Arma 3 hails people of every flavor from all over the world. To get to know them a little better, we're hosting a series of mini-interviews with some of our amazing community members. These aim to give you a personal insight into their backgrounds, why they got into Arma, and how they typically experience the game. In this issue, we interview Australian 3D artist and animator Toadie, maker of the popular mod NIArms.
Age: Low-mid 30s
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Occupation: 3D Artist (Modelling/Animator)
Can you provide us with one random fact about yourself?
Kind of was at a loss for an answer to this one. So I farmed this question out to a few friends and the response back was, “When you’re talking, you have this tendency to drop deep references and quotes to things that frequently no one else understands (sometimes you get lucky), seemingly for your own amusement,” I’ll add, "Then I realize this and become mildly frustrated."
So what is the origin of the name Toadie?
Okay, so this goes back deep, to before first puberty even. So when I was a kid I had (still have) an Nintendo 64, and the first (and for a while only) game we had was Mario Kart 64. My favorite character in that was Toad (which I had somehow just misremembered and internalized as Toadie) and became kind of ASD-fixated on the whole Toads/Mushroom Kingdom thing for a while. To the point that pre-teen me learned HTML to set up a single-document webpage called House of the Toadies filled with my imagined lores. To do so I needed an email to sign up, so in a move of absolute hubris, I thought I could usurp the identity and tried applying for toadie @ hotmail. Already taken. So, the next best choice, given the year 2000 was upon us- toadie2k. That was free. Ever since it’s been one of those two for the very, VERY large majority of my online life and offline, it is who I am now. How to make a dorky nickname stick in the real world? Insistence, consistence, persistence.
What's the first Arma game you played?
My first Arma game was the Operation Flashpoint demo with my lifetime best friend when that game was still the hot stuff on their family PC; which was well more powerful than mine and had an actual graphics card, whereas mine absolutely did not.
What is your current Arma 3 playtime?
5979 hours, thereabouts. Doesn’t include the Alpha or Beta hours, but also includes all hours in some of the Arma development tools and also hours sitting idle between tweaks, so judge that as you may.
What is your favorite game of all time?
Of ALL time? Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon . Classic, Deluxe, OpenTTD - owned them all except the retail windows version. Deeply cathartic to just be laying down and managing my little isometric rail networks to the point that I kind of have an addictive relationship with it. Any day I open it up, the rest of that day is just written off. That’s just how it is.
Outside of video games, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Oh boy, outside Arma, I am unsurprisingly a full suite dork, especially on the creative side. I draw and I’m passionately interested in both illustrative and animated art. Inclusive to this, I’m also a painfully nuanced anime nerd. As you could guess by the favorite game I’m also somewhat of a lifetime railway tragic - car bad, train good, horse chaotic neutral. I also have a passing interest in a LOT of stuff, including music, and I have been told that the amount and broadness of things I know are impressive... So I guess that learning things probably also counts here.
What is your favorite movie or TV show of all time?
With both of these, I don’t really have a favorite per se, more of a stable of stuff that I think just sorta floats around that, but if pressed I guess this one circles back to me the most: Black Lagoon. I think anyone who’s into Arma will get something out of this. It’s an action-packed, VERY funny (both in a black and slapstick sense), but deeply cynical, sometimes philosophical, rollercoaster. It’s the whole damn package, but it’s oh so good, and has one of my favorite fictional characters in Balalaika. She’s walking, calculating, malice, and it’s fantastic.
Do you eat pineapple on pizza?
Oh yes, very much so! I say as I literally eat leftover pineapple pizza. All pizza toppings are valid.
Can you show us your PC setup?
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
How and why did you get into Arma?
So I had mild smatterings of the series throughout my teens and 20s, from the previously mentioned demo to a small period when I was working at the local Hungry Jack’s, where Evolution coop for Arma 1 was the “in” game with the little nerd group working there. And it had always been on my radar, for a long time I was aware of and interested in ShackTac and the sort of scale of thing that Arma can provide fascinated me, but my computers tended to be behind the curve on power when the games were “hot and in.” So it was always kind of from afar. What finally got me in and to stay was the DayZ mod, which I really have to put down to the combination of CHKilroy's video series on it and Dslyecxi doing more video work. With those two things I managed to set up a small cluster of people within the forum/social group I was most active in, the Half-Life Creations (HLC) forum, to play either or both. It kind of became a regular for a solid year or two. Get the gang together, load up SHARBSE (Super-Happy Awesome Realistic Bullet-Shooter EXTREME, our ingroup name for Arma, and you’re welcome for that one), launch some Petrol Caps (Patrol Ops), and have a great time just larking about.
From there? Been in to stay. Switched to Arma 3 myself during the Alpha and here I’ve stayed ever since. Still get together with the old group every now and then, at the whims of time and life.
How do you play or engage with Arma 3 nowadays?
Well, I’m still developing for it, so there’s that. I don’t think in any meaningful way that aspect’s going to ever change. In the last 12 months, I joined up with ShackTac, after years of watching from afar. I’d kind of delayed doing it for the longest time because 1) I felt too busy to fit it into my life and 2) was definitely in the wrong timezone. After having a fairly stressful 2019, I kind of decided to allow myself to ignore both of those hangups and give myself something intrinsically social and positive, and non-work. So I applied, got in, and it kind of rekindled in me one of the reasons why I have always appreciated Arma - it’s a GREAT social game and is at it’s best with friends, in my opinion.
So you’re a 3D artist by trade, what got you into that line of work?
Well, modding, really. From an early point of working in 3D, I’d always found myself unsatisfied with working on anybody else’s animations. So I was always doing it as part of whatever I’d be making, going back to even the days of working in Milkshape3D. All that I’ve done and learned about animation, both theory and technical, 99.9% has been self taught as I go. That's kinda how I am. I like to tinker and learn as I go. And... yeah, that has ended up making me both a valuable asset to the Arma community and allowed me to get to a point where you know, people will pay for my services. When I was working as an IT admin or a Cleaner I don’t think I’d have honestly even dreamed of that being a path my life went. Glad it did... because I hated IT.
When did you start modding and animating for the Arma series?
For the full context of this, gotta back it up a bit and see the big picture. I’ve been modding for longer than I’ve been out of mandatory education, so literally decades now. Some of that’s just privately tinkering, but along the way, I’ve added to a variety of projects. From the likes of Sven Coop (both in an official capacity and on the user-made side) and Perfect Dark Source to contributions to Resident Evil Cold Blood and Zombie Panic Source, a low-key attempt to bring Underhell up to a retail-level product to pitch to what would become NWI, and a bunch of other ones in between. Both on official and user-content sides. I’ve been around a LONG time.
The project I was working on prior to taking Arma on, For Hire, was a bit of a passion project in dire straits at the time. I’d been working on it for about from like 2010 to 2013, and despite having a GREAT mapper and maps from good friend Alex Voysey and a bunch of impressive assets, I hadn’t been having much luck with getting programmers to stick around to actually implement anything. We had plenty that offered but then vanished. It was a persistent problem from day 1. So out of frustration, I was ending up doing the bulk of all non-map/environment development myself. If you’re a non-programmer (like I am) and you’re asked to learn C++ at the deep end like doing Source Engine work required, you find yourself getting burnt out and frustrated relatively quickly. It was a nightmare and I hated it. I started to regret my own freaking dreams and imagination.
So enter Arma 3, which I covered how I got into previously. Was goofing off and having a right good time with the Alpha amongst my small band of HLC dorks, but my need to tinker was getting me curious. I had the Arma 2 tools and was thinking to myself, “I wonder if I could just mess about with the Arma 3 Alpha and mod it as we could in Arma 2” and literally under a month after the public Alpha launched, I had my own custom toys to play with. So yeah, modding itself really was just originally sparked by that and it’s why for the longest time my Arma mods were all branded under HLC - they were all built or spun off that original goal. Eventually, I just dropped work on For Hire, because Arma was more rewarding overall.
After a bit of sharing them amongst ourselves, I got really curious as to animating for Arma. It was kind of the thing I actually enjoyed doing in the whole 3D space. And after like six(ish) months of banging my head against a wall trying to get something that would export and work (because, being very generous, Arma animation is NOT for the faint of heart, for a number of reasons) I got something that actually exported to the game, worked, and looked half decent. From there that’s when I was like, “Look, maybe I should start sharing this stuff with the public?” The first release was the M60 and since then it’s been nothing but living the “hand-coded weapon motions” dream.
Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on?
Hmmmm… Going to have to say probably either the NIArms SG550s or C96s. SG550s are probably the ones that have had the smoothest development and kind of set the bar for where I want all my work to sit going forward. The C96s because I just really like how they came out… and having that extra scripted, non-empty reload for them (despite the huge headache it was getting right)? Chef kiss. I can’t pick one. They’re both the best child to me.
Can you tell us about your most remarkable Arma moment?
The first is from my early DayZ times my first player kill, technically. Setting the scene, a couple of pals and I were flanking around the north side of Stary Sobor. We had other pals who were slightly newer to Arma we were meeting up with to the west somewhere… Anyway, this is still relatively early “mod” era when killing on sight (KOS) wasn’t as expected as it has gotten now, so in a low populated server hearing distant contact was an irregularity of note. We booked it into the woods overlooking the army camp on the north end of town. Relatively close, for real Arma ranges, but you can play your cards right and stay unnoticed in there. It almost seemed like the contact had completely gone, when suddenly this guy popped out of the side of the Red Barn. Armed but not really alert. We were close enough to use local text chat, so we called out to see if he was friendly and/or okay. A couple of times on text, once each over voice - no response. Gave him a full 120 seconds to respond. Suddenly he turns uphill at us. Two carbines trained on this unknown - tap tap tap, all done. Literally, a split-second call.
With my friend providing overwatch, I go down to check the body. Aside from an empty 1866 Goldenboy, the dude was a completely new spawn. We theorized later maybe it could have been someone circling back to recover their old body from a prior lost fight, but at the time it felt like slaying Bambi, and it shocked me to my core at the moment. For a few hours. Really seared into my brain, how that played out. Textbook and kinda traumatic.
What is your favorite piece of Arma 3 user-created content (mod, addon, scenario, game mode, tool) and why?
Gah, tough one. I think I’m going to have to go with Prei Khmaoch Luong. The map is fantastically beautiful and well designed. Bludclot’s got just a great eye and hand for terrain craft and I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store with his other terrains. If I could also shout out Project True Viking (PTV), I love to see people doing things with the Armaverse canon and PTV is one that approaches it with such consistent polish and eye to fidelity.
Can you share your #1 pro-tip for any Arma 3 player?
One of the best tools you have in your personal security as infantry is situational awareness. You don’t need fancy gadgets to get you that. Keep your head on a swivel, listen for where noises are coming from, and if you work with people, pass what you hear and see up. Even if you’re not confident 100% on the identification of what you’re hearing, every bit of knowing what’s out there counts. And keep your ears open during gunfights, sometimes when an enemy decides to change the angle of attack, it might not be recognizable if you’re just hammering the trigger... if you catch my drift.
BONUS: What’s your good luck charm?
You know, generally, I wouldn’t say I have one, but I just realized I kind of have two. One is this cartoon, inflatable crocodile drawn by Andrew Kepple onto a piece of a for-sale sign (Weetje wat ik wil, see there we go with the deep references). The other is my partner, who makes me feel very lucky indeed.
To finish the interview, do you have anything you'd like to share with the Arma community?
I guess now’s a good time to plug upcoming stuff I’m working on that’s coming out this year: For NIArms coming up in 2020 we’ve got the XM8 Weapons System (all of them), XM29 SABR (OICW, big chonker), M1941 Johnson LMG, and the FN SCAR system (all of them). I’d also like to announce that with the help of LordJarhead (of JSRS fame) there’s a serious gunfire audio overhaul in the works… I have to say, it’s pretty spectacular and I can’t wait to show it off.
Other than that? Be excellent to, and look out for, one another.