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Ground-breaking roleplaying musical videogame hits final stages

A Melbourne studio has reached the final stages of building a unique videogame that is entirely structured as a musical.

Summerfall Studios managing director Liam Esler, who co-founded the studio, said they wanted to create something that was loud, new, and majorly character-focused – and a musical.

The result is Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical, which includes music from popular Melbourne-based comedy-music group Tripod and other lyric and song writers.

“It’s one thing to write a musical, but it’s another to write a musical that’s also a videogame. It was a very challenging process,” Esler said.

“There is a big difference between writing dialogue and writing lyrics.”

Ground-breaking roleplaying musical videogame hits final stages

Teaser scene from Stray Gods. Source: Steam.

Stray Gods is now in its final stage after five years of development, with music completed during 2020 and 2021. 

The game’s release date is still to be decided with only a small teaser trailer released so far, presenting the environment of the game and its comic-like graphics.

The trailer gives a sneak peek into what the singing would sound like, via the main character Grace, voice-acted by Laura Bailey.

Summerfall Studios was co-founded by Esler, David Gaider, and Elie Young in 2017 and they had collectively pitched the idea of Stray Gods, with a creative dream of producing a decision-making game based around music and narrative.

Gaider unveiled Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical at AUS PAX 2019.

Ground-breaking roleplaying musical videogame hits final stages

Liam Esler. Picture supplied.

The Summerfall crew already knew how the narrative was going to be told but they didn’t know how to mix it with a musical, and struggled to find the musical element for the decisions, lyrics, and the dialogue for the game.

Esler said American composer Austin Wintory helped them create the music and then recommended bringing in the music group Tripod.

“We knew we wanted an Australian artist,” Esler said.

Tripod has worked on video games before Stray Gods, including the well-known franchise Assassin’s Creed.

Tripod member Simon Hall, known as “Yod” in the trio, said they knew what type of genre and music they needed, however, incorporating dialogue into a musical to make a conversation was a challenge.

“It was just challenges, we have never done it before, it is entirely new grounds,” Hall said.

Ground-breaking roleplaying musical videogame hits final stages

David Hall. Picture by Ethan Henson

“Sometimes the challenges were purely something I didn’t really nail in what this character really wants, or sometimes it was just the songs aren’t good,” he said.

“A lot of songs are arguments between people. Those conversations, those decisions you have to make with that character, that is like the song version of that.”

He said this combination of music and narrative were meant to make the player feel they were influencing the story, and were supported by the music for the individual journey they decide to take.

“You will only hear them if you heard them earlier, if you chose to have a romance for a particular character, for example,” Hall said.

Ground-breaking roleplaying musical videogame hits final stages

Samantha Campagna is an enthusiastic videogamer. Picture by Ethan Henson.

Enthusiastic local gamer Samantha Campagna said this was something the gaming industry had never seen.

“As someone who has both been a gamer and a performing arts student, it’s amazing to see two of my many interests be smacked down into one,” she said.

Gaider and Esler are both experienced creative writers who had worked on video games in the past, while Young also had extensive experience in the music industry.

The game is available for a wishlist purchase on Steam.

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