Director Danny Weinbaum speaks with GamingBolt about Eastshade’s console launch.
In February of 2019, Eastshade released for PC and delivered an experience unlike any other. You play as a travelling painter, moving from one beautiful location to the next as you search for the next beautiful vista to capture in paintings. It’s as interesting a concept as it sounds, and makes for a gorgeous, relaxing experience that you can completely lose yourself in.
Given the game’s very nature, it sort of flew under the radar of many people, but it recently also launched for PS4 and the Xbox One, opening the door for hopefully a much larger audience. In hopes of learning more about the console version of Eastshade and what the developer’s plans for the game’s future are, we sent across a few of our questions to director Danny Weinbaum. You can read our conversation below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s console launch.
"It’s really hard to gauge your own game while in development, so we’re elated to find that people like it. We’ve gotten more than a few messages from folks saying Eastshade is among their favorite games ever, which is so amazing it almost doesn’t compute."
Eastshade has been very well received by players since its PC launch earlier this year. How heartening has the reaction from the community been to see?
It’s been incredible. It’s really hard to gauge your own game while in development, so we’re elated to find that people like it. We’ve gotten more than a few messages from folks saying Eastshade is among their favorite games ever, which is so amazing it almost doesn’t compute. We get messages from folks talking about using Eastshade to reduce their anxiety, or how it’s made them more excited about travel. Its hugely gratifying and flattering.
What was the impetus behind creating a game that moves past the action-heavy nature games usually take and instead make an exploration-fueled, peaceful open world experience?
We were trying to get at the heart of one of our favorite aspects of video games, which is a sense of place. I’ve never felt like violence was particularly important to that particular design goal. We wanted to create a game loop that reinforced the way we wanted players to play Eastshade, which was to go slow and smell the roses. We came to this sort of I-spy painting game, because it seemed the more attentive you were to the environment, the better you would be at accomplishing those sorts of quest goals. I personally feel there is an entire ocean of unexplored game loops. I’m confident a large portion of game designers will continue to design games exclusively within the space of combat-oriented game loops, so I personally feel my calling in this industry isn’t to make more of those. I dream about all sorts of different game mechanics, and the ones that truly excite me are never about combat.
Since the game’s launch, has there been anything in particular that you’ve looked to address based on feedback from players?
The most important thing for us has been performance optimization and bug-fixing, so we’ve been continuing to work on that. One thing we did add was the ability to export your paintings to jpg files.
Given its very nature, Eastshade looks like the sort of game that would be perfectly suited for VR. Do you have any plans to add VR support to the game?
I’m not sure I agree. As far as I gather, games where you move through large open spaces have not been particularly successful in the VR format, because the movement problem remains hard to solve. It seems the most successful VR titles have you stationary, or with some diegetic excuse to be in a cockpit. Furthermore, the art style of Eastshade is very graphically demanding, which makes the task of optimizing performance for VR more difficult as well. At any rate, we have no plans for VR at this time.
"We have no plans for VR at this time."
Eastshade suffered from some performance and technical issues on PC. Have you addressed those issues for the game’s console release?
I find performance is often the number one complaint on many high fidelity titles, and I think we’re often compared to triple-A performance standards, because of how our game looks. I was actually pretty happy with the performance we were able to achieve on PC, and it was a herculean feat for us to get it as good as we did. Nonetheless, we have been steadily improving the performance since launch. As far as game bugs, we’ve been squashing those too, and all those fixes will be in the initial release on console.
However, if you’re looking for better performance than PC, no, the consoles will not give you that. The hardware of a base console, is, afterall, worse than that of the average PC on Steam. The fact of the matter is, we have two choices when making a game that looks like Eastshade on a budget like ours: A. Work your butt off to optimize the game, and land maybe 70% of the way to triple-A performance, or B. Don’t make a high fidelity game at all. If we had another few million maybe we could compete on that level but alas, we can’t. And if we did I doubt we’d ever make it back on a game like Eastshade. So if top tier performance is important to you I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped our game.
Was it always the plan to bring Eastshade over to consoles eventually, or was it a decision that was driven by feedback and demand?
It was always in the plans, though not in our wildest nightmares did we anticipate it taking this long.
Do you have any plans to launch on the Switch?
Not at this time. The hardware spec would demand basically re-authoring most of the assets in the game, and I’m pretty exhausted at this point. But hey, you never know. Maybe down the line.
Do you have any plans to add more content to Eastshade in the near future? Perhaps more quests and characters or additional areas in the world?
We’ve been devoting all our attention to improving what we already have with performance and bug updates, and also porting to consoles. The content-oriented nature of the game doesn’t really produce an ongoing community the way a multiplayer game would. Producing more content would cost a lot of money, and I’m not sure how much it would impact our sales curve given the nature of our game. Single-player games like Skyrim have a more systemic nature, and perhaps more importantly have an initial base community many times larger.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X and PS4 Pro-specific enhancements? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro versions are 1080p, and have improved draw distances and shadows.
"We’ve been devoting all our attention to improving what we already have with performance and bug updates, and also porting to consoles. The content-oriented nature of the game doesn’t really produce an ongoing community the way a multiplayer game would."
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Its 30-60 fps (v-synced to 30), at 900p.
The PS5 is confirmed to have an SSD. From a development perspective, how will this help you to improve game performance in the future?
Many games have everything they need in memory already, so it wouldn’t affect much there, but it will be helpful for open world titles which require streaming. I’d say it won’t really affect performance much. Mostly it will reduce load times.
The PS5 will have a Zen 2 CPU processor which is a major leap over the CPUs found in the PS4 and Xbox One. From a development perspective, how will this help you in developing games of the future?
It won’t change much really. It will allow more draw calls I suppose, i.e. more objects on screen. It will be an evolution, not a revolution.