In this special developer interview, 1Print Games asks P. Henry Ewing, creative director at Chance Agency, some questions about the conception, development, and things you may not know about Neo Cab. Read on below!
1Print Games: First, let’s talk about the origins of your studio, Chance Agency. How did it came to be?
It all started while I working at Campo Santo on shepherding Firewatch into the world— the idea for Neo Cab had arrived like a lightning bolt, and Robin Sloan and I began working out design ideas in every spare moment (of which there were very few— launching a game is hard!). I realized that the concept we were developing was very different than the kind of games Campo Santo intended to make, so making our own little games studio was the next logical step.
1Print Games: Neo Cab is Chance Agency’s debut game. How was the idea conceptualized and what inspired you to make it?
One major inspiration came from working in the Silicon Valley tech scene, where Robin Sloan and I first met. We’d both been immersed in the culture of gleeful “disruption” that birthed companies like Uber or Twitter (where we met), where slogans like “software will eat the world” and “move fast and break things” are repeated with a prophetic smile. The pace of change there is ever-accelerating, and a bit terrifying if you’ve been behind the scenes and know how the sausage gets made… so that absolutely came to bear on the struggles Neo Cab depicts between tech giant Capra and everyday people like Lina.
1Print Games: Were there any other ideas you had before deciding on making Neo Cab?
Funny you should ask! The day the idea for Neo Cab arrived, Robin and I were starting design work on a pretty out there RPG. We had this wild idea about a sci-fi/noir story about a murdered Mars rover called “Who Killed Curiosity?”
We quickly realized that, as much fun as we were having with the idea, neither of us really saw a game worth playing in it. But those initial RPG design discussions about navigating a map and solving a noir mystery absolutely acted as soil for the seed-idea that was Neo Cab to grow from. All notions of robots navigating the sterile Martian landscape fell away as soon as we started talking about the world of Los Ojos, about being the last human driver, picking up strangers and learning their stories.
1Print Games: The Feelgrid plays a very important role in the world of Neo Cab. Please tell us more about how it works, and things that players may not know.
Lina’s emotional state is always visible as a color on her Feelgrid, and constantly changes in response to your choices and their (often unforeseen) consequences. Her mood generally “shifts” to an adjacent color, but highly intense moments may trigger a “swing” across the entire Feelgrid. The current Feelgrid color may cause some choices to become unavailable, appearing “glitched out” — but you can’t know until you try to select them! Lina’s emotions open up new paths, too. If one of your Choice buttons has a special glow to it, that means it’s only present because her Feelgrid is that color. If you manage to keep Lina away from overly negative, low energy Feelgrid states, you’ll have the option to “push on” and take a unique, late-night ride.
1Print Games: Neo Cab has a wide variety of passengers with different personalities. Out of all the passengers, who is your most favorite character and why?
This question feels super unfair, like a parent picking their favorite child! Not to mention the fact that every member of the team has their own personal favorite. But as for me, right now, I’d have to say that Gideon holds a special place in my heart. There’s just something about that poor little rich girl and her awkward desire to escape the powerful mech suit of privilege that really gets me. She’s at once funny, pathetic, and earnestly trying to be a better person… I can definitely relate to it.
1Print Games: Neo Cab has a very futuristic and dystopian art style. Were there other art directions you played around with before deciding on going with this art direction?
Our Art Director, Vincent Perea, explored a pretty diverse set of styles before we settled on the current approach— each really cool and unique. My favorite “road not taken” was a highly stylized, mostly-monochromatic one where color was used sparingly and with a lot of intention… think B&W classic film noir with shocking color accents. You can see a glimpse of some of these “roads not taken” on Vincent’s website (http://www.vincentperea.com)
1Print Games: It’s been three years since Neo Cab was released. Would you mind giving us a hint on what Chance Agency is working on?
Up until now, the Neo Cab team has mostly been taking a breather to work on side projects, support the digital and physical release of the game, and ride out the pandemic- launching a game in October 2019 was not the best timing, in many ways! That said, we are working on a couple of interesting things as of late, including early concept development on a new narrative game. After exploring the near future of Los Ojos, we’re looking for inspiration and beauty in an alternate vision of the past.
1Print Games: Last but not least – do you have any last words to share with our fans and readers?
Tip your servers, dish out five-star reviews to gig workers (and game devs 🙃) who’ve help brighten your day, and be excellent to one another. We’re all in this together!
Thank you for reading our Neo Cab Special Developer Interview! Have you got your physical copy of Neo Cab? Purchase yours at the link below!