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TRIGGERNOMETRY

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

There isn t enough poetry being written about guns. Not literal limericks or sonnets (that would be creepy), but words that dig into and capture what makes one game s AK-47 more fun than another s.

Weapon feel continues to be the nebulous catch-all for the nuances that make guns fun. Most of the reviews of shooters I read offer the same praise: guns feel great or feel really powerful. If the writer s being generous, they ll use a word like punchy to describe an SMG. I ve been guilty of this too during my six-year term at PC Gamer.

Months of work goes into designing, animating, and balancing the things that put the S in FPS, so maybe we should take a moment to talk about what makes a good gun good.

I think the visual design of weapons matters far less than we think it does. There s a tendency, probably because they re planted right in front of our perspective at all times, to think of guns as a collection of aesthetics: firing and reload animations, SFX, screen shake, particle effects, and the death animations they produce. Those things make a gun, right? So if those things are good, surely we have an interesting and fun video game weapon, right?

No. Consider the AWP: it s olive green, it s bland, and its simple animations are more run-of-the-mill than Rambo. The only aesthetically remarkable thing about the most revered, iconic, and infamous sniper rifle in a video game is that it s a bit loud. And yet thousand-comment debates erupt when Valve tweaks the way the AWP s scope works. Why?

A gun s look and sound are part of its personality, sure. But if you ask me, great video game weapons have meaningful, interconnected relationships with other game elements. Those elements differ from game to game, of course. In CS case, the appeal of the AWP is born from the fact that CS is an FPS with body-part-specific damage modeling and no respawns. In that context, it s the only gun that grants an instant kill if you tag someone above the waist.

That feeling of possibility is fun within the strict rules of CS movement: if you can hit it, you can kill it… but you also can t be moving too much when you fire. With that power comes responsibility, too. Killed players surrender their equipped weapon in CS, and stolen AWPs not only save your team $4750 but act as a kind of trophy. This is doubly the case in CS:GO, where a player s custom AWP skin reminds all spectators which irresponsible player allowed their AWP to fall into enemy hands. Buying an AWP, then, to some extent, announces to the rest of the server: I think I m a good enough shot to protect this valuable asset from the other team.

All of this makes the AWP a weapon with abundant meaning. Even its shortcomings (slow rate of fire, difficult to use in close quarters) are a source of fun: the noscope is a revered skillshot.

In Tribes case, its weapons shake hands with its player movement really well, arguably the quality that defines it as an FPS. Again, like the AWP, the Spinfusor isn't visually extraordinary: it fires discs at a medium speed, and its animations and SFX are pretty modest. But the Spinfusor is the perfect fit, the perfect baseline weapon in a game where your targets are typically skiing along the ground at high speed. Its splash damage leaves room for error and its relatively slow travel time creates an exciting feeling of uncertainty as you admire your shot. Like throwing up a three-pointer in basketball, you get to experience that arc of Will it go in? It might not go in. It went in! as the disc travels toward its target.

The Fusion Mortar creates the same sort of feeling while operating as a parabolic siege weapon. The design of the weapons actually encourages you to spend as much time as possible in the air: the threat they pose encourages you to master movement to have the best chance of staying alive. In each of these examples, the weapons strengthen the meaning and significance of core systems like movement, damage modeling, or weapon purchasing.

PC Gamer

*Puts on blockbuster trailer voice* "In a world of helicopters, one DLC had... *pause for explosion* ...more helicopters. It's time to experience the helicopter experience of the year. From the studio that brought you Take On Helicopters; it's Helicopters—a DLC for Arma 3. Coming this right now." *Fade to black*

Okay, so its not loads more helicopters. In fact, two: the CH-67 Huron and the Mi-290 Taru. In addition to that, there's a new showcase and some time trials. The DLC costs 11 / $16.

Perhaps more interesting are the free additions being made to the base game. Accompanying Helicopters is a platform update that adds a new multiplayer mode, helicopter VR training, and optional alternative flight dynamics. These extras are being made available to all Arma 3 players, regardless of whether they buy the Helicopters DLC.

PC Gamer

The highly moddable ArmA III has a new tool for players keen on building their own structures. The iBuild mod is still in its early stages but gives a fantastic glimpse at a future filled with easily constructed buildings. Place a few squares of foundation, build walls, windows, doors, floors, and ramps, all with just a few simple button-clicks. The pieces snap together, easy as pie, and in a matter of seconds anyone can throw together a basic building.

Foundations are where you start, and placing a single square lets you start snapping on everything else. The placement is easy and reminiscent of other building games: just float a ghostly square of stone around until it's ready to place. Hold down the Tab button and it will build. This is all done with you standing right in the map and moving yourself around, just as you would while playing the game. Build a floor and you can just walk right onto it: build a door and you can open and close it. It's neat.

Once your foundation piece, or pieces, have been plopped down, you can select the other modules. Walls, naturally, come in a couple variants: solid, those with a window, and those with a door. Once you've got a few walls place, you can snap more on top, easily putting together multi-story structures.

There are no stairs at present, but ramps are available for connecting different floors together. I can only assume we'll see ladders at some point in the future as well. Like I said, this is a very early version, and currently there's only one type of each module (walls, floors, etc) to use, though the forthcoming version (which may already be available by the time to read this) will have different variants of each module that you'll be able to cycle through with your number keys.

It's a lot of fun just to experiment with, and it's wonderfully easy to use. I started working on a cozy little home right on the beach, and on an airbase I constructed a new radio tower in just a couple minutes. I bet the sarge will be happy: I built it right in the middle of the runway. That's the best spot to keep a close eye on aircraft, right?

There's a tiny bit of work to get iBuild running, so here's a brief tutorial. First, you'll need to subbscribe to the mod on Steam. Next, start ArmA III, and choose "Open Launcher." This will allow you to enable the iBuild add-on. You'll also need to disable any other add-ons you've got: at this stage, iBuild probably isn't compatible with them. Once you've got iBuild selected, click on "Play" which will start your session.

Next, you'll want to configure a couple key bindings, which only takes a second. Under custom controls, Use Action 1 will be the key to turn build mode on and off, and Use Action 2 will be the key to actually build the sections.

From there, select the Editor, choose between Stratis or Altis, and double-click the spot on the map where you want to build something. Place a unit (that's you) and a couple more if you want some friendly NPCs to stand around watching you build. Then click Preview at the top. You'll appear on the map, ready to go.

From there, you can cycle between your different building modules with the number keys. Just be careful! Since you're building while you're physically in the game, you can wander off the edge of the building you're putting together and fall to your death, as I did here:

Watch your step!

The mod has its own website with a FAQ, videos, and more detailed instructions. You can check it out here.

PC Gamer

Bohemia Interactive's "Make Arma Not War" modding contest is closing to entrants in just a few days, and that means it's time to play some Arma 3—for free! (And if you find yourself digging it, you can also buy the game for half-price.)

The looming end of the contest (winners will be announced next year) doesn't necessarily mean that it's time for free Arma, I suppose, but that's what the studio said on Facebook—"In support of the Make Arma Not War contest, you can temporarily play Arma 3 for free"—and so that's what I'm going with. The upcoming launch of the Helicopters DLC may have something to do with it too. Regardless of how you justify it, what matters is that Arma 3 is now playable for free on Steam and will remain so until, according to my time-zone-adjustment calculations, 10 am PDT on October 26.

Arma 3, for those not in the know, is a military FPS, but unlike, say, the Call of Duty series, its focus is on authenticity. It's also extremely moddable, as reflected by the nature of the Make Arma Not War contest, which is offering $680,000 in total prizes—including $250,000 for the winner of the "Total Modification" category—and provided nearly a full year to get the job done: The contest began on December 5, 2013, and will close on October 28 of this year.

If you haven't been working on your entry since at least early summer, in other words, there's no point in worrying about it now. But hey, at least you can play some free Arma. Hook yourself up at Steam.

PC Gamer

Arma 3 will get two new helicopters this November as part of the sensibly titled Arma 3 Helicopters DLC. This is great news for helicopter fans. Come November 4 the CH-67 Huron and Mi-290 Taru will be available to download for a fee, though you will also be able to roadtest the DLC before you buy. Both choppers are of the heavy-lift variety, with Bohemia Interactive claiming their addition will "place a stronger emphasis on the role of logistics in Arma 3 s open-world combat."

The paid DLC will coincide with a new platform update, which will usher in a new multiplayer mode entitled Support. The chopper-centric mode will be complimented by ten new VR Training stages for helicopters, as well as five new Time Trials (though four of these will be part of the paid DLC package). Other additions include new landing platforms and military decorations.

Full details on the new helicopters can be perused on the Arma 3 website. It'll set you back 12.99 EUR /10.99 GBP/ 15.99 USD. Those keen to read more on airbourne Arma 3 vehicles could do worse than to read Ian Birnbaum's deep dive on the matter. If you're not such a fan of lumbering, simulation-style helicopters, then Arma 3 now has karts. I know, it's hilarious isn't it?

PC Gamer
arma3-chopper


Arma 3 will get two new helicopters this November as part of the sensibly titled Arma 3 Helicopters DLC. This is great news for helicopter fans. Come November 4 the CH-67 Huron and Mi-290 Taru will be available to download for a fee, though you will also be able to roadtest the DLC before you buy. Both choppers are of the heavy-lift variety, with Bohemia Interactive claiming their addition will "place a stronger emphasis on the role of logistics in Arma 3 s open-world combat."

The paid DLC will coincide with a new platform update, which will usher in a new multiplayer mode entitled Support. The chopper-centric mode will be complimented by ten new VR Training stages for helicopters, as well as five new Time Trials (though four of these will be part of the paid DLC package). Other additions include new landing platforms and military decorations.

Full details on the new helicopters can be perused on the Arma 3 website. It'll set you back 12.99 EUR /10.99 GBP/ 15.99 USD. Those keen to read more on airbourne Arma 3 vehicles could do worse than to read Ian Birnbaum's deep dive on the matter. If you're not such a fan of lumbering, simulation-style helicopters, then Arma 3 now has karts. I know, it's hilarious isn't it.
PC Gamer
Pilgrimage


Our regular mod wrangler Chris Livingston is indisposed this week likely pruning back his INIs, and exorcising rogue RARs. Normal service will resume next week. Before that, I'd like to step in to highlight Pilgrimage, an Arma 3 scenario that, judging from the response to Andy's showcase of the game's best solo missions, is a clear community favourite.

It's a needle-in-the-haystack simulator, only with guns and angry men. Your job is to find and collect the body of your deceased brother from one of Altis's churches or chapels.

Altis is over 270 square kilometres big. It has over over 200 churches and chapels. Fortunately, I have ways of making people talk. (See earlier: "guns".)

Er, thanks?

I start in a randomly picked spot on the island's north-east coast. It's foggy, it's raining, and my map is huge and empty. I'm almost questioning the wisdom of embarking on a solo mission to recover a corpse from a hostile-filled island without first collecting event the most basic intel.

I've got a lot of walking to do. I decide to head west. Before long, I stumble across a small building with a rotating yellow exclamation mark above it. Loot! Inside is a sniper rifle. This puts me in a tough position. I'm only carrying a crappy SMG, but swapping it out for this will seriously limit my tactical options. Instead, I decide to sell it using Pilgrimage's auction system. This is involves the box disappearing, a text log informing me of how much "fuel funds" I've been awarded, and, most importantly, me doing my best to not question the logistics of this instant interaction.

I continue west, and am informed I've spotted the trail of between one and three hostiles. I duck into a crouch, which does nothing, but makes me feel about 30% safer. Through masterful orienteering (or "luck," as it's also known), I'm able to avoid the patrol. Instead I spot a church. Damn, this could be a short- no. It's empty.

One down, 217 to go.

Clearly I need to get smarter in my approach. The first thing I do is track down that patrol. I get a new message, saying they're now to the north-east. I head back up the hill, and, with the help of a little more luck, spot them in the distance. My SMG is clearly not up to the task, but I'm well hidden. I manage to take them out before they spot my position. After a bit of corpse looting, I'm sporting a new rifle and some better armour.

My next job is to get off the coast. Anything I don't loot, I sell pulling out a box from, er, somewhere, loading it with equipment and watching it disappear into the omniscient auction house. I've got a decent amount of money at this point enough to fast-travel much further in land. Reach any road and you can select "hitch-hiking" from the game's context menu. Click a position on the map and you'll materialise there, short a few "fuel funds".

My objective is the town of Sofia, but first I've a church to scout. A one-in-217 chance? I like those odds...



Damn.

At this point my phone rings. After a few seconds of randomly pressing buttons, hoping to find the one that answers it, my character picks it up automatically. It's my uncle, with some choice words about a) my brother's death, and b) my father's "machine". Holy shit, this mission has a story.

Unfortunately, I don't get any more hints as to what that story might be. Overlooking the final church on the way to Sofia is a radar tower that's swarming with enemies. They spot me, and I'm plunged into a gruelling fire-fight as I try to escape. At this point, any further phone calls are hurriedly cancelled before the ringing gives away my character's position. At no point does he decide to just put it on silent.

During the fight, one of the soldiers surrenders. A blue exclamation mark appears over his head, informing me he can be interrogated. This, finally, is where I make some headway. The interrogation marks off a number of churches. Now I've probably only got 180 or so to check. Progress!

"Now tell me everything you know about churches..."

I reach Sofia, still under fire. The town itself appears to be surrounded by hostiles, and so I'm sprinting between each highlighted building, picking up first aid packs, selling unwanted weapons and gathering intel laptops that further narrow my search.

It's here I finally get my first piece of actionable advice. A blue exclamation mark points to a civilian with some information. I could ask him directly, potentially marking off a few more churches, or I could risk paying him a sizeable chunk of cash. I do the latter, and he tells me I should concentrate my search to the south-west. I now have a proper lead... assuming he's telling the truth.

The beauty of Pilgrimage is its effective combination of soldiering sim, orienteering adventure and detective mystery. It's truly open ended a randomly placed objective on a massive map and a handful of tools to help you hone in on your target. It's endlessly repeatable too, with a myriad of options that let you extensively tailor your experience.



It can feel overwhelming at first, but only until you find your first solid lead. After that, your journey is give purpose and the true mission of dodging patrols and gathering intel proves an exciting way to spend time in Altis. And there are a lot more options than those that I encountered including dedicated hideouts to hide out in, enemy strongholds to attack, and assassination missions that can be done at the behest of certain civilians. You can see a full guide to what Pilgrimage can do here.

Installation: Simple. Download from Armaholic, and extract the .pbo file into the Missions folder of your Arma 3 directory. You can also subscribe via the Steam Workshop, although there have been reports of that version not retaining your saved data.
PC Gamer
2. Arma 3


Bohemia Interactive is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Arma 3 tomorrow with a livestream featuring an Arma 3 Zeus multiplayer session. As is only appropriate for any proper birthday celebration, there will also be cake, and a few gifts, too.

Hosted by Arma 3 Associate Producer Matt Lightfoot and Designer Nelson Duarte, the first-anniversary livestream will show off the Arma 3 Zeus DLC in action, with both developers and members of the community taking part. Zeus, for those of you who don't follow the news about hardcore military simulators out of Central Europe, is a unique multiplayer mode, released in April as free DLC, that grants one player control over elements of the battlefield like obstacles and enemy troops, allowing for the creation of a dynamic and unpredictable campaign on the fly.

If that's not enough to entice you to tune in, there will also be giveaways of the Arma 3 Digital Deluxe Edition and Arma 3 merchandise sets. And there will be cake! Although probably not as a giveaway.

There is one sort of minor bump in the road to online anniversary antics: The livestream begins at 10:30 am UTC, which as it turns out is 3:30 am PDT. Hey, are you a fan or aren't you? Caffeinate yourself appropriately and tune in at twitch.tv/arma3official. (And if you really, absolutely cannot bring yourself to stay up that late, you can check out some home-grown Arma 3 Zeus action on the August 8 edition of the PC Gamer Show, any time you like.)
PC Gamer
Arma 3


This weekend's Steam sale is all about the Call of Duty. If you're looking for a shooter that's deeper, more complex, more unforgiving and more glitchy, you'd be better off going to Bohemia Interactive's store. There you can pick up the excellent Arma 3 for a 50% discount.

That means you can pick up the base game for 18/$30.

If you do dive in and are looking for something to do, check out Andy's guide to the best solo missions. Alternatively, grab some friends and subject them to the terrifying might of Zeus.



Still on the fence? Head over to Evan's review to learn about the game's good, bad and ugly qualities.
PC Gamer
Arma 3 Helicopter DLC


Arma 3 is good at many things. Bohemia Interactive s military sim is a huge, open-world playground where action dramas unfold, but its greatest strengths show when it dwarfs you with scale. Being a lone sniper in three miles of sprawling mountain wilderness or driving with a vanguard of advancing tanks will strike awe into the heart of the most jaded gamer. Whatever it s doing, Arma paints these experiences in broad strokes you can t find anywhere else in gaming.

On the other hand, Take On Helicopters, Bohemia s 2011 helicopter simulator, was great at a single, specific thing: modeling helicopter flight physics. Beyond the high-definition cockpit, its world was a blocky and lifeless version of Seattle. Seattle wasn t the point, though: the inside of that cockpit was the point. All the love in that game went straight into those dials.

It s kind of wonderful, then, that Arma s next update will be a free DLC focused on bringing the high-definition flight controls of Take On Helicopters to Arma s vast, rolling landscape. It s a long overdue chocolate-and-peanut-butter proposal, one that will change the way pilots interact with their vehicles. Plus, ground troops will get new ways to fight alongside their airborne taxis. To nail down the details, I tried to relearn my helicopter piloting chops with the new, more advanced flight model in Arma 3. Here s what happened.

Ah, jeez. You ok, guys? Guys? You'll be ok.

The Rookie

Let s get this out of the way first: the new flight mechanics have a steep learning curve. Anyone who takes passengers on board with the advanced flight model engaged had better have done their homework, or they ll end up with a dozen corpses and a lot of angry friends. The new model replicates wind, weight, momentum, acceleration, and G-forces. Arma s standard helicopter controls could hardly be accused of being arcadey, but now the helicopters feel like they re punching the air to keep you from falling.

Engaging the advanced flight model, which can be turned on or off at any time through the settings menu, adds five dial readouts to the pilot s HUD. They are, from left to right, speed, altitude, horizon, vertical speed, and wind direction. Alarm lights for torque and engine RPMs are there to flash yellow and red as you gracefully spiral through the sky toward an imminent, fiery death. Though overwhelming at first, with practice these inputs create an interactive map of every force acting on your vehicle.

With our approach to DLC, we had an opportunity to focus in upon a particular aspect of the sandbox and find ways to bring about more gameplay, Bohemia creative director Jay Crowe told me when I asked him about why these options were being introduced to the Arma 3 ecosystem. Of course, for the helicopter enthusiasts out there, the advanced offers a more authentic experience than our 'basic' stock one more precise control and a greater variety of simulation inputs which has been talked about on our forums and feedback tracker for some time.

No matter how fancy the physics get, sometimes you still feel like a giant taxi.

In Take On Helicopters, slamming too hard on the accelerator would cause undue stress on the engine and lead to a bumpy, choppy ride as the machine deteriorated. Failing to heed engine light warnings would cause the troubled components to groan, complain, and then fall right off. Though the advanced flight model replicates these warning lights, the parts can t fall off. To test this I flew like a demon, throttle wide open and collective swinging around, and never had a rotor come spinning off. Small mercies, I guess.

Just because the parts won t be falling off, though, doesn t mean you can fly recklessly. The new flight model includes a more realistic take on stalling and losing lift, so making a hard turn at high speeds will always end in a ball of fire.

elicopters are a big part of everyone's experience on the combined-arms battlefield, not just pilots, Crowe said. Expanding gameplay for a variety of players is definitely a big goal. Crowe also hopes that the advanced model will give dedicated pilots a deeper way to dive into the simulation. We hope flying helicopters will become more fun to master for our players, he says. Strangely, Crowe thinks that the new advanced model might actually be easier for pilots to grok. n some ways and as long as you have assists like Auto-Trim switched on handling the helicopter becomes less difficult and more logical/intuitive. It moves a bit more like you'd expect in real life, so we hope it might open things up to a few new pilots, too.

It s on this final point that I just don t agree. For all my hours in Arma s helicopters, though, I still fly like a baby polar bear learning to walk. For a second opinion, I sought out another authority on flying in Arma.

It's dials within dials. It's dials all the way down.

The Veteran

Dslyecxi, aka Andrew Gluck, is one of the biggest names in the online Arma community. The group he founded, Shack Tactical, is known as one of the best-organized gaming groups in Arma which is saying something for a community that prides itself on military simulation. He narrated a series of tutorial videos for Arma 3, but he first came to my attention when I was new to the game and trying desperately to suck less at flying helicopters.

Frankly: the guy s a wizard. After he made a video on his first impressions with the new flight model, I tracked him down to get his feelings. Right now, he says, they re pretty mixed.

As an advanced flight model, I think it needs some tweaking and some additional functionality for it to really live up to the expectations one has when hearing advanced flight model. Once you dip into the more intricate aspects of helo flight, there are a lot of aspects that all mix together to represent what it takes to control a helicopter. He also doesn t agree that the flight model will be a good way for new pilots to earn their wings.



What he was hoping for and honestly, what I thought I was getting my hands on Dslyecxi pointed out all the things that were missing is a true simulation experience. Notable details are missing from the Arma 3 flight model, including localized rotor damage and the horrifyingly named vortex ring state. VRS is a sickening quirk of physics where a helicopter descends into its own downwash, causing a loss of lift. (For context, one of the helicopters on the Osama bin Laden raid crashed due to VRS.) Pilots in Arma, though, can t enter VRS, and it alters the ways in which helicopters can safely fly.

With these omissions, the new advanced flight model isn t realistic enough to be considered a sim, but the new bells and whistles make it too finicky to be accessible to new players. For this reason, Dslyecxi says, he won t be enabling the advanced flight model in ShackTac s main game sessions. One of the best parts of Arma's native flight model is the accessibility of it it gets the basic themes of helicopter flight correct, but anyone can have a decent chance to fly with it even with just a mouse and keyboard. It's easy to pick up, but difficult to master.

Dslyecxi isn t entirely down on the DLC, though. For one thing, the new flight physics are completely optional, and adding in more native systems for players (and modders) to tinker with is always a good thing. For another, everyone at Bohemia has been open about the update being a work in progress. Just in the past week, changes have been made to improve control responsiveness.

Helicopters in Arma will eventually be able to carry sling loads, which will allow heavy choppers to, say, deliver tanks and jeeps to the battlefield rather than simply ferry infantry back and forth. Even better for the infantry troops relying on helicopters for battlefield transport, troops will soon be able to shoot their personal weapons from the passenger seats or running boards. Anyone who has ever dropped into a hot LZ will recognize how important this would be for virtual soldiers.

Bohemia isn t talking about a release date for the Helicopters DLC yet, but they do hope to get both sling loading and firing from vehicles into beta testing during the next month. Taken together with the recent updates that added a training mode, a single-player campaign, and a player-directed Zeus multiplayer mode, Bohemia is continuing to add content and depth to satisfy their niche audience of simulator die-hards. And when you re dealing with die-hards like Dslyecxi (who says he has about $1,000 worth of flight sticks, rudder pedals, and headset gear on his desk for flight sims), the best solution is always going to be: more. More content, more depth, more variables to tweak and play with.

Ultimately it comes down to what any given person is looking for in the experience, Dslyecxi says, and whether having a more complex flight model helps or hinders that. Some people will benefit from it and enjoy it, others will find it to get in the way or unnecessarily complicate things.

Note: I took all of the screenshots for this article while flying in Wibbler's Helicopter Training scenario. If you need practice landing in hot LZs, in the advanced flight model or not, I recommend you download it.
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