We recently got the opportunity to return to the faltering republic of Petria with Road 96: Mile 0. Developers DigixArt opened the borders to the country once again, allowing us to spend time with some of our favourites from the 2021 sleeper hit. Chatting to characters like Zoe and Sonya was like returning to old friends.
But we don’t take it for granted: DigixArt could have done anything with their second game, but they were as eager as we were to return to the world they created. It left us with so many questions: why come back to Petria? Why Zoe? Luckily, we had an opportunity to ask those questions. DigixArt offered up Yoan Fanise, creative director, to satisfy our curiosity surrounding Road 96: Mile 0.
Hi, could you please introduce yourself and your role on Road 96: Mile 0?
Hi, my name is Yoan Fanise, I’m creative director at DigixArt, the studio behind Road 96: Mile 0.
Could you give us a quick rundown of the game?
Mile 0 is a crazy mix of narrative choices and frenetic rides. For those who know the previous games we made at DigixArt, it is an evolution of the gameplay we created on Lost in Harmony, 11-11 and Road 96.
Following the release of Road 96, there were so many options for what DigixArt could do next. What drew you to a prologue in particular, and a continuation of the world of Road 96?
The world of Road 96 – this dystopian country of the 90s running into an economic collapse – resonated with many players all around the world. And we had so much more to tell in that lore. Some players asked us where those teens that you play come from, their life before being on the road and the starting point of their departure.This is why we focused on this aspect, and the title Mile 0 was a perfect fit for this crucial moment in their life.
Do you see Road 96: Mile 0 as a good jumping on point for anyone who hasn’t played Road 96?
Yes, you can play Mile 0 as an introduction to Petria’s world. You will discover characters from a different angle, and this leads very naturally to Road 96 for the rest of your trip to the border.
We took care of making sure that both games can be understandable in any order.
What was it about Kaito and Zoe that made them the right protagonists for Road 96: Mile 0? Kaito in particular is an interesting choice, being better known for your first game, Lost in Harmony.
We wanted players to experience Mile 0 from the point of view of teenagers running into economic troubles, whilst also harbouring a sense of growing anger for the country’s leaders. And during one of our brainstorms, we looked at Lost in Harmony’s artwork on the wall, and it was suddenly obvious that it had to be Kaito, whose backstory with Aya was perfectly fitting with Petria’s lore.
As for Zoe, she is a very special character in Road 96. Without spoiling too much, players wondered why she was on the road with her background. That story, rich in emotions, rich in confrontations, was a perfect plot to confront points of view and let players choose.
When playing, we were fascinated by the choice to move away from Road 96’s survival focus, with food and money being less of a constant worry. Instead, there is more of an orientation towards certainty, with the player choosing to doubt or believe the regime. What does this new approach give you?
At DigixArt, we always want to pursue new ways of telling stories. Repetition is the nemesis of innovation. We want to bring new gameplay ideas to tell our narratives. As the story involves teenagers, we wanted to explore the evolution of beliefs since we know teenage years involve confronting friends, parents, society and even your own opinions. The survival gauges made sense when you were on the road, but not when you are still at your parents’ home.
How beholden were you to the characters of the first game, and your community who obviously wanted those characters to return? Do you feel a tension that you must include them in some way? Or are you happy with welcoming the cast back?
This is where we had to make choices. We wanted initially to have all of them back as they are like our children. We love them unconditionally. But the theme and location of Mile 0 did not allow us to all bring them back. We know some fans resonate with other characters, but we hope that the love we put in this story will make them appreciate the new dimensions of Mile 0’s characters!
We love the moments of heightened reality in Road 96: Mile 0. The paper-round in particular makes us laugh every time. In your mind, canonically, do these events play out exactly as they are shown? Or do you think the game exaggerates them a little for gameplay effect?
It’s actually one my favorite parts of the game, too. The game definitely exaggerates them a little since a large part of the Mile 0 involves exploring the interiority of our characters.
How much did the learnings of Lost in Harmony come into play with the rhythm action sections? And what was the hardest part of getting these bits right?
Lost in Harmony was the first pillar of our design, and although I wanted to put the characters facing the camera, the team this time convinced me to NOT do that again, so that players can anticipate better the obstacles coming. So, I pushed for more cut cams in the face of the characters to feel their reactions. I hate games where you just see the back of your character. Emotions are not coming from your back.
There is an eclectic playlist and some big artists on the soundtrack for Road 96: Mile 0! What was the aim in bringing that soundtrack together? And what stories do you have about getting artists like The Offspring to appear?
The soundtrack is always a huge topic for us at DigixArt, perhaps because myself and many members of the team come from sound design background. We really wanted to encapsulate that wonderful nostalgic sound from the 90s, and The Midnight and The Offspring were a perfect match. It’s magical to hear music I’m familiar with surprising younger audiences. We saw many comments in trailers from curious fans asking about the music. I was so happy to be able to transmit some cultural references from the real 90s in Mile 0. The tracks fit so well with Zoe’s POV at certain moments in the game.
How do you want established players to be approaching Road 96: Mile 0? Should they be discarding their previous opinions on Tyrak, Petria and others?
I think players will definitely be surprised by the initial Zoe we meet in Mile 0. We’ve added new elements to the lore that will reveal things which will even surprise veterans of Petria. But ultimately, we want players to formulate their own opinions and do what they feel is right.
Where do the arcade minigames come from? Are they games your developers have had in a back drawer somewhere, or are they created specifically for the game?
They are created by our designers. These minigames are a sort of free space they love to explore and are designed especially for the game. Part of DigixArt culture is providing the team untethered freedom and we wanted our designers to open new possibilities for gameplay experience.
What does the future hold for Road 96 and DigixArt? Is this the ‘DigixArt Gaming Universe’ now? Will every one of your games find its place in this world?
We’re always looking to push boundaries and utilise new mechanics. Road 96 is definitely a precious baby for our studio, but as I mentioned before, we must adapt and find new avenues. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll revisit the world of Petria once more, but regardless of what happens, we’ll make sure to surprise players!
Which games are you most excited to be playing this year?
I’m waiting for Zelda. It’s a huge part of my life and I grew up with it. It’s amazing how they’ve been able to innovate the game and keep it modern after all these years.
And finally, would you vote for President Tyrak?
Let’s just say I don’t think we’d see eye to eye on many things 😉.
Huge thanks go out to Yoan for giving some time in order for us to find out even more about Road 96 and Mile 0.
If you’re curious about Road 96: Mile 0, or have a longing to return to the Road 96 universe, then you don’t need to hesitate: it’s out now on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and PC – with the Xbox Store your best bet at grabbing a download. We reviewed it recently and had an enjoyable – if slightly safe – experience, so would recommend you give it a whirl. At the very least, you will be in good company with some of the best characters from the original game.