How developer Digixart used procedural generation to create the feeling of real freedom.
Hello everyone. We have some exciting news from all of us here at DigixArt: Road 96 is coming to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on April 14! choose your own road trip adventure.
In this choose-your-own-road trip adventure, you play as different teenagers fleeing a fictional country called Petria. Things inside the country have gone off the rails and – as you journey across the map – you’ll meet a very strange mix of people; some will help you in your escape, others won’t.
When we started working on Road 96 in 2018, we wanted to create a procedural game with a story that would be different for every player. Our mantra was “nobody’s road is the same.” We worked on various prototypes, designing a viable system that creates a unique and compelling story that would fit to a player’s personal taste. This is why the game starts off by asking you a few questions.
The AI uses these parameters to determine your starting position, abilities, money and (yes) a hidden karma element too. At the end of this first sequence, you then choose how you want to leave. And – as you’ll discover – it’s not a linear branching system, but more a pool of sequences that the AI will pick and tweak, depending on your journey.
There are various modes of transport. If walking is your thing then, obviously, it will take longer to reach the border. As time is not standing still in the summer of ’96, after a few journeys (between 6 – 15) you’ll trigger one the many endings, the nature of which will depend on your various choices and the behavior on your travels.
If we look closely at the routes on the map, you can see that they are never the same for each character; that’s the beauty of a procedurally generated system. And it’s almost mathematically impossible to have the same path between each of your characters (which makes us really happy).
And we’re really happy that with the different parameters it is mathematically almost impossible that you’ll have the same path as another player. With a lot of simplification and without taking in account all the variations possible inside each sequence, the number of different variations would be 60 x 59 x 58…
As each sequence can happen either in the southern deserts or the mountains further north, we had to create different graphics for each environment – along with both a day and night setting – creating 4x the work for the art team; they did an amazing (and massive) job.
The music also varies if the sequence is at the beginning of the summer journey or closer to the end, when tension is rising across the country.
Even if it brought a lot of complexity, it was necessary to create the feeling of real freedom being on the road.
The narrative design and writing was totally different from a more traditional linear experience, even a branching one. We never knew when and where events would trigger, so many parameters had to be tested to see if characters had already been encountered, if you knew their back story and how more about them could be revealed – without revealing things too soon or too late. It was really funny watching the reaction of players when they understood these big story reveals.
So – yes – all the decisions you make are crucial and will define what ‘s going happen to you and – as a result – to all the people you may meet; you have an influence on their life trajectory as they have one on yours. It’s an experience that brings questions, sometimes deep ones, and we love to explore the things that can have an impact on people’s life and (maybe) trying to make the world a little bit better.