War never changes... and nei­ther does ArmA 3’s atro­cious mod sup­port.

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most suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ers seem to de­vote all their re­sources to­wards cre­at­ing paid cos­metic items at the ex­pense of de­bug­ging their games. They don’t ac­tu­ally do this, but it cer­tainly seems that way. The most ex­treme ex­am­ple of this trend is of course Star Cit­i­zen, a project funded by ‘con­cept sales’ of space­ships that haven’t been im­ple­mented (and at the rate they’re go­ing, never will be). A game so buggy that some­times time will flow back­wards, and where smash­ing wa­ter­mel­ons can crash the game client.

But plenty of other games have been ac­cused of cos­met­ics chis­elling: Over­watch, World of Tanks, and even ArmA 3. Es­pe­cially ArmA 3. It’s been a good five years since the re­lease of the lat­est it­er­a­tion of Bo­hemia In­ter­ac­tive’s con­sumer mil­sim, and in that time the bugs haven’t been squashed – they’ve ac­tu­ally mul­ti­plied.

ArmA 3’s most glar­ing fail­ure is its AI. Ad­mit­tedly, there have been a few lit­tle tweaks since launch; in­fantry are now ca­pa­ble of tak­ing cover and lean­ing out to fire. But ve­hi­cle AI is com­pletely bro­ken. A con­voy given sim­ple in­struc­tions to move between way­points, with no en­emy con­tact, will of­ten end up in lakes, get stuck on ter­rain, or crash in cat­a­strophic ways.

There’s a per­sis­tent ru­mour cir­cu­lat­ing in the ArmA com­mu­nity that the devs who made the AI left Bo­hemia years ago, and the re­main­ing staff don’t have a true un­der­stand­ing of how it works. It’s easy to see why some­one would be­lieve this; the Jets and Tanks DLC were re­leased with bro­ken AI that is un­likely to be fixed. It would ex­plain why the AI ac­tu­ally seems to be get­ting worse.

Even if they could fix the AI, there is a clear fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to add im­pres­sive-sound­ing new fea­tures

Bo­hemia’s air­craft car­rier re­quires mod­ding for it to ac­tu­ally launch air­craft.

in­stead. “Now with ad­vanced sen­sor suites!” sounds more glam­orous than “Our jets don’t get shot down by in­sur­gent tech­ni­cals any more!” The other day I shot down a he­li­copter gun­ship with a tank can­non; that was prob­a­bly more due to AI short­com­ings than my gun­nery skills.

Be­yond Bo­hemia’s in­abil­ity to put out these brush­fires, there’s the awk­ward fact that their cus­tomer base is now ef­fec­tively split in two. A good 50% of ArmA own­ers now play sur­vival and ‘life’ mods, and they have no need for work­ing con­voy AI (and the zom­bie AI was cre­ated by mod­ders, any­way). With its fo­cus on civil­ian gear, the Laws of War DLC was clearly pan­der­ing to the Life com­mu­nity.

So much con­tent im­ple­mented by Bo­hemia comes across as half-hearted, and half-fin­ished. The un­der­wa­ter com­bat DLC added divers, mini-subs, and un­der­wa­ter firearms, but did not grant divers the abil­ity to plant ex­plo­sives. Bo­hemia’s air­craft car­rier re­quires mod­ding for it to ac­tu­ally launch air­craft.

It’s con­ceiv­able that Bo­hemia is in­ten­tion­ally hob­bling ArmA 3 so as to not cre­ate com­pe­ti­tion for their mil­i­tary grade sim­u­la­tor, VBS3. Con­sider: the Tanks DLC launched with­out Ac­tive Pro­tec­tion Sys­tems, the counter-mea­sures that many tanks to­day use to de­feat RPGs and mis­siles. Bo­hemia re­port­edly claimed that it would’ve been too much of a has­sle to add this fea­ture, but an Aus­tralian mod­der was able to im­ple­ment APS after just five hours of cod­ing. Why was Bo­hemia un­able to do the same? It re­ally gets the nog­gin jog­gin’.

Most ag­gra­vat­ing of all is the way that al­most ev­ery update to ArmA 3 breaks mod sup­port, forc­ing mod­ders to trawl through their code to fer­ret out class names that Bo­hemia has changed ar­bi­trar­ily. This might’ve been un­der­stand­able for early patches, but five years after launch? This never hap­pened with ArmA 2. No sur­prise then that a large seg­ment of the player base has re­fused to mi­grate from ArmA 2 to ArmA 3.

And why in the world did the first ve­hi­cle DLC pack add go-karts? Not tanks, subs, or jets, but... go-karts. It’s al­most as if the Bo­hemia staff don’t play their own games. (Which re­minds me – if you haven’t seen it, I rec­om­mend track­ing down that YouTube video where Chris Roberts at­tempts to play Star Cit­i­zen, and he just sits there in smug be­muse­ment for 20 min­utes as the game crashes again and again. To the naked eye, it looks like he doesn’t care whether his game works or not. In re­lated news, Star Cit­i­zen is now flat out re­fus­ing all refund re­quests. This is clearly an­other one of the game’s many sub­tle sci-fi ref­er­ences: “Once you have their money, never give it back.”)

Fi­nally, apro­pos of noth­ing, I’d like to give a shout-out to Tel­stra’s tech­ni­cal sup­port staff. As of this writ­ing they have dis­patched eight dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cians to fix my in­ter­net con­nec­tion, but none have been able to stop the dropouts on my ADSL. Thanks, Tel­stra. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what the Om­buds­man has to say about your rank in­com­pe­tence...

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