Next up in our 'Report In!' series, a discussion with one of Bohemia Interactive's Executive Producers, some exclusive 'behind the scenes' images and the first in a planned series of 'development update videos' have been declassified and are ready for immediate analysis!
We're often asked to let some of our people talk about what it's like to develop a game at BI. 'Report In!' gives you a more personal perspective on our team, a more detailed look at the way we go about our work, and fresh information about our ongoing projects.
Having his wings clipped today is Lukáš Milacek, who talks about modelling helicopters, discusses managing projects, and reveals the intended scale of Take On Helicopters (TKOH).
Tell the people a little about yourself. What's your role? How long have you been with Bohemia Interactive? On which games have you contributed and what is your favourite BI game or mission?
Lukáš: I started working at BI in 2001 as a production manager in the art department (assets creation). I've worked on several projects: Operation Flashpoint for XBOX ( OFP: Elite), Game2, Armed Assault patches and Arma 2. I became Executive Producer for Operation Arrowhead (OA) and Private Military Company (A2PMC). Now, I do same job on TKOH. I take care of the budget, assets creation and other administration.
I'm a big fan of simulations and multiplayer with human opponents. I've spent literally years shooting, driving and flying in virtual environments ( OFP, Il-2 Sturmovik, GTR2).
And can you give us a random fact about yourself?
Lukáš: Flying is a passion of mine. Building on virtual experiences, I started learning how to fly in real life. I'm a glider pilot student and I also have some experiences flying small, powered planes (Cessna, Metasokol). We've already had one opportunity to experience flying in real helicopters during TKOH' s production, and I certainly look forward to more!
Scale of the Project
Take On Helicopters is obviously going to require a number of different choppers, but can you give us an idea of the range or number of individual models?
Lukáš: There will be three base classes (light, meduim, heavy). Each class will have at least one military - and a number of civil - variants (i.e. utility, VIP, SAR, law enforcement).
So, will this range of helicopters have distinctive flight models, for example, can you feel the difference between any two choppers?
Lukáš: Each class should definitely have its own character. In the career/story mode, we'll allow the player to upgrade their base helicopters with more a powerful engine, fuel tanks or other components, like winches. Different engine and weight changes will impact upon the helicopter simulation, and thereby, affect the flight experience.
We also have consultants - professional pilots that fly those whirlwinds in real life - to help us in tweaking the flight models.
What about 'skins' for the models? Do you plan to have a range of liveries and will players be able to define their own custom variants?
Lukáš: Each model will have at least a few skin variants built in for the editor. If there's time, we may try to add support for easy custom skins. This might be similar to the way players can choose faces in the Arma series.
We've got a lot of ideas, but - whatever we're able to achieve - our game will, of course, be open for modifications. We've got a well-established reputation for enabling custom-made content, and this project does nothing to change that fact.
What level of detail can we expect with the models? Are they more advanced than the quality seen in Arma 2?
Lukáš: These helicopter models will be more detailed than any of our previous vehicle models. Most detailed exterior LODs are made from more than 25 000 triangles. Interiors will include detailed gauges and some interactive switches, which will be operable in 3D. There will be properly animated rotors, working doors and service hatches on the exterior. We've developed more damage "hitzones" with more simulated systems and sub-parts that should also be visualised.
What about special equipment - for example, winch systems - will these be part of the models?
Lukáš: In the story/career-mode, the player can buy equipment for his helicopter, which, in turn, opens up new gameplay opportunities. These choppers can be modified for the wide range of roles that civilian helicopters can perform and which a player might want to try. You might equip sling-load components for construction or bringing reinforcements to the battlefield. Maybe a quality leather interior for VIP transport. A larger fuel tank would increase mission range. Searchlights, FLIR cameras, winches... and so on!
However, we're not putting up any barriers to gameplay. Outside of the story-mode, single-player scenarios will put the player within a particular context with a pre-defined chopper suited to the task. We're also developing an interesting free-flight mode, built upon procedurally generating missions depending upon whatever helicopter you pick. And, of course, the editor will support a range of helicopters for players to easily create their own scenarios. But, I think I've said enough for now! More details about our gameplay will be detailed later.
How do you estimate how long a helicopter will take to model - from concept to the final model in game - how do you keep a handle on this process?
Lukáš: Making detailed models, interactive interiors and optional parts for customisation takes approximately three times more work-hours as compared to helicopters in A2. Most of the processes are well known from previous projects; however, some new features need prototyping and testing before the final production pipeline can be established.
What would you judge to be the biggest challenges and rewards of managing the creative process?
Lukáš: The biggest challenge is that you always have to adapt your work-flow to new technology and new creative approaches. I studied production in the film industry, where projects can be well planned since the beginning. With game development, you have to re-evaluate your plans after each phase, each milestone. What is rewarding is to work with so many talented people. I also like to be in contact with fans, who make awesome addons to our game. I also find it fascinating to meet professional soldiers, and get to experience real weapons and vehicles when searching for simulation references.
Might you be able to offer any words of wisdom for those seeking to be a part of managing projects in the games industry?
Lukáš: Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.
An apocalyptic flood is destined to sweep across all Bohemia, and you only have space to take one game in your lifeboat -- which one will you save from a watery grave?
Lukáš: Arma 2: Combined Operations.