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almanzo

When will BI start to understand their own product?

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Hi!

I've been part of this community since the release of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. As such, I started my ARMA career in singleplayer, and because of that I've also cared about the single player content in ARMA games since I started out, despite the fact that my main focus these days are on the multiplayer aspect. This post was sparked by the "Contact" announcement, but it is in no way limited to that, as I see "Contact" as the last development in a trend that has been going on pretty much since ARMA: Armed Assault. What draw me into the world of ARMA was the brilliance of the Cold War Crisis, Red Hammer and Resistance campaigns. All of them did something unique that I've felt has been lost to a growing degree in the following releases in the series. It seems to me that Bohemia Interactive increasingly is unable to understand the strenghts (and weaknesses) of their own product.

What made the original campaigns good (even Codemasters developed "Red Hammer") was that they all where rooted in human stories. War was the common theme, the backdrop. But the stories ultimately was about how war influenced the characters of the story. We got to feel the confusion, the excitement, the horrors and the fear that the characters while being part of something that was bigger than themselves. A theme that fits the ARMA franchise perfectly, considering how vulnerable and insignificant one infantry soldier is in the grand scheme of things. You where a cog in the machine, while having some influence on the development of the story, you had to rely on other elements and other units in order to succeed. If you died, the war would enevetably move on without you. Instead of focusing on the grand political schemes, the original campains all orbited around what war was like for those with boots on the ground.

Gradually, the series has been moved further and further away from that, with the small exception of the free "Eagle wing" campaign in ARMA2. A tiny campaign lasting for only a few hours that despite that was able to achieve a sense of mystery, loneliness and terror that none of the other official campaigns since OFP has ever been able to achive. ARMA is really, really good at making you feel small and insignificant, and it seems to be that BI doesn't understand how powerful that is as a narrative tool. In order to succeed, you need to rely on others, and you need to cooperate. ARMA is one of the few games where individual skill matters way less than a groups ability to coordinate, both within themselves, but also with other assets such as helicopters, planes and land vehicles. You see allmost none of that in ARMAs official campaigns anymore, they all strive to fulfill a power fantasy that is ill suited to ARMAs capabilities and strenghts. The civillian faction has gone from being an integral part of the story, to becomming backdrops and setpieces that are insignificant to the story itself, and the main focus has shifted towards grand political schemes and cinematic, bombastic hollywood heroes with nothing in terms of personality. Small groups of characters single handledly changes the outcomes of large scale conflicts, and to be quite honest, it sucks. There is no human element anymore, and it feels like ARMA desperately tries to compete with the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty when it comes to storytelling, trying to recreate the super soldier of the silver screen. The end result is simply forgetable and bland, and Contact seems to further the trend even more.

ARMA has the ability to be grounded, to tell stories with impact about modern conflict. It has the ability to be unique, mainly because the gameplay itself IS unique. No other game has an engine as capable of conveying the horrors of war as strongly as ARMA, because the whole games premise is how useless you are on your own. To match that with stories about super soldiers is simply bafflingly stupid, and it is incredibly ill suited for it.

ARMA is a great game, and thanks to mods and multiplayer, I'm able to play content that is better suited to the strenghts of the game. But it would be awesome to get to play a professionally made campaign that takes advantage of what ARMAs engine has to offer, instead of having to rely on hobbyists to get the most out of what ARMA can do. Don't get me wrong, ARMAs modding community is simply what keeps this game alive, and I love them. But it is about time that BIS understand what kind of gem ARMA really is and start making content that makes sense from a narrative perspective. Think more in terms of "Band of brothers" rather than "American sniper". Stop relying on fancyful super weapons and aliens and focus on the humans who are doing the actual fighting. On what's on stake for them, on their families, their fears, their struggles and their victories. Their cameraderie and their losses. ARMA has a unique opportunity for story telling like that, take advantage of it. Don't try to compete with the bombastics of the tripple A's, create something unique. Find new writers. 

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Isn't that what Laws of War was about? Not the conflict directly, but the result of it?

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The very reason, I liked Remnants of War so much and being curious about Old Man. Just I feel, it's not quite like "either new toys either better stories". I might not really appreciate, say, yet another dozen of rifles (I do not really see any significant gameplay difference between many of them, so I do not care much about bigger variety here, still others do apparently), but nothing wrong with aliens spin-off (especially if still with, well, realistic approach to the topic, as DLC seems to present), on the contrary, that gives tools to tell yet another kind of equally good stories. 

 

I too really hope in the future we'll see stories both with more indepth "personal touch" and exploring difficult warfare related topics (like it was in RoW), forgotten conflicts and alike, serious matters fits here - Arma IMO has potential for them indeed. 

 

Arma is mainly a platform, therefore in fact anyone may try to use it for telling such a story, but on his own will be limited by existing assets, own skill/budget/time and existing means of narration (limits of them). 

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Writing/campaigns has always been their weakness. I rarely felt the itch to play campaigns at all. E.g. the ArmA 3 first campaign, I played like 3 missions of it.

IIRC there was too much bullshit "I am that cool Hollywood US soldier" kind of shit in it, which is totally offputting.

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The Mexican/South American Drug Wars ie Narcos would provide an almost limitless scope with breathtaking natural backdrops as well as battered/lively towns and cities with a real human cost element factor. Screw Aliens, Id love to see politics and other Nations drug consumption made an actual feature in the game via propaganda wars etc

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@froggyluv I agree completely, but that would require real work and a courage to make something different (ayy lmaos are such a cliche, especially ayy lmaos are so peaceful but our military wants to kill them anyway! cliche), and not politically correct.

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3 hours ago, lexx said:

Isn't that what Laws of War was about? Not the conflict directly, but the result of it?


Laws of war was is by far the most interesting official SP content avaiable to ARMA III, but it isn't flashed out (Being a DLC). The thing is, OFP was also a story about a conflict, but where ARMA III has the entire story rest on your characters shoulders, in OFP you where merely a small piece in a much bigger picture. It was told from the perspective of a regular grunt, a tank driver and a lieutenant. It wasn't less grand, really, but it's focus was how war was experienced by the people in it rather than focusing too much on the geopolitical stuff. That was there too, but it was more of a backdrop.

A weird comparison, maybe, but if you take a look at Witcher 3, another narratively brilliant game. What makes Witcher great is exactly that Geraldt, despite being the main protagonist, isn't the most important character of the story. The story isn't about him, but you experience it through his eyes. It's a bit hard to explain, but it's the same concept.

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OP, I haven't played any of the campaigns, during the whole of this series, so its going to be different for me/you.

 

But I do think you miss one thing.. This series is more about making your own content (the Editor), a wargaming world, military heaven. Not campaigns, campaigns are all over in a matter of hours, whereas Arma via the editor (build your own military world), last for decades...

 

I think the boys at the very start, got it right, they included an Editor.. And that is why this series is still here.. 😉

Nothing to do with campaigns.

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3 hours ago, chrisb said:

OP, I haven't played any of the campaigns, during the whole of this series, so its going to be different for me/you.

 

But I do think you miss one thing.. This series is more about making your own content (the Editor), a wargaming world, military heaven. Not campaigns, campaigns are all over in a matter of hours, whereas Arma via the editor (build your own military world), last for decades...

 

I think the boys at the very start, got it right, they included an Editor.. And that is why this series is still here.. 😉

Nothing to do with campaigns.

 

I think people are missing the great combo of well crafted campaigns+editor from OFP because now we're left with only the editor. True you have incredible liberty in sandbox but sometimes a good story equals the editor. Although LoW story was a pleasant surprise.

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I completely agree with this. I haven't been excited about _most_ of the DLC's Bohemia has released. The last one I cared about was Apex. I have been playing since ArmA 1, so maybe I am just getting old 😐 But I want a well written story driven DLC, that adds a healthy amount of content.

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6 hours ago, chrisb said:

OP, I haven't played any of the campaigns, during the whole of this series, so its going to be different for me/you.

 

But I do think you miss one thing.. This series is more about making your own content (the Editor), a wargaming world, military heaven. Not campaigns, campaigns are all over in a matter of hours, whereas Arma via the editor (build your own military world), last for decades...

 

I think the boys at the very start, got it right, they included an Editor.. And that is why this series is still here.. 😉

Nothing to do with campaigns.


Oh, I am completely aware, check my post history. I wrote my master thesis about user generated content in ARMA. But this is the important bit: I got Operation Flashpoint as a teenager, and I fell completely in love with it. I didn't have internet back then, so single player content was basicly where it was at, and I loved all of the original campaigns. Besides sharing mods with friends on burned CDs and making silly stuff in the editor, the original content was all I had. I was devestated when the whole deal with Codemasters happened, and super thrilled when ARMA: Armed Assault was released.

Then I played the single player, encountered a game breaking bug (very early on) and gave up.

Fast forward a few years and I bought ARMA II at release, single handedly for it's single player content. Encountered both a lot of bugs, and found the story to be lackluster. A small SF team solving an entire conflict while officially not even being there? Nah, did not float my boat. Gave up on it quite quickly, and it could have ended there if it wasn't for how much I loved OFP. I used to play through all of the campaigns at least once a year for ten years. I then stumbled upon Dslyecxi videos and was intrigued. I applied at ShackTac, but being a European their times was off. He recommended a different community, I applied and started playing. I'm now an admin in a community with a nice mix of both old timers and newer players.

The key here is that it was the single player content that got me here in the first place. Not only that, lackluster single player content allmost made me leave. A good campaign can be what pushes someone over the edge enough to go explore more what the game can do. But for someone unaware of ARMA as a franchise and of modding, what they will do when they buy the game is either try the campaign or join a public (most likely official) server, that might put a lot of people off. Now, we all know that the bread and butter of ARMA is in it's modding scene and in user generated content. But a good campaign can be a blessing to both the game and the community. I stepping stone to learn the gripes, while being presented to a gut wrenching story to boot.

And even though I understand your interest lies elsewhere, treat yourself to http://cwr2.arma2.fr/ If you are unfamiliar, it's basicly Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis ported to ARMA II, with the entire campaigns present. Even though some of it is a bit dated now, the story is really well told and it really shows how well suited ARMA can be for telling meaningful stories about war and warfare. Keep in mind that it's 18 years old by now. I could not recommend it more.

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Same here.

 

Got the OFP and Res CDs in 2005 - didn't know mods even existed.

The campaigns and atmosphere were so powerful it turned me into a Cold War history buff.

 

Before that I was mostly fond of your regular GTA-3s and NFS-U2s with a healthy dose of Half-Life 1/2 and MoHAA/CoD.

Didn't really care for realism and the like.

 

Then I experienced the "After Montignac" mission...

Even DOOM3 didn't scare my teenage-ass nearly as much as that moment you had to sneak, shoot and crawl your wounded self out of those fucking treelines.

 

And then there were the epic mods like COMBAT! US vehicles, the OG RHS and ORCS Soviet and RF stuff, the terrains, the various FFURs and many campaigns.

 

The closest i've gotten to feeling even 1/10th of those feels was the modded campaign for A1 "Moloch", Eagle Wing and parts of Laws of War.

 

And now, with Contact, well... let's just write that it has alienated my inner BI fanboy completely.

 

/ overly-dramatic rant = end

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First of all, I never player ARMA II and despite my age, I'm belonging to ARMA III generation (with 18,000 hrs, say rather 8,000 hrs in front of the game, 5,000 for scripting). I played all A3 campaigns and I'm not so critical with scenarios. After all, it's a game... But for sure, with such possibilities that it seems normal to claim for excellence!

One of the thing, imho, which dim down the immersion and the feelings you all described is the ugly uniforms/helmets of CSAT and the 2035 context... Some easy way to opt for weird, immediate, non-historical gears, weapons and scenarios. But at the end, that looks like the futurist featureless "Battlefield" games.

The reason why, I guess, CUP, RHS, UNSUNG, IFA3 and other mods have gain in notoriety. A simple homemade Takistan or Vietnam mission can afford far more immersive hours than any A3 campaign. No need to fight AI "Viper" units to stress in a good scenario.

 

The second weak step is probably about the AIs behavior. This game could have a great potential, very far more than any other games with their linear story! But... for whatever reason, the goal remains not achieved. Your AI fellows are dumb at finding medikit, healing unconscious guys or reloading with found magazines. Even the command menus for "taking/rearming a weapon (never a mediKit,why?)" or "jump into a vehicle" (F4) are poorly done!
Here, BI missed rendez-vous with ICRC immersion, just adding some DLC (Kart was the first??) and scripting a "light" scenario: Remnant of war... very very light, with a poor depressive soldier. The intent of supporting ICRC was good. On the other hand, nothing about the horror of the mine wounds (too young players?), the possibility to treat people (just some new vans and tents),... no feature about making prisoners...

But there are so many tickets/reports/discussions/mods/scripts about that, we can expect some improvements.. for the next version.

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10 hours ago, almanzo said:




And even though I understand your interest lies elsewhere, treat yourself to http://cwr2.arma2.fr/ If you are unfamiliar, it's basicly Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis ported to ARMA II, with the entire campaigns present. Even though some of it is a bit dated now, the story is really well told and it really shows how well suited ARMA can be for telling meaningful stories about war and warfare. Keep in mind that it's 18 years old by now. I could not recommend it more.

 

My treat and that of the small'ish group of friends I have/had, is a wargaming world, not campaigns. Arma offers so much more than campaigns. An ongoing story that last's for years, just build it yourself. Although the assets from your link were, and still are, used.

 

We built it from Arma, although I built myself a smaller version in sp (ofp) and indeed with the Elite version, my mates laughed, said it couldn't replace our usual game, it didn't, until Arma came along.

But from Arma we have a wargaming world that is still in full flight. It just grew with the game, mods, terrains etc....

Although as we get older, it slows down. I was a little over 40 when ofp came out, I just wish they had done it all 10yrs earlier.

 

Regards opening it up to sci-fi, if players get over it's using the same engine and assets (some) and forget about 'Arma', then they should be able to see the possibilities in that, but some can't see past a campaign or two. It's really all about the editor for me.

 

I hope this 'Contact' is good, I like sci-fi, maybe not as much as milsim wargaming, but it makes for a nice change. So provided its good, I'll tinker. It will be the first proper outing A3 would have had with me. I'm still too much into the better (imo) A2OA + all the dlc's, content etc, didn't need to move on.

So it makes A3 useful for me, it was already a little sci-fi anyway, they walked like aliens in A3, when it first released.. 😕

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i wouldn't really want to dispute anything @almanzo has said about good single player campaigns but i really can't see how this is what arma is about. If ever there was a game about things rather than people its Arma! The feeling of insignificance and cog-in-the-machine comes from the scale of the terrain and the lethal realism of the tools, which i fully agree can be used to great effect by story tellers although they have to be pretty inventive as its not really what the system is designed for.

 

i just point this out as the thread title is.. a pretty harsh accusation!

🖖

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4 hours ago, lordfrith said:

(redacted)... not really what the system is designed for.

 

OG OFP SP content literally proves this statement false and uneducated.

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27 minutes ago, bars91 said:

OG OFP SP content literally proves this statement false and uneducated.

 

i haven't played OFP, only arma 2 and 3, but i don't see how it could be false as all of them are battlefield simulators?

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On 5/25/2019 at 12:11 PM, lordfrith said:

i wouldn't really want to dispute anything @almanzo has said about good single player campaigns but i really can't see how this is what arma is about. If ever there was a game about things rather than people its Arma! The feeling of insignificance and cog-in-the-machine comes from the scale of the terrain and the lethal realism of the tools, which i fully agree can be used to great effect by story tellers although they have to be pretty inventive as its not really what the system is designed for.

 

i just point this out as the thread title is.. a pretty harsh accusation!

🖖


Well, I feel pretty confident that OFP was mainly focused on single player content, given how many people lacked internet access back then, and the core mechanics are still the same as they where back then. You are kind of summarizing my point, the scale of the terrain and the lethal realism is part of why I think ARMAs mechanics screams for å different focus from their single player content team. If you look at the single player content that is there, it would have been better suited for an engine such as Battlefield, more linear, more arcadeish with features such as regenerative health. The current single player content is fighting against the "limitations" of the game, rather than taking advantage of them. 

If you can stomach the quirks of ARMA IIs engine, download CWR2 and play through the campaign from OFP. You will quickly understand what I mean.

As to what Bars91 said: if you play the single player content in OFP, you will quickly see that the game was indeed designed to deliver strong, narrative content. There are so many beautiful details in OFP, every time you died, the camera would pan to who or what killed you, while giving you a famous quote about the fragility of war. The entire experience was built around the fact that you where insignificant, and it was a stroke of pure brilliance.

But you are right, it is a harsh statement. I might moderate myself abit and say that their writers and campaign designers don't understand the product very well. The best SP content in the game currently is Laws of War DLC and the original showcases. ARMAs bread and butter is combined ops, it's what it's designed for. Despite that, combined ops is hardly featured in the campaign at all. 

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4 hours ago, almanzo said:

But you are right, it is a harsh statement. I might moderate myself abit and say that their writers and campaign designers don't understand the product very well. The best SP content in the game currently is Laws of War DLC and the original showcases. ARMAs bread and butter is combined ops, it's what it's designed for. Despite that, combined ops is hardly featured in the campaign at all. 

 

Imo A3 main campaign was so focused on the infantry bit (unlike OFP)  because they didn't trust their AI for combined ops anymore. Your product wouldn't look too good when you have so many examples of A3 shit AI driving&flying. I mean you only have to look into dev branch in AI threads to see the total crapshow.

In OFP it worked because it was much simpler but also brand new/unique so people forgive quirks like that besides back then they were focusing for real to improve AI.

True, it could also be that they just don't care\understand their product at all especially the new guys in their team, Apex "campaign" showed this perfectly.

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On 5/24/2019 at 8:45 AM, froggyluv said:

The Mexican/South American Drug Wars ie Narcos would provide an almost limitless scope with breathtaking natural backdrops as well as battered/lively towns and cities with a real human cost element factor. Screw Aliens, Id love to see politics and other Nations drug consumption made an actual feature in the game via propaganda wars etc

Can anyone say Ghost Recon Wildlands, set in Bolivia but ya in a campaign, or mission that would be a cool and interesting setting in Arma3.

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On 5/26/2019 at 2:47 PM, almanzo said:

ARMAs bread and butter is combined ops, it's what it's designed for. Despite that, combined ops is hardly featured in the campaign at all

No, BI understands their product well. They couldn't get their vehicles working properly with the new physics system and other design challenges, therefore they switched to a more infantry centered approach which is also emphasized in their promotional materials. It's possible that they thought it was not the ideal outcome, but they had to cut their losses to make progress.

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The problem with arma is that good story telling is significantly more difficult, because you can't reliably do specific things in this sandbox / it's much more laborious to achieve it. Esp. with the problematic AI... I played all campaigns except low /tanoa  and none of them where really... engaging, because i value the freedom in arma. In campaigns the freedom is taken away / the missions expect you to do things in certain way. If you dont do it this one way, they either break, are impossible to do or way too easy - you never know. Plus, ordering a squad is always a micro management pain. In the moment it counts... you cant rely on them (AT guy fumbling running around like a headless chicken when a tank approaches). And being ordered by an AI squadleader is a pain too (they just run off - see Global Mobilization campaign)

For A3 its also the theme - i just dont care about their made up scenario or factions, its just "meh" for me. If it was cold war, or something entirely futuristic i would have likely cared more. Also, the 'main' missions had the utterly boring "good guy blufor, bad guy opfor" theme in it.

 

I also played Arma 1 campaign not too long ago and it wasnt particularly good either.

 

Its my conclusion that stories are simply not the strength of a sandbox like this. So i prefer game modes that provide much more "bang for the development-time-buck" over a basic campaign that railroads you along to final conclusion. CTI/ Warfare mission (what was in the Arma 2 Demo) is what got me into the series. It makes best use of the entire reportoire of the sandbox.

 

Now, a Dynamic Campaign (anyone remember IL2 Sturmovik?) - that would be something you could definnitely interest me in...  Missions in a limited area which then affect the progress on a much larger (multi)island-spanning conflict (which is not played in realtime but calculated). With each mission affecting the result in the overall conflict, losses affecting your available assets in the mission etc.

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