FROM: High Command
TO: Arma 3 Users
INFO: 9th Anniversary, Live Ops Status
Wow, another year has flown by since we last provided an official status update on Arma 3's Live Ops development. And that also means we're celebrating the game's 9th anniversary this month. 9 years since the release of 1.0 "Gamma", let that sink in! Even more special is the fact that a lot of new players are still joining the ranks. Welcome to you all! We hope you enjoy the vast amount of content available to you, official and from the community alike. You may not know this, but we used to publish these blogs every single week during prime-time development. Things have slowed down, as we've discussed in our preview reports, but the platform is still supported by a small crew. There have continued to be platform updates and many experimental branch releases. And the Creator DLC program is still seeing plenty of activity too. In the broader Armaverse, much has happened of course. The Enfusion era of Arma was started with the early access release of Arma Reforger. Many of Bohemia's developers are working on those projects now, working very hard to stabilize and expand that young platform. In this report we will try to provide a status update on how Arma 3's development was influenced, if at all. Read on and see you in-game!
We'll start by taking a tour of the biggest updates released this past year, beginning with the platform. Update 2.06 was released just after the previous report and was covered there. Earlier in 2022 we also did publish update 2.08 with a few stand-out new features, besides a myriad of fixes and support for mods. As of that update, Steam Rich Presence is supported in Arma 3 (unless you opt out via the Stream Friendly UI toggle). It shows Steam friends when you are playing Arma 3 and what you are currently doing within the game, such as playing a certain scenario or just idling in a menu and waiting for an invite. It also groups players who are in a multiplayer session together in the friends list for a better overview. Another fun toy was the addition of scripted lasers via drawLaser. If you'd like to witness a showcase of this one, fire up the CoF: Gray Firing Drill. Make it to Miller's Fortress of Fun and enter 2 0 8 into the 'binary jukebox'.
More recently, we've released update 2.10. It again contained a plethora of support for community developers in the form of many script commands and Event Handlers. You may not see the results of these very directly, but they should over time make for even better mods and custom scenarios. In terms of bigger features, let's begin with the rather experimental ability to deform terrain heightmaps by script. This is one of those features we were hesitant to add, because it can effectively break the game when used in more extreme ways. But it also offers some cool new opportunities in community content, such as creating tactical positions not present in the vanilla terrain. These changes should even work in savegames and multiplayer, but please use the tech with some care. A few disclaimers are available on the Community Wiki entry for setTerrainHeight.
The big one for 2.10 was of course a set of Thermal Imagery enhancements. We've been reading your feedback and realize not everybody liked this as much. Let's offer some insights into what was actually fixed and changed. TI was first introduced to the Real Virtuality engine for Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead. It has seen evolutions and data improvements in Arma 3, but nothing fundamental. TI via infrared sensors requires a simulation of the temperature of the world and everything in it. It's basically an interpretation of the delta differences of those temperatures. Our engine does this for actively simulated entities, such as characters, their weapons, and vehicles. Many static objects in the world do not have a dedicated temperature simulation, so here some approximation is used based upon their color texture for example. That means it's by no means a perfect simulation of TI and has its limitations (as does real TI), which will not likely be overcome for Arma 3. But there were some long-standing issues that we finally had a chance to address.
Specifically, the contrast range was very flat. Everything got compressed down to an almost uniform gray. The update opened this range up to allow seeing more details. In addition, the vanilla terrains have had their ambient temperatures updated to better reflect their geolocation (prior the update, they were mostly all the same). We feel it helped in many cases, but can understand it also makes hot entities stand out less. It also tends to exaggerate some of the existing limitations on objects such as rocks and vegetation. In response to such feedback, we've compressed the contrast range a little bit in a hotfix. And we've added script commands to manipulate this range, even almost back to prior flat levels. Another fix was made to the sky line, which now is more clearly and correctly distinguished at the horizon (i.e. dark). A tiny bit of noise was also added to the screen. Finally, there's the new addition of a "Resolution" Post Process effect. It's not being used in vanilla content, but mods can make use of it to simulate dynamic resolution scaling based on optic zoom levels. The RHS mod team has already shared a preview of how they will be using it. It will unfortunately be hard to arrive at flawless TI within the limitations of Arma 3, but we are continuing to monitor discussions on this topic. If we spot potential tweaks or fixes, we'll investigate those and see what's possible for future updates.
Shifting our sights to Creator DLC then, our program via which external developers publish their Arma 3 content together with us and share in the profits. One new CDLC was released over the past year: Western Sahara DLC by Rotators Collective. It lets the player take the role of a Private Military Contractor and be deployed to the desert dunes of fictional Sefrou-Ramal. It reintroduces the iconic ION PMC faction and also comes with new vehicle variants, weapons, clothing, and gear. Everything comes together in the "Extraction" co-operative multiplayer scenario, which sees you complete a dynamic series of random contracts and resolve a war correspondent's kidnapping in a conflict zone. As with all CDLC, you can freely try out parts of the package via the compatibility data for non-owners. This Steam Workshop item also allows you to connect to multiplayer servers with the usual Content Licensing restrictions. We also have it on good authority that the first big update 1.1 is currently undergoing final testing. It will come with some very cool new tools of the trade, as well as a highly creative new multiplayer mode.
Sticking with a desert theme, CSLA Studio has done several free content drops for their CSLA Iron Curtain DLC, such as the Desert Pack. After taking these iconic desert liveries for a test drive, you will also want to explore their Operations pack. This includes a series of singleplayer and multiplayer scenarios, and now also the new Polanek terrain. Lots of new places to explore and discover!
Savage Game Design, the team behind the S.O.G. Prairie Fire DLC, has also been hard at work to expand their Vietnam experience. Hot on the heels of our last report, they released the free 1.1 update, bringing as key highlight the Khe Sanh terrain. You can still check out this OPREP for a refreshed peek at its impressive contents. And SGD did not stop there. Earlier this summer, they released another massive update 1.2. With it came yet another new terrain, nicknamed "The Bra". It covers a section of the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos, and offers plenty of highly detailed micro-terrain with dense foliage. There are also five extra factions to enrich your scenarios with, such as Australian, New Zealand, and South Korean forces. Then there are various very cool new vehicles and weapons, like the often requested MiG-19. Best you take a look at the release trailer or read the OPREP for all of the many details.
Looking to the future, the Creator DLC program still has more activities coming up for Arma 3 players. As you've come to know by now, we typically don't share details until any updates or releases are final and approved. So stay tuned to our channels for news.
In our opening paragraph, we posed the question how Arma 3's development was affected by changes and announcements this past year. In short, we are actually still operating in a very similar manner as described in the last report. In its OPERATIONS section you will find a description of the game's Live Ops mode that is still applicable. And it will continue to be like that going into the next year. So you may find this section reads very similar to last year's, which we tend to see as a good thing. It means we are still operating at a similar level and have not yet started a next - and therefore lower intensity - phase in the game's long lifecycle. We constantly keep an eye on several factors: the relevance of the game (still high), our available resources and several more. Some of the remaining devs, including yours truly, have also begun work on a completely unrelated Enfusion project in Amsterdam. It's also fair to say that while most of the Live Ops crew don't work directly on Arma Reforger, we are all Bohemians and therefore invested in the future of Arma. We help out where we can, because this pioneering work will lay the foundations for the next decades. That means we don't have full-time focus on Arma 3 anymore, but it does not mean we've stopped working on it. There are still weekly Dev-Branch updates, ad hoc Profiling branch updates, BattlEye anti-cheat updates, etc. Nobody expected we'd still be able to work on the game in its 10th year (more if you count Early Access and internal development), and we're here for it!
Perhaps you read the above and came away confused about what these "branches" are. While a lot of readers will have been with us for years, many are new. Steam branches are special-purpose versions of Arma 3 available via the Steam client, which you can opt into . Go to the game's properties and select the BETAS tab. Some branches are always available and you can just select them, others are time-limited and / or require an access code. Selecting another branch does require you to download the difference in data, which can be small or rather large. Here's a quick overview of the primary Steam branches and their intended audience:
- Main Branch: or default branch is what you play if you just install the game. It's where most players should be, since it's the most stable version. It's also what's required for most multiplayer servers.
- Development Branch: or Dev-Branch is an experimental build that is as close as possible to our internal development version. We try to update it every week - normally on Wednesdays - but if we have other priorities or lack the staff, we may skip it. This is mostly for people interested in trying new features or fixes for a bit. Modders tend to preview upcoming changes here too. The branch is not multiplayer-compatible with Main Branch. It receives a quick smoke test before release, but can easily contain issues. Trivia: we used to update this branch every single day, which was quite intense, but has helped the game's early development a lot. Change logs are posted here.
- Profiling Branch: originally intended to diagnose multiplayer and performance issues, this branch has become an interesting testbed of late. Its rule remains that it must be compatible with Main Branch, so if some fix there interests you, feel free to use it (no longer does it require an access code). It's also a relatively small download, since it only contains the game's binaries and no data. In the past year a few low-level optimizations and fixes were first trialed here, sometimes for months. But do remember this is a fully untested build that can simply be broken. We try to monitor for issues and respond quickly, but just switch back to Main if you encounter problems. A heads-up to us on Discord would then be lovely! Change logs get shared there and on the forums.
- Release Candidate Branch: or RC Branch is only available in the weeks leading up to a platform update. It is our full snapshot build that we hope to release to everyone later, but may still receive a few fixes as we test it. Intel on these is always shared via our channels. This one is for those wanting a peek at the future or wanting to help us make the update as solid as possible. Thanks to all who've helped out in the past!
While it's hard to confirm right now, we believe our next release for Arma 3 will be its Licensed Data Packages. Just like with LDPs for previous Arma titles, they should allow modders to use some of the vanilla data under license, also in future Arma games. Plans for platform update 2.12 are still in the works, but we believe it will probably come your way in early 2023. We don't yet have concrete additions determined for it, but a lot of this has recently been community-driven, via Feedback Tracker and Discord. That does not mean we can accommodate all requests, in fact many are just not feasible anymore. But it can't hurt to ask, right? If you're interested in this development, you can always keep track of the experimental testing branches we mentioned earlier. Last time, we also mentioned looking for ways for more community involvement in further platform development. That has not yet progressed in significant ways, although we still see it as being part of the next phase, whenever it may start. Some community devs have already reached out to us with their interest. If you have ideas, do let us know.
Besides development itself, also keep an eye on our channels for upcoming activities organized by our Community Manager Justin LeClair and the Publishing teams. Justin has been hosting several in-depth livestreams together with various milsim groups. More streams of various types are being planned. We'll also continue regular series like Community Radars, and perhaps revive a few classics. It's an absolute privilege to see your stunning screenshots, inspiring videos, and other creations. Keep them coming and we'll try to signal boost what we can.
A while ago, we were invited by the Imperial War Museum in London to participate in an exhibit about what video games can tell us about armed conflict. Titled "War Games: Real Conflicts | Virtual Worlds | Extreme Entertainment", Arma 3 will be one of titles on display. It runs from September 30, 2022, until May 28, 2023, and is free. So if you find yourself in the UK, give the IWM a visit. Some of our team members do plan to drop in. We'll try to share a few sneak peeks if we can!
Depending on when you read this, you may have noticed something ... different about the main menu. While a Steam sale for Arma 3 is active, boot up the vanilla game and see what happens. You may need to disable mods or parameters like -skipIntro. And then just brace for fun or frustration, or a mix of both!