Broken Roads Interview: Devs Discuss Sound Design, Disco Elysium, And More

The team added more non-violent paths after seeing Disco Elysium.

Story Highlights

  • Broken Roads is a party-based RPG set in post-apocalyptic Australia.
  • It had a multiplatform release, with a Nintendo Switch release coming sometime in the future.
  • We interviewed developers from Drop Bear Bytes over email to learn more about the game.

There are tons of post-apocalyptic games, each offering a unique take on life after the end of the world. One such title that stands out even more is Broken Roads due to its setting in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Being compared to the likes of Disco Elysium, Broken Roads offers some interesting features, like the Moral Compass, which responds to players’ moral decisions throughout a playthrough.

The game’s developer, Drop Bear Bytes, has done extensive research to offer an as-authentic-as-it-gets experience to its players, bringing even the most niche parts of the Australian culture to Broken Roads. To learn more about the game’s inspirations and the challenges, we spoke with the Game Director Craig Ritchie, Audio Lead and Composer Timothy Sunderland, and Narrative Designer Anniemay Parker, over an email interview.

Broken Roads
Character Coming Out of a Pub In Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Broken Roads?

Craig: Craig Ritchie, Game Director on Broken Roads and Co-Founder of Drop Bear Bytes. I have a hand in pretty much everything from running the studio to writing some of the encounters, liaising with publishing, PR, and QA, and in terms of in-game content, I do a lot of work on the Moral Compass/philosophical content in Broken Roads. My Slack status is “ruins everyone’s day.”

Tim: Timothy Sunderland, Audio Lead and Composer at Drop Bear Bytes. I do everything audio-related on Broken Roads.

Anniemay: I’m Anniemay Parker, a Narrative Designer on Broken Roads. As a Narrative Designer, I write dialogue and documentation along with designing and managing the systems that impact our story in different ways.

For example, I design and write how party members react to the player’s actions via dialogue. I also work with artists to add environmental storytelling, such as having a newspaper clipping telling of the bombs that dropped across the world in Broken Roads. This can even involve how the narrative can impact what weapons an enemy is carrying or their level, depending on story progression.

After coming such a long way from revealing the game in 2019, how does it feel knowing that the game will be released very soon?

Anniemay: I’ve been on this project for a year and a half (a small speck in the 5 years this game has been in development for) and have seen the leaps and bounds this team has made over that time to get Broken Roads to where it is today. Knowing the release is hours away makes me excited (Editor’s Note: The developers wrote the answers around the time of release). I really put my all into this project, just like everyone on the team did, and I hope players enjoy themselves the whole way through.

I’m also super excited to have a few drinks with my partner and watch him play the game I have had to non-descriptively talk to him about for a while now.

Craig: It’s pretty surreal. The launch build is running as I type this, and it’s incredible to think how far it has all come, from an idea in January 2019 to a multi-platform release some five years and change later. The responses to the demo, the feedback during the community playtest and also just having spent hundreds of hours in the game myself – it’s come a long way. I am nervous and excited. So much hinges on this release, and it’s crazy to think that our futures now depend on what journalists and players think of the game.

Broken Roads
Post-Apocalyptic Environment From Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Which NPCs are you most excited for fans to meet? And who is your personal favorite?

Craig: I really like Honest Wade. He’s someone I would like to develop more – a very unique vendor in Ardath that I hope players enjoy. Talia and Mira, from Lake Deborah, both have some good, heady philosophical conversations waiting for curious players. I think Mick Jones has a lot more depth to him than players may first imagine, and I am keen to see what they think come the end of the game. Then there are the love-to-hate types like Malcolm Hogan in Merredin and Louise Evans in Aldersyde. Gotta have those.

Anniemay: I’m personally excited for players to meet one of the party members named Djarraly, or “DJ” as he calls himself. He’s an Indigenous man trying to find his place in the world after leaving his family in hopes of finding community elsewhere. He was the first party member I got to work on alongside Karla Hart, a Noongar writer and Film Director, who helped us write dialogue for other Noongar characters in Broken Roads.

My personal favorite character is an old woman named Katherine. I can’t wait for players to meet her and her husband when the game launches!

I'm not sure if others would agree, but the visuals of Broken Roads, sometimes, remind me of Disco Elysium, which not only has one of my favorite art styles but also soundtracks. So I am curious to know about the game's sound design and its inspirations.

Tim: I couldn’t really decide on what Australia sounds like, so I wrote the soundtrack from the perspective of a post-apoc musician living alone in a shack, someone who’s maybe seen a bit too much sun and has amassed all these broken and makeshift instruments over the years, so I made some of my own instruments out of scrap and cannibalized guitars.

I just tried to create an atmosphere that complemented the incredible visuals from the art team while lending to the feel of the narrative. As for sound design, we were lucky enough to travel to Western Australia and drive the route of the game. Whilst visiting places like Wave Rock and Kalgoorlie, I got to record some of the ambient audio and add it to those places in the game. So when you’re standing in Wave Rock in the game, you’re hearing exactly what the wildlife and ambiance of Wave Rock sound like in real life.

Broken Roads
Camels In Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Considering that the game is based in Australia and native wildlife will play a part in the gameplay, did the team add any creatures or easter eggs related to the Australian stereotypes?

Craig: There are plenty of easter eggs in Broken Roads. After launch, we’ll probably start filling out our wiki page with them. There’s also an entire Cyclopedia (read: slang dictionary) of Aussie words and phrases. In terms of creatures, some we have are emus, dingoes, kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and, of course, DROP BEARS.

Have any Australian fans asked you to add specific things important to their culture? And is there anything in the game that you believe would be difficult to get for those not familiar with Australian culture?

Tim: Australia has some pretty niche pop culture references, a lot of them are in old TV Ads of all things. Honestly, for every good Aussie culture reference, there are another thousand right behind them, so it’s been very hard to pick and choose what goes in, which is good because it leaves space for future Australian set games to fill the void of what is missed.

Anniemay: Aussie slang has been a fun one to receive. While our Australian players have been playing, it’s been interesting seeing how people view certain slang words depending on what part of Australia they’re from.

From what I know, we haven’t received many culturally specific requests, but we have worked closely with Indigenous consultants and writers, such as Karla Hart, to ensure our Noongar content is respectful and correct.

Broken Roads
Fighting Enemies In Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Are any of the NPCs based on real-life people?

Craig: There’s someone in the game called Rich Craigy. I didn’t write him, but my guess is he’s based on a real-life person.

Anniemay: I personally haven’t based anyone off of real-life people, but I do take into consideration the people I’ve met in my life when writing about certain characters and their relationships. Katherine and her husband Ben are a good example along with Anna and Jimmy Nguyen. I also love writing witty comebacks for our child/adolescent characters; they’ve got some sass.

The game has taken inspiration from several notable titles, including Baldur's Gate 1 and 2. Could you tell us how your experience has been on Baldur's Gate 3 and whether you added anything related to it after playing the game?

Craig: I intentionally only played Baldur’s Gate 3 when we reached content freeze for Broken Roads. I actually played fewer and fewer RPGs over the last 6-12 months as we had to get this game shipped without adding ‘oh but BG3 does this’ or ‘Rogue Trader does that’ into the mix.

I think the only RPG that was released after we started working on our game that then had a material influence on Broken Roads’ content was Disco Elysium. We’d always planned a pacifist playthrough to be possible in Broken Roads, but given how many people enjoyed a fully combat-free experience in Disco Elysium, we added even more non-violent paths through the game.

Tim: I’ve yet to finish Baldur’s Gate, as Broken Roads has had to take precedence over the RPG side of my brain, at least until now. But what I have played I’ve absolutely loved. It’s raised the bar for RPGs of all types, and I’m looking forward to being able to give it a full playthrough.

Broken Roads
Screenshot From Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Will the game have a complete story at launch, or have you left some loose ends for potential DLCs or a sequel?

Anniemay: Broken Roads’ story ties up neatly at the end, no matter the ending you get. Of course, we hope players go back to experience any side content, moral leanings, and quest paths they may have missed the first time around.

In regards to DLC, if we did add some, we’d aim for it to expand the world of Broken Roads or explore new moral perspectives to keep in theme with the Moral Compass.

How many endings will there be? And will the game have a New Game Plus mode to allow players to carry some of their progress for an easier next playthrough?

Anniemay: There are four core endings to Broken Roads, but your choices impact how the rest of the people you meet along the way turn out after all is said and done. These choices can go from as far back as the prelude of the game, depending on what you do in those key moments.

Craig: There’s no New Game Plus, given the nature of Broken Roads as a narrative-driven game. We’d recommend, if players finish it and then want more, to replay another origin story with a different World View on the Moral Compass and pick a different path through Chapter 3 (when the world opens up and the player then has multiple means of progressing the story.)

As Anniemay says, there are so many things from the prelude (origin stories) right through to the final conversations in the game that can determine which of the hundreds of thousands of permutations of end sequences you can uncover.

Broken Roads
Combat Screenshot From Broken Roads – Via Drop Bear Bytes.

Could you tell us about what engine the game is made on? Why did you go for this engine and in what ways has it been good or bad for the development?

Craig: We used Unity primarily because of how familiar the team was with it. Also, more of us have a background in C# than C++, and the plugins and assets we use are all from the Unity Asset Store. Unity and Unreal, and Godot and Game Maker, for that matter, are all so good at the moment that the primary factor was team familiarity. Broken Roads is hardly doing any pioneering work on the bleeding edge of technology or anything like that.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers? Something we haven't touched upon yet.

Craig: Just that I hope people take their time and enjoy the world that the team has created. There is a LOT of game here. It may average 25-35 hours for a single playthrough, but it’s impossible to 100% the game by playing it end to end fewer than four times. And even then, you won’t be able to exhaust every dialogue option in every conversation. I am looking forward to seeing what people make of it and how different their end sequences are based upon tiny differences throughout the game, having major effects by the time they finish it. Plus, you have to drink beer instead of magic potions. Enjoy.

Anniemay: I’m so excited to see people speedrun this game! I love watching long games get their time cut in half. As a developer, you gotta speedrun your darlings sometimes just to test that one bug!

YouTube video

Broken Roads is a party-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic version of Australia. It was developed by Drop Bear Bytes and published by Versus Evil and tinyBuild. The game was released on PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on April 10, 2024. The Nintendo Switch Version will be released at a later date.

We appreciate Craig Ritchie, Timothy Sunderland, Anniemay Parker for answering our questions, and Vincent Abel for helping us with the interview.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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