Bohemia Interactive interview
Questions: Cristian Rodriguez, The Mystery Examiner
Answers: Jan Pražák, Bohemia Interactive’s PR manager
1. What score will you give to your own game ArmA 2?
It depends… We think the Metacritic score is a pretty fair reflection both from the press and users for the actual release version of the game. However, the game is still being updated by us. Most of the issues people have criticized ARMA 2 for have been fixed already and we are even adding new features and tweaks into every patch / update. There is at least one more massive update coming very soon which brings not only more interesting improvements but also new playable content. I think maybe the game would deserve to be “re-reviewed” in such stage, certainly we believe that if it were to be looked at afresh by reviewers or by gamers who rejected it initially they will be pleasantly surprised now.
2. Which is the best point you achieve in this game? What part of the game are you more proud about?
The Scale – in any context ARMA 2 is an impressive game. Hundreds of weapons and vehicles, giant and detailed environment, deep and branching storyline, unique multiplayer experience, the AI is capable of fighting and helping you navigate (as well as using everything that you can use such as various weapons/vehicles), the multiplayer, the easy-to-use editor with modules. I could continue a long time just listing everything. And that’s what we are so proud of, you really cannot find a game with such various and comprehensive content to play with for months, even for years.
3. And…What is the weakest point? Where you know the team must work harder to reach higher levels?
Undoubtedly, what people mostly didn’t like about ARMA 2 on release was the bugs and performance issues experienced by some people. Even if it’s so hard to test every possible situation in the game of such scale, this is something we know we must improve and we will do our best to bring Operation Arrowhead in the best shape on time, that said we never want to compromise on our ambition, or the scope and scale of our games, I think we’re fortunate to appeal to a demographic that realizes that when bugs sneak through it’s not through lack of attention, but rather a desire not to limit the scope of the game, we don’t want to be some kind of generic, bland shooter, there’s far too many out there these days.
4. Back in the first Operation Flashopint days the market was so different, there where more companies making games more… Hardcore. Not from the same year, but those where days of Hidden and Dangerous, the best Rainbow Six,… Now the market is… different. More casual games, the shooters are more… for a less hardcore type of player, now with Xbox 360 and PS3 and most part of the games for all the platforms… How do you see those changes and how does it affect BIS?
From my point of view, the reason games are more “casual” is the change of the entire game market. The Hollywood-size publishing companies have risen and rule the market now. Their most important concern is to make money, of course there’s nothing wrong with that per se, other than it means we’re seeing the same things over and over with few developers willing or able to push the envelope of their genre.
And which do you think it’s easier to sell to people? A difficult game for a very narrow group of “serious” gamers or an easy-to-play causal multi-platform game? The right answer is obvious. Fortunately, it seems there is still a place in the world for independent companies to deliver interesting and complex projects and importantly still to able to survive doing so! Even if the Bohemia Interactive company has grown a lot from those old OFP days (there were up to 250 people involved in ARMA2 development in total including external artists), we’re still a relatively small company. Thanks to this, we don’t necessarily need massive sales to survive. Also, our approach to selling our games is a little bit different. We don’t waste astronomic amounts of money for massive advertisement, and PR hype. Instead, we stay honest to our customers, staying in touch with the community. Thousands of happy fans and creative community members might be a more effective way to advertise your product and help to build a good brand. Hopefully, this way isn’t bad and we feel many people appreciate it in terms of sales and community feedback.
5. Is just a personal opinion, but after Operation Flashpoint Resistance, besides the problems with Codemasters and all that, it seems BIS goes some steps backward with the first ArmA.I repeat, that was my perception, but how does the dev team live those hard days? Do you think so or maybe from your point of view ArmA had some great points all we dont get??
ARMA: Armed Assault was definitely a huge technology step forward. Graphics engine, data streaming, satellite map, animations, join in progress multiplayer and many more. On the other side the weaker parts were the singleplayer content and story background and the fact we had to change the name of the game. That’s probably the reason people sometimes didn’t want to consider ARMA to be the real “sequel” to Operation Flashpoint Cold War Crisis / Resistance even if it brought so many new features and much better visual appearance.
6. The just after first installing ArmA 2 is much better that the first. It isnt perfect and we will talk about it, but the feelling is that BIS is back more or less (and in a bit different way) to the point of the first Op. Flashpoint (sorry, still work to do to get the Op.F:Resistance point). Do you think the media and the community has notice that?How does the dev team feels the answer of the community to ArmA 2?
Yes we think so. I think it’s obvious to everyone that we have pulled brought the best effort and diligence we could to the development of ARMA2 and at the same time looked back our previous games to see what worked well in them and what didn’t work so well or wasn’t received so well. We do our best to continue this by bringing new updates, new content as well as community modding tools to ensure the game continues to live and prosper rather than the quite usual release and forget strategy from some developers.
You ask about the media and community, to be honest, we were slightly disappointed by the approach of certain magazines, some of the media guys seemed to forget they should be a kind of investigative journalist, searching and investigating for the true quality and potential of a game, checking the promises of the developers and the real product they brought. In contrast, the community stood with us all the time and sometimes it was really surprising how loud this number of voices could be. If ARMA1 left a few people concerned about the direction of the series or it’s stature as sequel to our beloved Operation Flashpoint, the release of ARMA2 seems to have cemented our place as being the developer of the combat simulator experience, plenty of developers make shooters, some of them being excellent movie like experiences, but I think our games continue to go past the movie experience and instead simulate the real life combat experience, I think testament to that is the huge amount of current and ex-military personnel who regularly play our games, create content for our games and are an active part of our community.
7. Talking about the community… what do you think about this Youtube video?
Many thanks and big respect to Christoffer for his composing skills, everybody in Bohemia Interactive has heard it. Obviously it was composed many months ago when some people’s experiences were a little more, fraught shall we say, maybe it’s about time to compose another one, what do you think?!
8. And at this point, how does the game work in the market? We saw that the first weeks the game was selling well in digital distribution…
ARMA 2 definitely is a success in terms of sales. It seems that despite the world economical crisis, Bohemia Interactive can again stand on it’s own feet for a while and focus on game development without having to worry about satisfying a bottom line or meeting financial targets, in this day and age that’s pretty rare, but one could say it reaffirms our ambitious development philosophy as not being completely cuckoo!
9. Talking about digital distribution but in other way… ArmA 2 request a great PC to move it right… Do you think all those cloud systems (OnLive, Gaikai,…) will help more people to have a chance to play it better? You see BIS games on any of those systems? What do you think about Onlive and Gaikai? Will platforms like those end with the game-selling as we know them?
That’s a difficult question. One can hardly imagine the server able to run such a game simultaneously for multiple clients. For now, we pay very little attention to cloud systems as a potential platform for our military games. Maybe the future will bring us more possibilities when these systems have proven themselves as viable and sustainable.
10. What can we expect from Op. Arrowhead?
New units, new environment, new gameplay and new simulation features. It’s definitely more than one would expect from an “expansion” and as such is one of the reasons we decided to release it as standalone.
11. Does the focus on that new campaing means that from BIS ArmA 2 is OK about all that bugs the peope talk about so far?
Absolutely not, as you can clearly see and verify, we still pay very serious attention to our released games. We continue the work on updates for ARMA2 as long as there are any serious issues with the game, and we still plan to finalize and release the final update for ARMA: Armed Assault too. When people buy one of our games we see it as a commitment between ourselves and the gamer to continue to work hard to ensure the experience is the best it can possibly be.
12. Can you tell us the way Arrowhead will be wider than ArmA 2?
Arrowhead is meant to be an expansion, so don’t expect a completely full scale game in comparison to what ARMA2 brought after ARMA1 for example. But still, there is a lot new stuff coming so it’s hard to compare the two to tell if it’s wider or not. OA will bring completely new and attractive environment and tons of new units and vehicles plus brand new engine features, and of course will include a full depth campaign as well as standalone and multiplayer missions.
13. Can we expect a better AI and a bit of more deeper interaction with the NPCs?
Well you can’t of course expect a complete override of all of the features and AI capabilities that ARMA2 brought. Still, we focus on as much enhancement and optimization we can do for OA as is appropriate for an expansion. By the way, the AI itself has made several significant steps forward in the latest beta-patches for ARMA2. So yes, I would expect a better AI in OA but please don’t forgot it’s just a game