Invader Studios’ love for Resident Evil is well known among horror fans. Their 2019 survival horror title Daymare: 1998 started life as a Resident Evil 2 fan remake, before evolving into its own game inspired by Capcom’s beloved classic. Though far from perfect, Daymare showed hints of something interesting with quite a bit of potential, and the developer is hoping to fulfil that initial promise with its upcoming sequel, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle. Designed as a prequel, the game is promising to expand its horizons and bring something new and unique of its own on top of its RE-inspired formula. We’ve been curious to learn more about it, and recently sent across some of our questions to its developers at Invader Studios. You can read our conversation with the studio co-founder Michele Giannone below.
"From the very beginning, Daymare’s was always imagined as a trilogy."
What are the biggest changes you’ve implemented in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle as direct result of feedback for the first game?
The first step was to collect all the feedback, coming both from the press and from the players, and start again from the most appreciated strong points of the first game to then go on to improve all the weak points that emerged, and that in reality we already knew well. due in large part to technical and budget limits that a young team and a small production have to face when deciding to develop a product of such ambition. With the intention of extending the experience in general, however, and also reworking some mechanics in order to satisfy a greater slice of the audience, in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle we have focused a lot on pre-production, so as to be able to work with due attention. and calm about all aspects of development.
Speaking of improvements, or in any case changes more generally, we will soon show something more, but from what we have brought out among the announcement trailers, screens and general information on the features, we are working hard to smooth the hardest corners and give a breath of freshness to fans of the Daymare series. Starting from the female protagonist, and moving from a completely new setting, great attention has been paid to what will be the new game weapon, called “Frost Grip”, and which will allow you to face different situations in a completely unique way, thanks to the possibility of being able to freeze enemies and props. Speaking precisely of the enemies, in this case we are not dealing with classic zombies, but aggressive and lethal creatures that, as it is easy to guess, make electricity their strength. On the technical side, we are focusing on improving the performance of the cut scenes (between lip sync and facial animations), the animations of the characters in general and on offering greater precision in the shooting phases. For everything else, we can’t wait to be able to show some gameplay and let the images speak for themselves.
Why did you decide to develop a prequel to Daymare 1998 rather than a sequel?
Because, from the very beginning, Daymare’s was always imagined as a trilogy. While we were still working on the first title, without even being sure it could come out, we were still creating a universe that didn’t stop at the first title, but that revealed a lot more. Precisely for this reason, throughout Daymare: 1998, it is possible to come across references, between files and communications, to a mysterious mission faced four years earlier. Also following a push from the most passionate players, curious to know more about the past of the characters they loved in Daymare: 1998, we decided to dive into a prequel that would reveal their past.
Can you talk to us about the revamped interface in the game? What are the biggest ways it improves upon the first game?
We realized that, although immersive and appreciated by users, greater attention and care had to be spent in developing the primary game interface, called D.I.D. The device, which in Daymare: 1998 served as an inventory, health check, map and file archive collected, has been completely reworked in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle to be much more streamlined and intuitive than in the past. The visual connection to the previous D.I.D. is present, but the interaction has been significantly improved and we are sure that players will appreciate the path we have taken.
What kind of an impact does the new scanner have in terms of gameplay, especially in terms of exploration and puzzle solving?
Exploration has always been a fundamental point for the series, and this time we decided to give the player an extra weapon that allows him to scan the surrounding environment and discover details or information impossible to notice with the naked eye, by going to find new puzzles to solve, secret files and hidden objects.
We would like to talk more about this as soon as we have something juicy to show, but what is certain is that it is part of the new features that we have decided to insert to expand the experience offered by the first game.
"Exploration has always been a fundamental point for the series, and this time we decided to give the player an extra weapon that allows him to scan the surrounding environment and discover details or information impossible to notice with the naked eye, by going to find new puzzles to solve, secret files and hidden objects."
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is promising enemies that are tough, aggressive, and resilient. Can you elaborate on that a little bit, and how it will play into the action and horror elements of the experience?
No place is safe. This is the new game rule. The enemies, in addition to being lethal and aggressive, will give the player no respite. Animated by a mysterious electrical energy that makes them one of a kind, the creatures of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle will chase you far and wide, so you do well to watch your back and be ready even when you think you are in a safe place. We want to convey to the player a feeling of constant tension and fear to get rid of in the various firefights, capable of returning to the player the satisfaction of having killed a pack of unstoppable hunters.
Daymare 1998 obviously owes a lot to Resident Evil 2 in particular. Can you tell us whether that’s something that’s carried forward in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle as well, or are you looking to do things a little differently this time, now that there’s a foundation to build on?
Without doubt the second. Many have described Daymare: 1998 as a love letter to past titles and the Resident Evil saga in general, and it’s clearly true. Mood, atmosphere and feelings more generally owe a lot to those games, even if we tried so hard to insert those original elements, including game mechanics, OST and history, which made it something unique, something of our own. With Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle, on the other hand, we can tap into our own universe, expanding it. It is true, the titles that inspired us, including Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Dead Space and The Evil Within are within us, and partly influence our choices, but it’s the beauty of having a background from which we can draw and to be completely reworked and overturned, producing something totally new. We like to insert tributes and wink at the titles that have indelibly marked us and thanks to which we do this job, but the fact of being able to refer above all to something of our own is a unique and new sensation, which does nothing but stimulate us again. more in creating and extending a universe already made up of characters and stories that for some fans are already iconic.
Balancing action and horror is always tricky for any survival horror game. What’s your approach been in this game in that regard?
True, it is one of the most complex aspects. With Daymare: 1998 we learned a lot both about the importance of managing the entry curve of a title of this type, and about what the public expects, whether it is purely survival horror or action more generally.
Exactly as done with Daymare: 1998, and moreover as do most of the horror productions of all sizes, it is important to be able to stratify the gaming experience and offer more opportunities to the player, so as to be able to allow everyone to enjoy a product that comes close to their characteristics. This is where our game designers come into play, capable of balancing the experience in the best possible way and making it difficult but never too frustrating both for hardcore gamers and for those who want to live a linear and not too difficult experience.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle be?
We cannot go into details yet, but we want to at least replicate, if not extend, the experience of Daymare: 1998.
Do you have any plans for a Switch version?
We are discussing the possibility, but not at the moment. The platforms confirmed at the release of Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle in 2022 are PlayStation 5, Xbox X / S Series, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC Steam.
"With Daymare: 1998 we learned a lot both about the importance of managing the entry curve of a title of this type, and about what the public expects, whether it is purely survival horror or action more generally."
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS- but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Certainly from this point of view Microsoft has the advantage. More power also means having more creative freedom, but we don’t think it’s such a huge difference as to bring significant differences in terms of development, especially when considering cross-platform titles. As far as we are concerned, the development cycle will be the same on both platforms, the most marked differences will be noticed in the optimization phase.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. This is faster than anything that is available out there. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
The first and most logical of the answers is obviously linked to the speed of the uploads. Having the ability to access data so quickly allows us to have almost instant uploads, so as to avoid long waits between one map and another. If we analyze everything more deeply, however, we can understand how much this speed of access to giga of files can also have an impact at the level of game design or go to redefine some pipelines now consolidated in the gaming industry. Just think of what Insomniac Games’ latest Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart did. The current bottleneck, however, appears to be the almost always cross-gen nature of the products in the pipeline and the concept of multi-platform itself, so we will see only the exclusive titles for a single platform to fully enjoy these new technologies, while for all others will have to “be content” with being able to pass from the start menu to the actual game in a matter of seconds. As for the differences between PlayStation and Xbox, we believe that Sony has a distinct advantage from this point of view.
There is a difference in Zen 2 CPUs of both consoles. The Xbox Series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
We believe that as far as indie games like ours are concerned, this difference is easily circumvented, certainly more power is always welcome but we cannot complain about what Sony has made available. At the moment we believe that the Microsoft console is the one that can most easily reach a native 4K resolution, while we expect to see many titles in dynamic resolution on PlayStation.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60fps console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the graphically intensive next-gen games?
It’s very likely that when only titles truly designed and developed around next-gen consoles start coming out we’ll see those titles run closer to 1080p / 30fps than 1440p / 60fps on Series S.
"It will be very difficult to see next-gen games running in native 4K on new platforms as the actual 4K is still too expensive even for the new hardware put on the market by Sony and Microsoft, especially when combined with ray tracing."
Super Resolution is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. How do you think this will help game developers?
It will be very difficult to see next-gen games running in native 4K on new platforms as the actual 4K is still too expensive even for the new hardware put on the market by Sony and Microsoft, especially when combined with ray tracing. Having the ability to render frames at lower resolutions and then recompose them and make them look virtually identical to 4K frames will be crucial for developers.