Bohemia Interactive’s Karel Mořický explains how Zeus was created with a 3 man team, and how Arma3’s multiplayer design focused more on “a solid framework” for community modding, than “more traditional single-purpose military modes”.

If you haven’t already heard, Arma3 is getting DLC entitled Zeus: a new framework for modding, or new game mode, depending on how you look at it. Since launching in Early Access, Arma3 is still incomplete with one episode of the single-player campaign to be released.

At 39.99 GBP, Bohemia Interactive are keen to chime the ‘free DLC’ tune. The campaign, considered ‘free DLC’ in their promotional materials and on Facebook in a move that has been criticized by fans of the game, is more late than anything else, but as the majority of the 50 strong team continue fixing, patching and improving the game, two lead multiplayer designers and one programmer went on a quest to create something unlike anything in Arma before: God mode — in that, you get to control all the elements, at least.

I caught up with the designer of Zeus, Karel Mořický, to see if he was aware of some of the criticisms, and put right any misconceptions about the game, and how its maintained.

I’ve been hovering around the forums and Reddit for some time — especially when the timer page went live. A lot of people wanted more vehicles, planes, things like that. There is a sense that the community want a fuller game, rather than alienating new game modes. What do you say to those people who would prefer a new jet, to a new game mode? Not everyone understands that different teams are assigned different tasks, and that your time creating content might not necessarily take you away from stability improvements, and other essential maintenance tasks.

We can imagine people feel that way, but indeed as you mentioned, in any development team you have people with different skill sets working on different things. In terms of Arma 3, the core development team is currently about fifty people strong. The Zeus DLC, including the system, user interface, editing modules and basic missions was developed by myself and Filip Sádovský, one of our programmers.

Meanwhile, our artists and sandbox designers are working hard on new planes, island locations and much more. The last part of the campaign is being developed by our content designers as we speak. The programmers have never stopped optimizing the engine and are constantly looking for ways to make it better. All in all, I’d say it’s not so much a matter of one or the other; you just can’t all work on the same thing. That said, let me assure everyone that we’re very much aware of the requests from our players. And, even though we’re confident about the tremendous amount of content and features already available in Arma 3, I will not deny that many of those requests are things we want ourselves. They just take time to develop.

Zeus seems heavily ambitious… perhaps one of the biggest innovations in the Arma series. What inspired this game mode, and could you explain it? Is it an RTS type environment where one player plays as the commander, and others fight on the ground… are you literally Zeus?

Wouldn’t it be better to come up with something people could not only play, but also implement into their own missions?

Arma 3 is a game that flourishes when it’s placed in the hands of players. Before the game’s release, we were contemplating how we should approach multiplayer. While we considered putting our effort into more traditional single-purpose military modes, it occurred to us: wouldn’t it be better to come up with something people could not only play, but also implement into their own missions? A solid framework, adaptable and moddable by the community?

Around the same time, I accidentally stumbled upon a several years old video from one of my unfinished community projects, called ‘GOD’. It was one of the first attempts to make a real-time 3D editor for Arma. Re-inspired by this video, I created a scripted proof-of-concept of Zeus over a weekend. We played it, we liked it, and we gave it the go-ahead. In the last few months we saw it turning into something splendid, and now we’re just a few weeks away from release. Oh, perhaps it’s also worth noting that the lightning was there from the very first moment!

Mořický’s original GOD project

In the images, I see things like lightning, and fighting, and FPS action… then I see a guy clicking butterflies all over the place like some kind of mad prophet. Rather than a game mode, this seems an extension of modding tools. Is that correct to say? If not, why?

You could say we simply added an interface.

I’d even go as far as to call it an extension of the whole game. Most of the features that Arma 3 Zeus relies on – open terrains, dynamic combat, the vast asset library – were already there since the release. You could say we simply added an interface. But that was just the first step. The second was to turn the tool into a game, which brought a whole new range of questions, such as deciding what’s available to Zeus and at what cost. For example, in Sector Control, you support your faction against an enemy who also has a Zeus on their side, with options unlocked based on the number of captured sectors. In Horde Mode, you can send attacking waves of enemies, but with a limited ‘budget’ for every wave. Last but not least, there’s a mode we simply call Game Master, where you start with a completely blank canvas and it’s up to Zeus – the Game Master – to determine what will happen. And these are just a few examples of scenarios we created. The system is fully moddable, so it’s not unlikely that new modes will be designed by our community. I’m very excited to see what they will do with it!

This asshole just covers this guy in butterflies like he doesn't even care.

This asshole just covers this guy in butterflies like he doesn’t even care.

Finally, could we see any Bohemia released cooperative campaigns or scenarios released in the near future?

We are certainly looking ahead at the next two years and how we intend to extend Arma 3’s playable content, but we’re not yet ready to confirm details. The third part of the campaign, planned to be released in March, is singleplayer. As for coop missions, I can’t wait to join a random coop server in the future and see what kind of awesome experience Zeus will prepare for me there.