I wonder if this thing could be related to this other thing? Whatever the case, Bohemia Interactive are putting their next egg into a single basket, and that basket is Steam and the egg is Arma III. Rather than just sending out a press release to tell us, Bohemia have posted a detailed blog entry to make the argument that removal of choice for the consumer is ‘a good thing’. Primarily, it’ll allow Bohemia to concentrate on making the game, ensuring it’s out in 2013 rather than slipping as a result of “two quite serious situations”: the arrest of members of the team and, less specifically, Bohemia’s unhappiness “with how the project was going”.
A great deal of the reasoning is tied to Steam’s position as the market-leader. It’s the biggest and best, so if you’re going to go with one partner, why pick anyone other than Valve? Bohemia argue this is not only because of the store’s reach but because Valve is “a good partner”.
“There may be other platforms that handle certain things in a way we or you would prefer, but they simply do not have the reach, support and status Steam does. Recent upgrades to Steamworks have made it an even more interesting option for us as developer and publisher. These include Delta-patching and more direct administration of our games without a middle-man.”
The latter points feed into the greater incentive, which is to free up development time for actual development, rather than having members of the team tied up with “creating and testing all the master copies” and patches to ensure they work with each distributed version. One store, one version.
“By targeting Steam as our primary distribution, we can take those resources and put them to much better use: making the most splendid game possible.”
Bohemia are also impressed with the possibilities offered by Steamworks. There’s good reason for the Arma developers to be fond of mods after the success of Day Z, which has given Arma II an extraordinary chart-bothering second retail life.
Steamworks offers a library of features which we can fairly quickly hook into Arma 3. Some of them we wanted to develop anyway, but to do it ourselves would again cost valuable resources. External solutions have their own issues, such as the lack of immediate control, but Steamworks saves us needed time. We can take what we want, make adjustments and make sure it all benefits players and mod makers. I am convinced that without this choice, most of the features would not be available at all.
Simplification is key to the move. Simpler patching, simpler support for external utilities and mods, and a simpler development process. The same argument is made regarding DRM, with the varied product-ballast of Arma II now a thing of the past. It’s not entirely clear what piracy-prevention measures will be tacked onto Arma III but Bohemia assure that there will be an offline single player mode while also explaining that they will ‘expand’ upon Steam’s DRM solutions.
…Bohemia Interactive has tried to grow with the evolution of the Internet, rather than to fight it. We have removed intrusive Digital Rights Management (DRM) from our games several months after release, but cannot afford to launch without such technologies. We strongly believe the best anti-piracy comes from offering valuable online services that people are willing to invest in. Supporting that philosophy: we saw we could not deliver in-house solutions on time, but could take Steam’s and expand upon them. It will be possible to run Steam in Offline mode, and still play the game (with the exception of online services obviously, including multiplayer itself).
That playing in single player offline is now a ‘mode’ that developers feel the need to reassure us is included makes me shake my head and mutter English swear words, such as ‘malarkey’, ‘cripes’ and ‘pudding’.
There will be boxed versions of the game, but those boxes will contain either a Steam code or a DVD full of files that will require activation through Steam once they are on your computer. I know very little about the specifics of Bohemia’s troubles with the release of multiple versions of their games, but many smaller development teams release on several digital stores and manage to maintain standards between the releases on each. I don’t consider my PC to be functional if Steam isn’t active, although it’s far from alone on my cluttered taskbar, and I can see the benefits of the Workshop, but store exclusivity is peculiar. If nothing else, this move presumably ties Arma III purchasers to potentially unhelpful regional pricing.
We contacted Bohemia for comment on the possible problems that can arise from exclusivity, and will include a response when we receive one.