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TotalVideoGames Interview 30.03.06

FEATURE Author: Derek dela Fuente

The creators of Operation Flashpoint, Czech based Bohemia Interactive Studio, believe they can deliver the ultimate in realistic, first person, combat gaming with Armed Assault (ArmA). With the team's impressive track record and their focus on innovations and attention to detail some of the in game features for ArmA are impressive. Based around technology used to train real soldiers around the world, including U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and Australian Defense Forces, ArmA features a new engine with a modern setting and focuses on freedom of action and immersive complex environments.
TVG spoke with Jiri Rydl, Marketing Manager at IDEA games, and Viktor Bocan, Lead Designer of ArmA, about the making of the game. Interviewscreens-2

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What is the backdrop story that leads you into the game?

J.R.: Armed Assault takes you into a large island divided into two politically different countries, one is democratic the other a dictatorship. It's no surprise that such a different political system is the root of many problems. Democratic South is afraid of possible attack, thus they call for help from international forces to help them raise and train their own soldiers. After a few months of training these forces are leaving and this moment of weakness is used by the dictator of the North Country to attack the rest of the island. Fortunately there is still one group of soldiers waiting for a plane to take them back home and you are one of this group. Would you leave these people, alone at the mercy of their enemies?

"We want to create an even more intensive combat experience in Armed Assault."

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Please tell us about the character you play and the position he finds himself in?

Viktor: In ArmA, as in Flashpoint before it, you're just a soldier. There is a war raging around you which you didn't plan to be in, but you are a professional and you can (and must) handle it. The situation is quite complicated - there are just a few US soldiers left on the island when the invasion begins so you can't simply start a full scale conflict. You help the local militia in their desperate attempts to defend their country, but they are just farmers, not professional soldiers. On the other side there is a real army with old but heavy weaponry and you have to understand that you and your team-mates are the only force that stands in their way.

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War simulation games are reaching, it seems, a plateau in both detail and immersion. What has been the design focus/vision for Armed Assault that you hope will move the genre further forward?

J.R.: We want to create an even more intensive combat experience in Armed Assault. Besides photo-realistic graphics, larger numbers of troops, and more complicated battles, new combat aspects, such as artillery, will be introduced to make the experience even more intense.

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How many people are currently working on this project?

J.R.: A team of 15 people is working on Armed Assault. Because they are using the engine which is developed separately by programmers in BIStudio, most of the ArmA team is level and graphic designers.

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Freedom of action, sophistication, and immersive environments are a few of the trademark qualities of a BIS title. What kind of extra detail can you add to environments to make them even more realistic?

J.R.: One of the great enhancements is woods, inhabited by individual trees, which can be uprooted by powerful vehicles such as tanks. Of course when you drive a tank into the woods, you can't hear the birds singing, can you?

"Of course when you drive a tank into the woods, you can't hear the birds singing, can you?"

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Can you elaborate on the setting for the game and what kind of complexities and action you feel have been restricted in other games, and how you will go about opening up gameplay with your approach?

J.R.: The living world of Armed Assault is open to your action in every way. Do you want to walk or drive? Do you want to use a weapon of your enemy or your own? Do you want to cover your troops from behind as a sniper or by support fire from a chopper flying above their heads? Do you want to listen to commander's orders or just wait for others to do the job, hiding in some deserted house? There is no good or bad decision; there is just a mission objective you have to accomplish.

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The game is based on technology used to train real soldiers. What outside, military help and resources have you tried to pull in and use and how close to reality can you go without provoking any censorship issues?

J.R.: Virtual Battlefield System (called VBS), used by the US Marine Corps and Australian Defense Force (amongst others), has no story in terms of gameplay. You have your orders, which you try to execute with the troops available, but it's a military simulation, where for instance losing one man from your squad may result in you failing your mission. Of course it's fine to know how things work in reality, that's why Armed Assault will offer realistic weapons and vehicles. Because physics or NPC behaviour is not copyrighted, we have had no problem with censorship yet.

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How high up on the list do you place the importance of creating new AI standards?

J.R.: AI is very important to the overall realistic simulation, thus BIStudio is spending a lot of resources on creating as much believable AI as possible. On the other hand, in real life and in real war, there are situations; you don't know what is going on, which is frustrating for the player. We are focusing on finding the right balance between opponents that are too smart and too stupid, with the help of heavy testing throughout the whole project.

To explain more how it works, imagine you play the ArmA technology demo for a while. You can see soldiers with a launcher running into the cover of some buildings towards a chopper. After a few seconds the chopper is down. In the next game session it could be completely different and the chopper can fly away or shoot the soldiers first. And that's just the beginning.

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Would you give our readers some basic insight into the design and adaptation of a mission?

V.B: You have to understand how the missions are created. First of all you need a goal - a task for the player. When you have it (let's say it's something simple like "defeat the enemy base") you set up the situation. And it's a REAL war situation, not some "plot" or "set of pre-scripted events". You place enemy soldiers in the base, you place patrols on the roads, reinforcements to a nearby outpost. Once you position all of the soldiers, the patrol's waypoints and other things, the mission is ready - you can let the player fulfill the task any way he/she wants. The base is ALWAYS defended, reinforcements come, patrols patrol. That's THE SITUATION. If you place everything well, there will be some natural possibilities for the player to choose tactics which make the task easier. What about not coming directly by road and using the forest instead? What about destroying the outpost first and THEN attacking the main target, in that time the base could be almost empty (because soldiers have left to help defend the outpost), etc. If you set up the situation well, our strong AI will take care of any actuality that can happen - so it's going to work regardless of any strange thing the player does.

"There is no good or bad decision; there is just a mission objective you have to accomplish."

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Please can you give an insight into the Multiplayer aspect of the game including some of the new modes on offer?

J.R.: Multiplayer in ArmA offers the join-in-progress feature, known from Xbox Live for instance. It means you can join right into the midst of an actual battle without waiting for a new session to start. Conversely no one will call you a coward, when you decide to go to sleep at four o'clock in the morning, because your friends can continue without you over the whole weekend.

Another important aspect is the number of players. In ArmA there can be dozens of real people, which enables the use of all of ArmA's possibilities, including large scale military forces, large numbers of vehicles, tanks or even choppers. Try a group of low flying choppers against a large force of enemy tanks or even infantry against a massed enemy boat attack!

Viktor: And that's not all! We also use AI heavily in our game modes. You play a large mission and in the middle of it you can finish a secondary objective - and then gain air support as a reward. Call the choppers and they'll kill everything in their way!

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Much like Operation Flashpoint before it, Armed Assault is set to include a built-in mission editor. Can you tell us about a couple of interesting features and will BIS openly support the mod community that likes to create original mods and custom levels?

J.R.: With a little tweaking there are thousands of add-ons and tens of mods for Operation Flashpoint which could be used in ArmA instantly. And we don't forget about the large and always supportive community of loyal fans, which certainly should have more tools to create their own modifications for ArmA.

" If you set up the situation well, our strong AI will take care of any actuality that can happen..."

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Any final thoughts you'd like to offer our readers?

J.R.: I believe you will love Sahrani Island as much as we do!
Viktor: So don't hesitate to visit it soon. Interviewscreens-0

TVG would also like to thank Paul Statham, PR/Community Manager at Bohemia Interactive Studio, for making this interview possible.

Das Interview stammt von dem Game Onlinemagazin

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