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Armed Assault Q&A
(hx) 02:26 AM CEST - May,05 2006

GGMania got a chance to talk with Paul R. Statham as he answer questions about Armed Assault, their upcoming tactical shooter. The game is currently in development at Bohemia Interactive Studio and should be finished later this year.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Armed Assault?

Paul: I'm Paul Statham, PR/Community manager for Bohemia Interactive Studio. Day to day I'm usually involved in a number of tasks either related to the BIS community or dealing with the various aspects of PR with the press, like this interview!

GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Armed Assault?

Paul: ArmA's development team consists of approximately 15 people, the majority of the team worked on the original Operation Flashpoint and also its expansion Resistance. The ArmA team is made up of designers and artists, the engine is developed in a separate office as it is something which is continually being worked on and is used by the VBS2 team, the Game2 team as well as the ArmA team.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the storyline? Is there a real-life back story for the game?

Paul: There isn't a specific real-life back story to the game, however the setting and ideas used in the story are representative of events from real life current affairs, whilst some of the names have been changed to protect the not so innocent the actions they're undertaking will be familiar.

The core storyline relates to a small number of US troops being posted on a fictional Island, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, with their job being to train the forces of a democratic nation in the South of the island. The Northern country of the island is a communist dictatorship ran country that really isn't overly fond of its neighbour to the South and would like nothing better than kicking its "Yankee imperialist" loving butt into the ocean!

GGMania: Could you give us some idea of the shape that missions in the game will take?

Paul: Missions will generally consist of multiple objectives undertaken by US troops with the assistant of Southern Sahrani forces, initially due to the fact the Northern enemy attacks with such speed and aggression the missions will primarily consist of more defensive type actions, with the emphasis being on quick, short blows against the enemy before quietly withdrawing under cover before they can and regroup counter-attack.

GGMania: Can you give us an example of specific missions in the game?

Paul: We'd rather not give away any mission specifics at this time, matter of national security and all that!

GGMania: What type of variety can we expect to see in terms of weapons?

Paul: As is to be expected from a modern military game, both sides have an extensive arsenal at their disposal, everything from pistols such as Beretta 9mm or Makarov, onto rifles and light machine guns such as M4, M24, AK74 & SVD, then looking at heavier weaponry there are squad machine guns such as M249 and PK, as well as more explosive anti-armour ordinance such as RPG, Strela, Javelin etc. There's a serious amount of kit available, which allows you to inflict a serious amount of damage on your foes.

GGMania: Can you discuss some of the combat vehicles that exist in the game? What actions can players perform with them?

Paul: Again as with weapons, there is a massive amount of vehicles in the game which the player can use and the AI will certainly be using. Air, land, sea, there's something for everyone, whatever they prefer. Drive you and your squad in a Stryker or BRDM2, rain lead death on your enemies from a AH6 or Mi17, even drive around leisurely in a small boat enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery if that's your kind of thing. Different vehicles have different possibilities, for example certain armoured vehicles or helicopters have multiple gunner positions available which allow for a greater intensity in fire-power, as well as a greater degree of protection from enemy forces.

Taking into account the various connotations there's currently something like 50+ vehicles in the game.

GGMania: Inevitably, the game will be compared to Operation Flashpoint. Would you say that Armed Assault is even more realistic, less realistic or about the same as this games? What are the critical differences in terms of gameplay?

Paul: ArmA is certainly more realistic than Flashpoint. Obviously Flashpoint still stands as perhaps the most realistic game of its genre and generation, but ArmA will really move to the next step in PC Game realism. Gameplay features such as simulated weapon recoil, bullet kinetic energy and multiple gunners in vehicles insert additional layers of realism into the game playing experience.

Even the new visual aspects of the game serve a dual purpose by also adding to the realism and sense of real world immersion. Ambient wildlife such as birds and insects combined with trees and bushes that sway gently in the wind help to remind the player of the constant need for vigilance, if you dismiss as a mere bird a black speck moving off in the distance it might perhaps be a lone enemy about to shoot you, alternatively panicking and shooting at a moving tree may alert the enemy to your presence when you least expect it. The new HDR lighting also further stresses a need for considering the terrain and world around you, if the sun is in your eyes as you approach the enemy your vision will be significantly impaired putting you at a great disadvantage.

GGMania: Will there be anything new that we've never seen before?

Paul: Part of the whole reason for creating ArmA is that we want to reacquaint gamers with the core gameplay and experience that made the original Flashpoint such a labour of love for all who played it, so certainly we want them to continue to feel the same levels of immersion and gameplay when they're playing ArmA. That said, technology has moved on a long way since 2001, even if perhaps gameplay and game design really hasn't moved on much with regards innovation. So for us it was important to retain the key elements of gameplay yet enhancing the engine in terms of graphics, functionality, realism and such, we believe that all these elements will combine to create an experience that has not been seen before.

GGMania: Will A.I. have enough power to put the veteran players into a decent challenge?

Paul: The original Flashpoint had strong AI, certainly it provided a good challenge and the depth and range of the AI's ability remains unsurpassed today, however despite the strong foundation to the AI thought process there were certain areas which we have identified as benefiting from some improvement.

The AI works on a system of recognition, communication, reaction, the key to using this better in ArmA is in working with how they see, what they see, how they process this information and respond and react to it, improving the AI doesn't necessarily just involve making them smarter, or making them react faster, but also adding a layer of more human like unpredictability, if you know exactly what the AI will do, no matter how well it does it, there is little challenge left, if you cannot predict what the AI will do, or how well (or not) it might do it, then there can be the challenge.

GGMania: What can you tell us about the graphics engine that's being use for Armed Assault?

Paul: ArmA incorporates a number of the more practical recent graphical technologies implementable within DX9. These include such things as: normal mapping, high dynamic range rendering, vertex and pixel shader. Together with the highly detailed models and textures as well as other things such as real-time shadows it all combines to provide a highly visual gameplay experience.

GGMania: The game should offer a map covering over 400 sq. km, in extreme detail. Do you plan to reduce the loading times? What kind of hardware should players have in order to experience good game performance?

Paul: With the island covering 400 sq. kilometres, and holding thousands of objects that certainly is a significant load on any computer, which is one of the reasons that we developed a data streaming technology which means that only parts of the world around you need to be loaded at once, thus lightening the overall system load and allowing us to enhance the visuals of the world that you do see. This new technology enables us to have very quick loading times when taking into account the vast size of the game world, and there are no perceivable additional loading times at all once the island is loaded, you can walk from one corner of the island to the other and it's a completely seamless experience.

We continue to optimise as much as possible even as we near the end of the developmental cycle, so at this point we're still not quite sure how much we will be able to achieve in the different areas of optimisation and thus what the required system specs will be, however it's fair to say that something in the region of 2GHz intel/AMD CPU, 512MB RAM, DX9 64mb graphics card is somewhere around the probable minimum spec.

GGMania: The press release claims that the game will feature "Comprehensive multiplayer support with join in progress". Could you provide us with further details?

Paul: ArmA is comprehensive in a number of areas and in a number of ways, the size of the island, the level of realism, the extent of the gameplay experience, even the quality of AI and numbers of vehicles and weapons can be considered comprehensive. Obviously ArmA is as much about multiplayer as it is about single player, so for the multiplayer aspect it's comprehensive in numbers of players (at least 60, probably more depending on hardware), comprehensive in MP game modes (ArmA will ship with a number of different and challenging modes of play), it's also comprehensive in the area of perpetual online warfare, ArmA will include a "capture the island" type game mode, this mode allows for a continuous battlefield spread over the whole island with forces fighting to capture individual towns, thus gaining resources to further their war effort, with the end goal being to capture the whole island. Large numbers of players with the ability to rejoin straight into the action means that ArmA will offer hours if not days of solid gameplay just from one single mission.

GGMania: At the moment what is the current state of the game's progress and when will it be completed?

Paul: The game is progressing well and we're rapidly approaching a stage where the finishing touches are being put onto some of the different areas, obviously certain aspects of the game are created somewhat independent from the others, music, animations and such, so their inclusion is generally subsequent to the initial areas of development.

Due to the fact that the game is not currently signed to a publisher we continue to work on it, to add and tweak new features and make sure the ArmA experience is all that it can be, once we're signed to a publisher we shall then have a firm idea of when we need to go gold and thus complete the project.

GGMania: Do you plan to release a playable demo?

Paul: Yes, if all goes to plan we will initially release a multiplayer demo and then a little closer to the game being published we intend to release a singleplayer demo.

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Armed Assault?

Paul: Thanks to everyone for reading this. We look forward to showing our game at E3 and I think everyone will be really excited by how well ArmA is progressing and how it's shaping up to really earn a place on shelves alongside Flashpoint, it's a different game of course, but we want people to experience the same levels of enjoyment and immersion that they felt when first playing Flashpoint. That experience will no doubt be helped by the content created by our exceptionally talented and passionate community, we'll endeavour to create a knowledge base in time for ArmA's release so that existing Flashpoint can be converted for use in ArmA and new content can be created quickly.

genre: tactical shooter
release: 2006/Q4 (no publisher yet)
developer: Bohemia Interactive Studio
publisher: homepage

last 10 comments:

miglaugh(05:36 AM CEST - May,05 2006 )
Nice interview.

All I want to know now is if they've changed the FF behavior at all... Can you kill your teammates, and if so, will they turn on you?

djdidge(10:06 AM CEST - May,05 2006 )
"Large numbers of players with the ability to rejoin straight into the action means that ArmA will offer hours if not days of solid gameplay just from one single mission"...

I wonder, are these Bohemia hosted machines provided like a mmorpg?

Anonymous(11:18 AM CEST - May,05 2006 )
I just cant wait for this game :D

In response to the last few replies, no the missions are NOT hosted on BIS's machines like an MMO, multiplayer missions of infinite possibilities (thanks to the ingame mission editor) can be hosted by an individual, or set up on a dedicated server.

And yes, friendly fire was in the original Operation Flashpoint, and AI teammates would turn and fire on you if you went too far. So i'd assume its in Armed Assault aswell.

Smiley_ie(01:38 PM CEST - May,05 2006 )
One of my all time fav games OFP. So looking forward to this one, and im sure they wont fook it up.

miglaugh(02:31 PM CEST - May,05 2006 )
Since there's ArmA and OFP2, I'm hoping at least one of them makes it through in good shape. It'd be awefull if both of them ended up as dog turds.

No.21(09:08 PM CEST - May,05 2006 )
No mention of AC? =( I do really hope that someone will ask that question and that it will be implemented.

Stumpus(01:50 PM CEST - May,06 2006 )
miglaugh> Nice interview.

All I want to know now is if they've changed the FF behavior at all... Can you kill your teammates, and if so, will they turn on you?

If you killed your team mates in the original OFP (and both it's expansions) they would turn on you and kill you also, but if you mean deliberately point a weapon and fire & kill one? There's no AI in the any game that can differentiate a deliberate hit or a mistake.

Good games allow for player error or even AI (running across your line of fire) Oblivion has an automatic (i think three) built in player mistakes during say, sword swinging etc. for eg when the Imperial guards and you are jointly killing a creature.

I just hope that BHI make BIG changes to animation and the textures *especialy* tracer and hit's -my pet hates after i had played OFP and upgraded several times. Give me GRAW ballitic affects and i would be a happy bunny!! They are so lame now (pencil thin streaks and tiny puff as the round hit's ground or walls)

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