Stewards of military simulation (and makers of the best emergent gameplay anywhere, if you ask me) Bohemia Interactive have outlined their plans for Arma 3 in 2012.
Bohemia wants to get early feedback on the game to assure a smooth release. That's deeply reassuring. An Arma 3 “Community Alpha” will release sometime after E3 in June to facilitate this. Read on for more information about the alpha, mention of new features, brand new screenshots, and a Q&A with two of the devs about Arma 3 in 2012.
The big blog update , typed by Project Lead Daniel Musil (also interviewed below, with Creative Director Jay Crowe ) expresses Bohemia's development priorities and reiterates some features they're particularly excited about. That includes “completely new” motion-captured animations, which Bohemia says will result in new gameplay features (I'd be very happy if that meant military hand signals were being added). Bohemia reiterates that DirectX 10/11 is implemented and working, that A3 will integrate fixes introduced in Arma 2 1.60, and that Limnos will be the biggest map in the series. One of the new screens also shows working, reflective mirrors on vehicles as well as an in-vehicle video feed—both of which should make a first-person perspective while driving more viable.
PCG: When will the Community Alpha be available?
Daniel Musil, A3 Project Lead: The exact date will be announced following E3, but it should follow a month or so later. It depends on a number of internal and external developments.
Jay Crowe, Creative Director: Once we manage to shake off the jet-lag from LA—wash off that conference-hall smell—we intend to set out what's on offer and how we'll be inviting people to get involved in much greater detail.
How many people do you expect to participate in the Community Alpha?
Jay Crowe, Creative Director: Well, we're talking about an alpha build of the game. We accept that it's not something that those with only a passing interest would get involved in. Rather, we'd expect that our community will be the driving force behind this initial offering, at least.
Musil: We have no limits, though - anyone interested is welcome! This will be an iterative process and we will appreciate any proper feedback. If we took a guess, there could be thousands.
Crowe: You only need to look at the success and popularity of similar alpha releases to see that, if it begins to gain momentum, such previews can generate large numbers of really passionate players.
During the Community Alpha, what aspects of the game is Bohemia going to be most interested in receiving feedback on?
Musil: We're especially interested in the new technologies running on the broad range of hardware out there. In regard to our large, open world there is always lots of aspects to tune. Also, the new scripting frameworks are very flexible but relatively new.
Crowe: Yes, a very recent beta patch for Take On Helicopters added support for Java in the RV engine. Long term, its being considered as a replacement for our proprietary scripting language, but—at least for TKOH and A3—they'll operate side by side. We hope that once the Community Alpha is in place, modders will be able to explore the possibilities - and identify any pesky limitations - of this exciting new feature.
Musil: Overall, we'd expect quite general feedback to the game, which we'll then evaluate and seek to shape it up alongside our customers needs.
Crowe: Although we can get into details later, one option is to stagger the release of new engine features. In this way, we might focus upon a particular aspect and garner useful feedback. For example, one week after the Community Alpha launch, we might drop in the scuba guys or enable physics on vehicles, listening carefully to the feedback on how these systems perform.
Musil: We're not seeking overly specific feedback—I mean a missing screw here and there, it's fundamentally our job to retain the quality of our game - the goal is to identify and neutralise important stability issues, across the big range of hardware combinations our there.
The blog post references a delay. Are you delaying Arma 3 further than Holiday 2012?
Crowe: Yes, we've pushed back our full release, which originally stood as Summer 2012. Although, with the Community Alpha, many people will still get to enjoy their first experience with a playable build of Arma 3 very soon. This iterative model of development—sharing a public preview build—is becoming more and more widespread on the indie scene. Arma 3 is a big game. It's packed with a lot of complex new features. This Community Preview enables us, as a relatively small team, to spend more time polishing and improving it ahead of a full, retail launch. Take On Helicopters was a step in the right direction, but, we can always do more to improve day one stability.
Does Bohemia believe that Arma 3 will be one of the PC's most-demanding games when it releases? Are you worried about that?
Musil: We consider the Real Virtuality engine to be more like a platform than a game. Our community has used it for a much longer period than is perhaps usual for the most modern games. It's why we're scaling the rendering quality and the whole engine to fit both current machines and also high-end desktops in the near feature. At higher settings, there is usually more to compute and render—longer view distance, better quality further in the scene, denser and more extensive particles, multiple shader-based effects, and so on. Generally, we would like to allow users to always set the best quality regardless of hardware performance, which we achieve with our powerful range of video options.
What's a weapon or vehicle in A3 that's exciting to you right now?
Musil: For me, it's the Gepárd GM-6 Lynx. An impressive and modern anti-material weapon we had a chance to try ourselves. Makes me respect it both visually and when putting fire down-range. There will be another devlog about this recording, including some behind the scenes stuff.
Crowe: Well, I might just be a little biased from the last project, but right now it's the Mi-48 Helicopter Gunship. Our community christened it the “Hamok.” It's big and it's ugly and it's all the better for that!
Musil: Honestly, though—although it might sound a little staged—the best weapon for me is new lighting model, which I like very much personally. Visually, it's a big step up from our previous games. I hope this weapon will be great help for promoting our game.