Important News: Bees Cast Shadows In Arma 3

By Craig Pearson on May 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am.

“But Craig”, you’re probably saying to your monitor. “I totes remember insects casting shadows in Arma 2. Like seriously.” To that I say: “That’s cool. Let’s talk.”

This was supposed to be a post about the wonders of Arma 3′s new screenshot mode, splendidly named the Splendid Camera. It still is. Splendid Camera, I shall always call it by its full name, is one of those additions that shows you how deeply into the community’s den that Bohemia are willing to burrow to make people happy. In this case it’s a function that’s specifically designed to allow players to fly around the game, slow time, remove the HUD, and even change exposure and focus settings, just so they can take nice screenshots. That is how I discovered that both Arma 2 and Arma 3 had insects that cast shadows.

I used Splendid Camera to capture a battle I’d quickly set up between two squads across an airfield. In the editor I hit ESC and a UI popped up with “Camera” on it. Clicking it brings the new system up. A grid shows off the rule of thirds on the screen, and everything else is helpfully listed. I paused the fight and zoomed around. I admired the tracers that were frozen in the air. I cooed at how close I could get to the action. Splendid Camera is a great tool for those that admire the craftmanship that goes into Bohemia’s simulation. As I was artistically pushing the camera in to capture a muzzle flash just so, the camera floated through a bee that had entered the scene.



Then I spotted the smear of pixels on the ground, and pointed it out the to the RPS secret chatroom of mystery. Bee and Army simulation expert Jim was less impressed: “Not sure whether that hasn’t been in since Arma 2. Checking.”

Minutes passed while we consulted with Bohemia’s experts (we really did), and discovered that their previous ridiculous simulation also included insects casting shadows. The blurry proof.


It’s an insect of some kind, though I’m not sure what. It might be a bee, or it might be the Loch Ness Monster? The point is I’d never noticed just how for Bohemia are willing to go to make things look right, and probably wouldn’t have noticed now had I not been playing around with Splendid Camera. Arma 3′s Creative Director Jay Crowe explained the specifics to me in an e-mail.

“Yes, the ambient life, as we call it, do cast shadows. While they serve no particular functional purpose, they add a nice touch of detail to our environments. The little bits of movement you might catch in the corner of your eye help break up the the scene and make it feel more natural. Their presence is affected by several factors – such as wind, rain, night-time, how high, how far from sea, how deep underwater (added for A3), certain terrain types. It’s similar to the bits of pollen, leaves, etc.

“They’re a technology carried over from previous games and concepts. Every species -can- have its own separate behavior, but in A2/3 it’s not used extensively, due to resources. At one point rabbits would go drink, eat, mate, etc. – but now they just randomly walk, stop, run, etc. It can’t be about man-shooting all the time, though the ESRB would probably have us add another rating if we enabled it.”

Rabbit sex censored in Arma 3. You definitely hear it here first.


« | »

, , , , .


  1. c-Row says:

    I, for one, welcome our new shadow-casting, honey-gathering overlords.

  2. Moloko says:

    Join the army; bee all you can bee

  3. Thirst says:

    Pretty sure something as small as a bee won’t cast a shadow in such bright daylight from that height.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      It was quite a big bee.

    • corinoco says:

      It will detectably lower the sunlight level beneath it – therefore a shadow. Physics 101 right there.

    • DXN says:

      Sure it would. If you drop a coin in sunlight, you can see its shadow.

      Of course, this doesn’t take vampire bees into account. But nothing does.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      There would technically be a shadow, but at that distance it would be antumbra and would be bloody hard to see. The problem is the game is treating the sun as a directional source which of course it is not.

      • Brun says:

        This. More precisely, they are treating the sun as a point source (meaning only the umbra – the main, dark part of the shadow – is cast). This is an acceptable approximation for objects like trees, vehicles, people, terrain, etc, but it starts to break down for very large (planet-sized) and very small objects. The shadow of that insect should be indistinct, given its height above the ground.

        • jon_hill987 says:

          I say directional because they will also be assuming it is an infinite distance away. A point source would cast shadows at different angles as it radiates from the source, I’m betting that the shadows are at the same angle no mater where you are, hence directional source.

        • jon_hill987 says:

          But the point is the same. It is a lack of detail in the engine, not an excess of it, that has cause that insect to have a shadow.

  4. CaspianRoach says:

    I’m buzzing with excitement for this game.

  5. moreyummystuff says:

    So, it’s a sequel to Shadow of the Bees II.

  6. mrmalodor says:

    Do bees cast visible shadows in real life at this distance? I doubt it. We need the Mythbusters to sort this out.

  7. Simon Hawthorne says:

    Pfft. We had rabbit mating in Shadow Warrior in 1997. This is surely an example of dumbing down for the consoles.

  8. Lord_Mordja says:


  9. Morlock says:

    No following their waggle dance to find sweet nectar, no sale.

  10. Motorheadache says:

    Good read.

  11. Gap Gen says:

    I bet the people who complained that RPS should spend less time talking about sexism and more time about games are regretting their actions about now.

  12. James Allen says:

    I tweeted that character mouths move during voice chat in Arma 3, a comment which got re-tweeted by the official Arma account. I then got gently reminded many, many, many times that this feature was already present in Arma 2. I feel your pain, Craig.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I remember in ArmA 2 we lost a versus match because someone on our team was using in-game chat rather than Teamspeak, so the enemy could hear them talking from behind the fence we were hiding behind. Turns out if someone is talking over the radio you can also hear them if you’re standing next to them regardless which team you’re on, which I suppose makes sense.

      • sinister agent says:

        I really like that feature, and wish people wouldn’t use third party chat to communicate, as it’s basically cheating.

        But unfortunately the in-game voice system was so unreliable that people had little choice.

        • nearly says:

          believe there’s even a mod that tries to redo the in-game voice system. it doesn’t make it more reliable but more realistic so that your range is dependent on direction, terrain, etc. not sure if the actual in-game voice was just unreliable or intended to approach realism.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’s not really feasible to stop, annoyingly. Cuts off all kinds of potentially interesting information warfare angles for games.

        • Professor Paul1290 says:

          That’s what ACRE is for.

          ACRE is a mod and TS3 plugin that simulates semi-realistic radios as well voice that varies in volume and direction depending on where the speaker is.
          For just plain voice without radio It even allows you in-game volume control of your voice so you can to “whisper” so that your enemies can’t hear you as well indoors (unless they’re really close) and “shout” to speak to someone further away.

          A lot of players consider ACRE “essential” alongside the ACE mod.

  13. Dudeist says:

    Confirmed, it’s drone.

  14. Dana says:

    What a waste of processing power.

  15. sabasNL says:

    This is the best Bee Simulator I’ve ever seen, INSTANT PURCHASE!

  16. SuicideKing says:

    Awww i wish i could see rabbits do all of that. At least eat and drink!

    Noisy rabbit sex nearby during a stealth mission would be funny though :D

    BTW: Does it snow in Arma III?

  17. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    If you look carefully you can see all its hopes, dreams, and fears.

  18. jkz says:

    Slow news day?

  19. Bfox says:

    We will get soldiers screaming from stings while they try to hide in bushes I hope?

  20. The Random One says:

    I tried to take a screenshot

    but the screenshot was bees.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>