When Bohemia Interactive Studios made Operation Flashpoint, they got critical acclaim, massive sales, a loyal fanbase of serious players and a modding community. You'd think, from that point onwards, the Prague developers would have had their cushions plumped by anyone they chose - but after their split with Codemasters, it wasn't that simple, with little interest from big publishers and low resources forcing a staggered release for Armed Assault across Europe.
With their sights now set on patches and a US release, we spoke to Bohemia's chief executive officer Marek Spanel and Markus Kurzawa, who's been working at Bohemia for three years, since being recruited from the modding community...
BUILDING ON FLASHPOINT
Spanel: Many things in Flashpoint were limited by the hardware. We've made big changes in the density of the environments in Armed Assault - it's bigger, sure, but it's also far more packed. In Flashpoint, the areas were kind of empty, so you'd find there wasn't enough cover, plus there were tactics you couldn't fully utilise. So that's one part of the improvements - and of course, the visual quality is better.
But there's other areas, which at the time of Flashpoint we didn't know about, or didn't have time to include. Notable are the improvements in the simulation of ballistics, so now bullets can get deflected, and if you hide behind a wooden fence, it's not really proper cover because the bullets will go through. All this isn't obvious on first play, but it's an example of us trying to make a deeper and deeper simulation.
Kurzawa: There were a lot of changes that were implemented in Armed Assault that we were limited with in Flashpoint. For example, the multiple turrets are completely new, and we worked hard as modders to get anything working with that. There's a lot of stuff that went into Armed Assault that the regular players might not see, but if you're a modder, you'll notice that it's a lot easier. They've got much more power to create content and generate whatever they want to. There are still limitations, but far less than before.
Spanel: We released the game before Christmas in eastern and central Europe. The reason for this was simple: we ended up on our own with regards to everything. We're not a big company, and we had to release in order to get some income, it's as simple as that. There are sometimes not many choices you can make, it's either 'do something or do nothing'. We're completely independent developers and we didn't find a way to agree with any big publishers. A year ago, nobody believed in the game at all.
Spanel: To some extent, we have some experience of the military, but we're games developers primarily. Some of us did national service, but we're programmers, engineers and games developers. We've had feedback in recent years from many ex-military personnel and current military concerning the VBS1 training programmes (the 'professional' version of Flashpoint, used by the military). We always try to have such people as external advisors - for instance, some former marines do a lot of the testing, and these people help to make the game as realistic as possible combat-wise.
Spanel We're working on new stuff for Armed Assault right now, new patches and updates to handle all the problems we've had reported from our users, and working towards the release of the game in North America. Unfortunately in PC gaming, the platform is very complex - both from our end and the hardware end, with drivers and operating systems.