Hey everyone, welcome to a new year! Lots going on with us here, especially with Ground Branch. We’ll get to that but first I would like to draw your attention to something we have partnered on with FragOut Studios named Sniper Tactical.
As some of you may know we partnered with FragOut Studios to help with the Weapons and Animation work for Ground Branch. Through that relationship we decided to lend them a hand in bringing some smaller less hard-core titles to market. The first of those titles is Sniper Tactical, a lemmings type puzzle game with sniper shooting mechanics mixed in. The gameplay revolves around bringing hostages to safe-zones which in turn is done by shooting enemies in correct order. Your job is to clear the path for your allies on the ground by taking out targets, bearing your own safety in mind. As enemies display various behavior types, it is up to you to learn how they will react and find a solution to each level. Hostages will move after you fire a shot so delivering accurate hits on the bad guys is not optional. Act quickly or slowly – depending on the situation.
Sniper Tactical is available as a Steam Early Access title on January 8th, 2016. While the experience isn’t the same as Ground Branch, the price is right for an enjoyable experience that is easy to pick up and play, but still takes skill and patience to master. Give it a try and let the developers know what you think.
Now for some Ground Branch news…… Things have been moving along quite well recently. We have closed out sales of the Operator Edition and are getting some great testing, feedback and collaboration from those who decided to make the purchase. Multiplayer connectivity is finally getting to the point where matches can be played and even in its very rough state people are enjoying the experience. Tremendous work has gone into the UI and the work needed to make our unique customization systems work as needed in both a single player and multiplayer environment.
Gameplay is still very rough and there are lots of bugs and graphics glitches, but here are a couple videos of some Operator Edition owners giving the latest build a go. Please remember you are watching a VERY early development build with LOTS of known issues and unfinished stuff. 😉
This one is played on a small developer test map that is used for various systems development/testing so the graphics are pretty basic. Its not a pretty map, but the video actually does a good job of showing off some of the fun gunplay you can have in small spaces. The players in the video seemed to have fun at least!
And last but certainly not least we have had some nice work going on AI recently. Zoombapup made a news post in the forums this week that I think warrants a news post. http://www.blackfootstudios.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=8310
The latest video shows the current progress on the Ground Branch AI, specifically the basics for movement, cover and engagement. Lots to do still, but its good to finally get things to a point where they are actually working in the Ground Branch main branch. Hopefully we will be able to get a first pass of our Terrorist Hunt style mode out to the Operator Edition users soon.
So hopefully everyone has a great 2016 and we hope to see you playing Ground Branch soon!
We would like to try posting regular updates in between the more major news items, giving you all a feel of where we’re at. So here is a small update!
Phil (zoombapup) is currently busy with the cover system for AI as some of you might have read in the dedicated AI discussion forums. It’s on the edge of being usable at the moment. Next step is implementing a cover spot reservation system, to make sure several NPCs don’t try to take cover in the same spot and start arguing about who was first. This cover system is an important milestone as it’s needed to further develop the squad code.
So when the basics of the cover system are implemented Phil will focus on squad behaviors and give them some love soon. Right now the squads have no concept of actually being in cover. An NPC for instance doesn’t know if the guy he is firing at is in the open or not. Hopefully we will see some interesting squad behavior in the next months. Phil hopes to get additional squad code written and have the first pass terrorist hunt ready for the New Year, but we’ll have to see how it goes. The day job is demanding so Phil’s slammed for the coming weeks with Uni related work and development is mostly done during the weekends.
Kris has been hammering away at multiplayer issues in order to create a smoother MP experience. Improving the Steam integration, providing a better server browser and better loadout & appearance replication. So yeah, lots to do on the multiplayer side of things!
The new UI developed by Costa (Scopey) is being implemented step-by-step and is coming along nicely. Besides the technical challenges, real life catches up as well, so Kris might go back to his system of waking up at 2-4am to work on Ground Branch before the day starts *shudders*. Plans for next weeks are to get some good night’s sleep, fixing that annoying bug causing client side items to detach from dying players and debugging everything else like crazy. And shoot at John some more.
That’s it for today. We’ll try to give you a new update soonish, thanks for reading!
Things are moving along slowly but surely. We have been working hard to resolve some networking bugs that have been a thorn in our side for a while, and are very close to having everything resolved in that area. That should allow for much smoother online play and hopefully more public showings of actual gameplay.
We have a new contributor to the project that has been working on some UI concepts (He actually did the main GB logo as well ). His name is Costa and goes by ‘Scopey’ (Used to be SAF_Night Scope) on the forum and has been doing a wonderful job coming up with the direction of the Ground Branch UI. The next release of the Operator Edition will include the start of moving to this new design.
Here are a few concept images showing the new direction
Since we are getting a lot closer to an Early Access release we have decided to stop selling the Ground Branch Operator Edition on November 15th. We have 45 Steam keys left in our initial run so lets get them all sold in the next week or so!
The reason we are cutting off sales is to make sure those that purchase the Operator Edition get their money worth. We want them to have time before the Early Access release to provide valuable feedback and to feel as though they have been an important part of the early development.
So lets get these last few Operator Editions sold!
I was working on lighting for the Tanker Ship map and decided to do a screen grab. This is straight from the editor, pasted into PS and saved out.
We have been doing a lot of work on networking and AI lately and that stuff is kind of hard to show off until its done. Though Phil has been doing a good job of posting AI progress in the forums.
So why not show off some weapon work we have been doing!
The sniper rifle that will be in the Early Access is the M14 EBR and here is the current progress on the high poly version:
And for the Light Machine Gun in the Early Access we will be including a Mk46 MOD 1. Here is the in game asset rendered in engine:
The Mk46 will also make its debut in the official 1009 Operator Edition build coming soon. Thanks for all the support we have received to this point… it is GREATLY appreciated!
About a month ago we showed off one of the early stages of the TankerShip map that is currently available in the Ground Branch Operator Edition. The map is massive and will allow us to actually utilize 3 unique playable spaces, each with various day/night/weather combinations making for a map that provides lots of replayability over various MP/Coop modes. The goal for Ground Branch is to get as much replayability out of our content as possible and this is a step in the right direction. Over the last few weeks, the engine room area of the map has gone through an initial art pass so we thought we’d share a few screenshots!
We are working hard to get us closer to Early Access, but while you wait why not pick up the Operator Edition and help support the project! www.groundbranch.com/store
We have been pretty busy since launching our Tech Preview and opening the groundbranch.com store just over a month ago so its a good time to give an update on where things are at.
The biggest news is Ground Branch is playable with a simple multi-player deathmatch game mode(more modes coming soon) using a dedicated server, direct ip connect or over a LAN! We have implemented our first pass of the Server Browser using Steam for our online connectivity and we already have plenty of current Operator Edition users hopping on 24/7 dedicated servers and having a good time. Videos of play sessions are coming soon.
If you want to join in the fun and see how Ground Branch is shaping up, all while helping to fund this awesome project, then hit the store and buy into the Operator Edition and get access right away!
Its still early and multiplayer is in its early days, but Operator Edition players are really enjoying themselves and fully embracing where Ground Branch is heading. Its a game where people find themselves just hanging out sometimes. Here are a couple forum comments that jumped out at us:
“We were just hanging in the ts, watching e3 coverage and walking on the map.
at some point we figured out we could launch each other by jumping into one another. so we worked on our technique for a while.
there were actually 8 and probably more people on the server at times.
again it was fun” ~ MissVerstanden
“….. I had a blast. It is a bit like Arma, but smoother and less clunky and controls that make sense. The lean works better and more natural than I expected. You’ll see me leaning on every corner.” ~ Psychomorph
At BlackFoot Studios we pride ourselves in our community involvement and are getting valuable feedback from those that have downloaded the Tech Preview as well as those that purchased the Operator Edition. It’s always great to see players do things in the game that weren’t specifically thought of, but yet fully support and validate the core concept of what Ground Branch is all about………..
“so… i somehow killed myself by shooting my guy in the foot” ~ chicken_slayer
Something like shooting yourself in the foot doesn’t usually happen in games, but its a realistic side effect of how Ground Branch is built. You better keep muzzle awareness and trigger discipline or something bad might happen!
Now to show the Early Access map #2 from the Trello board… Its a giant tanker ship! Lots of area to cover and a design that poses some unique tactical challenges is sure to test your skills.
It is currently in the “blocking out” stage to define the overall space and is getting some decent playtesting time by our Operator Edition users. One of my favorite quotes from the forums:
“That tanker ship! That’s exactly what we need for early access, good work. Looks wide and dense at the same time, can’t wait for the interior compartments. RS tanker ship pales in comparison to it.” ~ Psychomorph
So that’s it for now. Things are moving along nicely so why don’t you join in the Operator Edition fun!
As everyone knows, good AI is essential in a tactical shooter that includes Single Player and Coop modes. We have taken a big leap forward in achieving that goal for Ground Branch with the addition of Phil Carlisle (zoombapup on the forums). BlackFoot Studios will be collaborating on developing both a friendly and enemy AI solution for Ground Branch and Unreal Engine 4 in general. Phil brings a vast work history and knowledge and we look forward to working with him to bring the world of Ground Branch alive!
Phil Carlisle has been making games for more than 20 years. Initially as programmer on the multi-million selling Worms series of games for Team17. Then as an indie developer using a variety of engine technologies. During his time as an indie, he has written chapters in books such as the AI Wisdom series, the Game AI Pro series and has written and published academic work in a number of books and conference papers. He also served as CTO for a startup AI company focussed on emotional AI characters and user-centric AI programming tools called StoryBricks. More recently Phil has been contributing to the AI knowledge base for Epic’s newly released Unreal Engine and has been finishing up his PhD work on Digital Actors. Phil’s personal goal is to empower game designers to create believable characters by creating easily usable tools that drive more dynamic characters in much the same manner as a director drives an actor’s performance.
Phil plans on charting his progress with forum posts and videos, so please check him out in the BFS forums!
We are happy to announce that our official Tech Preview is available for free download right now. Yes, an actual playable version of Ground Branch! We also have our store open where you can financially support development of Ground Branch moving forward. In addition to the free Tech Preview we also have an Early Access pre-order, a T-Shirt and the Operator Edition….Which includes immediate access via Steam to our development builds leading up to the official Steam Early Access release. For more information check out the store:
By purchasing the Operator Edition you not only help us financially, but you also have the opportunity to continuously provide feedback from playing development builds. We will use this feedback to help shape not only the Early Access release, but Ground Branch itself. We are committed to releasing development builds bi-weekly and will provide hot fixes as needed. We may also do more frequent updates if the need arises.
This is our current crowd funding to get to a successful Early Access, so if you are able please give a little extra at the store. When making a purchase, or even just getting the free Tech Preview, just enter an amount above what the set price is… easy as that. So please support development of Ground Branch by making a purchase, giving a little extra or just by spreading the word!
The plan for the funding we raise from the store is to put together a solid and engaging Early Access build for Steam. This will include everything currently in the Operator Edition with the addition of more content along with examples of PvP and Coop gameplay all wrapped up in a polished presentation.
The Tech Preview will be updated as needed to continue its use as a great testing platform for compatibility and performance issues. However, we will not be keeping feature parity with Operator Edition builds for much longer as it is not a game demo. Once the Early Access is available on Steam we will release a proper Ground Branch demo.
So please, spread the word and join in the Ground Branch fun!
Here are just a few excellent video first looks of the Tech Preview and Operator Edition by those that have already joined in:
I wanted to give a quick update on the Tech Preview release…. Just about there. The testers found a few issues that must be fixed before release and we are working on those. We are also trying to squeeze in a few more features that may seem small, but play a large role in defining what Ground Branch is all about. The Tech Preview is a huge step for us and one that we want to be absolutely sure that those that play it are able to come away understanding what we are going for and what Ground Branch is going to be. I am also trying to finalize some storefront issues as well. So the countdown is in days now, not weeks.
Two of those small but significant “Ground Branch” features that we’ll give a glimpse of here are user patches and control scripting.
We have basic support in for user created patches. At the moment, there are slots on each arm and the baseball hat to place a patch. Each slot can have its own patch as well. We haven’t worked out all the backend stuff just yet, but patches are images on disk that are loaded directly into the game either locally or from the server. Of course there will be rules that are setup and restrictions on how things work so not to create issues for people. For you old schoolers…. think back to how Rainbow Six worked in this area.
Of course, everything is work in progress here.
This one is definitely more behind the scenes….something so simple yet so powerful. Our key binding works in the traditional way, but you can also craft a script that sets up custom actions or binding groups. Almost anything that is bindable is scriptable as well. Instead of these actions being hard coded you have complete control to setup what you want. For instance, say you don’t like the standard toggle lean setup. Simply make a script that changes it to a momentary one that requires you to hold the key to stay leaned and release the key to go back.
Here is an example of the LeanLeftToggle control script:
"Name": "Lean Left (Toggle)",
"Description": "Press to left left. Press again to cancel.",
We will provide a cheat sheet of all the necessary keywords from the code to make your own scripts as well. These scripts are loaded from disk by clicking the ‘Options’ icon for each keybind.
So there you go. Not much longer and some cool stuff. Have a great weekend!