GroundFall: June 2022 Bush Flight Survival Testing
"The best way to test survival game mechanics is to put yourself into a desperate situation."
I told myself this after three days of trekking through the forest and foothills—the result of my misjudgment of aircraft fuel quantity and the distance back to my main airfield. I executed an emergency landing in a grass field at dusk. Exiting the aircraft, I saw that the wing was damaged during the chaos. With no tools onboard, I hiked back to my home airfield with only the items on my person and from the storage hold of the aircraft. I didn't have enough energy bars and water bottles to make the long walk back, so how would I survive?
I previously discussed Groundfall, an in development open world bush flight simulator, back in April 2021. At the time, Snowcreature, the developer of this title, focused much of their effort on getting online multiplayer working. They were still hammering out how they would re-incorporate survival elements from a previous test build of the game. In late June 2022, singleplayer has been reintroduced, and many survival elements are back in play.
It's safe to say that GroundFall has reached a new level of testing. For testing purposes, participants immediately have access to various weapons, a limited initial supply of resources, home airfield, a cabin, and an aircraft. This title has much more development to be done before it is ready for the public. Nothing in this article should be taken as a "final build" representation, but let's discuss what is currently being tested.
Survival Equipment and Game Mechanics
"Roughing it" is a part of the collective mental image of bush flight. Moving the aircraft into places inaccessible to most aircraft while maintaining a stable food supply and general state of safety even in the most remote areas.
Players have to manage their physical fatigue, food, water, and stamina. It's even possible to get an infection from a severe injury. Attempting to explore and build 24 hours a day with minimal rest will also result in eventual death by fatigue. Learning how to pace one's goals while making time to rest properly is the safest way to survive.
My most successful testing sessions frequently start by stocking up on supplies and hardware before even attempting to fly anywhere. A few overland treks by foot to nearby cabins before even taking off could also lead to finding rare items like aircraft fuel, repair tools, or other gadgets.
Tools and weapons include bows, arrows, knives, spears, axes, and lever-action hunting rifles. All of these have limitations such as wear and tear that eventually causes them to break, throwing them and losing track of them, or in the case of the rifle, how much ammunition is available. Intelligent choices need to be made. You won't be walking around with hundreds of rounds of ammo or arrows on your person, so using precious rifle ammunition on an unsuspecting rabbit may not be as valuable as using it to fight off bears.
Foraging for berries is a decent way to keep the player's food and water levels up, but hunting prey like deer offers considerably more food in one go. So far, GroundFall has handled hunting in a very straightforward manner. Each animal provides a certain amount of meat, leather, etc. There are no animations for skinning fur or removing organs, so it's all pretty clean for now.
Crafting and Constructing
The inclusion of a crafting and survival booklet was a very positive move from the developer. This booklet contains tutorials, crafting recipes for various structures, and workspaces to repair equipment and build more advanced equipment.
Even creating new buildings is being tested. Both pre-made designs and custom designs are available. After setting placeholders for walls, porches, windows, stairs, and doors, the structures show how much wood, stone, or other materials are required. With players also able to make new runways, constructing a rather elaborate home airfield is a desirable long-term goal. I had never considered wanting a custom airfield until Ground Fall presented the possibility. I'll find a way to make a complete two-runway airport at this rate!
Reaffirming the Value of the Aircraft
The flight model GroundFall uses hasn't changed much since the last article I wrote, so I recommend reading that if you have not. But on the subject of survival gameplay, nothing emphasizes the importance of having an aircraft more than losing access to it. A light aircraft's utility becomes more apparent when you are thousands of meters away from the home airfield with no quick ride out of potentially deadly situations.
The extra storage and speed of travel aircraft provide are vital—even quick trips just over the next few hills or scouting areas of interest. A flat patch of dirt near a cluster of hard-to-reach cabins or a herd of deer could be the beginning of a profitable expedition. But the fragility of light aircraft is also very apparent. Taking time to orbit the potential landing area and visually inspect it will save players a lot of headaches.
The presence of wildlife, boulders, and trees on or near the runway can result in catastrophic damage to the aircraft. Attempting to land from the wrong direction without accounting for the height of trees, hills, or mountains could also lead to a one-time landing gone wrong. Give yourself enough room to go around and try again.
Admittedly, at this testing phase, flying long distances is risky because of the inability to carry repair tools or extra fuel within the aircraft. You're at the mercy of RNG to hope you'll find more fuel somewhere along the way at another airfield or in a cabin. Running out of fuel, taking considerate structural damage or outright flipping the aircraft upside down is a death sentence for the aircraft. Feedback from testers will continue to be provided to the developer, but I know I'll be arguing the case for even a one-time use "minor tool kit" to be carried on board the aircraft to at least repair minor or moderate damage. Perhaps an "emergency gas tank" as well.
It's great that GroundFall has reached a new phase of testing for its core gameplay elements. There are bound to be many more additions and improvements along the way as the developer continues to bounce ideas off of their testing group. Other features from a previous build are still being reintroduced, including radio for communications and receiving in-game objectives.
I look forward to seeing the next level of development in this up-and-coming bush flight simulator.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |