‘Stay in the Light’ RTX-required Game Preview & Dev Interview

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Stay in the Light RTX-required Game Preview & Interview with the Developer

Sunside Games’ Stay in the Light has released on Steam in Early Access this week. Stay in the Light is a great example of the work that independent developers are doing with ray tracing, and we jumped at the opportunity to preview the game and to interview the indie developer, Richard Cowgill. We had a lot of questions and we also asked interested r/NVIDIA Reddit members to forward us their questions.

Stay in the Light’ uses ray tracing as a core gameplay component, not just eye-candy, and it appears to be the very first game that has ray tracing support as a requirement. To play it now, you must use a high-end GTX card or a RTX card. The dev’s eventual goal is to make it playable on a GTX 1060/3GB card when it is finished and released in a 6 to 8 month timeframe. We received a Steam code from NVIDIA and have spent a few hours playing it.

According to NVIDIA, Stay in the Light illustrates how even indie developers can get creative with ray tracing, making it a core gameplay component. Stay in the Light randomly generates its dungeons which means is very difficult to ‘bake’ lighting using traditional rasterization techniques for levels that do not yet exist.

Stay in the Light by Sunside Games is a mostly one-man operation, and Richard Cowgill only started working on the game in April after NVIDIA enabled ray tracing on GeForce GPUs. Blockbusters such as Battlefield V, Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Quake II RTX (releasing tomorrow) and Wolfenstein: Youngblood make it clear that the big developers and publishers are beginning to support ray tracing. But indie developers are also using it to make their games unique.

Stay in the Light Gameplay

Stay in the Light is a puzzle-horror game that was influenced by the Silent Hill series. The player has to progress through randomly generated dungeons collecting treasure, all the while being hunted by an immortal enemy called Him. The player has no weapons, but he must survive this nightmare place by using a mirror, a torch, and some chalk. Early on, the player is advised to light a torch which can be used indirectly against Him.

The mysterious enemy is Him and you dare not approach – or you start the level over.

The dungeons are randomly generated making for unlimited replayability allowing the player to pick his dungeon. When you die, you have a choice to replay the same dungeon or pick another random level and watch the generation process in action.

Stay in the Light uses RTX tech to create immersive environments depending on lighting and shadows to set the mood that can only be rendered by real time ray tracing. For example, the mirror reflects what is behind the player with perfect accuracy. And it’s quite a shock to see Him appear menacingly behind you which adds to the horror element.

Him teleports into the game at just about any place, and you are advised to stay in the light. Here the torch – which will fizzle out if the player doesn’t light others and also use them – becomes invaluable as it can be used to keep Him from teleporting to certain locations.

If Him catches the player, it is a gruesome death … and it’s back to the start of the level.

The player must solve puzzles to progress. Sometimes it is quite obvious, like activating a glowing object, and at other times you might have to crouch in front of something for an opening to appear. The game doesn’t hold your hand, and it is up to the player to figure out how to progress for themselves. The chalk is a nice touch and the player can mark walls to indicate where he has been. In frustration, this player has written some things on the walls that are not shown here.

Settings, Performance, and Bugs

Stay in the Light uses the Unreal 4 engine which is itself being updated continually for ray tracing. There are a few settings available currently, and we picked the default for our 4K resolution. A brand new patch added several new resolutions and it also allows the player to widen the Field of View from 70 to 90.

Stay in the Light is in Early Access, and bugs and performance issues are to be expected. We experienced several crashes to desktop over the course of a few hours. At other times, the game froze but recovered.

Our framerates dropped into the mid- to upper-20s FPS with an overclocked i7-8700K/RTX 2080 Ti at 3840×1440 with the above settings until patch 1.01 released yesterday. That isn’t too bad considering that not long ago it might have taken an hour to render a single ray-traced frame – and now we are playing in real time.

However, since yesterday’s first patch, the framerates have significantly improved, and generally a player with our setup can expect framerates in the 30s. Since the game is not a shooter, performance is quite satisfactory, and the dev tells us that we can expect a lot more improvements over the weeks and months to come.

Interview with the Developer, Richard Cowgill

The following is our interview with Richard Cowgill, the creator and developer for Stay in the Light. He has been working in the industry for nearly two decades, and he has a highly acclaimed indie action adventure game to his credit, Crow. Our questions are in italics and indented.

Please introduce yourself and give us your background.