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Bringing Androids to Life in Detroit: Become Human – An Interview With Philip Sheppard

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Detroit: Become Human is a unique game in a few ways, and one of those is the way in which David Cage, the mind behind the game, opted to use music. Instead of hiring one composer to score the entire game, Cage decided to hire three: Nima Fakhrara, Philip Sheppard and John Paesano—one for each main character. This approach gave each character their own unique texture and sound, but also meant that all three scores had to be put together to make a coherent whole. OnlySP previously spoke to Nima Fakhrara about his work scoring Connor’s soundtrack for the game, and recently had the chance to follow that up by speaking to his colleague Philip Sheppard on his work for Kara, and how he came to be involved in the ambitious project, as well as his personal take on the themes of the game.

Sheppard began his musical career as a cellist, and initially intended on a different career path. “I started playing when I was very young, about three-and-a-half years old. I was going very much down the route of being a classical performer, and at the same time I was teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, for a long time actually. I loved it there. But I realised that there was something that wasn’t quite fulfilling about it.” A passion for film married with the love of music, and a new avenue appeared, away from the world of classical music.

“I’ve always been obsessed with soundtracks and I was working with a lot of composers myself as a player. I kind of wanted to get my hands dirty and do that myself. On the first movie I worked on, we were very lucky. None of us had made a film for cinema before, and we took it to Sundance and won the audience award which is kind of nuts. That was about 10 years ago, and since then I’ve done about 60 projects to picture in total, and kind of love it. It’s generally been around the documentary world, because Sundance is very much my stomping ground in terms of my normal work.”

Philip Sheppard

DISCOVERING DETROIT

Sheppard’s diverse range of work had not really stretched to video games until Detroit: Become Human, but his previous work had led him to collaborate with the band Unkle, as well as a collaboration with David Bowie. His willingness to experiment and find new avenues for his work led him to video games, and to this project.

“Like every composer, you’re looking at some point to maybe dabble with other things, particularly with narrative, whether it’s multi-part, a Netflix style thing, or whether it’s an on screen drama,” Sheppard explained. “Funnily enough, gaming is very much something that I wanted to experiment with because it’s not linear. I think there comes a point when you’ve done a lot of soundtracks that the left to right narrative of ‘this is how it’s going to sound how ever many times you watch it’ starts to become a little boring. There’s an in built frustration that comes about from the fact that these days it’s possible to have a different experience with the same material arranged in a different way. So coming in to the games world it’s really satisfied two things for me. One is the compositional challenge since this was something I didn’t know how to do. Hopefully you hide that fact and never tell anyone! The other side is the technological challenge. I’ve always been a bit of a tech head, whether it’s the way that an instrument’s made or how software works, I have found that in the game world it’s very close to the surface, that stuff. It’s exciting to work in a field where actually it’s not fully fixed and set.”

As someone who has worked on plenty of different forms of media, Sheppard’s perspective on the differences in the game world started with the difference in time available to a composer. “The sheer amount of time that you have to work on a game is definitely one of the challenges, and is so much longer than it is for a Hollywood movie,” he said. “I’ve come in and improvised on some quite well known films, and it’s been two weeks before they’re released. Really close to the edge. Indeed, with some of the documentaries I’ve worked on, my record was a 12 day turn around from getting the commission to then writing it, going in the studio and mixing it, and delivering it. But that’s not particularly unusual. So the challenge was the time in as much as everyone has a lot of time to consider and change their mind. Forcing a binary decision from the people that you’re writing for is actually quite difficult when it feels like there’s a whole 11 months of luxury to play with.”

In reality though, that time is not a luxury, and Sheppard also came to understand that. “Because of the sheer amount of cues you’ve got to write, you’ve actually got to get to decisions quite quickly. I think all of us probably found that to be a challenge. I think Nima did as well, you can spend a long time looking for the perfect start for what you’re writing when sometimes it’s better just to kind of weigh in at the end and reverse engineer the whole thing. Also, the emotion in the characterisation comes in right at the last moment. There’s little tells in the character’s faces. They’re not there when you’re dealing with an animatic, or stick figures, or mo-cap. So in a weird kind of way, you can inform that as a composer more than if you’re in an accompanying role for Hollywood.”

So how did Sheppard get involved with Detroit? His young son, funnily enough, played a big role.

“I think my 10 year old was the one who clinched it. The last time I touched a console was probably before my first kid was born when I had the first PlayStation. She’s now in the second year of university so it really has been 19 years! So there was a challenge in as much as to write music for a game you have to play it over and over. To get past that, my 10 year old made me pay him to sit next to me while I wrote. He sat and happily played an R-rated game next to me! That was a really great way to bond actually, and suddenly I had a job that is actually cool to your kids; that’s the best thing in the world, even though they’d never admit it.”

The process itself started through LinkedIn, and when David Cage got in touch, Sheppard was simply asked if he wanted to be involved in the project. After accepting, Sheppard asked what he should aim for in his score.

“I asked him what style he wanted me to write in, and he said that he wanted it to sound like Philip Sheppard! Then the next thing is actually sitting there and wondering, ‘what do I sound like?’ I don’t know!” he exclaimed, exasperated. “It’s a short road to madness, because you hope that each project sounds different, but clearly not. It was very surreal, and the most non-pitch like pitch situation I’ve ever been in for a project. There was literally no pitch. They just had me start writing straight away once I said yes. It really was like that, and as with any project I try and get deeply immersed in it so you have to send me every single version of the script, all 2,500 pages, and I want all the conceptual artwork as well, and all the backstories and everything.”

UNDERSTANDING AND BUILDING KARA

Following the approach, Sheppard got to know Kara’s story, and discussed his first impressions of the trajectory of her tale and what he felt he could bring to it. “I think I knew from reading it, what it should sound like instantly, and I was completely wrong. I thought, in as much as it’s an android that gains sentience, that’s not a new concept. I love making mechanical music, whether it’s based around clockwork or anything else. I thought that I’d do it as a little clockwork fantasy, and that kind of style would dictate the instruments that I use and then expand out to orchestra. Actually, that totally didn’t work at all. I was playing around with Speak & Spell machines, I was doing everything I could to distort circuitry, but actually the thing that really worked was being hyper organic with it, and very analogue. It ended up that her tune was a very fragile little cello thing. The demo that I recorded for it, I must have recorded at about three in the morning. I was off my head on coffee, in a different place. I had hallucinated it pretty much…I go to Montana to write, because you can be away from everything, apart from bears, and the thing sort of sprung fully formed in to my head. I came back and recorded it and because I was quite tired when I did it, the cello line sounds fragile and slightly broken. I thought I could re-record it nearer the time and I kept not re-recording it. I realised that actually, the slightly shonky nature of the way it had been played was really important because it doesn’t sound polished.”

He also had a vested interest in Kara’s story, through an amazing connection. “The world of androids is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I had a great friend who was the godfather of it really. He was called Marvin Minsky, and he really invented the terminology for it and ended up designing HAL for Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Marvin was a wonderful piano player and his daughter gave me access to a lot of his archives just after he died, and we ended up working one of Marvin’s piano pieces in to the score as an unlockable item. David Cage was delighted because he’d named one of the character subconsciously after Marvin Minsky and was rather shocked that he’d been a friend of mine! But it all came full circle, and rather than unlocking a weapon you unlock Marvin Minsky, and I love the idea of some 15 year old being like ‘who’s that?’ As far as Easter Eggs go that was a fun one because I took his piano recording in to Abbey Road and we framed it with an orchestra and gave it back to his widow who was quite surprised! She’s an avid gamer herself, a 92 year old who is in to this kind of thing, which is great.”

Since he knew that his focus was purely on her, Sheppard did his best not to interact with the other story lines. “I thought that I needed to track the same pathway she does, which is to not necessarily know what is going on in that game universe. That isn’t lazy on my part, it’s more…it’s extremely unusual if you think about it to have the opportunity to write a single character within a project. If you’re doing a movie or an opera or whatever, you are constantly doing all of the characters, the landscape, you’re doing the furniture and you’re doing the moods and even the lighting. With this you are literally just doing the inside of that character’s head. That’s your role and everything that you’re trying to represent in the music I suppose is their outward view. I wasn’t even describing the environment around her, I was literally trying to write about what is inside her head. I’ve realised that I never had to do that before, and I think the only time as a composer that you do that is when you’re writing concert music about something that may be personal to you. Often in a movie project, you learn not to write about yourself so much, it’s more about what’s happening outside of you, so this was really different.

“We were very careful not to listen to each other’s music during the process, it’s kind of important not to, and they did a great job in blending it when it came to laying it together, it’s kind of incredible that it fitted, but I think the thing was that we write in these distinct sound worlds anyway. John [Paesano] has got the epic thing going, Nima has this really lovely quirky, close focus found sound invented instruments, plus all the great analogue stuff, the synth stuff, and then mine is probably somewhere in between the two. I don’t think our sound worlds even trod on each other’s feet in that way.”

This was a similar perspective to Fakhrara, who also did a deep dive in to Connor’s world when working on his score. Sheppard told OnlySP that the experience was deeply affecting. “I think I went slightly mad after about 6 months actually! I went to, not a dark place, but definitely a place where it became quite obsessive. I suppose also, working on the music for so long, you kind of go through phases where you start to like it, then hate it, then like it and so on. It almost becomes too much. It’s funny, when I got to recording the orchestra in Abbey Road, I got to the end, and it was ridiculous, I completely lost it. At the end of the last cue, I burst in to tears. I’ve never done that in a studio, and I wasn’t sad. It was just all the emotion coming out. It sort of becomes like an expurgation, you have to kind of get rid of it. Consequently, I’ve not been able to play the game, and I need to leave quite a lot of distance until I do I think.”

The process was a singular experience—one of absolute involvement, and one that is almost necessary to imbuing the music with believable emotion. “I think you need to get that involved to make it authentic. I know sometimes things are commercial, but a bit like when you perform, you can’t just be functional about it. Particularly if you want the music to cause goosebumps in your average player, a 14 year old sitting in a room in Utah for example, you’ve got to go through quite a lot to get to the point when someone else feels something.”

This aspect was not the only to think about though. Cage was a demanding person to write for, and Sheppard remembered the process for developing Kara’s theme was a bit of a long-winded one. “He was very overt about which character he thought I sounded like. ‘We think you sound like a young woman,’ he said. I was like ‘okay, cool! I’m good with that!’ But I know that I write positive melancholic music for strings, I love doing that, so bring it on. I suppose the only torment that he and I went through together was not settling on a theme. Not being able to find her theme. He won’t mind me saying this but it took eight completely new versions of me saying ‘this is Kara’s theme’ and him rejecting it before in the end I got in a plane and flew over and said ‘this is version eight, let’s listen to it’ and he said that I had it this time. I said ‘David, that was the first theme I wrote!’ It was fine though, because it meant that I knew what I shouldn’t write for the rest of it. The other six were definite noes, which is actually really useful. I find that when you’re working on movies as well and the director says that they absolutely don’t want something, that’s really great to work with, because you can totally avoid it. When they say something is about 60% there, that’s a terrible place to be! It really is. There’s no recovery from there.

“David is binary. He’s very much a love it or hate it person. It’s one or the other and actually that, over a long time period, is actually really healthy for a composer. He’s a musician himself, he knows, and he told me slightly further on in the process the reason that he found me was that one of his previous composers had been David Bowie and I’d worked with Bowie so that was the link. It’s the only work I’ve ever got with that connection, because it’s pretty obscure. You’d have to be a bit of a completionist to know in the first place, but that was quite nice, he knew when to stroke my ego on that one!”

Sheppard mentioned that the trio working on the music never trod on each other’s feet, and the fact that their music blends so well in the final game is one of its more impressive feats. Sheppard attributes the score’s effectiveness to Cage’s ability to piece all the elements together.

“I think that is down to David knowing what he was looking for from a pallet or textural point of view,” he explained. “In a way that’s a little bit like layering the elements of a scene, whether it’s the production design of actual objects within it, or whether it’s the weather, and then the characters. There’s all these distinct levels and layers, and someone like that, that’s really where he’s smart, in knowing where the demarcations are. I think he did the same with the music in that way.”

Looking more specifically at Kara again, Sheppard set about picking out particular aspects of her personality to bring out in the music, and identified one aspect in particular: her developing role as a mother. “I think the strongest feature that I felt directed the way that I wrote was the transition from her being someone who operates by rote through to being a mother. As a parent it was then quite easy because I could write about how I feel, and about my kids. That was the strongest thing that came through, but in terms of the more nuanced stuff, I think I wanted to keep this idea of her having a mechanical core. You’ve kind of always got to question whether she is actually sentient, or is she still enacting algorithms. I buried lots of numerical patterns within it, lots of ostinatos and riffs based around number games. I wanted to leave those unbroken even if they sound wrong, I liked letting them play themselves out. There’s a lot of cross rhythm stuff that is sitting in there more because it’s a machine rather than thinking that it’s going to sound nice.

“I also didn’t want to write any sense of self-sentimentality. I tried to put it in these terms: the character can feel something for another character but can still ultimately feel nothing for themselves. That was a hard one to write but then again you’re overtly writing about external impetus then which is quite fun.”

Since this was Sheppard’s first major project in video games, and even despite the fact that he is not a gamer, he feels he would happily return to the medium in future, and work in a collaborative way like he did on Detroit.

“It’s this weird hybrid of liquid fiction, and we’re getting towards open world gaming really that has this level of characterisation. It’s a great time to be on any side of game authoring. In David’s case, I see him as being a novelist who is using a liquid form of literature, and his tools happen to be graphics and gameplay. He’s got a novelist’s brain, but those are his tools. I’ve also learned that the healthiest work is when you are working with other people, not that I worked directly with the other composers, but there was no negative to it at all, I think the only thing there was a constant sense of is how you are comparing to everyone else in terms of whether you are behind or not. Where am I in my production flow? That kind of thing.

“But that wasn’t really a major concern. Everyone got to the right points at the right times. My day to day work these days is very much more about writing with others, it leads to pieces I wouldn’t have written, and it’s a very healthy place to live as an artist, actually. If I just end up writing my music about myself it’d be a very short career! And a very unhealthy place. So yes, absolutely. Bring it on.”

SCREEN MUSIC CONNECT

Sheppard is attending, and performing “Kara’s Theme”, at an event called Screen Music Connect on Monday, September 24. To conclude the discussion, he told OnlySP a little about what the event is and what he will be talking about there.

“I’m talking on a panel there, and I suppose one of my messages will probably be along the lines of the fact that game music is definitely a progression not a diminution. Coming in to game music with a classical foundation is, for me, really important. You have to be really disciplined in game music. It’s about administration, organisation and structure, and then you can put the feelings in.

“Funnily enough having those rigidities enables you to be much freer. I know it’s cliche, but having those boundaries means that you can write to much more effect. I am playing there as well, I’m gonna show how I built Kara using a cello and a lute. It might be awesome, it might be terrible! You make a mistake on a lute and it comes back to haunt you,” he joked.

Despite his anxiety, Sheppard is excited to play at the event. “I’m looking forward to the concert. It’s in the Purcell room, where I made my solo debut. It’ll be funny going back and playing there in a different context. When I was last there I was playing difficult serial music for an audience who didn’t know they wanted to hear it and after I played probably still didn’t!

“It’ll be a different experience for me, and I’m really looking forward to it. What’s been great about the game is that there’s a massive audience that I never knew was there. I’d heard about it but getting this very gratifying response from quite young players who are finding connections and things they can see in the characters themselves that they can relate to, that’s been really nice. I think they see a lot more in the music than I saw when I was writing it, which is a nice way round! Something is connecting, I think the listening brings a lot to it personally.

“I’m looking forward to also meeting more of those people, because as I say it’s not a natural milieu for me. I’ve been to this event as a listener before so it’s really nice going along and feeling like you’ve worked your way on the stage. That’s kind of nice!”

Screen Music Connect takes place in London on September 24 in the Purcell Room, and features video game composers like Sheppard and Olivier Deriviere, as well as others from across the musical spectrum, on panels discussing the world of screen music and what goes in to it. For more information on the event and how to get tickets, click here.

Detroit: Become Human is out now on PlayStation 4.

Interview

Arma 3 ‘Contact’ Project Lead Discusses Importance of Single-Player Content, Inspirations, and Plenty of Details

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Arma 3

Arma 3 ‘Contact’ delivers a new spin-off expansion for players to explore an unnervingly realistic interpretation of humanity’s first contact with an alien species. ‘Contact’ combines popular science-fiction with stunning graphics, realistic forested terrain in Livonia, real military general protocols for dealing with any unknown threat or situation to produce an authentic hardcore military sim experience.

In an exclusive interview with OnlySP, the expansion’s lead developer Joris-Jan van ‘t Land discusses influences, game development, campaign details, a new weapon—the ‘Spectrum Device’—and much more.

OnlySP: Arma has a strong history of hardcore realistic military sandbox sims. What made you want to take your formula and branch out into the sci-fi genre with ‘Contact’?

van ‘t Land: Firstly, we should make clear that we view Arma 3 ‘Contact’ as a spin-off expansion. It does not signal a new direction for the Arma series, which will itself stick to its authentic military sim-game core. Arma 3 being six years into its impressive tour of duty, we felt this was the right time to get a little more creative. We’ve supported the game with lots of free and premium content, features, and support. Now some of us wanted to explore something less traditional, while still doing our best to support the military sandbox as much as possible.

The ‘first contact’ premise is one many in our team have wanted to explore for years. Some know that during its pre-production stage, Arma 3 itself had some less conventional elements under its ‘Futura’ codename. We had done our own experiments with the topic on the side for fun, but now pitched it as an actual project, and were fortunately given the chance. Looking around at other sci-fi entertainment covering aliens, there are but a few approaching it from the viewpoint of contemporary (or rather 2039 Armaverse) military. We simply loved to theorize about how current armed forces might react to an extraterrestrial intelligence arriving on Earth. Nobody really knows what might happen, so it’s a conceptually interesting ‘what if’ setting to work with. ET adds a variable that nobody can really argue with: who knows what they are technologically capable of, what their motivations are, and what it would mean for humanity?

OnlySP: Has Earth’s first contact with aliens always been something that you wanted to do? Where did the inspiration come from?

van ‘t Land: Absolutely! Personally, it’s one of my favorite big topics in general, ever since being very young. I grew up watching movies like Independence Day, Contact, and later Arrival, following TV shows such as X-Files and Falling Skies, reading books like War of the Worlds, and playing games like XCOM. Since the Arma series (as Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis) entered my life, there have been many moments when I fantasized about building scenarios involving humans and aliens. That mostly did not really go further than hobby projects and quick experiments, until now. During the project’s concept phase I also had the chance to re-explore many inspirations, for example by reading lots of books, like Contact, The Black Cloud, and a lesser known hardcore military sci-fi series: Legacy of the Aldenata.

OnlySP: Given the time since Arma 3‘s full game was released. Why did you decide to create another expansion instead of Arma 4?

van ‘t Land: ‘Contact’ originated from our relatively small Amsterdam studio, a team which was formed to develop original ideas for Bohemia. That specifically meant doing less traditional projects, even if they were DLC or expansions to an existing game. Our first project—Arma 3 ‘Laws of War’also offered a non-standard perspective on armed conflict. Some of our team members have worked on Arma for well over a decade, and we were personally interested in doing something different. Initially ‘Contact’ was not even specified to be an Arma 3 expansion. We considered even a stand-alone game, but ultimately the benefits of the expansion route were far too great. It meant we could make use of a massive sandbox, and Arma 3 players would benefit from additions even if they do not care about the setting. Without ‘Contact’, there likely would not have been another official Arma 3 DLC or expansion, aside from our Creator DLC program of course.

I should also mention that we received very important support from other small teams in Bohemia, such as in the Czech Republic and Thailand. They helped to build the Livonia terrain and other sandbox content, while in Amsterdam we focused on the “First Contact” campaign, aliens, and defining the overall package. Other than that, it’s no secret that Bohemia has been working on its next generation in-house engine: Enfusion. It continues to mature and will power the next decades of awesome Bohemia games. We’re a pretty sizable company meanwhile, with various teams working on exciting things.

OnlySP: ‘Contact’ will get a single-player campaign, can you give any details of the campaign and how long it will be?

van ‘t Land: A big part of the campaign is about uncovering its mystery and exploring what is going on, so we’ll leave most details for players to discover for themselves. Known is that you will assume the role of a NATO drone operator, deployed to Livonia for military training exercises. Eventually our alien visitors arrive to the Area of Operations, and from there on out you’re part of an improvised reconnaissance operation to investigate what’s going on. The gameplay at its core is still Arma 3, but we’ve wanted to add some extra mechanics that are less directly combat-focused, such as Electronic Warfare. It’s largely up to the player whether they want to use more direct action or deceive their enemies using a new type of ‘weapon’: the Spectrum Device.

The length is always hard to specify, because it of course depends on each individual player, and how much they explore the terrain beyond the core objectives. We’d estimate normal play sessions lasting between 4 and 6 hours. And after that there’s of course a cool box of new toys to tinker with, including the rest of the new Livonia terrain. We also hope community creators get inspired to build their own alien scenarios.

OnlySP: Is the idea to produce a realistic version of what you think first contact might be like? Military robots, recon, drones and tactical planning?

van ‘t Land: Military and scientific authenticity were definitely our starting points when we kicked off the project. We scoured books and the Internet, spoke to various consultants, and tried to find out whether there even exist real-world ‘post-detection protocols’. There are bits and pieces out there, like the US military’s Seven Steps to Contact (1950), but also the usual conspiracy theories and questionable sources. We could not find a clear central and declassified playbook, so then you get to more general protocols for dealing with any unknown threat or situation. Much of that could be extrapolated to an alien arrival, so we quickly landed on themes like Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defense, autonomous vehicles, and SIGINT (signal intelligence). These things just make basic sense: avoiding cross-contamination and taking extreme care in general. Another interesting analogue was how Navy vessels may react to a non-responsive ship at sea. How certain actions or inactions may trigger the wrong response. Not all of it is intuitive; a signal meant to communicate a basic message can easily be interpreted as hostile. And that’s between humans … who knows how aliens are and observe the world around them?

Setting out to depict this premise put us in a pretty challenging situation. We wanted to be authentic, but at the same time introduce aliens, whose level of technology can easily surpass our understanding. We approached it by setting ourselves the rule that the aliens were allowed one general super technology that they could use to ‘cheat’ our scientific knowledge, one magical ability if you will. The other parts of their tech should have a strong connection to how we think the universe works. And we are also still making a game, so along the way you can encounter gameplay situations that need to break with authenticity to preserve fun or player understanding. All in all, I would still say our interpretation is more down-to-Earth than many other sci-fi stories out there.

OnlySP: Can you reveal if any missions will take place on an alien spaceship? Or does humanity’s encounter with alien tech revolve around the orange levitating orb seen in the trailer.

van ‘t Land: What I’ll say is that you will not be leaving Earth. And there is more to the alien visitors than the Alien Flying Object and anomalous orb seen in the Announcement Trailer, but you’ll experience that when you play.

OnlySP: This expansion is adding five new weapons, all of them based on real-world arms. Will there be any weapons specifically designed for engaging alien targets? Did you ever consider adding in alien weaponry?

van ‘t Land: Perhaps not a traditional weapon, but the Spectrum Device is the player’s primary new tool. It lets you receive and transmit signals on certain frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, depending on the antenna you attach. This can be used for engaging in Electronic Warfare against human forces and technology, but perhaps also more. We based the device on real-world experimental drone jammers and how they might develop over the next decades. How capable the alien visitors are at defending themselves is something for players to uncover.

OnlySP: The environmental graphics in the trailer look amazing. The forest setting is an iconic setting for many alien stories and films. Were you consciously attempting to tap into the cultural heritage and atmosphere of the likes of E.T. with it?

van ‘t Land: Thank you! E.T. is another movie all of us saw growing up of course. I would not say we were directly trying to replicate its atmosphere, but now that you mention it, the mood of being alone in the dark with strange light anomalies, definitely is a huge part of the campaign. Another similarity with Steven Spielberg’s movies in general is subtlety. We quite quickly settled on wanting to focus rather on that as opposed to bombastic blockbuster scenes. Think Jaws and Jurassic Park more so than Independence Day. At the same time there are several events in the campaign that nobody has ever seen in an Arma game.

Livonia’s development history is not as straight-forward itself. The terrain started as a Research & Development project to incorporate more automated tools for terrain building, but after building a prototype that way, it did not have an actual project to finish it in. Then we kicked off ‘Contact’ and at some point the match was made. This turned into a rather massive effort to shape the foundation into Livonia, but having an actual narrative context and setting helped to flesh out its back story. It meant we started developing it as a fictional nation, with a history, flag, and armed forces. And we started incorporating wishes from the ‘Contact’ campaign team. It was no easy task, but the teams did a fantastic job, and it has also allowed the expansion to bring a huge new sandbox to Arma 3 players.

OnlySP: The forested area of Livonia looks like a closed landscape as it’s densely packed with trees. This is something quite different from vast open landscapes that we’ve seen in the past with sandy, grassy and dirty environments. Will players be forced into exploring different tactical options to cope with this?

van ‘t Land: The landscape indeed means not all tactics are suitable or successful. Especially in the mid-section of the campaign, the player has some freedom to explore off the beaten path, and choose to walk or use vehicles, employ direct action or pure stealth. Even so, Livonia is rather large, and there will be plenty of interesting places to explore beyond the campaign. We fully expect the community will create their usual assortment of cool scenarios and multiplayer modes to make the most of its rolling hills, fields, and forests. Some of them have actually already started to publish versions based on our Sneak Preview builds.

OnlySP: How important is the single-player portion of Arma 3, not just for ‘Contact’ but the game as a whole?

van ‘t Land: That’s going to depend a lot on who in the player community you ask. For some only multiplayer matters. They spend thousands of hours in mil-sim operations or on role-playing servers, and perhaps never touch any single-player content. And yet, I could personally not imagine an Arma game without a single-player component. It does not have to be a complex narrative-driven story, but could also be a more simulation-driven open world. The current Arma 3 library of content, whether official or user-generated, is vast. Pretty much everything is represented in one way or another. Going purely on analytics, it could be tempting to conclude that singleplayer does not matter nearly as much, but the data does not tell the whole story. Aside from curated content, there is another way to play Arma 3 alone: the editor. Many players love just throwing together a quick battle and seeing how it plays out.

Then you could argue that any playable content could be both singleplayer and multiplayer, but there are still many complexities that make it very hard to pull that off well. We’ve learned some of these lessons with our co-operative “Apex Protocol” campaign. Besides being technically much more complex and harder to test given all network situations, there are many storytelling difficulties when you have multiple players in the virtual world, starting with their individual pace. ‘Contact’ actually started out intending to be playable in both singleplayer and multiplayer, but we are really pushing the limits of our engine with the aliens for example. A few months in we made the call to go single-player-only, letting us focus on building the atmosphere we wanted without the worries of network synchronization.

OnlySP: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

van ‘t Land: Having worked on ‘Contact’ for some two years, we are very excited to finally let players experience it soon. There are not many companies like Bohemia, where such an unorthodox concept would be greenlit, so we’re very happy to have had the chance to make it a reality. We hope you all enjoy playing our take on this big human topic!

Arma 3 ‘Contact’ will be available on 25 July 2019 for PC.

For more on Arma 3 ‘Contact’ and from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. Also, be sure to join the discussion in the community Discord server.

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