2014 was another busy year for Arma 3. From the release of Campaign Episode 2 in January, through to the launch of the Helicopters DLC in November, our teams worked hard on a number of big launches and continual platform updates. Meanwhile, some splendid progress has been made on other announced (and soon™-to-be announced) work.
Below, you'll find a brief assessment of our development and a quick outline of the new improvements, additions and expansions planned for Arma 3 in 2015. We hope you'll agree, there's a lot to be proud of, and much to look forward to.
12 months ago, we set out our development intentions for 2014: support, refine, and invest. Before digging into our plans for 2015, let's look at the actions we've taken to translate those goals into real improvements for Arma 3. Project Lead, Joris-Jan van 't Land, outlined the major achievements in our final SITREP of 2014, but it's worth picking through just some of the highlights in terms of how they correspond to our development philosophy.
In terms of 'support', part of our promise was to encourage more team members to share their perspective on development. Since January, we've released 15 OPREPs across 7 departments. So far, we've covered a range of subjects, from Updates to the Altis terrain, to the new standards set by our Fixed-wing Aircraft, and even sneak peek at our Audio Development Roadmap, plus many more besides. We're looking forward to sharing some new topics over the next few weeks and months!
Towards the second half of the year - and in cooperation with the community - our programmers took aim at multiplayer optimizations; specifically, in regard to servers and network traffic. Although there's rarely a 'silver bullet' when it comes to taking down the performance beast - and despite some false-starts - we're confident that the results of this work stand to benefit all our players with improved performance. Of course, we know there's more to be done. We're working hard not just to improve the current state but also to avoid introducing new issues along the way!
Captain Oukej's AI Changelog remains the place to go to monitor improvements to pathfinding, configuration, and more. We've expanded the team working directly on AI, and support continues; we plan to share some more details in the run-up to Marksmen DLC. Aside from these more specific areas, the team has actively monitored and, where possible, sought to address miscellaneous tickets on the Feedback Tracker. Many thanks (particularly to our volunteer moderators!) for helping to report issues.
Alongside the continued refinement of Arma 3 Tools and sample data, we can pick out some great highlights. In March, we unleashed 'Terrain Builder', giving content creators our latest tool to produce their own worlds. Later on in the year, we welcomed an addition to the team, with the new 'Tools Commissar', Julien Vida, taking up the TECHREP baton in fine, human-readable style. The release of the Game Updater sought to refine the experience of switching between branches of the game - ideal for players experimenting in the Dev-Branch!
In July, we zeroed in on the experience of producing and discovering User Generated Content. With the Arma 3 Launcher and Steam Workshop Support for Addons, the goal was to help refine the process of organizing, maintaining and loading mods. Since its initial deployment, the launcher has grown to include mod presets, additional localization, a Dev-Hub Newsfeed, and other UX refinements. Documentation on the Community Wiki was expanded, too, with Designer Bořivoj 'Druid' Hlava leading the charge, with the support of the rest of the team.
Aside from the nigh-on innumerable minor tweaks to weapons, vehicles and equipment, we took a shot at improving the fidelity of weapon handling, which, in August, culminated in the release of so-called Weapon Inertia. Although we recognize that the current state isn't perfect, we believe - alongside the final refinements due to be introduced in Marksmen DLC - that we're on the right track to enable players to truly learn and master their weapons.
Following the completion of the campaign, the introduction of fixed-wing aircraft, and the addition of significant new key-points on Altis, our next true investment in the Arma 3 platform was Zeus: a unique multiplayer experience that handed the dynamic creation and control of scenarios to Game Masters.
In June, another important update was launched: 'Bootcamp' . Alongside the new VR Terrain and the Virtual Arsenal item browser, this tutorial-oriented package presented new content and a mini-campaign, which provides newbies with a varied introduction to the game. The Arma 3 player base is still growing strong and, with this content, we aimed to invest in the platform for the long term, and offer a new perspective on the background history of the Republic of Altis and Stratis.
As we moved into the autumn, our focus shifted towards Arma 3 Helicopters DLC. This gave us the chance to add some great new gameplay features for everyone, with the Advanced Flight Model, Sling Loading, and Firing from Vehicles the stand-out additions to the platform. Two huge transport helicopters constituted the bulk of the content, alongside some great new playable scenarios and sandbox assets.
Looking back at what was meant to be a more 'quiet year', there's an astonishing variety of achievements from across the whole team - too many to cover here in reasonable detail! That's not to say we've become complacent; we know that there's more to be done to support and grow the game. On reflection, though, we do consider 2014 to have been a solid basis for even more progress this year. So, with that in mind, let's dig in to our plans for 2015.
We think that there's a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months - for both veteran and new players alike. Many of the longer-term investments we've made should finally pay off, bringing with them great improvements to the platform, and real value to our community. We can break down the plans into 3 key components: Marksmen DLC, platform updates, and a new terrain.
Let's kick off with Arma 3 Marksmen DLC: an opportunity to add interesting new firearms and scenarios, and refine weapon handling more broadly. Looking first at the content, we plan to introduce 7 new weapons: 5 rifles and 2 machine guns. Our goal is to expand the diversity of the sandbox; we've selected weapons with distinctive roles and aesthetics, which we intend to unveil closer to launch. Alongside these, new attachments and ghillie suits form the backbone of the sandbox content. In terms of scenarios, new showcase missions will be supported by additional VR training topics, plus, a brand new MP mode (about which we'll share more information soon™). Furthermore, the Virtual Arsenal will be extended to include vehicles; here, players will be able to try out all (owned and unowned) game content without restrictions or notifications.
Turning our attention to the 'platform updates', we're happy to officially confirm our work on 'Weapon Stabilization'. Previously, we've talked about this in more abstract terms, so - while we plan to offer more concrete details (and Dev-Branch progress!) over the next few months - let's dig into some specifics. We've approached this work in 2 ways: 'resting' and 'deployment'. Weapon Resting describes the 'passive' benefit of a player's weapon above a stable surface. Propped up on a low wall; leaning against the bonnet of a vehicle; lying prone, etc. Building upon that basis, Weapon Deployment describes an 'active' choice. Using attachments like bipods, players create a dynamic pivot point, around which their weapon is aimed and discharged, within an arc of fire.
Of course, we're only scratching the surface of Marksmen's development. Under the sage stewardship of Sandbox Design, there are a number of other features and more content in development, but we'd like to share these once we're more confident that they'll fit into the Marksmen development schedule. In brief, we're looking at making improvements to certain aspects of audio, AI, and the handling of recoil more broadly. Aside from this, our scenario designers are focusing upon basic MP gameplay systems. The goals of this work will be shared in detail along with the aforementioned 'MP mode'; in short, our intention is to experiment with new scripted solutions to common multiplayer needs, such as incapacitation and revival, with a view to building on this work with engine implementation in the long term.
We're set to carry on investing in new features for everyone who owns Arma 3. Progress on one of our goals - improving the discovery, installation and maintenance of user generated content - continues with additional features planned for the game launcher. Our team's focus has turned towards full mod support. That means handling larger packages with multiple files and, looking further ahead, getting into addon 'dependencies'. Improving the experience of identifying and, ultimately, automating the installation of required addons for custom scenarios and servers is a big, complex task. Fortunately, with Task Force JJJ, we've got some Top Men working on it.
Building upon our experience with Zeus, prototyping has officially started on a 3D editor. While it's too early to dig into the specifics, our long-term goal is to - alongside other usability refinements - introduce useful elements of 3D placement and manipulation, while maintaining the relative quickness and simplicity of the existing 2D editor. We know that the editor is where many of our players spend most of their time. We've got to get it right. To this end, our current plan factors in an extended period of public alpha/beta testing. Backwards compatibility, too, is a priority. With the Mother and Father of Zeus driving this important development, we know our baby is in safe hands.
Aside from these larger packages of work, there are some system improvements lined up, too. For example, we're taking aim at overhauling the server browser, in-game interactions and controls, and communications. Some of these changes are already leaking out the sides on Dev-Branch. Others may yet be postponed or even cancelled. The reality of making fundamental changes to core components is that it's a risk. Suffice to say, we know there's room to improve certain aspects of the game, some of which have been with us for 15 years now. Our drive to improve the experience of playing the game remains strong, as does, of course, our commitment to addressing existing issues, including the continued optimization of servers, network traffic, and multi-threading.
Looking ahead, a new terrain remains our main priority. After an extensive period of pre-production, our artists have started work on creating all the assets that our environment designers need to bring our next terrain to life. Our team went through the process of selecting the final terrain from a number of candidates. This involved the rapid creation of 3 distinctive proof-of-concepts. The team played these, discussed their preferences and, together, we made the final choice. From this point, research started in earnest, basic parameters were set up, and asset wishlists were put together.
Make no mistake, creating a brand new game world is no small effort! Right now, that includes the production of the basic building blocks: new structures and vegetation. Of course, the basic structure is already in place, with various key-points sketched out across a sculpted terrain. Longer term, we'll turn our attention to the local wildlife, civilians, and so on. Once we're at this stage, we'll be ready to share more details.
Overall, we're looking to create something that provides interesting new opportunities in terms of our official game modes, but also to serve as a distinctive locale for player-created scenarios: adding diversity to the already wide-range of official and unofficial terrains, and adding new structures and other objects for content creators. Perhaps worth mentioning too, is our intention to make refinements to AI pathfinding - work that will benefit both this new terrain, and our previous releases. Part of this effort stems from closer cooperation between our programming, encoding, and environment teams.
Well, that's a lot of information - and there's more still to come! Over the next few weeks, stay tuned for the next big milestone of the Make Arma Not War contest. Since closing the competition to new entries, we've done extensive play-testing, with Ivan and Matt leading the charge towards the final selection. Of course, it's been a challenge to pick the finalists, but we're incredibly pleased with the results. A big thanks to everyone that's contributed to MANW.
Overall, we're confident that our development roadmap will continue to bring improvements and new gameplay to our players. The ongoing support, refinement, and investment in the game truly sets Arma 3 apart: it remains the go-to platform for authentic, diverse, open gameplay on the PC, and we're proud to be a part of that effort. We're also proud to have one of the most creative, varied and dedicated communities out there.
Once again, we have some exciting times ahead of us. Together - as developers, players and modders - we hope to make Arma 3 even stronger in 2015.
On behalf of the A3 team,