The Best Way To Play Arma 3 Without A Clan: Battle Royale

I remember my second kill in Battle Royale. The first one, like many first things in life, was somewhat sloppy and forgettable. The second one was different. It was at night and I was hiding in a ruined building in Agios Dionysios. The blue circle had just popped up and I was looking at the map when I heard the footsteps. A man ran past my building and stopped under a tree some 15 metres away, most likely to do the same thing I was doing – look at his map. All I had was a revolver. I peaked over the crumbled wall, aimed at his back and fired three times. Razmon – that was his name – flopped to the ground.

On a surface level Battle Royale is simply free-for-all deathmatch, but unlike most public multiplayer mods available for Arma 3 today, it’s based on skill and a tiny bit of luck. You can’t buy anything or grind to unlock anything. How well you do is down to your map reading skills, planning, situational awareness and gun handling. In this way, it’s the cleanest deliver of what makes Arma multiplayer great – and it’s playable against strangers, without the need to clear hurdles and join a community.

Battle Royale matches begin with players gathering in the in-game lobby. The patrons here range from screaming children who are probably too young to be sitting at a table, to people playing instruments live over VoIP (including but not limited to recorders, acoustic guitars and once even a tuba) with a healthy dash of the worst racists and homophobes you’ve ever encountered. When playing with my friends, we often race to see who can mute everyone the fastest (‘mute all’ button is still a faraway dream for Arma 3 players). Having said that, I think the lobby is perhaps the most ingenious part of the BR mod; nothing puts you in the mood for murder better than listening to a bunch of idiots.

When the minimum player limit is reached (usually around 40), the game starts. You are thrown out of an airplane from a height of 1600 metres and after you land you need to find gear. You start the game with nothing but the clothes on your back, you see. Gear spawns in buildings. Military buildings offer better gear but they are consequently some of the more dangerous places to visit. Care packages, which offer the best gear, are dropped from an airplane throughout the match at random locations (where exactly the match is taking place on the island is also random). The catch is that the packages are highly visible and approaching one for looting is extremely dangerous. You can also completely ignore all the hotspots and win the game through stealth, cunning and a 9mm pistol alone.

About 10-15 minutes into the match a blue circle appears and you have to stay within it until the very end or risk death. If you’re caught outside the blue for more than a few seconds, your life starts to drain. The smaller the blue, the faster it drains. The blue circle shrinks from roughly 2-3km to about 100m within one hour. This imitates the collars that Battle Royale participants in the eponymous 2000 film wear and forces everyone to get closer and closer together.

It also means that planning is most important. Broadly, there are two ways to approach the blue shrink: move with the edge or move with the centre. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Your character’s value to you is directly proportional to the time spent in match. Dying 5 minutes in is annoying. Dying 50 minutes in really hurts. The game ends when there’s either only one person left alive or the match time has run out. You start the next match from zero again. All you have gained is actual human experience, shaking hands and a racing heartbeat.

This obviously isn’t the first time an Arma 3 mod has found broad success. Bohemia’s military simulator isn’t just a game, it’s a platform – a set of tools with which to craft games. It comes with a very capable (and constantly improved) engine, beautiful vanilla and user-made maps, editing tools, scripting tools and some mind-blowing free mods. But one component of the Arma formula that doesn’t really get explicitly mentioned that much is the people who play it. You can’t enjoy Arma without other people, preferably a large group of them. Sure you can boot up Arma 3 and play with AI, but that’s like playing Hearthstone with the Inkeeper. You need a community.

Getting into a great Arma community, like for example ShackTac, can be notoriously difficult and even though there are scores of other communities out there that would love to have you as a new recruit, they all have the same downside – it’s a hassle. Finding and choosing a community is a hassle, joining it is a hassle, dedicating one day a week to playing with them is a hassle and convincing yourself that the number of good people in the group outweighs the inevitable knobs is probably the biggest hassle of them all.

Metaphorically speaking, BR mod puts concrete walls around the Arma 3 sandbox and forces you to be creative or die. It’s all the tactical gameplay you could hope for from Arma 3 engine but with random people and that is extraordinary.

It shouldn’t be possible but yet here we are. The mod shines the most when you’re playing with one or two friends. Many participants come with small teams, usually of two players. That extra team coordination takes the experience to a truly sublime level. I have not played a more stressful and more rewarding multiplayer game.

Brendan Greene, the man behind the mod, better known to BR players as PLAYERUNKOWN or PU, says that his mod is almost feature complete. There are things to fix and bugs to iron out but the experience you’ll have today is very similar to the one you’d get in v1.0. According to his calculations Battle Royale has been downloaded almost 500,000 times since it first appeared a year ago. As far as Arma 3 mods go, that’s not bad at all. The mod has been successful enough to land Brendan a position as consultant with Daybreak (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) where he oversees the creation of Battle Royale game mode within H1Z1. I asked him how feels about his success and internet fame.

“For me success is when Battle Royale is a new esport,” says Greene. “That’s my measure of success. It’s great that people play it and I love that we have captured people’s imagination with Battle Royale. But for me, until we have Battle Royale tournaments running, Battle Royale hasn’t been a success. That has been my goal from day one – to create a new esport.”

And boy am I down with that! If you prefer a picture to a thousand words here’s a short video and here’s a longer one (NSFW) showing what BR is like on the inside.

48 Comments

  1. SuicideKing says:

    Getting into a great Arma community, like for example ShackTac, can be notoriously difficult and even though there are scores of other communities out there that would love to have you as a new recruit, they all have the same downside – it’s a hassle. Finding and choosing a community is a hassle, joining it is a hassle, dedicating one day a week to playing with them is a hassle and convincing yourself that the number of good people in the group outweighs the inevitable knobs is probably the biggest hassle of them all.

    RPS has an Arma community – Folk ARPS.

    Getting into Folk ARPS is quite easy – one just turns up and one doesn’t be an asshat. Since asshats aren’t tolerated, the number of good people = all and the inevitable knobs = 0. Simple! :D

    You should play with us sometime, Andro!

    • Boarnoah says:

      Really quick and easy way to have a bit of organized arma play without too much hassle. My recommendations!

    • pfig says:

      I have used and endorse this product.

  2. badmothergamer says:

    I’ve been playing BR since Player released it for Arma 2. It really is a quick blast and as the article says an excellent way to get into multiplayer Arma if you don’t have gaming friends or don’t want the hassle of dealing with groups.

    One great feature is spectating mode. Search Twitch for streamers playing BR that have spectator access and join their games. The streamers usually play (not always) but when they die, they get to stay in the game and can bounce around the map watching the match unfold. This includes overheard map shots to see everyone’s position as well as first person view. It’s nice to see the result of a match even if you don’t make it. It’s also great for watching other players and learning strategies.

  3. tangoliber says:

    I was hoping to read that each player would be given a random weapon or tool like in the Battle Royale movie….Some much better than others.

    • P.Funk says:

      My experience is that human players are whiny fucking cunts if you have anything resembling randomized asymmetrical balance. I got into a heated fucking debate with a good friend of mine once over why I thought him whining about the random armour penetration in CoH was idiotic.

      There’s a reason asymmetrical balance is not popular in gaming. People are cunts – CUNTS about it.

      • Ross Angus says:

        Do you mind, sir? There are ladies and servants present. A gentleman would only use such language on very special occasions.

      • tangoliber says:

        You are right. I still want to see some assymetrical, unbalanced multiplayer games though. One where everybody loses sometimes because the game screws them over…but the better players are ones who adapt to their situations and get the higher win percentage over time.

      • horsemedic says:

        Hard to believe the “fuck, cunt, idiot” guy would run into so many confrontations.

    • horsemedic says:

      It sounds like great fun and I’m going to try it, but it can end with a time limit? Really?

      I hope that means everyone’s head explodes if there’s more than one person alive when the time runs out. Otherwise, it’s not Battle Royale.

  4. Darth Gangrel says:

    That header image sure asscertains the best thing about Arma 3.

  5. gunny1993 says:

    Literally just shut down the Epoch Mod going to myself “I love going round shooting fuckhead who talk in chat, but damn, I wish there was a faster way of doing it” then went onto RPS to see this

    Clearly you’ve hacked me and we’ve entered a cyberpunkian future

  6. Peter says:

    Or how about you try out United Operations, an open community that has very similar game sessions to Shacktactical..
    link to forums.unitedoperations.net

    • Thirith says:

      Do I understand correctly that you also welcome (well-behaved) non-regulars? That’s my main problem: I love playing Arma with fun groups (along the ‘serious fun’ school of thought), but I can never commit to regular attendance.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Hey, most of Folk ARPS can’t commit to always being there, so we’re very open to semi-regulars or even irrregulars.

        We’re less milsim than ShackTac though, for the same reason.

        • fer says:

          Shack Tactical (ST) would probably not describe itself as ‘MilSim’ – its philosophy is ‘serious fun’, which is quite different in that it involves practical organisations (e.g. squads) but no dress-up (calling people ‘Sir’). The house style at Folk ARPS (an RPS co-founded, open community with regular sessions on Tuesdays and Sundays) is similar to that of ST, but without ranks, mandatory participation or required addons. Whilst there are some Arma groups that create high barriers to participation, there are many that have lower barriers or almost none at all – a great place to start is Reddit’s /r/findaunit

          • Thirith says:

            Definitely what I like best about Folk ARPS – in spite of there being no need to commit to playing xx% of all sessions, people are very much willing to put in the effort needed to cooperate. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun, but everyone gives it their best. I’ll be playing with Folk again when I can (bit of a crazy last few months, so I haven’t been around), but I have to admit I miss playing with more maps than Altis and Stratis and I miss using a radio mod. I understand Folk’s rationale behind the no-mod policy, but that’s why I’m also happy that there are similar groups around that also use mods but that let irregulars play.

            I’m probably being blind and dumb here, but I haven’t found the most basic info on United Operations: which days and times do you guys play?

      • VyMajoris says:

        Yes, you don’t need to be a regular to play on United Operations. The only thing that Regulars have over normal members is the ability to vote, manage the server when no admin/gm is online(kick, change mission, ban) and have reserved slots during events.

  7. Roenie says:

    Why is the minimap tracking the position of the asshole of the guy on the right, with a red circle?

  8. HyenaGrin says:

    Aww, why’d you have to go and ruin a good piece by being mean-spirited about Arma clans. =(

    I can guarantee you the ratio of good to bad people is better in a structured clan than in any given random deathmatch. One of the reasons I personally joined an Arma clan, was because I wanted to play with mature, respectful people, and not idiots out to troll and teabag, etc. The realism clans in particular have a tendency to wash out those who can’t be decent. Yeah you may differ in your political views, but that’s true of any hobby group, and a good clan tries to keep that sort of bickering to a minimum. At least the one I’m in doesn’t even allow it in the forums.

    So yes, while it is definitely a hassle to find the right clan and join, the reward is actually a [i]good and respectful group of people to play with.[/i] I’ve been in two Arma realism clans over two and a half years and I can attest to that fact.

    • SlimShanks says:

      This.
      And also, you don’t even need to join a clan for organized play. I have been pubbing in Arma for hundreds of hours and have had a tonne of fun, organized play. Also many shitshows, but that’s what server hopping is for, right? Seriously though, 1) find a partially full server. Full ones are more likely to be a mess. 2) Put on a damn mic and ask if anyone is interested in talking or has an out of game chat going. 3) Find someone who looks like they are taking charge, and follow them. Talk to them. Or try making a plan yourself. 4) Remember which servers are reasonably organized, and favourite them.
      Alternatively, many clans have public events which are organized, and everyone is welcome. You can find information on when they happen online, or ask mods in game.
      You could also just jump out of a chopper and charge with the zerg like it was Planetside 2.

    • SuicideKing says:

      RPS uses XHTML tags not BBCode!

  9. Alto says:

    I was in ShackTac for several months before my school schedule precluded my involvement, and joining was easy and participating was always fun. At the time I think as long as you were occasionally active in their IRC channel and took part in the weekly Saturday events you were fine.

    To get in, you just need to demonstrate that you are a reasonably mature person and not an asshole by sending them an email and answering a few questions on Skype.

    I didn’t encounter a single “knob” during my time in ShackTac, though there was one guy who talked way too much. :)

  10. HotSake says:

    Thanks for the article, but the two video links at the end are screwed up and take you to the RPS post on the Microsoft E3 presentation.

  11. MD says:

    Great article. I’ve never played Arma 3 or BR, but this gives me a sense of the thrill of the game, and feels honest — there’s no purple prose or bullshit, just a clear account of what it is and why it’s exciting.

  12. SlimShanks says:

    Erm, I don’t mean to be pedantic, but this seems to suggest that most public mods (aren’t almost all mods public?) aren’t based on skill. That seems like a bit of an odd claim.
    Anyways, I played BR a bit and didn’t really enjoy it that much. That said I’m one of those weirdos who actually bought Arma to play the main multiplayer modes like Domination, Patrol Ops and whatnot.

    • SlimShanks says:

      Heh, my quote failed epicly. It was supposed to start with: “On a surface level Battle Royale is simply free-for-all deathmatch, but unlike most public multiplayer mods available for Arma 3 today, it’s based on skill and a tiny bit of luck.”

      • SuicideKing says:

        Since you likely made the same mistake I had once using quotes, it’s:

        blockquote cite
        /blockquote

        • SuicideKing says:

          don’t bother with

          blockquote cite=""

          (I mean the =”” can be ignored).

  13. SlimShanks says:

    Forgive my post spam, (I just love Arma! And damn the lack of editing!) but you might find that the reason people rarely mention that you can’t enjoy Arma without other people is because that’s rubbish, and few people think that.

  14. skyturnedred says:

    I only have experience in H1Z1 Battle Royale, but it is quite fun.

  15. Stellar Duck says:

    That sounds dreadful.

    I’ve never played Arma with anything but an organized group (I used to play with ARPS back in the day) and I’d never consider joining a public server.

    I don’t rememeber my first, second or any kill. Honestly, I don’t think I have any confirmed kills despite spending about a hundred hours playing it online. Was never the point, was it?

    I have however a lot of fond memories of the RPS crew and our shennanigans. Being pinned in crossfire in a grocery shop in Zhargabad. Being ambushed on a hill in Chernarus. Defending a UN compound from attack. Being a journalist captured by taliban and waiting to be rescued (I ran away on my own when I saw my chance) or being propped on a hill waiting for a convoy to pass so we could attack it.

    For those reasons I’d never join a public server and play a death match. Arma was never about killing dudes for me.

    • iainl says:

      I’m sure that’s all great. But having to sort out an organised time to play with people all planning their schedules around it is what sounds dreadful about Arma for me (I picked up 2 the expansion thingy when it was cheap prior to 3 hitting, and just bounced off it completely). So while I’m sure it’s great if you -can- do that, this strikes me as a brilliant way to structure pick-up play for those that can’t.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        It wasn’t really a hassle though.

        Games ran on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the evening if memory serves. You could join if you had the time and there were no prior commitment. You just joined if you had the time. The rest of the time you could always pop into the chat and see if anyone was up for a quick session and you could probably get ten people scrounged up in a quarter hour.

      • P.Funk says:

        Its actually usually pretty simple since most people have the same days off or evenings. Friday and Saturday nights are popular. If you have to labour to schedule a Saturday night off more than once or twice a month then you’re probably labouring to schedule any fun time with the normal weekday 9-5 crowd.

  16. NeoArmageddon says:

    This article nearly makes me want to upload BR to my server and check it out with my squad. Too bad we are most of the time not more than 5-6 players and our motto is “Never play with public peasants” since OFP.
    Someone should port BR to AiA Porto :D

  17. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    This sounds utterly delightful. I love the film, too.

    So, should I just buy ARMA 3 or ARMA 3 Extended Edition?

    • El_MUERkO says:

      Extended adds extra content, not all missions or mods use them but most do. I’d recommend it for that reason.

  18. El_MUERkO says:

    Cannot say enough good things about Sa Matra’s Wasteland, it’s not for solo play though, you need at least a couple of friends to play with.

  19. don_keyhotay says:

    Made an account just to say thanks for this article. Started playing today, and actually won a round. I don’t have gaming friends, and finding a group online is daunting, so this is a great find for me.

  20. jonfitt says:

    I always enjoyed the Insurgency mod for Arma 2 as a way to get a random group of people to play Arma together in a vaguely Arma way.

    It was PvE* and gave you the task of finding hidden caches of weapons and blowing them up. The AI would spawn in red map squares randomly but continuously until you entered every building in that square to prove that it was clear. At which point it would turn green and no more enemies would spawn. AI enemies would occasionally drop “intel” which added a ? to the map suggesting where the weapon cache might be.

    So everyone would attack a village searching for the weapon cache and clearing buildings, and when that one was clear you’d move on to the next village. Completing the map would take hours and hours, so basically you could drop in at any time and people would be attacking villages in a vaguely coordinated way looking for a target.

    * There were 1 or 2 spots for a human to join the AI side to add a frisson of additional danger.

  21. Ham Solo says:

    >spawn in some game arena
    >YOURE OUTSIDE THA BATTLE ARENA
    >okay, run towards nametags
    >YOURE STILL OUTSIDE THE BATTLE ARENA
    >die
    >get kicked off the server

    Well, I gues sI Won’t be playing this shitty gamemode anymore. fu, 2…

    • Emton says:

      Dood you must have got the bug where you joined late and the game leaves you out. Here’s how it should work. You spawn at the sports field, wait for 32 goofballs to join, the game preloads stuff, dumps the players out of the airplane, you land your parachute, find loot, then die like a complete noobie.