I’ve been having a terrible feeling of déjà vu this week. Spent most of it working on the UI and some of it rigging up a system to keep maps and missions organised properly.
Originally we were using a CEF based system with support for HTML5, CSS and the like. This all changed once we had a go with the UMG in the preview version of Unreal Engine 4.4. The ability to create what we need in-editor and hook it up directly to the scripting won us over.
Now that I’ve had a decent amount of time to learn the system, I am able to come up with functional, if ugly, screens, buttons and other UI elements easily.
There have also been a lot of UI related C++ changes too,
with future developments in mind.
i.e. Operator screens.
Just to make one thing clear: Ground Branch does not have a fully dynamic time of day system. And to be honest, since it has bugger all to do with movement and shooting, it is way down on our list of priorities.
That said, we do have a time of day system of sorts – it just isn’t dynamic.
It’s a bit of throwback from the UE3 version. Maps are split into pieces to keep things organised and allow the same base geometry to be combined with different lighting and other changes to support different times of day, multiple missions etc.
For the sake of organisation, we’ve gone with a basic system that defines the basic info about a map in one file and mission info in one or more other files.
It requires more work to automatically include child game modes with their parents and other such trickery, but its a good start.
A big thank you to everyone who continues to follow, support and encourage us.
And to those who have been testing out the upcoming tech build for us – hugs and kisses on all your pink bits!
So we are getting pretty close to releasing something public….. No really!
We plan to release a sort of tech demo in the next few weeks to serve a couple of purposes. First is to allow us to figure out the “packaging” process for a public release and to make sure we can deliver a public build that works. UE4 is a lot different than UE3 in many ways so there is a lot of learning on our part still. Secondly is to get an idea of performance characteristics with various performance settings and to see how an area with specific design characteristics works on various machines.
To be clear, this is not Ground Branch the game. There is no “game” in this release. It is a small purpose built area that shows off the density of map design, foliage density, lighting setups and various effects. You can walk around and shoot a weapon, but there is no purpose or “mission”.
Here is a screen from the editor of part of the area:
We really want to have solid and playable releases for Ground Branch. This is the first step in getting there and an actual playable build….. and that isn’t to far away. 🙂
I know we seem to be going slow (We are 🙂 ), but I thought I’d show something I’ve been working on lately….. Ground Branch will use the concept of a ‘Team Room’ as a place to start the game from. It is here where you will customize your gear, set up missions, receive and go over intel as well as hang out with teammates before, during and after MP and co-op missions. There will also be oppurtunities to customize your Team Room as well.
One part of your Team Room is the Operations Room that is shown here. This is where the Intel/Mission magic happens and every one of these monitors/screens will be interactive for various purposes. This is a clean unaltered screen grab from the editor and I’m sure you can get an idea of what some things do just by looking around. 😉
We know the pace is slow… much slower than we would like, but we are still here and still committed to Ground Branch!
We are proud of the community that we have built here at BlackFoot Studios. We have people from all over the world contributing and being active on a regular basis. Many types of personalities and backgrounds come together and are generally pretty civilized. 🙂
I have had the pleasure of personally meeting some of these people over the years and have become good friends outside of just BFS and game development. One of those is our very own MONOLITH and his family….. Tom Reinhart is an exceptionally talented individual who, much like myself, has decided to follow a dream. His dream is writing and as it turns out he is damn good at it. Not only is he good at it, but he is a true creative. By that I mean that he doesn’t write just to write, but he writes and develops stories and characters from the heart. Every word he puts on paper has meaning. They just are not stories, but honest feelings.
I’ll admit, I am not a big reader. But Tom’s stories are engaging and keep me going until the end. They are easy reads but full of depth and complexity. Take a minute and check out what my friend Tom has been up to…. you won’t be disappointed. I sure haven’t been!
Some may be aware that the Rain/Effects video from last week was actually cut short by about 5 minutes due to some audio synch issues. I had to cut out a section that demonstrated a few more effects:
After many painstaking steepness nights (not really 🙂 ), I have since been able to compile that cut footage into a new video for your enjoyment!
Please be aware(I mention it a lot) that everything you see is in progress stuff and really just first iterations of things that will get a lot of attention as time goes on.
There are 2 things of particular note with this video though…… 1) There is no weapon recoil as it was disabled while fixing up some shooting mechanics. So don’t panic! 2) The flashbang emits a high pitched ringing when it goes off. So please adjust your volume accordingly when watching (there is an on screen message in the video about it).
While we were sorting out some programming/middleware issues I thought I’d start working out some of the weather systems for Ground Branch. We are starting off with rain but will will also be adding in snow as well.
Of course, it goes without saying, but this is all early work that will definitely get better as we go. The most exciting thing to me is everything in our game effects gameplay. It might be subtle at times, but nothing is in there just for “fluff”. Playing in a heavy rain map will alter your strategy from a bright sunny day version. Its just not for show.
At the moment this is all settings inside the map, but I would like to transition it to more of a realtime solution. We’ll see how that goes……..
We know development can be slow, but hang in there. It will all be worth it eventually. 🙂
We have a new wallpaper available courtesy of DetCord, a friend of BFS. Feel free to download, use, pass around or whatever you feel like. 🙂
We completely missed our goal of releasing a new internal test every week. Or two weeks. Or monthly.
Basically, we suck at keeping to dates (still).
Seemed like each week we’d take it in turns in saying “I want to get this in first” or “no, fix that first”.
Ahh, development hell. read more …
We started working on some nighttime items recently, among many other things, so I thought I would post a quick random screen grab while firing in game at night.
One interesting development thing is how moving to UE4 has been so worth it, but how doing so also takes a lot of time when developing some things. One example is how we pretty much had to completely rebuild how we are doing night vision. The systems engine systems used are so different between UE3 and UE4 the only thing we could move over was the base material. That is actually a good thing though because UE4 allows us to make these systems much more robust and feature rich. It also allows us to make things much easier for modders to add more gear and functionality on top.
The future is definitely bright!
I thought it might be about time to pass along a couple pieces of news…. First off we have officially started a very limited private testing phase for an initial Ground Branch preview release. We plan to open this testing up to a larger group before unleashing the full preview build on the public and hope to post more details about that in the next couple of weeks.
We would also like to announce that we have brought on FragOut Studio to take care of the animation work, as well as a few other things, for Ground Branch. These guys are well known for their animation work on ArmA 3 and we are also looking at some possible future collaborations.
They have also recently completed work on a mobile game Sniper Tactical. Give that one a look:
So things are moving along quite nicely at the moment and we are working hard to get the free Ground Branch preview build complete. It won’t be long until you get start messing with it yourself.