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!
There is a small group that has had access to development builds of Ground Branch for a while now. About a month ago we gave them permission to post screenshots and videos from the build(s) in the forum. Unfortunately, if you don’t frequent the forums then you may have missed them. So we thought we would gather some of the best ones and make them official. Special thanks go out to those that are posting media, but specifically to forum members Psychomorph and DetCord for the images shown here.
Some of this will be available in the Tech Preview, but all of it, and more, is in the Operator Edition dev builds. Everything is still on track and we are working hard to get the last few bits fixed up in the build as well as some logistical items for launching this thing sorted out. Enjoy!
A few shots of a player in various postures and environments.
Weapon and environment effects that actually affect gameplay. Flashbangs will leave a lingering smoke in the room that may make visibility difficult. Environment fog and smoke effects conceal players.
Some environment shots
Rain and lightning. Its subtle, but notice how the rain drops are dark and pick up glints of light reflecting form them…..
Various night time shots. Lighting and environment will play a big role in Ground Branch.
Things are moving along pretty nicely lately, though everything is still taking longer than we would like. Kris is working really hard on making sure one of the cornerstones of Ground Branch, the character and weapon customization, has a rock solid foundation to build on. This has proven more challenging than originally anticipated, but we think its finally working to our standards. It isn’t currently pretty…. but she’s got it where it counts! 😉
As I mentioned before, we will be releasing what we are calling the Ground Branch Tech Preview soon. This will be a small slice of Ground Branch to give people a general idea of where we are going with the project, though there is no gameplay specifically. The purpose is to give people a small taste of what to expect from the project as well as give us a platform to gather valuable feedback on crashes, system specs, performance and general stability of the project. The Tech Preview will not cost anything and we encourage people to pass it around, share, do videos, post screenshot and whatever else they want to to help promote the project.
The next step after that is to move to Early Access on Steam. We want to make sure that the game is as rock solid and polished as can be at that time. To do so, we have decided to make some things available for purchase to help fund our drive to Early Access and beyond.
The Ground Branch OPERATOR EDITION is a way for people to help financially support our efforts very early on as well as provide valuable feedback through testing and using weekly development builds.
» Immediate access to Pre Early Access development builds to help us design the game around your valuable early feedback
» A private forum area to discuss the game and ideas with other OPERATOR EDITION users and the game’s developers
» An Early Access Steam key when available
» Forum badge showing that you are a Ground Branch OPERATOR EDITION supporter
» The initial full release of Ground Branch on steam when available
» A Ground Branch T-Shirt
» Plus a special in game aesthetic upgrade item!
AI is still a bit out, but Epic is doing some really nice things with their built in AI solution. Its not just bots anymore.
We certainly plan to have our AI react as humanly possible given our resources and time though.
We are not setting out to make a huge arsenal of weapons. Modders will take care of that for sure. We will have a pretty standard set covering Pistol/SubMachineGun/AssaultRifle/Shotgun/LightMachineGun/Sniper/Explosive
We don’t plan on including any “active” reload situations or random fouling sorts of things. Yes, that stuff does happen in real life, but we feel its just an annoyance in a a game and just frustrates people for no reason. Attachments will have actual impact on the weapons/ammo as well. They won’t be just for show.
We are planning on having extensive breaching capabilities for doorway entry…. including breaching shotguns, charges, kicking and other. We have even prototyped a way to allow players to block doorways from being breached. Not sure if that will make it in or not.
What we probably won’t have much of is arbitrary wall breaching and things like that. That isn’t an area we have the resources to tackle.
Mission Planning is up in the air at the moment. For CoOp, the plan is to have a pre-mission planning phase where live players can work out their “x’s and o’s” together, but planning for SP a’la Rainbow Six may be out of the scope of GB for now.
I’m not sure if we will have the budget to record different sounds, but we definitely have environmental settings that process sound based on indoor/outdoor. It all depends on how much funding we can get.
I guess that’s up to you and how you play I think. Ground Branch is not designed as a run ‘n gun game simply by the shoot/move mechanics and the way weapons work. We aren’t a sim though so we strive to make things as streamlined as possible. We don’t want you thinking about controls and key combos during play.
Yes there will be plenty of diversity. There will be locations all over the world…. think R6 in this respect.
And now some art.
We have a few art assets that has been around for a while, so I thought it a good time to start updating some things. Ground Branch will have frag, smoke and flashbang grenades…. even with various colors of smoke.
As some of you know, one of my good friends Tom (our very own MONOLITH on the forums) is a very good writer. He has taken upon himself to do what he can to help our soldiers that are deployed away from home. Tom has started a project called Words For Warriors to send free books to those service members.
Please take a moment and help Tom out if you can.
If you are still with us, and why wouldn’t you be…. welcome to 2015 with BlackFoot Studios! We have a feeling its going to be a really great year around here so we hope you keep hanging on and enjoy the ride. It’s going to start gaining some speed here soon. 😉
John starting working on the official Ground Branch Steam store page today! That is actually a pretty important milestone as it signals the start of moving into more of a public phase for Ground Branch. On that note, we are looking for some professional (either actual experience or work quality) to help out on the graphics side of things for the page. It’s going to be important to start off with a professional appearance so I’d like to do it right. If you think you would be able to help for reduced rates or even barter a bit, let us know as soon as you can.
We have also got around to setting up a public bug tracker so people can help out by submitting bugs once the demos are available. That is getting tested out by a private group as I type this.
On the game side of things Kris has been busting ass with getting things stable and features more completely implemented. He has also got the first pass of character and weapon configurations in and working. This includes the in game UI and saving/loading out actual constructed configs.
On the art side the existing training maps have received one more pass for visuals and some more detailing work. John has also started working on the main demo map that will be used to show off various gameplay features to get people interested in the upcoming Early Access. Sort of a ‘try before you buy’ for the Early Access. It’s a reworked version of the warehouse map that was shown in the UE3 screenshots and videos. We will use this map as a “proving ground” for gameplay types and features throughout development.
So we hope everyone had a great holiday and safe New Year. It’s time to get back to work!
John & Kris
As you can see we have overhauled the site to be a little more streamlined. As we start to move into the next phase of the life of Ground Branch we thought it appropriate to give everything a “fresh coat of paint”. We will begin to update the content in the near future as well.
We would like to thank our contributor Zoog for all his hard work!
– John & Kris