Previously one of the most wishlisted survival games on Steam, The Day Before looks to have undergone a significant visual downgrade since its initial 2019 footage, despite efforts from developer Fntastic to be more open with its community.
In a new developer blog, Fntastic outlines the four-year process behind The Day Before, explaining how the multiplayer game’s original “stylised” aesthetic has been gradually transformed into something more “realistic.” The initial Day Before gameplay trailers, either from 2019 or 2020, are positioned alongside more recent footage to illustrate how Fntastic is gradually realising its “dream project.”
“The development process of The Day Before started at the beginning of 2019,” explains Fntastic communications team member Dana Soltangazinova. “At the time, the game looked so different that if you saw it today you wouldn’t be able to tell that it was actually The Day Before. The game had stylised, cartoonish graphics and hand-made animations.
“But in 2020 came a moment when we decided to overcome ourselves and raise our standards, to make The Day Before not only our dream project, but a game that could win the hearts of as many people as possible. After the decision, we at Fntastic made a real internal breakthrough and totally transformed The Day Before… our team made a massive effort to remake all visual parts of the game.”
The developer blog comes after The Day Before was delisted from Steam and delayed from March until November 10, 2023, when it was revealed that Fntastic did not in fact own the trademark for the game’s title. The studio then released a new gameplay trailer, containing shots and images that appeared to be heavily based on trailers for Call of Duty and The Last of Us. It was then revealed that The Day Before trademark belonged to the creator of a calendar app.
Although some of the new visuals, like character models for the zombies and some of the weapon designs, do appear more detailed when compared to their original versions, as someone who has followed The Day Before since 2019, this latest dev blog – combined with the other, recent news – makes me more doubtful that the survival game will release in the form we initially hoped.
In many of the video’s direct comparisons, footage from the earlier build of The Day Before is labelled as belonging to a “semi-stylised version,” while the current footage is described as coming from the “realistic version.” In many instances however, the apparently newer footage either looks worse than the older Day Before gameplay, or the images are so different that it is impossible to make a comparison.
I feel like it’s especially visible in the image below, which shows a highly detailed, well-lit car model from the “early semi-stylised version” alongside a flatly textured, completely different vehicle in dim lighting, ostensibly from the improved “realistic version.”
In general, the so-called “stylised” footage appears – to me – more realistic than the “realistic” images from The Day Before. But it feels like the new dev log video is trying to make us regard the former, better-looking footage of The Day Before as somehow less technically impressive.
When it comes to fidelity and overall quality, “stylised” has more negative connotations than “realistic,” and the way the video repeats this comparison, it’s as if it’s trying to convince us that the older, better-looking version of The Day Before is somehow worse – that when the game had more detail and dynamic lighting, it was part of some primitive, pre-alpha “stylised” version, as compared to the superior “realistic” version we have now.
But that “realistic” version still looks worse. So I can’t help but wonder why Fntastic is – seemingly – trying to make us disregard, or forget, or look down on the older footage, and accept something that looks inferior as better; as closer to the game’s ‘true vision.’ I also wonder why Fntastic would – apparently – abandon a better-looking build of the game, particularly if it is trying to make a “dream project.”
In an ideal world, this would all just be cynicism on my part. I would love The Day Before to be exactly the game that Fntastic promises, and for all my doubts to be proved completely wrong. We’ll just have to wait until November. Here’s hoping.