UNIT: Pavel Valič, Artist, Art Dept.
TO: Arma 3 Users
OPSUM: Laws of Art: examining the IDAP faction and its assets
Hi folks, and welcome to this very ARTistic OPerational REPort. My name is Pavel Valič, and I'm an Artist at Bohemia Interactive's relatively new office in the Netherlands. Over the past year or so I've been one of the people responsible for the new assets in the Arma 3 Laws of War DLC. Now I have the honor to tell you a little bit more about what our team has created for you. In this OPREP, we'll specifically focus on the art side of things, and talk about the new assets and discuss how they were created.
LAWS OF ART
First, let me establish the ORBAT (Order of Battle), or in this case ORBART, for the Laws of War project. Our Art team consisted of two in-house artists in the Amsterdam office, and several splendid 3D and Technical Artists in our Mníšek pod Brdy office in the Czech Republic. In addition, our colleagues in the Bohemia Interactive's Thailand office were on hand to help with many of the 'props'.
In terms of the scope of the project, our original goal was to make the Laws of War DLC stand somewhere in between Arma 3 Karts and Arma 3 Helicopters DLC. During the pre-production phase, we started by establishing a wishlist of key new assets that we wanted in the package. Then we had to prioritize our wishes based on our available resources, and by anticipating the potential risks and costs involved with developing certain assets. With all those considerations in mind, we reached a final wishlist, and it was time to flex our artistic muscles properly!
However, at that time we had not yet completely settled on the exact theme of the DLC. Once this became more clear, and also while the mini-campaign and Showcases scenarios started to come together, we ended up making many more assets and variants than on our original wishlist. The reason being that we felt they were simply too important not to include in the package. For reference, the photo below on the left shows what assets were originally on the list, while the photo on the right shows what it ultimately became. But let's talk specifics!
One of the key new additions in the Laws of War DLC is the IDAP faction (International Development & Aid Project - a name and corresponding acronym we settled on after plenty of iterations, seen in the image below). This humanitarian organization is very much inspired by similar real-world NGO's, such as the ICRC. Although IDAP is fictional, in terms of its visual representation, we still wanted to make it look authentic and believable. Our new artist in Amsterdam, Stefan Verbeek (some of you might know him from reddit), accepted this challenge.
Of course every organization needs a logo, and especially for an NGO, that needs to be something that is instantly recognizable. As you can see above, the IDAP logo clearly represents the organization's mission via the holding hands, which can be interpreted as a symbol of help and relief. The wings and the white embody the purity of IDAP's ideals, while the orange color is of course easily recognizable in conflict zones, and serves as a tribute to the country where the DLC was developed (and the original codename for the project).
In terms of new assets, IDAP is composed of branded character outfits, and a range of wheeled and propelled vehicles. To create the new assets and textures, we collected as much reference imagery as we could find online, but we were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to consult with our contacts at ICRC. They were able to help us get all of the finer details right, such as the iconography and improvised decals on the vehicles. They also mentioned the addition of stickers to make it very clear to everyone that their vehicles and camps do not contain weapons. Perhaps most importantly they stressed the need for clear markings on the roofs, so that (military) air assets would correctly identify them. However, to better explain the (art) development process, let's take a closer look at each of these assets individually.
The main asset in the Laws of War DLC is probably the Van. The model was created by our veteran artist in the Czech Republic: Mario Kurty. At first glance, it probably looks like a vehicle you know. In fact, our main source of inspiration was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Combined with that we also wanted to make the van design be in line with the rest of the game's 2035 civilian wheeled vehicles. In terms of functionality, a van is typically used for many different purposes. That's why we created each main part of the vehicle to be reusable in different ways, just like a real-life car manufacturer would do. That allowed us to develop 3 different van types: cargo, transport, and ambulance.
To better explain how that works, when you look carefully at the model, you can see that the window area on the transport van is the same as the ambulance, but the latter uses a different surface material. However, even though re-usability is a great thing, we still wanted to have some unique things for each van variant. For example, the cargo van has quite common rims, whereas the transport van has sexy/shiny aluminium ones. The ambulance in particular has lots of unique parts, especially with regards to its interior. On top of all that, the introduction of the van means there are new passenger positions, which means it needed new animations. This is necessary because every vehicle/car has different seats with different heights and backrest angles.
In terms of functionality, we paid special attention to the van's interior, but we also added lots of customization options for the vehicle as a whole. In Eden Editor, you can open and/or slide doors in, add protectors, a ladder, roof rack, spare wheel, or switch on the emergency lights. Furthermore, you can even transport quad bikes or the new utility drones, and there are three different shooting positions for passengers. Modders may also wish to apply custom dynamic textures to the various interior monitors. This splendid functionality was achieved by our new Technical Artist (and one of the developers of the RHS mod - winner of Make Arma Not War modding contest), Maciej Pham. Ah, and also be sure to honk the 'horn' while you're driving the ambulance! Overall, there's lots to like, and we hope you'll appreciate this level of detail. Special shout-out to Melle for giving us the opportunity to inspect this type of vehicle in real life!
Aside from the model and functionality, one new technical improvement with the van was the possibility to use 4096x4096 pixel resolution textures. This is great because it meant we could increase the level of detail of small objects in the interior. Speaking of textures, the van comes with many different liveries, but if would you like to create your own, we've prepared Photoshop template files so you can create custom paint jobs. As a showcase, we prepared and de-livery'd a recreation of the so-called 'Arma 3 Battle Bus', which some of you have seen before driving around Prague, or reported on social media.
UTILITY & DEMINING DRONE
One other new piece of technology is the Utility & Demining Drone. Just like the van, there are different variants of this drone as well. The (military) 'cargo' variant was named after the pelican; a well-known bird species, which is famous for being able to hold an incredible amount of water in their beak. In our case, the beak is a big plastic box that can be used to deliver small objects. The same utility drone, but dressed in very vivid colors resembling an ambulance, enables you to heal and take out medical supplies. I can imagine some cool combat missions in which your squad under fire receives medical aid by drone.
Lastly, IDAP uses a stripped variant of the drone, which can carry up to four small explosive charges that can be released remotely to trigger mines and sometimes even start a chain reaction. While we don't limit how you use this variant, we did add colored smoke and a whistle sound to make it clear this is more of an engineering tool, rather than a weapon. As this drone is customized by IDAP itself, we tried to make this variant look as something that was made in a garage rather than by a product designer. Its special mine detection ring can identify explosives up to 50 meters away, which also required us to add engine support for custom Mine Detectors in vehicles.
One source of inspiration for the drone was an interesting prototype concept from the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands. At the same time, we've looked at other existing working drone concepts, which funnily enough serve some very interesting purposes (including pizza delivery!). As for the visual language, we modeled the Pelican to make it look as if it came from the same product line as Arma 3's original Darter drone. However, we felt that we needed to represent the fact that this drone has more lifting power by adding 6 propellers to its somewhat chubby body. Based on our research, it also made sense to add protectors around the blades to prevent damage. Plus, in my opinion, it makes the drone more unique and interesting. By the way, we've also prepared a livery template for the drone, so I look forward to seeing some community-made beer transport drones soon!
CHARACTER OUTFITS & GEAR
The Laws of War DLC also includes many new assets for players to wear. There are new character outfits including those for our IDAP workers (many of these outfits are actually available for free to all Arma 3 players). Then there are things like newly modeled bags, vests, headsets, hard and press helmets, different hats, eye protectors. And more gear was added as newly re-textured variants of platform free assets.
Many of these new assets were inspired by real-life references we could find online, and in the case of the IDAP clothing, we even received some pointers from our contacts at the ICRC. However, sometimes searching for references is less pleasant, such as with the head bandage, and, as you might imagine, the blood pools. Most of these assets are created also in several color variants to make them suitable to wear on different terrains like Tanoa or Altis.
In terms of the development, the creation of thin character clothing such as the safety and multi-pocket vest required more care in skinning for animation. The same issue applied to the messenger bag and the leg strap beg, which did end up looking very distinct from previous Arma 3 gear. Unfortunately, when creating these assets, we sometimes also run into issues that were not foreseen. For example, the original protective helmet for the EOD specialist featured a large protective face shield. This is what's used in the real world to offer 'better' protection. However, in our situation, this led to a problem where the protective shield would clip through the character when using the raising weapon animations. It was a limitation we couldn't resolve on a technical level, and we didn't want to break the immersion, which is why we opted for the protective goggles instead. Due to issues such as these, we sometimes either had to redesign or decide to cancel such objects, like in this particular case.
But there's more! And it's all FREE for every Arma 3 player. To deliver immersive official playable content, and to enable the community to create more diverse content, we prepared a wide variety static decorative objects (also referred to as 'props'). These were mostly produced with the help of our skilled colleagues from Thailand, and really complement the new IDAP faction overall.
IDAP is a humanitarian organization that provides aid to affected areas. This can be in the form of medical but also material aid. For this reason, we added many cardboard boxes, pallets with water bottles, shiny thermal blankets, but also more 'grim' items such as body bags. As mentioned before, doing the research and collecting photographic references for some of these items could be a bit disturbing. One of largest new objects is definitely the shelter tent, which comes in many variants. Fun fact: the modeling and texturing of the tent was done by our artist, Stan - and 'stan' happens to be Czech word for 'tent'. You can imagine the fun we had. Compliments to Stan_F (insiders will understand) for his splendid work!
Rumor also has it that some furniture has finally returned to the island of Altis. Lucky for us, because our splendid Senior Designer Karel Mořický was able to make the campaign much more interesting by adding interiors and custom compositions to the town of Oreokastro. The power of the Eden Editor once again showed. It also showed that not only modeling new assets can enrich the game, but also combining existing ones or putting things together (or partially hiding them in the ground) can create something new. While exploring the town in "Remnants of War", you may have noticed that by flipping props like the bed upside down, you can suddenly have closets!
Even though this OPREP is primarily focused on IDAP, there are more new assets we're adding with the Laws of War DLC. As these affect IDAP's day-to-day operations, I'd like to discuss one of them here: APERS Mine Dispenser. This piece of weaponry is inspired by the Spider mine system, but was changed to be a portable device that fits in your backpack and can be assembled swiftly. The Mine Dispenser holds 2 mini-mines in 7 tubes. On touch off, which can be triggered remotely, these mines are thrown in a wide angle and cover about 25 square meters. Yep, this is a nasty device indeed.
The Mine Dispenser model itself was designed from scratch. To determine the basic appearance of this device, we had to look at its requirements. We knew that the Mine Dispenser would need to be easily transferable, have a reasonable weight, and it would need to be radio-controlled. Using an iterative approach, which works best when working on fictional items, we started with some primitive shapes. We then discussed whether the conditions were met and if the device looked convincing enough. After we settled on the shape, one of the artist started to work on a more detailed model. This procedure included multiple iterations as well. Since soldiers need to be able to carry the Mine Dispenser on the battlefield, we also needed to prepare the art for an inventory version of Mine Dispenser. As you can see, we've made it look like a small bag, which can be placed into a larger backpack. The image above shows how the Mine Dispenser can be folded.
All in all, I hope this OPREP gives a little bit more insight into the development process of the new assets. There are plenty more to discuss, such as the unique Training Mine and new Cluster Bombs, but we'll leave that for another time. We're quite satisfied with how it all turned out, and I believe that they will contribute a lot to the game - both in terms of the sandbox environment, but also in the, in my opinion, amazing campaign, very cool showcases, and challenging time trials. I want to thank all our players who always help to pump creativity into our brains so we can make Arma 3 even better!