OMEN by HP and DigixArt take the road less traveled with new game Road 96

The new title, due out next year, is a 3D game where every journey you embark upon will be different.

By Sarah Murry — December 10, 2020

Picture the wide open expanses of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, peppered with the remnants of an extinct authoritarian regime — bombed-out brutalist buildings, toppled statues, and hollow cities where only ghosts roam. 

It’s a real 2020 mood.

It’s the bleak landscape of the fictional Petria, a dystopian country a cadre of eight ragtag characters are trying to escape in a new choose-your-own-adventure PC video game called Road 96, a first-of-its-kind industry collaboration between HP’s OMEN brand of gaming PCs and accessories and Montpellier, France-based indie studio DigixArt

Road 96 is what’s known as a procedurally generated 3D narrative, where every journey players embark upon will be different depending on the decisions they make. Teased this week at The Game Awards and co-published by HP, Road 96 is set to be released at the end of 2021 as the flagship title of HP’s revamped OMEN Gaming Hub. OMEN Gaming Hub offers tips, tricks, and fun Easter eggs and extras to engage fans and help consumers get the most out of their OMEN devices.

It’s the cornerstone of a broader strategy by HP to engage more people in gaming and with the brand, says Judy Johnson, director of gaming at HP. “We’re investing in hardware, content, and services around it to bring all three pieces together. This is an opportunity for us to reach users on all those levels and give them new gaming experiences.”

OMEN Presents Road 96 | OMEN x DigixArt

Gameplay has skyrocketed during the pandemic as people increasingly turn to others online for social connection and entertainment. Live streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming reported more than 7 billion hours of content watched in the quarter ending in September. The live streaming industry grew by 92% for the year through September, compared to the same period in 2019. 

“As a brand we believe that gaming is a means of progress — we have seen this more than ever in 2020 with gaming allowing us to connect with our friends, blow off steam, find some escapism as well as also meaning,” explains Johnson. “There’s still one place where possibilities still feel endless — inside the engaging world of video games.”

The Garage spoke with Yoan Fanise, creative director of DigixArt and lead developer on Road 96, to talk about the new title.

What is the main concept behind Road 96?

Road 96 is a procedural narrative adventure where you must escape a dystopian country on the brink of collapse and reach the border, thousands of miles away in the mountains. As you travel the backroads of the country during the hot summer of ‘96, you will come across the nation’s troubled citizens. Every decision you make will impact the entire journey, which will be unique for every player. 

What do the themes of the game’s storylines say about the moment we are in now?

We can see a parallel between this plot and recent events, even though we started working on this game two years ago. I won’t spoil the different endings in the narrative, but they are a reflection of the worst that can happen even in modern democracies, when society collapses. 

Side by side comparison on creating a video game character and the final character product.


The making of John, a Road 96 character, with an early model on the left and final concept art on the right.

How does this new model, where a hardware maker co-publishes a wholly new title, affect the business of game development, especially for small studios?

This partnership with HP offers a model for the industry that is really promising. It’s difficult, as an independent studio, to find partners that can help elevate your game in the market without compromising creative freedom. The model we’re building with OMEN by HP could change the game, in a similar way that Netflix did for high-quality content. I think “OMEN presents” can eventually become a brand in itself that stands for innovative content in gaming, a seal of unique creativity. 

What’s been the biggest challenge in developing a game during the pandemic?

Developing a game is a really complex technical process that involves a lot of different areas of expertise, from software developers, to artists, game designers, and animators … all of whom have to work together to bring this world to life from scratch. There’s also this organic part that I miss when we are able to be all together, where something on screen triggers a discussion and generates crazy new ideas. We’re a very collaborative organization, and one where everybody expresses their opinions, and to me, this culture is the core of game creation.

How do you aim to reach new audiences with Road 96 while still keeping experienced gamers engaged?

We want to break the barriers to entry and draw in people who never played a game to try this one. We put a lot of effort into the user experience, which required us to break down the assumptions and codes of experienced gamers. We aimed to simplify everything. On the other hand, we don’t want to disappoint our hardcore gamers and early adopters, so we also have deep layers of exploration and lore. 


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