How One Developer Is Making A Cross-Gen Xbox Series X / Xbox One Game

Deep Silver's next game is the cross-generation sci-fi shooter Chorus. We 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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Microsoft's most recent Inside Xbox showcase was focused squarely on the next generation, debuting a wide array of games running on Xbox Series X. Chorus, a dark single-player science-fiction game from Deep Silver--not to be confused with the crowdfunded musical game--will be the company's first cross-gen title, appearing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 but offering an upgraded experience on Series X and PlayStation 5.

GameSpot spoke with Johannes Kuhlmann, head of core technologies at Deep Silver's studio Fishlabs, about transitioning to the next generation, the promise of Microsoft's Smart Delivery feature, and finding the boundaries of new hardware.

"I feel like someone read my secret wishlist for next-generation, so I actually feel very satisfied," Kuhlmann said. Specifically, he hoped the next generation would maintain a consistent development environment, give access to working hardware, and of course, provide more power. One of the features being used most for the Xbox Series X version of Chorus is the ultra-fast solid-state drive, which Kuhlmann says makes for a more seamless experience in the sprawling space epic.

"Moving into the new generation, especially with Xbox Series X now, what we get is that we can more freely roam around," he said. "So for example, with the SSD that we have now, we can reduce loading times. We can more easily stream stuff in the background, and we can do all of this while also ramping up detail and the quality of all of it. So I feel like with the new generation, it's just going to be more seamless, and we can more freely explore our world."

Chorus is still in development, and Kuhlmann said the team is still working to reduce load times. He hopes that with the SSD, they can eliminate some of the loading screens altogether, and at the very least he knows they can definitely reduce time spent on dedicated loading screens.

"I feel it just leads to a better player experience if you can roam this galaxy, if you can explore without waiting as much, and also maybe with less hitches in the background, or maybe with stuff that's only popping in when you can already see it."

Chorus will also make use of the added hardware power for physics simulations. For Xbox Series X, it will use procedural generation to accurately model damage to game elements.

"We are cutting the meshes apart and generating new pieces," he said. "Of course the advantage there is you get to destroy stuff exactly the way you shoot it. It breaks differently every time. The whole galaxy feels more alive and you actually have the impression that you can affect change to this galaxy."

Those types of features are mostly focused on cosmetics and quality-of-life, because the studio doesn't want to create disparate experiences across platforms.

"We are of course trying to offer the same story and experience on all platforms, but on the other hand, we want to set the next-generation Xbox Series X apart," Kuhlmann said. "So what we are looking into is features that don't really affect the stories, so to speak, but make the whole world, the whole galaxy more alive." He said that "everybody is very eager to make use of the new hardware and to push everything forward," but that it's important to still support the lower-end consoles and make sure it works just as well.

For those who do buy Chorus for Xbox One and then later upgrade to Xbox Series X, they'll be able to upgrade their version of the game for free as part of Microsoft's Smart Delivery feature. The game is being optimized for each system, but won't have gameplay-specific Series X features since the studio wants to assure a consistent experience.

"In the end, as a game developer, what I want is people to experience the game that I made in the most optimal way, in the best form that they can," Kuhlmann said.

Looking toward the future, Kuhlmann expects that developers are just scratching the surface of the next-generation capabilities.

"I think if we actually go all-in, we can probably still find the boundaries, but on the other hand, what we know with console lifecycles is that you see a progression during the lifetime," he said. "So in the beginning we have to figure this thing out and how to make best use of the hardware and software, and then we are going to progress to see even better looking games later on. So I definitely think we do have to learn a bit there, but we already can make use of these awesome things."

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