Recently Warlab and myself were given the opportunity to sit down with some of the developers for the upcoming FPS title "Squad". As some of you may already know a number of the folks involved with Project Reality in the past have decided to branch off on their own and use their talents to work on bringing us all the next generation of realistic, squad-based, modern combat. We here, like so many of you, have long awaited news from these guys and what they have been working on so we were more than happy to sit down for a chat with an eye to learning more about Squad and what's coming soon from the team that's producing it. So let's get started.....
What is Squad, and why the big deal?
In their own words, Squad is an online multiplayer first-person shooter that aims to capture combat realism through communication and team-play. It is generating huge interest here at TG and further afield due to its heritage - it is the true successor to the award winning "Project Reality" for Battlefield 2 modification. For many years we hosted the busiest and most well organised PR server in existence, and now we have a fantastic new game on the horizon.
Firstly guys, thanks for the exclusive opportunity to talk to you. TG is a massive fan of the PR mod, which of course many of the Squad developers worked on, and we are very excited to have this Q&A. Firstly, should we have a quick Intro so we know who we are talking too?
Merlin: Lead Developer, all round FPS addict, soon to be Digital Nomad to make Squad a reality.
Chuc: Digital Nomad, Animation master lead master sarge.
IronTaxi: Mapping Lead, provides triple pane protection.
Great, thanks. Many of the former PR developers, testers and mods at PR were members of TG, and in fact you have a few TG'ers working with you on Squad. Would you like to tell us a little bit about why you chose us for this interview?
TacticalGamer’s Project Reality Pick’em nights, and event nights, where a new style of PvP FPS gameplay was mastered by a generation of gamers, are some of the best FPS gaming memories the Dev teams are drawing upon while developing this game. Some of us cut our teeth there, some of us were there from the near start of TG’s PR server, so we’re back to thank you guys and get down and dirty on the details of our new game Squad.
Excellent.....So, most important question first....Fastropes?
FAST ROPES! We will move the heavens to make this happen. Otherwise, what was the point?
That will keep the masses happy! So, lets talk about the game play. Some videos are available on your YouTube channel, but tell us a little more about what people can expect from Squad gameplay? What game modes will we be working with?
At the moment we are working with the latest iteration of the Assault and Secure system used in Project Reality: BF2, but we are also planning to experiment with much more radical territorial control systems that will give players greater strategic options. Expect details on this in due time. (Editor note - this sounds very cool)
What about kit selections and customisation?
Kits (or “Roles” as we prefer to call them in-house) will function similar to that of Project Reality: BF2, but we are attempting to expand the rifleman role to encompass a number of previously segregated roles like Grenadier and Designated Marksman. We are also experimenting with a basic customization system that allows you to personalize your weapons with basic attachments like optics and grenade launchers for the time being. In the future we will definitely look for new and interesting ways to diversity the system, which may include inventory management and mission-tailored loadouts for each role. We are also looking into some sort of customisation like community and clan patches on your soldier to represent your group.
What does that mean in terms of optics and weapon customisation?
In terms of magnified optics, we are experimenting with a system similar to Red Orchestra 2, however in terms of performance rendering picture-in-picture is extremely taxing and this feature might not be universally available for all graphics settings.
That will be a very cool feature when you get that up and running! Can you tell us a little bit about the actual squad setups - what is a Squad in the context of the game?
We are aiming for servers with 50 v 50, and squads of 9, with the ability for the Squad leader to subdivide their squad into multiple fireteams. We are still working on this feature and will provide a feature article on the website when we are prepared to talk more about this.
In terms of command and control features, we do intend to expand greatly on the marker system from PR:BF2, and also allow even Fireteam leaders to place their own markers.
And will the medic role function as we know it in PR: BF2, with the revives, patches and healing?
Functionally we are aiming for medics to play the same role as they did in Project Reality: BF2, but with a much needed cosmetic upgrade. In addition we have plans to expand the wounding system further into things like casualty evacuation and of course, dragging of wounded. We have found better options and a middle ground between the magic instant revive Epipens, and something less severe than the no health regeneration ever system used in simulators. Play-testing with a wider audience will narrow down which mechanic will be implemented in the public release.
Fire and movement will of course be absolutely vital in this game - can you talk to us about the shooting and movement mechanics, and combined arms work?
Unreal Engine allows us to be very flexible with how we represent shooting in Squad, and for the moment we are going to create a system that relies less on deviation. We're going to play test several variations during the early Alphas and respond to player feedback. With stances, for the moment only standing and crouch are represented in-game, as prone is still being developed. As for vehicles, yes, we're getting there, they will be available within a reasonable time-frame of end of Founders' package fundraising. The nature of development means that vehicles will have to take a figurative back-seat while infantry is being worked on - core game play is the goal for the alpha.
The Engine looks pretty spectacular, and we have been following your updates and highlights threads closely! (Be sure to check out the January updates and the new SAW M249 posts). Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics. How will this feature play out in Squad?
Freed from prior limitations, the system will evolve with play testing. There will be a logistics system to maintain the front-line, we're re-imagining the limitations and are developing a system I think is a great compromise between the benefits of having a great logistics squad and the understanding that sometimes no one is willing to run logistics. FOB's and Rally Points will feature of course, but again with some tweaks and difference as we go through the Alpha. Towing the line between gameplay and realism is the key.
So we keep talking about play testing and the Founders Pack, when will people be able play test this?
Currently we have a test team that is helping us out with out Alpha, but Founders’ Pack Participants will be brought in to Alpha testing, details are still being worked out, so stay tuned to Squad. We then plan to open it up for general Alpha testing mid to late 2015, with a full release planned for late 2015. Expect an announcement VERY soon.
Plans for Kickstarter and Steam?
Still being worked on. Some general considerations about getting as many cents on the dollar to the Devs as possible while avoiding transaction fees. Initially we imagine the game will be distributed directly by us, at least in Alpha.
Cool, set a diary entry folks. Lets go back a little bit to the engine, which is Unreal Engine 4. Talk us through some info about it.
The current PoC map we use in the Alpha is Logar Valley. It is currently 1.5km^2. The next map we are working on is 4km^2. We are waiting on the Unreal Engine 4.7 update to see just how good the biome/flora gains to FPS rates will be. Day/Night and weather features are most definitely on the table, and we will be looking further into that as development continues. As of now, view distance is unlimited. We will add more stuff to the maps until we can't add more stuff with unlimited view distance, then we will start lowering the distance to add more stuff. We estimate 1.5km view distance, but that is unknown at this point.
With regards the maps, I know TG's very own AFSoccer is now working with you on map design, and you are working on an Urban map, a forest map and a village map. Will you be bringing maps over from PR?
The engine handles urban sprawl in a very good way, so the end goal will definitely be to have some pretty massive cities in the rota. As for bringing maps over from PR? This is a possibility that we haven't finalized yet. It is in essence the core motivation of the dev team, we want to play PR style FPS on a modern engine, and would be satisfying if we had modern equivalents of our favourite PR maps. Having said that I think it’s safe to say we will be learning from the best of PR’s mapping legacy and attempting to incorporate those features into our mapping. For the alpha, we will not be adding destructible environments, but this is something we are already experimenting with. A wall with 200 tris turns into a rubble pile with 3000 tris very quickly, and we are designing ways to balance performance issues regarding destructibles now so we can add the feature later.
TG has already expressed its intent to get involved with Squad by hosting a game server. What can we expect in the way of controls and features?
Firstly, we are planning to bring together potential server owners to round table discussions once we have a owner/admin framework developed, to listen to requests and get feedback from the admins before we go live to the public. We are hoping that communities like TG will help us develop and drive that framework.
Guys on behalf of TG we would like to thank you for having this chat today. We know that there are a lot of very excited people awaiting this game, and it looks fantastic.
Before we wrap this up, we want to thank you guys for giving us early moral support to start this project, we’re taking risks to follow this dream and know we can’t do it without the support of others who enjoy this form of recreation. We’re on the track to be sitting here together a year from now doing a pick’em night postgame chat talking about the journey we took to get here. We have a lot of work to do, and hope to keep in touch with the TG crew. To everyone reading this, come on over and give us opinions and feedback on the game, we’re reading every comment in the forums looking for future ideas to implement.
If people want to get involved and help with this project, how do they go about that?
Spread the word online, point them to our website at joinsquad.com and ask people to follow us on social media, with links to our Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages. Get people as interested in our game as you are!
Tactical Gamer Squad subforum
There you have it folks, spread the word! We will be hearing more about the founders program and the the benefits/costs of it in the VERY near future. Be sure to pop on over the the TG Squad sub-forum and introduce yourself! Big thanks to Chuc, Litoralis, Merlin and IronTaxi for the interview, and our very own Warlab for helping to conduct!