Dragon Age Writer David Gaider's New Game Is Facing Tough Times

The studio behind Gaider's new game, Chorus, says the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the project in a number of ways.

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Dragon Age writer David Gaider's new game, Chorus: A Musical Adventure Game, is going through some tough times right now due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

In a post to the game's Fig page, the developers said the global pandemic has led to a "loss of productivity, inevitable delays, and many difficult days." Overall, however, the developers at Summerfall Studios say that Chorus is "fine" and "progressing as well as can be expected."

Three members of the Chorus development team have either contracted the coronavirus or been tested for it, the studio said. "Almost all of us have been through mandatory isolation periods. The rest of the time, we've been self-isolating to do our part in helping stop the spread, and still are!" the statement reads.

In March, the team at Summerfall conducted art tests for the second chapter of Chorus to determine how long it would take to create art at a viable quality level. Information from these tests would be used to determine the game's wider scope and timeline. However, the COVID-19 pandemic upended plans.

"Unfortunately, the world fell apart and all of the data we'd been collecting on how long things took wasn't really usable anymore," the studio said. "The art looks spectacular, though; we learned so much and were able to massively improve our art pipelines--so it wasn't all for naught!"

Also in the blog post, Summerfall spoke about the effort to raise more funding for the game. The game was partially funded on Fig, with $690,079 USD coming in, and additional funding support from the Australian federal government. The team at Summerfall want to expand the scope for Chorus further, and are looking to raise more money to help realize this vision--but it hasn't been easy.

"One of the realities we're having to confront is that the process of trying to find additional funding is much more difficult than usual," the studio said.

In terms of project delays, Summerfall confirmed that voiceover recording sessions are being delayed.

"This is a problem that lots of games face. Often VO and performance is a late addition to a project, and the later it comes in, the less it can influence the game itself," the update said. "Ever watched a scene where the mood of the animation and the mood of VO don't seem to match up? Well, this is often why!"

Right now, Summerfall is working on creating a playable version of Chorus featuring sketches instead of final art. "Essentially a playable storyboard, it will have all of the dialog, areas in the game, etc. The only thing it will likely not fully include are all of the songs, as they won’t be ready in time. But they'll be stubbed in with temporary versions instead," Summerfall said.

Developing the game this way gives the studio an opportunity to solve QA issues sooner than normal and conduct playtesting ahead of schedule. "It will also give us a really clear vision of scope: we'll know exactly how many backgrounds that need to be done, what cutscenes will involve, and all that fun stuff. We'll be able to make decisions about scope control with an authority we otherwise wouldn't have," Summerfall said.

One disadvantage to this plan is that the studio will have less time to work on the final art for Chorus. The studio might need to delay the game beyond its Q4 2021 release date to accomodate this.

In other difficult news for Chorus, the developers said the internet banking company PayPal is withholding 25 percent of the game's Fig funding, or around $172,500. PayPal is withholding the money because of the risks involved with a crowdfunded project of this nature, during this uncertain time.

"We understand their viewpoint, but given we need that money to complete the project, it does make things a little awkward!" Summerfall said.

The developer said there is not much that can be done about PayPal's decision, but the studio plans to ask for a review from the banking company.

Another headwind for Chorus is that a bigger company, Deep Silver, also just recently announced a new game called Chorus for Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and PC. Summerfall said it can't go into specifics right now, but it wants fans to know that "we're definitely aware" of the other game with the same name.

You can read the full update here on Fig to get even more details on how Chorus is progressing.

Chorus: A Musical Adventure Game was announced during PAX Australia 2019. The game is part musical, part illustrated adventure game, and part character-driven narrative. Summerfall has attracted some big names to the project, including managing director Liam Esler, who previously worked at Obsidian and Beamdog.

Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory (Journey) is working on the music, while veteran voice actor Troy Baker (who is also an accomplished musician) will work on Chorus as its voice director. Additionally, prolific voice actress Laura Bailey (Gears 5, Uncharted 4) is lined up to voice the main character, Grace.

For lots more on Chorus: A Musical Adventure Game, check out GameSpot's interview with Gaider and Esler. As for the other Chorus game, the cross-gen title is development at Deep Silver's Fishlabs studio. We recently spoke with core tech lead Johannes Kuhlmann about what it's like to welcome the next-generation Xbox Series X while still developing for Xbox One.

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