How the world’s most-realistic military game gets made

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We know very little about the people that make ArmA 2, gaming's most sophisticated military simulator that also lets you play as a goat . It's made by Bohemia Interactive. They're Czech, they've been making games for a decade, and we assume they're all hardened war heroes that brush their teeth with bayonets and sleep on a pile of claymore mines...right?

To unravel a bit of this secrecy, we talked with Bohemia Interactive's CEO and co-founder, Marek Spanel. In our exclusive chat, Spanel shares insight on the culture of his studio, the release of ArmA 2: Operation Arrowhead, and what group of people it takes to make a military simulation game.

PC Gamer: Your studio seems like a unique one: Bohemia has been refining its take on battlefield simulation since Operation Flashpoint in 2001. You also concurrently develop VBS --a virtual training system that shares a lot of DNA with ArmA 2. What type of people does it take to make simulation software?

Marek Spanel: It seems to be that many people in our team are almost obsessive about some aspects of their work; yet, it is not necessarily based upon the military aspect. Rather, our team are dedicated perfectionists, who possess the necessary passion and patience to develop such a massive game. You just need to look at the closely to see the subtle and precise attention to detail, which is really at the heart of our game. You can be looking at a perfectly modeled rifle at one moment, and at the next, a butterfly will gently float past you. It's that kind of counterpoint, or, at very least, dedication to the most insignificant detail that makes the people that work for this company unique.

PCG: Right, and it's fair to say that ArmA's community deserves a lot of praise for filling in all the content it has atop your technology.

Spanel: Yes, I would like to stress the importance of our forums and community sites like ArmAholic.com or armedassault.info, where our community presents their work and which can provide any ArmA 2 fan with new additional content according to their taste, updated almost every day. However, there are a few modifications that I feel are truly exceptional: “ ACE2 ,” of course, focuses upon realism; also very impressive is “PLA,” a Chinese Army modification; “ Isla Duala ” is probably one of the most impressive custom islands available so far. Yet, there is such a huge range of customizations available, these few recommendations barely scratch the surface.

PCG: I'm sampled a lot of it--there's heaps of stuff out there. There's obvious, expected stuff-- Star Wars mods , zombie mods --but imaginative, brain-hurting expressions of realism like Loyalguard's functioning Chernarus Electrical Grid . We love seeing all the mini-communities spawned by ArmA--machinima creators, mission creators, hardcore roleplayers like TacticalGamer.com, casual co-op groups. In our eyes, it's ArmA 2's openness--both in technology and unscripted design that makes this possible. Can you talk a little about that?

Spanel: It is the thing that I dreamed about most during development of our first game, back in 1999. We implemented many things in the game just with the hope that people will use it in this way. We like being creative ourselves and we see the opportunity to modify the game as one of the best and most engaging things that we can give to the players. Many people appreciate that they can have exactly the kind of fun that they look for, and we are happy to be able to entertain more people thanks to the openness of our platform. It is amazing to see how many different applications people are able to come up with.

(Above) Members of TacticalGamer.com play ArmA 2 in the most authentic way possible: weeks of preparation, briefing, and hard roleplaying goes into their weekend sessions, which also utilize a communication structure that mirrors real military radio procedure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raised by a Team Fortress Classic clan, Evan can only communicate using multiplayer FPS jargon, sort of like that Star Trek: TNG "Darmok" episode. 2fort, when the walls fell...
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