ArmA 3 “community alpha” coming this summer

by johndrewmarkley on February 24, 2012

ArmA 3Bohemia Interactive has revealed some new information and screenshots for ArmA 3, the next game in the company’s series of first-person tactical shooter/military simulation games.

After the E3 show this June, Bohemia plans to make a playable early build of the game, which they’re calling a “Community Alpha,” available to the public. (An alpha is an early, preliminary version of a computer program which hasn’t been thoroughly bug-tested and may be lacking some of the features that will be present in the final version, used for testing purposes before commercial release. Not to be confused with the release version of most Bethesda games.) This will allow them to solicit feedback from fans while development is in progress. An open beta is also planned for later in the year.

The ArmA series is noteworthy for taking a more realistic approach to its subject matter than games like Call of Duty. For instance, the game models the trajectories of projectiles realistically instead of treating them as if they traveled instantly in perfect straight lines, so things like a bullet’s travel time to its target and loss of altitude in flight due to gravity matter. Getting hit is actually a big deal- a bullet wound can quickly cripple or kill you, and you don’t have the sort of Wolverine-like healing abilities that allow protagonists in other modern shooters to just take a short breather and then return to the fray after being riddled with bullets. The fan base base for this sort of thing is limited, but quite devoted. Personally, I generally enjoy the fact that most modern first-person shooters are relatively forgiving as far as how easily your character can die is concerned, but it’s still good to have a few games where your most common warning sign that you should get to cover isn’t that you’ve already been shot a few times. That sort of thing can take its toll on immersion at times.

The community alpha is also intended to give the ArmA modding community a head start on creating their own mods and content based on the newest version of the game engine used by the series. ArmA has an active modding community, which often seems seems to be the case for niche games with relatively small but very devoted fan bases. (Many historical strategy games produce a huge number of fan-made variants, for example, especially relative to the limited size of the audience for that sort of thing.) Bohemia itself has has long been very mod-friendly, having previous released sets of software tools to help modders create and edit maps for the ArmA games, edit the AI scripts that govern the behavior of character in the game, make new textures and character models, create new missions, and so on, so this continues in that tradition. The company says they’ve also tried to make transferring assets made for ArmA 2 into ArmA 3 as easy as possible, which should also be a boon for modders.

ArmA 3 is planned for release on PC some time in late 2012.

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