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Does the post-apocalypse shooter ‘The Day Before’ really exist?

‘The Day Before’ has been billed as a massive online post-apocalypse zombie shooter. It is the second most wish-listed game on Steam and has lapped up serious levels of hype. There’s only one catch – nobody is sure if it actually exists.

When I mention video game disasters, what comes to mind?

Most of us would probably list buggy, unplayable games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76 as the biggest examples, both of which were unacceptable messes at launch. Others like No Mans Sky were guilty of overpromising and underdelivering until they were salvaged by free, annual updates.

While these titles were indeed an initial car crash, they did all exist at the very least. Despite their shortcomings, all were made of unique assets and created by earnest developers. We knew all these titles were original and built from the ground up.

The same cannot be said for The Day Before, a supposed online post-apocalyptic shooter that was originally scheduled for release in June 2022. Until very recently, developers Fntastic had told us little about the title, despite considerable hype and consumer interest.

All we knew was that it was an apparently huge, multiplayer title with a focus on zombies and gunplay. Even a month before the intended launch date, we still had nothing in the way of details. Combat systems, pricing, mechanics, and everything else in between was ambiguous at best.

A lack of genuine information lead to a growing suspicion that The Day Before was not in fact a real product.

Speculation was so rampant that Fntastic released a ten minute ‘gameplay’ video last week to prove it was working on something tangible. However, a lack of an obvious HUD, quest information, story, characters, NPCs, and enemies has only further cemented the feeling that this game could be entirely fictitious.

So, is The Day Before real? Is it a product we will actually be able to play eventually? Or is this another case of effective internet marketing hype overriding substance?

What is ‘The Day Before’ and how much do we know about the game?

Before we descend further into the rabbit hole of developer madness, let’s run through everything we do know so far.

As mentioned, the title is being developed by Fntastic, an ‘all-remote’ company that has a focus on ‘volunteering as a main life philosophy’, at least according to its website. It has previously developed a handful of now-abandoned early access indie games, a mobile game, and a multiplayer horror title called Propnight that is currently available on Steam.

The Day Before is billed as a ‘open-world MMO survival set in a deadly, post-pandemic America’. It seems to feature walkable city streets and woodland areas, with many assets and areas heavily inspired by current gen survival games.

So far, the game has been delayed twice. It was originally supposed to launch in June last year, but was moved to March 1st, 2023. This has now been shifted again to November 10th, with Fntastic citing a copyright argument over the franchise name as the main reason.

For now, Steam has delisted the game as a result of the ongoing dispute. Fntastic says it is developing the open world in Unreal Engine 5, and is supposedly looking at Xbox Series S/X and PS5 releases after the primary PC version is shipped.

We have only been shown meaningful gameplay a few times. The first reveal was almost two years ago, where a character can be seen driving an off-road vehicle through muddy grassland, sweeping through cornfields, and breaking into abandoned homes. IGN described it as a ‘cross between The Last Of Us and The Division.’

This demonstration seemed to receive mostly positive feedback, though it has a similarly eerie and undercooked vibe as the most recent showcasing.

Criticism for the latest gameplay trailer has been more fierce, given growing scepticism toward the validity of The Day Before as an actual product. Assuming it is genuine, it seems players will have access to weapon modification, open-ended city exploration, and spend time looting cars and buildings.

Beyond these basic fundamentals, specifics on anything concrete are few and far between.

Why do most people question whether it’s real?

A massive, online multiplayer experience in a zombie universe does sound appealing. It’s easy to see why so many were initially invested in the idea even without any evidence of substantial development time.

Red flags begin to pop up immediately with minimal research into The Day Before, however, and they are frequent. Take this video on Fntastic’s own YouTube channel, which attempts to show employees ‘working’ on the game remotely.

Given the title’s huge ambitions, the absence of a substantial office or sizeable computer space is concerning. The video has six times the amount of dislikes as likes and most comments allude to The Day Before being a ‘scam’.

As mentioned before, the gameplay shown in the two reveal videos lacks many basic features expected of nearly all survival games. There are no health bars, no inventory system beyond a workbench, no quests, goals, objectives, or character dialogue. Nobody speaks.

If this is a massive online multiplayer game, where are the other players?

The problems with content only deepen beyond this. Reddit users have highlighted that the most recent trailer seems to be a direct shot-for-shot copy of Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s zombie reveal. This carbon copying extends to the game’s promotional screenshots and artwork too, all of which seem to be direct rip-offs of other well-known titles.

Here’s a recent video of an employee apparently making progress on the game. The screen has flashes of rapid ‘code’ and the typing is so manic it looks like a parody from The Matrix. Again, the comments mostly call for Fntastic to own up and admit they’re making a ‘fake game.’

Elsewhere, assets used in both gameplay reveals have been found within Epic Games’ storefront. This means that many of the open world elements will be pre-made objects and not built from the ground up.

While this is fine for many indie titles and single-developer games created on a tight budget, it isn’t what you’d expect from a vast online multiplayer game that was, until recently, sat atop the Steam charts. It also means it’s far more plausible that the gameplay trailers were simply cooked up with pre-built objects days or weeks beforehand.

If all that wasn’t enough, lead moderators from the game’s Discord have admitted that they struggle to believe the game is real. They have not seen any gameplay and have no further insight over regular onlookers.

As of today, Fntastic has released a statement implying that conversation around the game’s existence is ‘harmful’ and an example of ‘misinformation.’ While this is a valid developer response, it does not explain the obvious copying of other games, nor does it offer much-needed information as to the specifics of the title itself.

What other examples of hype over product substance exist in recent memory?

Of course, it is entirely plausible that the game is real. The evidence suggests otherwise, but it could simply be a case of poor communication and misleading advertising. Fntastic by its own admission has said it has ‘no marketing department.’

The Day Before’s development cycle has brought up a wider question of authenticity within our overloaded internet age, regardless of whether or not an actual product is in the pipeline.

With so many products, services, and brands trying desperately to capture our attention amidst a sea of constant content, actual finished goods become a lesser priority to flashy social media campaigns. We live in an era where user engagement is the currency that companies crave. Any press is good press, after all.

This extends outside of just video games. Scams that have been built on image and hot air alone are everywhere.

Logan Paul sold the idea of a crypto animal game for millions before any such platform existed, hooking in hundreds of public investors without anything to show for it. Fyre Festival duped thousands into purchasing expensive tickets and flights before any such event existed or was properly planned.

NFTs follow a similar line of thought. If the buzz and social media metrics around an idea are popular, the actual thing itself is an afterthought. Remember that Squid Game currency scam?

Digital-only products mean we no longer require in-person showings or demonstrations to generate consumer interest. Simply setting up a YouTube channel, a company logo, and a few snippets of prebuilt proof of concept is enough for consumers to throw money at your vision.

For now, it seems The Day Before is another such scheme, where media attention and promises have overtaken the plausibility of the game itself. Such is the internet age.