Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ArmA 2 Operation Arrowhead PMC - Why I am still interested

[...] private military forces offer a level of flexibility and promise of efficiency when coping with threats to global market function. An example of this was see most recently in the havoc created by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. When the federal government, because of bad management and legal barriers using federal forces, failed to act, PMCs stepped into some of the breaches. Companies such as Blackwater and others quickly sent forces to New Orleans to protect high-value for corporate clients (from looters) and provided extraction details for high-net-worth individuals and valuable corporate employees.
From Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
By John Robb

ArmA 2 is an entertainment product, yet oriented towards a niche of the gaming market. It is a simulation of infantry tactical warfare realistic enough that an off-shot of the original game engine is used for training in military forces around the globe. Popularity and media buzz-wise, the Private Military Comapny (PMC) DLC is not the hottest Bohemia Interactive module. When I got it myself I thought -Meh! What will be next ...a  Red Cross refugee-relief module?

There is an entire school of thought that is raising the flag about sovereign states no longer having the monopoly in the delivery of violence against masses of people. Violence at a scale that can tip the political stability of a whole state. John Robb is in the cutting edge of this idea that was originally put forward by Martin van Creveld. Global terrorism and the Mexican drug cartels are two examples of the new actors in this whole new game the world is witnessing. The idea of a state without the resources (legal or material) to cope with non-state threats to its existence is scary. But even more scary is the idea that anybody with enough money can pay to enter the game. And I am not talking about the "10 dollar Taliban" that can't hit a cow in a corridor with his cousin's 20-year-old assault rifle. I am talking about ex-special operations veterans armed with modern weaponry that can bring down a building in their sleep. Enter the private military contractor ...

Although the political, strategic and operational minutia of the fictional war in Takistan are out of reach for the ArmA2 OA PMC player, the tactical grind of the simulation offers a rare opportunity to experience the life of the military contractor. And I say rare not because this is the first "mercenary" shooter in the market but because is the only one that we can hope will deliver the goods in a way more close to reality. Under-manned,  under-gunned, no indirect fire support, tactical mobility not a lot better than your wife's during a trip to the mall, with a huge baggage bogging down the tactical tempo (do we really need to protect these clients? ;) ), the challenge will be there. Unfortunately, the canned missions of the PMC DLC are not that appealing. At least for me, ArmA was never at story-telling and I was not actually hoping anything stellar with this module. But the sandbox is open for mission creators!

And now if you excuse me, I have to finish my read of the FRAGO contract and send my SITREP invoice to my commander client. :)



Mike said...

I wish ArmA would die.

the game is terrible. It was developed as a sim.

There are so many things about it that are frustrating and not game-like.

The UI is terrible, player movement feels like my limbs are 900lbs each. Vehicle controls are TERRIBLE, physics model is probably the worst I've ever seen in any game.

The single player is buggy. I've never played a campaign mission that worked right the first time.

Multiplayer is laggy

About the only thing I do like is the storyline.

Anonymous said...

I would like to disagree.

ArmA/OFP is the only FPS I know where sound tactics matter more than quick reflexes. It is a simulator that tries to simulate real combat and not what combat looks like when it is packaged by Hollywood.

The ingame editor is by itself just amazing.

Sure, the game is complex and instable in many ways but it is also unique in offering what it does.

If you wear full combat gear (90lbs) I can assure you that it feels that you weigh 900lbs.

Btw, can you recommend a different game that simulate combined arms warfare at company level and below?


Mike said...

I have worn full combat gear..two deployments to Iraq.

The movement and controls in ArmA are terrible.

Unfortunately I cannot reccomend a better tactical shooter out there, because there are none that have what ArmA has.

I would say that Ravenshield comes close in second as far as AI and squad control, Rainbow Six Vegas comes in a distant third. However, both games are on a much smaller scale.

I think BIS does a horrible job with it.

As sad as it sounds, I think that DICE does a great job with player movement and controls with Bad Company 2. Yep, go ahead and disagree, but I've been FPS'ing since the days of Seal Team (google that one!) and it's the best.

If only someone developed ArmA with the stability offered in the kiddie shooters like CoD and BC2, then it would be an incredible game.

Also, I think the editor is crap, and completely limited in what you can do. Compare the editor to OFP2, and you'll see. OFP2 offers in game scripting and even a compiler! ArmA editor has been the same since 2001.

JC said...

Two service men!

Good to have you around here, fellows.

I haven't touched OFP2 in a long time. I was kind turned off because I couldn't keep the virtual Marines within formation or direct their fires. Time for a second look?


kylania said...

Wow, you think DR's editor is better than ArmA's? I'm baffled by that statement. Other than a pretty menu UI, there's absolutely nothing DR has over ArmA.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike

I guess it always is dangerous not to presuppose that you are talking with a professional on a wargaming site ;)

I agree that BF:BC2 do offer a great and intense gaming experience and good player movement but it still lacks a lot of controls that are present in Arma2.

I have no experience with the editor for OFP2. I have only played it on Xbox and felt the game rather constricted in comparison to Arma2. Given the mods and capable editor I do not believe that I would ever feel restricted by the editor in Arma2. In only lack the time to do the most of it.

I remember Seal Team. Me and a friend tried to hunt it down but never succeeded. On paper it seemed to offer everything you could ever ask for (in the 90s)in a combat sim. I guess it however was somewhat lacking, right?

I agree that Arma could get alot better, but it is as you say a unique game with what it offers.

One feature that I would like to see in this category of game is AI-initiative. I would go berserk on my squad leaders if they acted as brain dead in reality as the soldiers do in games like Arma.


pirimeister said...

Mike has taken the words right out of my mouth. The biggest single issue I have with ARMA 2 is precisely player movement. If only it didn't feel so cumbersome to move around - not to mention when you get inside buildings and such. that always puts me off the game.

I'm currently playing the 1st mission of the PMC DLC and I've died several times just trying to navigate from house to house, using the roofs as a good fire and observation positions. The AI always gets me when I'm coming down the stairs or entering /exiting a building. It's never a fluid process, like you find in other shooters. (Ravenshield is a great example of how it should feel)

But then your "tactical vignettes" make me want to give it another go at the game...

Mike said...

I wish games would just follow the Ravenshield method of moving.

One thing I particularly LOVED in RVS was the way you could open doors using your mouse wheel.

Knew a few tangos were on the other side of the door? Just open it a crack and toss in a frag.

Ahh. Damn you Red Storm Entertainment...why did you have to go out of business. If they were still around they could knock DICE, Infinity Ward and every other shoot 'em up developer out of the water!

Bryan said...

@ Mike

I currently have five deployments. Two to Afghanistan, three to Iraq, all in a combat arms MOS. And that means absolutely nothing...

Back on track.

The bugs are/were certainly there. They're all but eliminated now. I have absolutely no issues with lag whatsoever, must be your connection and or the server you're playing on.

The UI is certainly bad. Honestly, I think it took a step backwards from ArmA. But given the insane complexity of the sim, I'd like to see a dev do it better.

Physics? What physics?

Ahh DICE... (uneven and non-relevant example) One dev studio has over a hundred programmers, scripters, animators etc etc, and the other has 12+. You do the math, mate. I always hear such stupid comparisons. The Frostbite engine is great, but it can't handle the scale of those in the ArmAverse.

OFP2? Really? Not only is that reference a terrible one in comparison, it was shoddy at best. From a simple gaming standpoint, it's awful. One of the worst games I've ever played. The UI was terrible (had to stop to issue commands), weapon handling was completely unwieldy, the most lifeless and blank environment ever seen, animations were last-gen, listen servers, and the texture resolutions were atrocious even when maxed out. Console port, console port, console port...

Ugh... RVS again and again. Apples to Oranges, mate. You're comparing a limited tactical shooter to a mil-sim. I might be able to creep into a building utilizing "cool" gimmicks (mouse wheel), but it doesn't model the complexity of actual ballistics like ArmA does... and a myriad of other combat facets.

If this was the case, the Pentagon, ADF, NZDF, UK MOD, and many others would utilize RVS as a training apparatus. But they don't. They use VBS2. Think on that for a moment.

As for the latest DLC. Well, it's crap. BIS seems to have a love affair with PMC's (see QG) and it never translates well.

JC. You need a forum.

Vulcan said...

I agree that ArmA2 should have been improved over OFP/ArmA1. The UI is not as good as it could be, the multiplayer is somewhat laggy, the AI is quite dumb and the controls generally don't feel as fluent as in some other games like R6:RS.

Still I think ArmA2 is currently the best we have for what it is simulating. There are some mods that improve at least some of the flaws. For me the ACE2 mod has run somewhat better in multiplayer than vanilla ArmA2. The UI is ancient and one of the things BIS should focus on to make the game more approachable for the newcomers. It looks like however that it will get improvements when "Project Reality: ArmA2" comes. One game reviewer wrote that what ArmA2 needs is clear game mode like BFBC2's Rush and a clearer UI. I think those are things that this mod might fulfil.

The scale of complexity for the AI should be taken in to account when comparing it with eg. COD which is just canned scripting. AI programming is IMHO the hardest part to create in computer games. At best it is still just smoke&mirrors and aproximations to simulate human behaviour.

For the best gun handling feeling I was really waiting for "Ground Branch" but well...that project might take a while to complete. So as a one alternative to ArmA2 I recommend "Project Reality" (for Battlefield 2), if you have BF2. It is as realistic as the engine permits and beyond ;). The job they did to implement destructive environment is just fantastic. It is quite solid game for what it is. There's a ton of other goodness in it that I could praise but this post is long enough already :)

JC said...

These comments are great. I wonder what I could do to have them more visible for the other readers.


Bryan said...

Like I said Julio, you need a forum.


Mike said...

@ Vulcan

Please dont get me started on PR for BF2. I did the original sounds for it, and I couldnt stand being on that team anymore..mostly because they wanted to take the game into a European direction (the team is made up of mostly Brits) While there is nothing wrong with that, I am not interested in Euro or Brit equipment. They refused to focus on American engagements in Iraq. I brought it up several times and was told "We are not doing Iraq". I quit the team and low and behold months later, THEY DID IRAQ. haha.

As far as the actual mod goes, they complicated BF2 entirely too much. I think BF2 is probably one of the best games out there...realistic? NO, no no no. BUT it has some great features that I feel like DICE has left in the dust. 6 man squads, select fire, MAP COMMANDER (i loved this feature)

All the PR team had to do was come along and modify the damage model, then add eye candy and toys. Instead they overcomplicated everything and made the game NOT FUN.

@ Bryan

I'm a combat arms officer, myself. We've probably eaten some of the same dirt. good stuff

I agree that OFP2 sucked, but the editor was great and the game, overall, seemed much more stable than ArmA. I feel like ArmA is a truely 1/2 designed game.

Its great that it has such a good community to help fuel it. However, I've felt that with every release it looses some of its momentum.

As far as the Army using VBS2...wellll..you've been around the block a few times. I wouldnt say that the Army using it as a tool is something we should brag about :-)I've used it before. Soldiers cant stand it. Just like ArmA, VBS2 player movement is blocky and the performance isnt great.

I wish ArmA would have a 'rush' mode like BC2. Most of the time, servers dont have enough players to fill the entire map or area. Most guys (myself included) just want to fly helicopters.

I dont even think ArmA even works as a chopper sim. God forbid you land 2mph faster than you're supposed to, your chopper explodes into a ball of fire.

Alright, I'm just rambling on now. I'll end this by agree'ing to disagree with you.

Really, dont mind me. I'm completely bitter at the game industry right now.

I try to play games, but spend most of the time frustrated at what the games SHOULD be, not what they are.