The Strange Saga of The Day Before

By | March 10, 2023

The Day Before is an upcoming post-apocalyptic open world MMO in which players must contend with zombies and other survivors in equal measure.

It quickly grabbed the attention of those looking to fulfill their own Walking Dead or The Last of Us-esque fantasies and exploded to become Steam’s most wishlisted game, but excitement eventually turned to doubt for many fans after several delays and other controversies surrounding developer Fntastic.

Now with a release date of November 10, 2023, IGN has chronicled the ups and downs of The Day Before’s development as it gears up for its long anticipated launch.

Plain sailing.

On January 29, 2021, Fntastic announced The Day Before with a five minute trailer. It showed two players driving into a city and looting various cars and shops before getting into a firefight with another group, and then fleeing from a hoard of zombies that were attracted to the noise. The graphics were of a higher quality than many games released since, the gameplay was seamless, and the world was open, full, and completely interactive.

It gained the attention of the gaming community, who looked on hopefully at what appeared to be a mix of Ubisoft’s The Division and PlayStation blockbuster The Last of Us. And the next few months only gave fans more reason to get excited.

Fntastic co-founders Eduard and Aysen Gotovtsev appeared in a combat gameplay trailer in February to show off what they called “a real breakthrough for the MMO survival genre”. Adding to this idea, they told IGN at the time: “It’s no secret that [most survival MMO’s] are all built on the sandbox model, when you set goals for yourself and wander around the [deserted] world. In The Day Before, we reinvented everything from the in-game goals to the ways we approach the quality of the game mechanics.”

More and more game footage followed, with Fntastic releasing a quick look at vehicle gameplay in March and a hefty extended trailer in April. The latter increased the scope of The Day Before even more by showing off a completely new environment in the form of America’s great outdoors, with players exploring a lake, forests, and finally a creepy farm that all looked meticulously detailed. The Day Before blew up again, with the trailer being viewed more than one million times in a day.

The first release date.

Fntastic went quiet following this April gameplay video, not sharing much of the game beyond a few screenshots and concept images. Excitement began building again in October, however, as the developer shared The Day Before’s release date.

A calendar at the end of a new trailer joked the game wouldn’t be released until June 21, 2025, but slowly ticked down the years until Fntastic revealed The Day Before would launch on the same date in 2022, just eight months away at the time.

Fntastic made various other announcements, including that it was working on a completely new game called Propnight. IGN described it as a mix of Dead by Daylight and Prop Hunt, and without any complications at all, it launched just a few weeks later on November 30.

The Day Before once again slipped below the radar as Fntastic focused on pushing Propnight, but a brief trailer in January 2022 showed the game’s high end PC potential as it ran in 4K and with RTX turned on. It only reared its head again in May, one month before it was expected to launch, when Fntastic announced The Day Before’s first delay.

“Feeling and understanding the great responsibility that we face, with enormous gratitude in our hearts, we’re pleased to announce that The Day Before is switching to the new Unreal Engine 5 technology,” Fntastic said at the time.

“The transition to a more advanced and adapted open worlds engine will make the gameplay of The Day Before even more fantastic. In this regard, we inform you that the new release date of the game will be March 1st, 2023.”

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Cracks begin to show.

It was seemingly the first time Fntastic hadn’t given fans exactly what they wanted. PC players upgrading their hardware in anticipation of the game’s release, which at this point was a measly six weeks away, had to wait another six months.

Despite cultivating a positively passionate fanbase over the course of a year and a half, this delay became the first of several incidents that caused some fans to become concerned over the state of the game, and of Fntastic itself.

Unlike its initial reveal, when Fntastic came out with a one-two punch of exciting news and gameplay clips, the opposite had now occurred. One month after the delay, the developer faced scrutiny after reports emerged surrounding its “volunteering culture”, meaning the use of unpaid workers.

Fntastic defended the practice, saying all of its employees, paid or not, were volunteers, because it “always [tries] to bring in proactive people with open hearts”. It categorized its workers in two camps: full-time volunteers and part-time volunteers. The former are regular, paid employees, while the latter are unpaid workers who contribute to game development. These unpaid workers can “get cool rewards, participation certificates, and free codes”.

It would be the last news on The Day Before for a while, with Fntastic only talking about Propnight throughout the rest of 2022. Having started its journey with such regular updates and gameplay showcases, Fntastic’s fans began raising concerns over just how quiet the developer had become.

Screens – The Day Before

Unhappy new year.

Outside of another minute-long gameplay trailer showing The Day Before running in 4K with RTX turned on, Fntastic had a rocky start to 2023 as a large portion of the game’s community seemingly turned on it altogether.

After sitting around the top of Steam’s most wishlisted games for almost two years, The Day Before’s Steam page was removed altogether following a trademark dispute. In a statement published to Twitter on January 25, the developer claimed that “Steam blocked [its] game page at the request of a private individual” who registered The Day Before trademark in the United States.

Saying it hadn’t been aware of the trademark issue until January 19, 2023, when it received the complaint, Fntastic said the dispute would be settled eventually but it would have to delay The Day Before as a result. This would push the game back to November 10, 2023: 17 months after it was originally meant to launch.

The situation soon unraveled further, as Fntastic admitted to IGN that the delay was planned even before the trademark dispute. “To be on the safe side, to ensure there are no more transfers, we, along with the publisher, chose November 10. That is a safe date, given the trademark dispute,” Eduard and Aysen Gotovtsev said.

“We’re very confident that this issue will be resolved since we have strong legal partners,” they added. “The extra time will allow us to better prepare for the release and make the overall improvements for the game. It will become even more polished, optimized, and content-filled.”

Fan revolt.

The trademark dispute, third delay, and conflicting messaging appeared to be just half the battle for Fntastic, as a large portion of The Day Before’s fanbase had seemingly turned on the developers.

The game’s Discord server and Reddit page erupted with complaints and concerns over the state of the game, with many saying they now believed it to be a scam and that Fntastic had been lying about progress.

“Of course this is a scam,” wrote TS-Slithers on Reddit. “The scam is that they produce gameplay video after gameplay video and build their YouTube channel until they have millions of followers, then they rug pull the game.”

Another user, TrueMyst, said they believed Fntastic had bitten off more than it could chew. “They realised how much work actually has to go into making a AAA-level title and they just can’t do it,” they wrote. “It’s not a scam, exactly. But it’s deceitful and quite frankly, really embarrassing.”

Fntastic itself replied to the chatter, maintaining that The Day Before is definitely real and will launch in November 2023. “The storm will calm down eventually, and time will put everything in its place. When the game comes out, people will finally see the truth,” it told IGN.

“We only believe in the final product. No matter what anyone says, you’ll see for yourself on November 10 this year. We hope that after the game’s success, we’ll give people faith that in this life, if you persevere toward a dream, it will come true, despite all the obstacles and doubts.”

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Upping communication.

Despite The Day Before’s Steam page and several of its YouTube videos having been taken down as a result of the trademark despite, Fntastic pledged to boost its communication efforts following the statement on disinformation.

Fans commenting on Twitter expressed to Fntastic their beliefs that issues of disinformation may not have occurred if the developer didn’t have long periods of not sharing updates on the game. As mentioned, Fntastic kicked off The Day Before’s marketing campaign by releasing four gameplay videos over four months, but didn’t release another for six months and then, outside of two minute-long clips, went quiet again for more than a year.

“We don’t have a marketing department at all. All our resources go to game development. But we’ll get better at communication,” Fntastic replied to one user. “We’ll improve communication and give more transparency,” it told another.

It followed up on this promise on February 12, 2023, by sharing an update (and subtly its opinion) on the trademark dispute. Fntastic presented what it called three facts.

“The so-called ‘owner’ of the rights to the title is the creator of the calendar app, which has nothing to do with the games category,” it said. “After we announced the game in 2021, he also wanted to take over the title and filed for trademarks ahead of us,” and finally: “He ambiguously offers to contact him to discuss something, but what?”

Fntastic finished: “We’ll fight. Power is in the truth.”

It then released a development vlog on February 16 showcasing how The Day Before had progressed from the beginning of its development in 2019 to its current state, and promised that more information on the game, its mechanics, world hub, base building, character customisation, quests, player interaction, and more would arrive in the coming months.

Trademark holder responds.

Following Fntastic’s tweet with “three facts” on the trademark dispute, the individual that filed the copyright ahead of Fntastic told Eurogamer on February 24 that they have no plans to give the name up and are “taking measures to protect trademark rights”.

TheDayBefore countdown calendar app, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store (where it has a 4.1/5 rating from 96,651 votes), was released in 2010. It has more than 40 million downloads and is used in many countries around the world according to the app developer.

“Since the trademark registration in Korea in 2015, we have held the right (registered in the name of The Day Before CEO Lee Sun-jae),” the app developer said. “Knowing that the game of the same name was produced, we are taking measures to protect our trademark rights.

“We currently hold trademark rights in Korea, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, and the European Union.”

The app developer also commented that it wants to “solve the trademark problem as soon as possible and continue to protect the app so that users can use it without worrying”. With Fntastic also saying it is very confident it can resolve the trademark issue, however, it’s unclear which way the dispute will fall.

Fntastic didn’t respond to Eurogamer at the time and has yet to comment on the app developer’s statement.

What’s next for The Day Before?

Fntastic certainly has a lot on its plate between the trademark dispute, a disgruntled fanbase, the copycat accusations, and simply finishing The Day Before. Its development period has been full of ups and down so far, and with the app developer insistent on maintaining rights to The Day Before name, it will perhaps have even more to come.

That being said, Fntastic is confident that it will be proved right when The Day Before launches. “We only believe in the final product,” it told IGN in January. “No matter what anyone says, you’ll see for yourself on November 10 this year. We hope that after the game’s success, we’ll give people faith that in this life, if you persevere toward a dream, it will come true, despite all the obstacles and doubts.”

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.