, they could cry and laugh in a 2 minutes period. That was very impactful for me, I loved it, it looked very natural and sadly that is something we hide when we grow up, and in my opinion it's a shame, because it is so good. That's why I want to use video games to provoke a variety of emotions, they enlarge more that emotions range.

    We have a list of sixty initial sequences, with 4 different variations for each one and different dialogs. Each bubble/sequence can appear at the beginning or the end of the game, also at any moment in the day, that is something we took very much into account when writing the dialogues. We have some conditionals in the scenes, that modify things depending on some factors, like for example, if the Election Day is getting closer or not. 

    The development of the logic part of the game took almost 2 years. Like what happened on titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that had prototypes in 2D before they became the final 3D title, we did something similar in a much more basic format as our main goal was to test the system. Half of the production time was dedicated to finding the system itself through different prototype iterations and playtesting. We had text based prototypes (that we called the "prototext"), and we invited people to come to our office. I was like a Dungeon Master in a tabletop RPG game, my role in the playstests was to be the "narrative engine", reading what the environment looked like and giving the player different options. That experience of playtesting the game in text was really exciting for us and for the testers, so one of our main goals was to keep that feeling in the transition to the final game. 

    Being funded and the partnership with HP OMEN.

    That decision was the best one in terms of technology development and production but not from the business standpoint, as we only went into producing the art and animations once when we had the text-based narrative system working. At that time, we had invested 2 years in the development and had nothing visual to show to publishers or investors that could give us the money that would help us to finalize the game! Everybody said, "the concept is really cool, but I don't see it", and that's when HP Omen came in and joined the project. They really liked the game and the studio, they said they really liked the values and philosophy we have at DigixArt, they try to put the same value into their brand. And this was all done via Twitter, as they saw the previous projects of our studio and saw we were doing different games that try to add a meaning or something deeper, and wanted to know what was our next project to, maybe, support it. So they came just in time and allowed us to create the game thanks to their funding. It was hard to find a publisher or investor, as many classical publishers saw our game as something very different to what had been done before, so they couldn't easily get numbers of reference for it regarding potential audience and sales. That fact kept many of them on the fence. But in the end we managed to create our game with financial support, total creative freedom and only a team of 15 people!


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