Welcome to our first post on the Project Argo devblog! My name is Jarek Kolář and I'm a fairly recent addition to the growing Bohemia Interactive family. I've been a part of the games industry for many years, working on titles such as Vietcong and the later Mafia games. Last year, I joined Bohemia to lead a small group of people, working alongside the Arma 3 team (Team Bravo) in Brno, the Czech Republic. The goal of this 'taskforce', as defined together with our CEO Marek Španěl, was to create a game that would explore competitive multiplayer design in the first-person shooter genre. After months of hard work, one of the first results of this effort is Project Argo, which we're launching today as an Open Prototype under the new Bohemia Incubator label. Now I'd like to briefly introduce the reasons and thought processes behind Project Argo's creation.
It's been fascinating to see game development evolve. Contemporary games are complex compositions of art and technology, and very expensive to produce. Many of the bigger companies have become very capable at handling these large-scale productions. But, even still, the inception and pre-production phase, which is typically when most new ideas are shared, is often not well-managed and remains an unpredictable part in development. This is one reason why you often see that big companies tend to avoid making significant changes and introducing new concepts - all to minimize the risk of a bad idea, and heading down a dead-end. Consequently, these games often copy the core design of their previous installments and/or other proven successes. The upside of this 'safe' approach is that such big-budget games are often technically well-executed and polished. Indie game development studios, on the other hand, are often individuals or very small companies who have little to lose by experimenting and taking risks. In fact, it's their way to differentiate and compete with the 'big dogs'. This drives indie studios to try new things, fail, learn, try again, fail, learn, and so on - until they (or at least some of them) find something that works. The result may be innovative and original, but on the flip side, you'll often see that these games tend to be smaller in scope/scale, with mixed quality, and generally less polish.
I started at Bohemia Interactive after working at a large game development corporation for over a decade (and many years of independent development before then). Coming from such a different work environment, I was pleased to see that Bohemia Interactive had managed to retain its founding principles. That's not as simple as it sounds, and will continue to offer a challenge, as the company has seen considerable growth in recent years, going from a small studio to a large company with offices in different locations. While it means we now have more resources at our disposal, there's always a risk of the company losing its identity. Fortunately, when I arrived, it was immediately apparent that passion for games and games development is still number one at Bohemia Interactive. With its original founders in charge of daily business, the company has remained independent and continues to pursue its core values of curiosity, creativity, and community.
Why is this all relevant? To maintain our company identity and culture, while also considering the future and thinking about how we can best grow our existing and new projects, Bohemia Interactive is introducing a new iniatitive to drive innovation and pursue original ideas: Bohemia Incubator. Bohemia Incubator is our new publishing label for experimental games that we'd like to share with our community early in their development. The primary goal is not to generate income, but rather to allow for a greater level of creative freedom, to try new things, and gather feedback on what works and what doesn't. The Incubator games may never even reach the alpha or beta stage in development, but we consider it a great way to validate concepts and help us make decisions moving forward. That brings us to our game: Project Argo.
Since the beginning, we considered Project Argo as experimental. The main directive was to create a multiplayer PvP shooter that would provide an authentic, small-scale, and infantry-only, tactical experience. However, before we got to work, we defined a set of project goals that we believed would best serve our company's needs, now and in the long run:
While the intention was to eventually work in a new engine, our team of few started by prototyping a mod in the Real Virtuality engine, which also powers Arma 3. The benefit was that we could use Arma 3's core codebase and art assets. That meant we didn't require the support of programmers, animators, or artists. It enabled us to to concentrate solely on designing the gameplay. This, in turn, resulted in various new PvP multipayer game concepts, all with their own functionality, rules, and User Interface. In this first phase of development, we created over 10 different multiplayer scenarios (or game modes) set on various Arma 3 terrains. This helped us reach a more clearly defined game concept.
After this internal prototyping, we agreed to push the project forward, and selected the three most interesting game modes. However, we soon found out that specific terrain features and balanced game environments were vital for our scenarios to work properly. As there were no truly suitable locations on the existing Arma 3 terrains, we therefore decided to build our own terrain, on which we would be entirely free to experiment with our level design. This then lead us to an older idea of re-imagining Malden (the island originally featured in Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis), using mostly Arma 3 terrain assets. Although Project Argo was initially created as a mod for Arma 3, we soon realized that it would be more practical to release it as a standalone game. Internally, this helped us to separate Project Argo and Arma 3 development more clearly, and it would also enable us to make the game available to a wider audience. Months later, when all puzzle pieces started to fall together, we decided to release Project Argo as a standalone total conversion in the form of a free Open Prototype, alongside the announcement of Bohemia Incubator. And here we are.
In closing of our first devblog, I hope this gives a you a better understanding of where we're coming from. Now that we've reached the most important stage in our development, we'd like to invite all of you to download and play the Open Prototype of Project Argo, which is available as of now for free! If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know on the Bohemia Forums - or if you're experiencing any bugs or game issues, be sure to report them on Project Argo Feedback Tracker.
In terms of our near-future plans, we aim to release a new version of Project Argo, with a different location and loadout, roughly every other week. We'll also keep you up-to-date with development progress in future blog posts. In addition, we're planning to host regular live streams on Twitch to show you our playtests and explain some of the game features and locations more in-depth. To keep track of it all, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
For now, thank you for your support, and enjoy playing one of Bohemia Incubator's first games. Have fun, and good luck out there!
On the behalf of the Project Argo development team,