Our Vision for Project Argo | Dev Blogs | Blog | Argo

Our Vision for Project Argo

/ by Jarek Kolář & Lukáš Haládik / Category: Dev Blogs

Hello mercenaries,

It's been more than a week since you started fighting for Project Argo. We are very pleased to hear of your interest and feedback. We still have a last few days in Le Port ahead us, before we're moving the combat to another location next week. But before this happens, let us explain a little bit more about our vision and intentions for Project Argo.

Vision Pillars

After the first few months of experimenting with the theme of a multiplayer PvP shooter, we came up with six pillars that define our vision for Project Argo. These 'vision pillars' help us understand what game we are making, and keep us going in the right direction when designing and experimenting. Some of the pillars might seem generic, but they define clear boundaries for us, and guide our approach to the content and design of the game.

1. Atmosphere

The perhaps single most important aspect of Bohemia Interactive games is atmosphere, and this applies to Project Argo as well. We want to establish an authentic setting in which you're a mercenary in an alternative global conflict. Working with the Arma 3 engine and Arma 3 assets already helped us a lot to achieve the right atmosphere. In addition, having the game take place on Malden, creating believable factions and objectives, are also important elements. We want to make players believe that they are on a real battlefield. And this is where atmosphere blends into another of our vision pillars: immersion.

2. Immersion

We felt that immersion is so important that it became a vision pillar of its own. Immersion is about feeling that you are IN the game's virtual world. It means that you fear for your in-game life, experience the despair of losing your team members, feel your heart beating when you know that enemies are near, and have sweaty palms whilst keeping your finger on the left mouse button trigger. Our designers have attempted to create immersive situations for this to occur. One important part of that is also removing elements that could spoil the immersion. For example, very obvious UI on the screen, which constantly makes you realize that you are in the game, and not in a real place. However, we learned that this is not so simple. In the past few months, we experimented with very limited and even no HUD, and the result was that players were confused about the objectives and rules, which actually made their feeling of immersion fade away. On the other hand, when we tried to play the game with no HUD, experienced players who knew the game well were able to play it, and they were playing it more cautiously and slowly. They were immersed. As such, this is definitely still one area that we intend to experiment with during Project Argo's Open Prototype phase.

3. Multiplayer

The fact that we're aiming for a multiplayer game was known from the very beginning. Nonetheless, we still defined this pillar as to make sure that we're focusing on competitive team-versus-team action, with the intention being to favor teamplay over individual achievements. As part of this decision, it also meant we decided early on that we wouldn't spend our time and effort on creating a co-operative multiplayer mode, as this would require us to dedicate too much energy and resources (and focus on AI).

4. Infantry

It's almost difficult to restrict yourself to infantry combat only when you're using the Arma 3 engine, which has all of these nice vehicles. However, vehicles add a complexity to multiplayer scenarios, making it much harder to achieve gameplay balance. Vehicles would also drastically alter the use of space and distances. Therefore, we chose to to focus on movement and shooting gameplay, and strive to perfect this.

5. Metagame

We want players to experience some kind of progress, or career if you will, within the game. This can translate into recording their results, achievements, and overall progress. By playing, you gather experience and money, which can be used to unlock new, more complex weapons. With these new unlocks, players can create their own loadouts that represents their unique playstyle the best. Plus, using various apparel, ranging from uniforms, to headgear and eye wear, they can customize their avatar and express themselves. Obviously we'll not go down the road of introducing crazy outfits, as that would clash with our other vision pillars of atmosphere and immersion.

6. E-Sport

Our e-sport pillar doesn't just refer to ensuring balanced multiplayer matches, gameplay mechanics which value player skill, and supporting fair play - it also means supporting competitive teamplay with stats, leaderboards, and tournaments. Plus of course a strong spectator feature to make the game more attractive and fun to watch.

Design Pillars

After we pinned down our vision, we needed to look at the game design itself, and ask ourselves how to translate this vision into gameplay. Just like our vision pillars, we first established some 'design pillars' that should explain how we want to make this game, help us design, experiment, and make decisions. We arrived at four design pillars.

1. Accessible Gameplay

The game should have user-friendly controls. This sounds very simple, but for us this is probably the most difficult pillar. Arma 3 offers a lot of options and complexity, but, as a result, this makes the game not always very easy to get into for a newcomer. Therefore, we removed some of the more complex mechanics and sophisticated systems to make the game more easy to use. Obviously, it remains a delicate question of where you draw the line when it comes to making it too complex or too simple. We'll try to observe how people play our game, listen to their feedback, and iterate on this in upcoming updates.

2. Depth Of Play

Our goal is to make the game easy to pick up, but hard to master. This sounds like a buzzword. but it means a lot to us when it comes to Project Argo. As gamers ourselves, we want to make something that a newcomer can pick up right away, then hone their skills, and apply those skills by combining it with various team tactics. To achieve the desired level of depth, we aim to offer a challenge in terms of both skill and decision-making. Challenge in the sense of earning points through skill, and challenge in the form of needing to decide on the right tools to achieve victory.

As part of that, while it might not be be entirely realistic, we want to have a balanced set of weapons, each with their own pros and cons. This makes it so that players need to discover what weapons match certain play styles. Combining simple mechanics with complex dynamics should support theory-crafting, and should work well with the metagame, which includes unlocking new weapons and weapon attachments.

All in all, reaching the perfect level of gameplay depth will probably be the most difficult thing to achieve during the Open Prototype. We'll be experimenting heavily in this area. That means you can expect significantly varied settings of values between different game versions, alongside much more subtle changes of course.

​3. Balanced Environments

We came to the realization that we need to focus on our locations, which need to be crafted specifically for each of our scenarios. This is different from what we were used to in our other games. Although Project Argo takes place on a large terrain, within that space we defined more traditional play areas. These areas have been built to achieve balanced gameplay. To get there, we developed a series of level design metrics, which we apply to the construction of our environments. We then check our level design via extensive playtesting, but also by checking the metrics that are recorded during each match. Using all of this info, and your direct feedback of course, we'll be making active changes to the terrain and object placement over the course of the Open Prototype.

4. Condensed Action

As mentioned earlier, we want Project Argo to be attractive for spectating. This means we need faster and shorter scenarios to condense the action. This doesn't mean that the action can't still be slow and tactical, but it shouldn't take players too much time to get into the action. Once they enter the combat, we do very much want to keep room for intense firefights with suppressive fire, flanking, and other rewarding tactics - which we think makes it more compelling to watch, too!

Unique Points

With our vision and design pillars in place, we still found it important to clearly define what aspects of Project Argo should stand out from other games in the genre. We tried to play on our strengths.

Authentic Feel

The Arma series is known for its authenticity, and we want to build upon this fine heritage. We feel this is something that should make Project Argo stand out from the crowd. As mentioned earlier, it will be a challenge to find the right balance between realism and ease of use, but we're confident with the direction we're headed.

Lethal Combat

Lethal weapons and fear of the death is important for the immersion. This point is very important to us and is something we're eager to pursue further. So far, we're not quite sure that we have nailed it yet. There is a conflict between aiming for accessible gameplay and unforgiving combat. Finding the right balance here is one of our tasks during the prototype phase, and you can expect many changes and experiments in next updates. On top of that, we also consider other means of lethality, such as limited respawns, which is already part of the Open Prototype.

Tactical Teamplay

We're looking for numerous ways to emphasize teamplay and co-operation over individual achievements. We're seeing many PvP games trying to do so, while also seeing many games fail in this regard. To make sure we're achieving that goal, our devteam members have already been doing some sneaky playtesting on official servers, and we've very much been enjoying the communication between players thus far.

Business Model

Last but not least, one might ask what our plans are for any potential monetization of Project Argo in the future. The honest answer is: we don't know. Our primary goal is to learn about competitive multiplayer game design, and hosting a larger-scale multiplayer game infrastructure in general. In the long term, if and after Project Argo graduates from the prototype phase, we will need to find a sustainable business model that would allow us to continue hosting servers and supporting the project. However, this would be a decision for later. The only thing we can say now is that, from the all possible solutions, we will definitely NOT support any form of pay-to-win. This might be a suitable scheme for a different type of games and companies, but we feel strongly that Project Argo should always be about skill and team co-operation above anything else.

Next Steps

Next week we'll release the first update to Project Argo's Open Prototype. This will rotate the current Le Port area, with Link and Clash operations in the valley near Sainte Marie, and a new Raid scenario on Radio Station in the north of Malden. In addition, each of our updates will also bring along a completely new set of loadouts that we will keep changing until we finish the metagame (which would grant users with the possibility to define their own custom loadouts).

Also, next week we plan to do a first live stream from our office, so you can actually see us and hear us. We've already been talking a lot internally about the ideas, suggestions, and feedback that we have received from you in the last week - and it's something we'd like to touch upon in this live stream as well. Be sure to keep an eye on our communication channels on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with our development. Thank you for the support, and most importantly, enjoy the game.

See you on the battlefield, mercs!

Jarek Kolář (Project Lead) and Lukáš Haládik (Lead Designer)