When Broken Roads was first announced, I knew instantly that I wanted to work on it. It is a post-apocalyptic video game set in outback Australia, and it draws heavy inspiration from old school isometric RPGs, like the Fallout and Baldur’s Gate series. How could I not be fascinated?
After pissfarting around for a bit, I reached out to the game’s creators, Drop Bear Bytes, and asked if I could work on the title. I sent them my resume, as well as copies of my post-apocalyptic novel Days too Dark which is set in Australia, as well as my Post-Apocalyptic Writing Guide. They liked what they saw, and they gave me some barebones information about the world and tasked me with writing a short story based on that.
Straight away, I was excited. So excited that I could not decide what to send them. So, instead of one story, I sent them two. One was about a caravan travelling through the wasteland, while the other was a journal that had been passed around the wasteland for decades. Again, they liked what they saw, and soon I was up to my neck in NDAs and contracts and loving every minute of it.
Nothing is set in stone in the gaming development world, especially when you get in early. I was involved in the early developmental stages, where we were getting everything ready for what’s called the ‘vertical slice’. You are not building the whole game, but focusing on showing off what the game is about and what it can do. It is used as an example of what is to come; something that can be shown to investors. The cool thing about this is that you have pretty much got free reign to run wild in the early days of the project. You can create with broad brushstrokes, but it is still early days, so things may change drastically as the project continues. If you want to know about the sorts of things that get cut from games, go look into the ‘S’Lanter’ that were cut from the original Fallout.
I was tasked with defining one of the central hub locations for the game; the remains of the real-world town of Merridin. I took inspiration from Fallout 2, Australian and United States history, as well as my own experience of outback Australia, and created a town with deep roots and a rich history. It has been near a century since the world ended in Broken Roads, so there has been plenty of time for things to settle into a new form of normality. A key aspect of the game is its moral compass, and so I wanted all players to be able to find something they could love as well as hate in Merridin. I wanted characters and situations that players could fight for (or against!) which meant complex and flawed characters, and situations that some will inevitably find detestable.
Will all (or any) of this make it into the final game? I don’t know. My time on the project was ending just as Colin McComb was brought on-board, which, yes — was freaking exciting. But if you are a kid building a sandcastle at the beach and God decides to wash it all away with a tsunami, there is not much you can do about it. If that sort of talent wants to make changes, then changes are gonna happen. I hope my contributions to the game stand the test of time and survive to make it into the final release. I put a lot of time and effort into them and having them be deemed acceptable by a pillar of the game industry would be awesome. Besides that, I named a few characters after friends and family so it will be a treat if they get in.
Great games are few and far between these days, and there is so much bloat in the industry that the big developers are dropping the ball more often than not. Indie game developers are ‘where it’s at’, with some of the most innovative and creative titles coming from small independent teams made up of passionate developers, who are gamers themselves. I think Broken Roads has the potential to be one of those titles that not only becomes an iconic isometric RPG, but also an iconic member of the post-apocalyptic genre. Australia is a big place with a lot of open road. While we are assuredly getting Broken Roads, here’s hoping we get a sequel or two as well.