Interview: Charles Boury tells us more about Road 96

The road: an invitation to infinite intersections, where every turn leads to a new possibility. That’s the heart of the fascinating Road 96 by DigixArt, a procedural narrative adventure with a gorgeous, colorful graphic world. Today, exclusively for GOG, we have the chance to speak with art director Charles Boury, who guides us through the creation of an iconic setting of the game.
Road 96 invites you to explore by hitchhiking along thousands of roads and meeting colorful characters. Through a great road trip in a country deprived of freedom, you seek your own freedom. If the gameplay and the narration are key elements of your immersion in the story, its artistic direction is the cornerstone of this dreamlike experience. Discover Charles’ philosophy and learn more about game creation right here:
GOG.COM: Hello Charles, thanks for being with us today to talk about Road 96! First of all, could you please quickly introduce yourself?
Charles Boury: My name is Charles Boury, and I’m the artistic director of the game Road 96. I like to work on projects that make us think about our place in the world. I create games, but I don’t play much because of a lack of time. I have a weakness for old games. I often turn on my old consoles.
In your opinion, how does the graphic atmosphere of a game influence its narrative, and what should its emotional impact on the players be?
We all need images to live a story. If it is a textual story, our imagination very quickly invents visuals for the characters and landscapes. It’s fascinating that we do this effortlessly, automatically.
For a comic book, a movie, or a game, the choices are already made, which leads to many good things. For example, you can combine a narration full of emotion and subtlety with a raw, merciless setting to create contrast and provide context naturally, without explanation. The graphic atmosphere of a game supports the narration, gives it a form. But it also helps to give a direction to the story. The same robbery scene is not experienced in the same way by day or by night. What if it rains? What if the robbers have ridiculous outfits? All these choices change the scene dramatically. In Road 96, the scenes are procedural, so we thought of lots of possible combinations.
This reference image is one of many we’ve gathered to define the Road 96 universe. We drew from the deserts of the American West, the mistreated forests of Russia, and the outdated architecture of the gas pumps and diners of the 60s to design a fictional country that is hard to live in because of the ransacking of its natural spaces, its deployment of a dirty industry, and its broken promises of freedom but is also full of poetry in travel and encounters. We often came back to this catalog to expand it, throughout the development. It’s not easy to imagine a whole country!
This concept art, made by wardenlight, specifies the setting as well as the desired graphic rendering. The limited color palette to make this game unique, its recognizability at first glance, the constant presence of the road, the player’s only thread of hope until his dream destination, the mountain in the distance, this border with the other country. The colors are frank. The forms and the textures are stylized, craggy, and struck-through. They take the codes of graphic novels; these frank illustrations of the difficult daily life. The luminous atmosphere is nevertheless fresh and full of hope. It plays an important role, a humanizing one, in our otherwise very arid scenery.
Here is the rendering in the game engine. We took some time to find the exact topography of the mountain range in the distance: it should work as a lighthouse, give the exact feeling of the distance to be traveled, and remain stylized to stay in the identity of the game. We also paid a lot of attention to the textures, the ground, the road, and all the objects in the world, constantly playing with the balance between believability and style. We took equally methodical care to perfect the color palette, thanks to specific colorimetric settings for each set. Ultimately, the atmosphere plays the same enveloping role as in the concept art, and it was a big technical challenge, which was taken up and won by the fabulous team at DigixArt.
Thanks again to Charles for this unique behind-the-scenes look at DigixArt’s game production. Let us know if you liked it in the comments and jump right into Road 96, the dream-like procedural narrative adventure.