“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.
OBSERVE THE BEE.
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.