UNIT: Bořivoj Hlava, Senior Designer, Sandbox Design Dept.
TO: Arma 3 Dev-Branch Users
OPSUM: Sharing our plans for upcoming Server Browser advancements.
Since launching in 2013, together with new content and gameplay, we've been steadily improving the user experience of Arma 3 in a number of ways. Even in non-gameplay related areas, we've already made a number of smaller and bigger steps, ranging from updates of our official tools to the release of our Launcher and Publisher. The latest significant addition was the introduction of 'mod dependencies' via the Launcher in the Nexus Update. But even with all these changes, we are well aware that there are still areas which deserve our attention and we would like to soon address yet another such aspect of the game.
As the name of this blog has probably told you already, our next planned step is to overhaul the server browsing experience. Besides the UI changes, we would also like to present various new or improved functionality features. The biggest themes of our ongoing work are definitely advanced filtering and extended mod support. To achieve all this, we needed to do another significant step and move the new Server Browser into the Launcher.
NEW SERVER BROWSER
The current server browser has already enjoyed some useful updates during the development of Arma 3, but the core is still the same as it was in Arma 2. We don't think it is able to fulfil modern trends and requirements any more. Unlike some other games, our intention is to still fully support custom dedicated servers and browsing of individual servers. However, we do want to make it much more convenient for a regular user to get into a good session.
With all this in mind, we have recently started to analyse and prepare a complex overhaul of the whole feature and now we would like to present here our plans for the future direction of its development. The result should be a completely new Launcher-based Server Browser, which offers a whole bunch of improved and new features.
Direct Launcher integration allows us to use features already available in the Launcher - mod handling, mod dependencies, etc. - and invest more development time in other necessary places. To avoid a potential confusion: we do not plan to remove the ability to connect to a multiplayer session directly from the game. We are well aware that not everyone uses our Launcher and our goal is to keep the game fully playable even without it. But, similar to the mod handling, the cooperation between Launcher and game should make your life significantly easier and, with its automatic mod handling, a Launcher-bases Server Browser makes even more sense.
Filters are one of the main features we would like to push forward. While the current implementation already offers a basic set of filters, our plan is to create a system matching current standards in games. We would like to preserve the simplicity of basic filtering features like servers with friends, recently used servers and some others. On the other hand, we feel the current filters don't offer enough options for more complex filtering and we want to offer a space and tools to find exactly the servers you are looking for. Filtering according to mods running on a server is probably one of the most anticipated features we plan to present in this area. You should be also now able to filter only servers which you are able to connect to, but possibilities are going to be much bigger.
Thanks to Steam Workshop and Launcher, Arma 3 already made some big steps in the area of mod support. You are able to find and get a mod fast and without any additional knowledge required. But our new Server Browser should push all this even further. We would like to extend the communication between server and client far enough to be able to solve most of the mod-related issues automatically. Now you will find a server that you want to connect to and the Server Browser will do most of the necessary work for you. It checks the mods running on the server, recognizes the missing mods and offers you an automatic download of these missing mods.
At this time it is necessary to mention that this functionality will be highly dependent on Steam Workshop, from which we download all missing mods. Unfortunately, this means that we are not able to support this functionality in case of mods distributed in any other way. When any such mod is required, we let you know that there is a missing mod which we are not able to get automatically for you. We plan to look into this area in the future; however, our current research indicates that we might not be able to overcome all technical obstacles and, therefore, the support of local mods in the future is still an open question. Furthermore, you will be still forced to restart the game when (un)loading any mods; this is a restriction we are not able to overcome.
Together with release of this OPREP, we have released the first version of new Server Browser to Dev Branch. This is a basic release with a view to building on a solid start. We plan to update it regularly and even add some key features that are not yet present. The mod handling is an example of a feature which will be added later, when we will be ready to share it with you. The final release is currently planed for the Eden Update, due Q1 2016.
Please feel free to let us know your ideas, experiences or bugs you may experience. There is the Launcher category on Feedback Tracker where you can direct your feedback, you can also contribute to this thread on forums. Any feedback will be very appreciated and can contribute to the better final product. Thanks in advance for your support, and for all the feedback this year. Happy holidays!