Co-op is being demanded more than ever in todays games. In the past, First Person Shooters (FPS) were built with co-op in mind, such as the original Unreal. Even so, it has always been thrown in after a singleplayer has been made. Today, it is rare to find any form of multiplayer besides the overly used Deathmatch. Some games have promised co-op, and have only succeeded at disappointing. People look to modders to create what is missing so dearly from our favorite games.
As firm believers that games such as Halo, the Rainbow Six series, or even the original Unreal, wouldn’t be as grand without it’s cooperative gameplay. Black Sierra is being created with the idea of playing with friends, keeping co-op first and foremost, and singleplayer as an afterthought. We aim to create a graphically stunning, horror cooperative tactical first person shooter to be enjoyed time, and time again.
Corey/Kyben and Micah/Grim are the creators of Black Sierra, and worked together on previous projects. Meeting over forums of the very successful Killing Floor (modification for Unreal Tournament 2004) when it was still just a mod in it’s early days, both Corey and Micah had basic knowledge of their programs. Corey was mapping quite a lot for the modification creating a handful of well received maps, as Micah was dabbling with animations in Maya at the time. After the modification slowly lost support from its creator as time consumed them, Tyler/Abyx who was also apart of the forums of Killing Floor suggested to Micah making a patch for this modification in which to improve the atmosphere for the game. After agreeing to the idea, Tyler and Micah recruited Corey into the mix in order to fix some coding bugs that hampered the gameplay. Tyler redid some of the weapon models, while Micah animated them and added grime to textures. All though the patch was small, it was well received and announced as the “Unofficial Community Patch 2.11” (previous version of the game was 2.1) and the small spike in activity among the forums and servers encouraged the three to keep at the modding side of things.
A few months later Corey and Micah worked together to try and make their own UT2k4 modification. This modification could be described as your general Team-Deathmatch with a twist. The twist was suppose to be that 3 teams would be going at it at once, rather than 2. It was a futuristic setting, but not sci-fi. Teams competed in order to capture control points (BF2 Style). There were three teams pitted against each other, two of the three were human soldiers, while the third faction were aliens.
Although the mod never saw the light of day, both Corey and Micah worked on it vigerously. This modification became one of the core reasons why Black Sierra continues today, it gave both of them a giant slap in the face of the grim reality of modding. Codes were riddled with bugs, models had missing faces, animations were broken, and gameplay was dull. Production overall felt like it wasn’t going anywhere when they compared the time they spent on something, and what was actually in-game. In the end, this UT2k4 modification never was even announced, let alone published.
Black Sierra came to mind during Corey’s (Project Leader) evening shower sometime during a late September night in 2007, after his vacation to West Virginia. With soap bubbles in his hair, Corey rushed to his computer in order to instant message Micah with his brilliant idea, which was then edited, rewritten, and reworked plenty of times from there, much like this webpage.
Although their first modification failed, both Corey and Micah spent months playing tons, and tons of games together, including the original Unreal as they brained stormed. As they played various games, they were able to come up with what was enjoyable, and what wasn’t. Including why killer Dragon Flys and Jumping Frogs were no fun in Diakatana (horrible, horrible game). From there they recruited Tyler/Abyx from their previous project (Killing Floor – Community Patch) who then joined in on the discussions, and provided some high-quality weapon models for about another month.
Eventually the team felt that they had enough grounds in order to publicy announce their modification on Moddb. Shortly after, Unreal Tournament 3 was released and the team dove into the new editor. From there the team started to officialy recruit people for their team, and in their efforts they acquired their Sound Engineer Mark/MadMax. Slowly things came together, with Corey coding some basic things, like adjusting the run speed, Micah looking into the new animation system, and the rest of the team creating some assets to be put in-game. People came and went, and production was slightly slow to start with. A lot of hope was put into the idea that the team would get enough hype, and attract the interest of some high-quality modders to lend a hand, especially in the coding and organic model aspect. Yet there wasn’t many apply, and the few that did eventually never produced a completed model if any.
After having his fair share of modding, and producing a lot of good and detailed weapon models, Tyler left modding all together to worry about life in general. This left the team without any real modeler, After a month or two of of working with a three-man team, the team realized that it was time to start wearing multiple hats in order to make this modification a reality. Corey who was working on basic code, and creating all the maps, dove deeper into coding and started producing more complex game features along with taking over texturing. A stroke of luck hit for Micah however; when Alex/Morphine came back to the team for a small period of time, in this time rather than following up with the basic player model he left the team, he went into teaching Micah how to improve upon his modeling and UVing skills through using Skype and a remote computer access program. Through this Micah and Alex spent a good month to two months working together almost every night in an effort to improve Micah’s skills before Alex departed once again to continue with his new military life. With a huge thanks to Alex, Micah was then able to proceed in the modeling process, eventually moving onto Organic modeling using the base Alex provided them, and improving it to add more detail, pouches, and define it slightly more.
Currently the team of Black Sierra consists of two and a half people. Corey and Micah still brainstorm most nights together in an effort to constantly bring up new ideas, and ways to improve the over-all appeal of the game. Together they spent quite a lot of time nick-picking each other’s work, and usually end up in a giant fight where they can then have an awesome make-up party consisting usually of a night where they play Company of Heroes all night together, doing a complete comp-stomp of doom (Micah enjoys repeating the British accents as they complain about having to “Muck about in the rain”). Mark, although a valuable British man himself, is busy getting married and has slowly been losing time as he’s being whipped, but still produces content when he can, and enjoys giving welcome input in the game in general.