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Zombie Studios

Why Zombie Studios turned down publishers for Daylight

Mar 25 // Jordan Devore
"I think it got confused in some earlier interviews where people are like 'Oh, the main character is Jessica.' And that's not the case," explained Chobot. "What we were trying to talk about is the main character is whoever you want yourself to be because all you see is a first-person perspective. We do have moments where certain voice-over is done which I did because I'm there and it's easy and I wrote it, so I know what to do -- and it's just like quick little quips. So that's about as 'Jessica' as it gets." Describing what development has been like on Daylight, she said "The funny part of it is I literally had to set up a makeshift VO booth in my living room where I took a microphone and I took all the couch cushions off my couch and surrounded the microphone in it to muffle it ... and downloaded this flashlight application on my iPhone so that I could read the lines when I was inside my little cave. And then that was how I recorded everything." It seemed funny to me how, of all the teams that could showcase the prowess of Unreal Engine 4 in this transitional period, it's a handful of people working on Daylight who are among the first. "The head of licensing still gives me massive shit because we're going to be coming out quite a bit before any other Unreal 4 game," laughed Gerritzen. "I saw him last week, and he was like 'Dude, I don't believe it's coming out. I don't believe it's going to run.' And it's because the engine is so much in its infancy still. [The game is] going to be a beast. You're going to have to have a good PC to run it." [embed]249214:47680:0[/embed] When Daylight releases on Steam, it will cost $20 or less. I asked Gerritzen what he thought about other titles in the genre also going after a similar price point. "I hope that the mentality kind of changes where you actually get what you paid for," he commented. "There's been numerous games in the past couple of years that we pay $60 for that really shouldn't have been 60 bucks. But that's because it's either [Xbox Live Arcade] $15 or $60. There's never been this middle ground. "I think we'll see games that might be $45 where we wouldn't have seen that a while back. When I first started, you needed to have a publisher ... now with the digital distribution thing happening, and Steam, and Origin, now people like us can make a game, we can distribute it. The only thing that we're unable to do, really -- I mean if we have the money -- is put a commercial or do a big ad campaign connected to it." Continuing, he explained that "If [Daylight] is successful, we're going to do another independent game. I would love to control my own destiny with our games. We could have a publisher that has five games and our game is the marketing person's least favorite game out of the five because they might be into completely different games. And so, this game doesn't become as successful just because of one person's taste. So now if it's us developing, producing, publishing, it's really up to us to do as much as we can or can afford." Let the record show that the choice to self-publish is exactly that: a choice. "I've got a few games that still have publishers and every time that I talk to those guys they're like 'Hey, how about we publish Daylight?' It's like 'Nope! I think we're good. We're going to do ourselves and just see if it can be successful.' I love the idea of living and dying by our own sword. It's one of those things -- it's scary as hell, but it's going to be fun as hell to see what happens.
Daylight photo
Details on the surprisingly small team behind this horror game
Rounding out our recent coverage of Zombie Studios' horror game Daylight, I have a little more from my chat last week with studio creative head Jared Gerritzen and writer Jessica Chobot. With the studio behind Blacklight: Ret...

Daylight photo
Daylight

PAX: Daylight takes horror into the YouTube age


Procedurally generated indie title takes inspiration from Minecraft
Mar 22
// Alasdair Duncan
When gamers argue about whether or not a game is survival horror, they tend to focus on the scares. Jump scares are a particular bone of contention because they can be effective only a few times before they get predictable. T...

How Daylight intends to scare the sh*t out of you

Mar 21 // Jordan Devore
In summing up the game, Gerritzen said that essentially "you're a rat in a maze. It's kind of cool because the storyline is about this hospital and this doctor that was doing all of these experiments, and this insane kind of thing that really fits with the '50s/'60s tests on rats. "And so it's really funny that you're literally just trying to find your way through this map, but as you're going through, you're constantly being hunted and you're constantly being scared. Everything is different each time. I didn't think [this approach] was gonna work when we first started working on it. It was just one of those things where I haven't seen it done -- or done well." Surprisingly, it does work -- even on the game's developers. "Like, I've thrown my mouse, twice, just because I'm getting into it so much that I just completely freak out," admitted Gerritzen. "You know, I'm an adult male and sometimes it's pretty embarrassing, but it's really funny -- it gets your heart rate up. "It's gotten to the point where some of the guys go and test it in our demo room with all the lights off and we actually have a night-vision camera that we try to capture with. That's where you get the craziest facial expressions or guys just freaking the hell out. Occasionally, I hide under the desk and come out and scare the living crap out of them." I couldn't help but feel like, eventually, players will become accustomed to Daylight's tactics, even if they are more mixed up than we're used to. That's where updates come in. "What we'll be doing with the new [post-release] chapters is adding new story elements but also new elements to the bucket" of content that the game draws from, said Gerritzen. "Either new set pieces, or new gags, or new ghosts, or new phantoms and all this new crazy stuff. "The great thing is since we're using Steam and we don't have to go through [certification] with everything, some of the guys have come and said 'I've got ideas,' and they're not big chapter pieces, but we're going to be sneaking new things in all the time. If you get a new update on Steam, the idea is you've played [Daylight] a few times, we're going to throw in a few gags here and there and hopefully you'll be constantly getting surprised by the game."
Daylight photo
Zombie Studios talks procedural generation
After catching a glimpse of Zombie Studios' Daylight in action yesterday, I hope you're in the mood for more on the horror title. I spoke with studio creative head Jared Gerritzen earlier this week about how the game will lev...

Daylight trailer photo
Daylight trailer

Exclusive: Debut trailer for Zombie Studios' Daylight


New psychological horror game for PC
Mar 20
// Jordan Devore
Zombie Studios has shared details and screenshots for its procedurally-generated horror title Daylight, but now we're getting to see the Unreal Engine 4 game in motion. While the video is indeed a teaser, it should help put ...
Daylight photo
Daylight

Daylight will be playable at PAX East


Booth #668 is where you'll want to be
Mar 17
// Harry Monogenis
Zombie Studios has confirmed Daylight will be playable at PAX East 2013. The upcoming horror game has been attracting quite a lot of attention since it was announced back in February, and PAX East attendees will be ...
Blacklight: Retribution photo
Blacklight: Retribution

Blacklight: Retribution just got itself a horde mode


Onslaught mode sees you fighting waves of zombies with up to four players
Feb 27
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zombie Studios's free-to-play FPS Blacklight: Retribution just got some brand new free content in the form of a horde mode. Onslaught sees up to four players working together to fight off wave after wave of zombies. Players ...

Get your Dtoid weapon tag for Blacklight: Retribution!

Feb 24 // mrandydixon
To redeem your code: Go to https://register.perfectworld.com/bl_splash, register, and download the game client Install the game, select a server, and create your very own Agent! Go to http://blacklight.perfectworld.com/redeem Enter the code you received from Destructoid Enter game, collect items from your mail, and activate them Navigate to customization and equip your new weapon and gear!
Mr Destructoid Blacklight photo
Also a temporary unlock for the new AK-470 rifle, an XP boost, and more!
[Update: Codes expired! Stay tuned in the future for more giveaways!] Our friends at Perfect World and Zombie Studios have given the Dtoid community 10,000 codes to unlock the Mr. Destructoid weapon tag in Blacklight: Retribu...

Review: Special Forces: Team X

Feb 12 // Patrick Hancock
Special Forces: Team X (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: AtariMSRP:  $14.99 (PC) / 1200 Microsoft Points (XBLA) Special Forces: Team X is a multiplayer-only, third-person cover-based shooter. It is the type of game that relies on established norms and tired design decisions to bring in an audience for a few months and then disappear forever. So there's shooting, and the shooting feels solid. Each gun is broken down into four stats: damage, recoil, spread, and accuracy. Holding down the fire button will, depending on the gun's recoil, force your cursor upwards, resulting in missed shots. Tapping the fire button is the most accurate way to dispose of an enemy and may take some time to master for those not hardened on shooting mechanics. Dying is swift in Team X, which emphasizes not only cover, but working as a team. The cover mechanics are okay, though far from perfect. Blind firing from behind cover is an option, and is sometimes necessary in certain situations. It is, however, impossible to slide along a wall with varying heights. Here's what I mean: Where the chest-high cover turns into a full-fledged wall, your character is prevented from moving. The character should automatically stand up once he reaches the larger portion and continue along the wall, not stop instantly once he reaches the end of the short wall. To combat this, the player must remove himself from cover, move over, then go back into cover, thereby making himself unnecessarily vulnerable. It is things like this that make the game feel unpolished. Snapping into cover does work well, at least. [embed]244225:46907[/embed] Teamwork is rewarded by a multiplier that increases while teammates are around. It works well and achieves what it is supposed to, but there's a big problem when working as a team: there is no option to use voice chat. Let me repeat: this is a teamwork-oriented game with no option for voice chat. Action in Team X is very fast-paced, so even if there were a way to type only to your teammates (there isn't) it would take too much time to say the likes of "cover me while I run ahead" or "make sure someone has our back." So, while it is easy to stay next to your teammates, it is almost impossible to work as a team. The unlock system is incredibly stilted and homogenizing. Leveling up happens at a decent pace, but the incentives for leveling up are mostly bland and uninspired. Pretty much every player uses the same guns at the same character levels. Even simple character aesthetic pieces are locked behind levels. You want to be Asian? Become level 12 first. Black? Better level up to 29! Want to play as a woman? Tough luck, buddy. But hey, at least you can choose between any type of camouflage right from the start! There are five game modes to choose from, but good luck finding a server with the one you want to play. If you don't want to play Team Deathmatch or Capture Point, the chances of finding a server with people in it plummet. High Value Target is probably the most interesting of the modes, where one player acts as the High Value Target (HVT). If the HVT dies, the player who killed him becomes the new HVT. The HVT earns three points for each kill, while his teammates earn two. The opposing team only earns one point per kill. It offers a nice back-and-forth experience, and since the maps don't allow for camping, it never becomes a standstill. Capture the Flag is exactly what it sounds like. Hot Zone is basically King of the Hill. With a slight exception of HVT, these modes are so paint-by-numbers and derivative that it is no wonder nobody plays them. The map system seems unique at first, allowing the players in a server to choose what each third of the map looks like. Voting is cast before the match begins, with majority ruling. In theory, this creates a unique map almost every time and prevents map knowledge from becoming an advantage. In practice, it's just the same few map sections smashed together, over and over again. Sure, the overall map is different each time, but the only part that's actually different is where the sections meet. Each section is exactly the same as the last time it was chosen, it's just in a different part of the map. I've memorized the map sections already, and the only thing I can't predict are the two areas of the map in which the three sections intersect. It doesn't feel like a unique map every time, it feels like the same boring sections repeated every time. There is a cavalcade of bugs and poor design elements all throughout Special Forces: Team X, and I'll do my best to list them all here. I've spawned in the same area of the map as an enemy when the round begins. The server browser cannot be sorted by players, mode, etc. Sometimes the server browser shows 15/16 players but when I join it, no one is in the server. There is no auto-team balance when teams become uneven in number or in skill. You can spawn on allies, but many times the game will put you somewhere else. When leveling up, the game says you have new unlocks but doesn't mention what they are, leaving you to search for them yourself. The perk to detect mines unlocks at level 3, but mines are not unlocked until level 38. Clicking "customize secondary" shows nothing but black bars. The perks are not listed in level order, or even alphabetically for that matter, but are instead seemingly thrown together using a dart board. The attack dogs' AI is completely broken. Oh, and a few days after release, my and many others’ stats were reset to level 1, with no indication as to why. Ugh. The game has a cartoony cell-shaded look, which looks nice in action and up close. The game is seemingly going for a light-hearted vibe, judging from some of the trailers and the visual style, though few things in the actual game resemble anything related to humor; it seems more like a façade than anything else. The sound effects are just as solid as anyone would expect. Guns go "rattatat tat," grenades go "kaboom," and beefy guys go "HEY I'M RELOADING!" when they reload. Oh, and the menu music is painfully, generically epic. I would hope that no one is so desperate for a third-person cover-based shooter on PC that they have to resort to playing Special Forces: Team X. It's bland, uninspired, unpolished, and borderline unfinished. The already paltry amount of players is sure to dwindle in the coming weeks and months, leaving Special Forces: Team X nothing more than a line in some unfortunate fans' Steam library. Special Forces: Team X offers nothing unique to the genre and is likely to leave players unfulfilled. What could have been an interesting, inoffensive multiplayer game turned out to be a buggy mess without so much as a hint of something fresh. 
Special Forces: Team X photo
Chest-high aspiration, knee-high realization
Special Forces: Team X looked to fill a certain void in the PC market. One without the joint effects of chest-high walls, competitive multiplayer, and a cover system. Mass Effect 3's multiplayer helped bring third-person cove...

Daylight screenshots photo
Daylight screenshots

New screenshots of Unreal Engine 4 horror game Daylight


Zombie Studios wants to play a little game
Feb 12
// Jordan Devore
Although we already got the first details on Zombie Studios' PC horror game Daylight from an interview last week, the company has put out a proper announcement for the title. Built using Unreal Engine 4, Daylight focuses on r...
Dtoid Show photo
Dtoid Show

Half-Life & Portal Movies? Rayman Delayed? What MADNESS!


Also: The Destructoid Show is being weird and stupid again
Feb 08
// Max Scoville
What a bunch of wacky news today about the video games! There's the ongoing Rayman Legends debacle, with it being delayed for a multi-platform release, causeing devs and fans to speak out. Meanwhile, J.J. Abrahms a...
Daylight photo
Daylight

Horror game Daylight relies on procedural generation


Developed by Zombie Studios using Unreal Engine 4
Feb 07
// Jordan Devore
Blacklight Retribution developer Zombie Studios had previously shared a few details on its unnamed horror game, though there was a bit too much left to the imagination. As we now know via IGN, Daylight will utilize procedura...

The maps are never the same in Special Forces: Team X

Jan 21 // Abel Girmay
[embed]242194:46462[/embed] Special Forces: Team X (Xbox Live Arcade, PC)Publisher: MicroproseDeveloper: Zombie StudiosRelease: February 6, 2013 The big hook of Special Forces: Team X is its map design, or rather, the players' hands in its design. Maps are broken up into three tiles -- a middle and two ends -- with players voting on each of them in the pre-game lobby. The tiles themselves are essentially slices of whole maps, each of which follows a motif: industrial, warehouse, etc. As you can imagine, this leads to a mind-boggling amount of variation for each map. Conceivably, this can also go a long way to keeping play styles from getting stagnant. Whether you play Call of Duty, Battlefield, or what have you, after a while every player finds the same few routes to run in each map. With Special Forces, that's not going to be a viable strategy when the map layout changes every time you play. With so many permutations of maps though, it remains to be seen how well objective modes play. For deathmatch at least, which is what I played, I always felt there were a good amount of routes and flanking options. So the maps are a blast, that much is sure. What isn't so hot, is really just the rest of the game. While there's nothing that stands as particularly wrong, there's also no compelling reason to keep this on my radar. The moment-to-moment gunplay follows well established genre rules with no real deviation. If you have played a third-person cover shooter, you know what is on offer here. And if you have played any online shooter since 2007, you know what to expect from the progressive level system, though there are a bevy of cosmetic customization options. Special Forces: Team X does try to encourage teamplay at least, with a scoring system that multiplies scores if you run with your team. The health system makes players a bit bullet-spongy, so running with a teammate is best. Still, outside of its approach to map design, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to get excited about.
Special Forces: Team X photo
Vote on the map design in the pre-game lobby
At first glance, you may find Special Forces: Team X to be just another in today's long line of military shooters. I mean, for God's sake, it's actually called Special Forces: Team X. I don't think titles get more generic tha...

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Zombie Studios next game will use Unreal Engine 4


And it's a psychological thriller
Dec 18
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zombie Studios, makers of awesome games such as Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition (For real, it's super fun) and Blacklight Retribution, have announced their next game will be utilizing Unreal Engine 4. This now makes them the se...

Review: Blacklight: Retribution

Apr 18 // Jim Sterling
Blacklight: Retribution (PC)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Perfect WorldRelease: April 3, 2012MSRP: Free-to-PlayRig: Intel i7-2600k @3.40 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU (SLI)  It's hard to believe that Blacklight: Retribution comes from the same team that developed Tango Down, such are the differences in terms of quality, ambition, and variety. Structured entirely as a competitive multiplayer game (smartly eschewing any cooperative nonsense), Zombie Studios has centered Retribution around a familiar free-to-play model. There's no entry charge, but if you want the bells and whistles (the many bells and whistles), you'll be reaching for your wallet.  Whether you pay or not, this is a shooter worth trying out, especially since it initially costs nothing but your time. While Retribution does nothing revolutionary, it does everything incredibly well. Its game modes, combat mechanics, and leveling system will feel instantly familiar to players of almost any current-generation shooter, but rarely have all these well-worn elements come together in such a sleek package.  Matchmaking is incredibly fast, with players able to jump into quick matches within seconds. The matches themselves run smoothly without lag, despite how many losing players will whine about it in the chat. There's a surprising amount of polish, with only a few minor glitches encountered during the entire experience. The combat is incredibly solid, packing a sizable variety of weapons, all of which carry a satisfying level of heft and impact. Zombie Studios has cherry-picked the very best elements of the very best modern shooters and done each of them justice.  [embed]226017:43415[/embed] There's a modest number of maps, but each one is very well designed, which is a huge step forward from Tango Down's horrendous collection of predictable, uninspired, glorified crawlspaces. There's also a selection of traditional gametypes -- Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and Domination, and each mode squeezes the most out of the intelligently structured environments. Spawn points could do with a little improvement, as the smaller maps have a tendency to throw one right into the middle of a firefight, or place one team nearer to the objective than another. These problems aren't encountered commonly enough to be too much of an issue, but they'll certainly crop up from time to time.  As players score kills and complete objectives, they'll earn CP. CP is a form of currency that can be used at depots positioned along the map, allowing players to buy themselves temporary bonuses. Some of these bonuses are functional and simple, such as quick health or ammunition refills, but most players will be using them to access rocket launchers, automatic turrets, and miniguns. It's a fun system that adds a dynamic level of reward, though it can be incredibly annoying to buy a hot weapon and get killed, instantly losing it. It can happen quite a bit.  Most importantly, depots house the Hard Suit, which is the star of the show, as well as the number one item guaranteed to make the other team groan in displeasure.  Once bought from a depot, players must summon their Hard Suit on a clear patch of open ground with no roof coverage. If successful (the game can be incredibly picky about where it'll place a suit), this gigantic mech can be clambered into to provide the team with a slow-moving, heavily armored, walking box of death. Armed with both a minigun and a railgun, the Hard Suit is terrifying to encounter and empowering to pilot. Interestingly, however, it's not too hard to unlock, with any moderately skilled player able to garner the required CP. It's not unusual to see up to three Hard Suits on a team at any given time, although they're not always useful thanks to their bulk and sluggish speed.  The Hard Suit is sure to be a controversial addition, owing to how powerful it is, though I found it doesn't break the game at all. My only criticism is that the armor is perhaps a little too excessive, since they can take forever to put down. Even with stinger missiles specifically designed to neutralize the machines, players will have a tough time taking one down, and I feel their durability may need to be nixed a tiny bit. That said, wiser players will likely abandon Hard Suits as time goes by, since they tend to get stuck in confined spaces, can be easily outrun, and aren't as flexible as some of the more tantalizing depot choices. Useful as they are, they're not the answer to anybody's prayers, making them a bit less "cheap" than one might initially fear. Players can customize their own depot options as they progress, unlocking new types of guns, turrets, and other exotic items. It's not just the depot output that can be tailored, either. Personalization is, as one would expect, a huge part of the experience, with an almost overwhelming amount of options. From emblems to camo colors to a whole host of weapon parts, there's a massive amount of things to tweak and customize. Players will be able to build their own guns from scratch, and even pick up special (and sometimes hilarious) emotes that they can show off on victory screens. Of course, most of these options are going to ask for your cash, and quite a lot of cash will need to be spent if you want the best gear.  There are two ways to buy equipment in Retribution -- GP and Zen. GP is earned after each battle, essentially serving as your "free" money. Zen, meanwhile, is purchased with real-world cash. While many items can be bought with GP, the costs are significantly greater than if they're to be purchased with Zen, creating the classic balance between paying for an early edge or grinding for a very long time. As well as paying outright to keep one's stuff, Retribution also sells items on a "rental" basis, with options for one-day, seven-day, or permanent purchases. The rental system is a good way of trying out equipment before buying them, while some regular players may even be able to earn enough daily GP to rent their favorite things indefinitely.  Things get less savory when it comes to permanent buys, however. Prices for outright purchases are pretty damn expensive, with a single gun costing anywhere up to $15 to obtain and tweak. The initial list prices look relatively cheap, but you only ever see the single-day prices when browsing. Much of the content can be bought eventually using GP, but the key word is "eventually." The numbers are pretty obscene when it comes to bagging the high level goods.  Fortunately, however, it's not quite as bad as it would appear, due to the fact that the game is plenty fun without the extras. I had sunk hours and hours into the game, having a great time, without having to spend a single thin dime. Once I got some of the premium gear to try out, I found that they gave me a bit of an edge to keep things spicy, but not once did I feel overpowered. After trying some higher level games with players who had already spent a lot of time and money on the game, I was still able to hold my own, albeit with a bit more of a challenge. While only time can tell, I feel safe in saying that, at the moment, I see no insurmountable pay-wall that would lock players out of the party. Even if there is, after not seeing one for a number of days, I'd say there's more than enough enjoyable gameplay for anybody wanting to just dip in.  While the game is highly polished, there are a few niggling problems holding it back, mostly to do with certain weapons. For instance, the minigun has a tendency to not work when the fire button is pressed, while the heal gun is absolutely useless due to its finicky aiming. It's also a shame that certain support items can't be equipped together -- for instance, I'd love to have revival syringes and heal guns to create a medic, but you can only ever have one or the other. Some of the guns, too, feel oddly imbalanced. The SMG is Godly at all ranges, while the LMG (my usual go-to gun) feels oddly powerless and far too imprecise to be of any use. That said, with so many options to choose from, nobody should have any trouble finding a set of guns, depot drops, and utilities that serve their needs.  What really puts Blacklight: Retribution over the top is its sense of raw style. Feedback is a big part of the game, with players regularly informed on who the highest threats are, and whether or not they've become the team's "warlord" by scoring the most points. If you're killed, the camera freezes the action and zooms to your murderer with a Matrix-esque effect. The sound design is impeccable, and does a great job of letting you know where the action is, and whether or not a Hard Suit is around the corner. With emblems, tags, and emotes all lending a sense of personal flavor to proceedings, there's always something to tweak in order to make your avatar feel all that more yours.  The visual design merrily borrows from Halo, Crysis, Deus Ex, and more to create something that looks familiar, yet strangely unique. While characters may appear to be the kind of masked mooks we've all seen before, the level of detail and the often eccentric takes on science fiction armor give them a level of freshness, helped by the strong blue and orange color schemes, and the camouflage options players can take advantage of. Graphically, this thing looks far better than one would expect any freemium game to look. It's not exactly a Crytek game, but it's definitely pretty. Environments are especially beautiful, with unique locations brimming with color.  Blacklight: Retribution is so far above its predecessor that I still can't believe the two games share a name. Every single thing has been improved, and the result is a game that's fast-paced, supremely gratifying, and hard to put down. I think it would be in Retribution's best interest to lower the prices, as it would encourage more purchasing and keep players invested for longer, but the bare-bones experience is so damn good that the premium content shouldn't be considered a barrier for entry. There's more free fun in this game than many $60 games (and their paid "downloadable" add-ons) seem to offer these days, and those who truly get into the swing of things won't mind paying for some upgrades in the end.  This is not only a great example of a professional and credible free-to-play game, but it's also one of the best first-person shooters I've played. I am quite serious when I say that, too. This game is a serious FPS contender, and its freemium status should not diminish your expectations. I wholeheartedly recommend you jump in and give it a try. It'll cost only your time to give it a whirl, and I am certain that it'll be time well spent.
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When I first heard that Blacklight: Tango Down was getting a sequel, I was stunned. While the original game looked pretty, this particular reviewer found it incredibly tiresome and miserable to play. I was reluctant to tackle...


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