Dichotomy of a Theme
Differences between Project Reality and ARMA II
Differences between Project Reality and ARMA II
I have been playing Project Reality at Tactical Gamer now for three and a half years. It has been a huge amount of fun, and the most realistic online game play I have ever experienced. There is just something special about it that you can't quite explain.
After playing ARMA II in earnest this week for really the first time after tinkering around with it for over a year, I began to think about it. I came to really see how very different ARMA II is from Project Reality, even though essentially they are the same type of game - first person modern warfare shooter. The differences go beyond just the game itself. They manifest in almost every area, right down to the people that play the titles.
It is interesting to scribe some of my observations on how the two games differ. For gamers that play both titles, it would be interesting to see how many out there have the same opinions. For players that don't play one or the other, this may be an interesting insight into a dichotomy on a theme - the first person shooter at Tactical Gamer.
I want to emphasize that these are my observations from playing hundreds of hours of Project Reality and tens of hours playing ARMA II, Operation Arrowhead on the Tactical Gamer Bravo Server. It is an opinion article on my perspectives as a very new ARMA II player. I am not commenting on future ARMA II developments and modifications (like PR for ARMA), as I have no knowledge of them. This is strictly my observations as a new ARMA II player coming from Project Reality in the present conditions of both games and communities.
The first thing I found out about ARMA II is that it is somewhat complicated to configure as a new player without help from an experienced ARMA II player. That said, it is easy to find a helpful ARMA II player almost all the time that is willing to help you figure things out. ARMA II's complexity is at first daunting and imposing, so much so that I didn't even want to really learn the game. I used to think Project Reality was difficult to configure and manage. With all the downloads and patches, it seemed hard at first to get AMRA II to run, let alone to be sure I had everything I needed.
With ARMA II, the update process is continual. If you don't play for a week, you will likely have to update your system with patches and fixes to play online when you want to play again. This is assisted by using tools like the YomaTools Add On Sync program that finds the patches you need for you, but nevertheless it is somewhat frustrating to spend 30 minutes prior to playing almost every time you want to get on a server. On the flip side, ARMA II is constantly getting better. Since improvements are available almost daily, the developers put them out as they happen. You don't have to wait for a major release to see the game evolve and new features added.
Patching before almost every game and continuous patch releases are two of the first things you will notice coming from Project Reality to ARMA II. Like anything, I am used to it now and just do it as a matter of course before firing up the game and getting into the server.
Controls - Many vs. Few
Along the lines of complexity, there is a huge difference in the control system in the two games. Project Reality has relatively few controls to deal with. Beyond movement controls, weapon selections from 1-9 and a few others, players can be up and fighting without much problem. In ARMA II, I was confused from the onset. Trying to get my keyboard configured to mimic my Project Reality controls was a lost cause, as the options were just too many to get straight. Additionally, when I asked for help from someone in game, if I wasn't using the defaults, they couldn't help me. In the end, I just resolved to use the ARMA II defaults. This causes me to learn 2 sets of controls, one for each game, since I have my simpler Project Reality controls mapped to my game pad. Throwing in my Track IR 5 device helps greatly since it is pre-configured to do all the head movements by default. That removed the need to configure head movement controls, as they are all governed by my Track IR 5.
In the end, it is the same discussion - fidelity and options vs. simplicity. In Project Reality you don't have too much to learn, but you are limited in what you can do. In ARMA II you can get overwhelmed with the control options, but then again you have them. I think in time I will learn to love the flexibility and options that ARMA II provides. It will just take a lot of work and training to realize them. When I go back to Project Reality I really miss all the options, but the combat action makes me forget fairly fast.
Graphics - Talking and Turning Heads
Once you get into the game, ARMA II is a feast for the eyeballs. The graphics are really pretty amazing. I go back to Project Reality and sometimes have a laugh at the Battlefield 2 engine and the limited graphics that it can support compared to ARMA II. The maps are just huge and the terrain is represented by Army style topographic maps with multiple zoom levels from topo map to imagery.
Two of my favorite things in ARMA II are the turning heads and moving lips. If you haven't played ARMA II, it is pretty cool to look at another player and when he is speaking to you, his lips move in game. The other cool feature is that you can move your head without moving your body. I use a device called a Track IR 5 that mounts on my monitor and tracks my actual head movements from a clip attached to my hat. The Track IR 5 passes these movements to my player in game, so I can walk, fly and drive in one direction while looking around with my head, just like in real life. Once you try this out, it really changes how you play. Going back to Project Reality from these advanced graphics options in ARMA II is a big step backwards every time I switch games (especially flying).
As far as map graphics go, there is really no comparison between the two titles. ARMA II hands down blows the BF2 engine away for exceptional graphics, map features and richness of the surroundings. There are several huge maps that missions are set on. Unlike Project Reality where 1 map is 1 mission, ARMA II has huge maps where missions are set up on a small part of them each time. Again, a very different concept of presenting the game.
Game pace and Time to Contact
Getting going after joining a server is vastly different between the two games. In Project Reality you can pick a weapon, join a squad and be in the thick of the action within a space of a minute. In contrast, ARMA II is much more deliberate. A normal game starts with a mission briefing, weapon selection (weapon, rounds, radios, personal medical, flares, earplugs, sunglasses, etc….), squad assignment then roll out. Time to contact can take five to ten minutes or even longer depending on the situation. There are no squad leader spawns, so in ARMA II you have to be a bit more careful not to get killed in my opinion.
I think it comes down to just knowing that these differences are there when deciding what to play. When I want deliberate planned out missions, I usually play ARMA II. When I want that faster paced instant fun, I will go with Project Reality. What makes me laugh now is that I consider Project Reality a fast paced game. I used to compare it to vanilla BF2, thinking Project Reality was slower and more deliberate. Now days I don't even consider BF2 to be more than just an arcade game like Space Invaders (or BF2BC ).
The other thing to consider is what the game is about. For me, the planning and setup time in ARMA II is part of the overall fun. I really enjoy thinking about everything I need for a mission. It is really important to get your gear straight before heading out, as it goes as far as gearing up your personal medical kit, earplugs, sunglasses, and a seemingly endless array of gear. For others, this may be distracting from the shooting and killing parts of the action and a bit overwhelming. In this respect, the two titles are really quite different overall in the mindset of the game play, especially the getting started on a mission parts.
Fidelity of Weapons
When it comes to weapons, ARMA II is extremely diverse and offers a rich environment of platforms, weapons, ammunition and accessories. According to Wikipedia, ARMA II has more than 80 different weapons to choose from and over 130 vehicle variants. Compared to Project Reality, it is a pretty staggering difference. With all that choice, it can either be a candy store of options or a dizzying array of confusing platforms.
Project Reality has only a few weapons and vehicles. Although that limits your choices, it makes it easy to get into the game, learn a weapon or kit configuration and use it over and over to improve your performance. Again, the difference is in the way the game operates. ARMA II is high fidelity with seemingly limited options and controls where Project Reality is a more basic pick a weapon and get going type game.
Mission Driven vs. Flag Driven
Another major difference between the platforms is the way you perform a game or mission. In Project Reality, the game revolves around capturing / defending flags in a set order. It is basically just a big game of armed capture the flag. In ARMA II, the game runs on missions. The team has a set objective to complete - destroy a radar, blow up a tank farm, rescue a downed pilot, etc. Missions are planned as a group, then executed as a group. In Project Reality, the main unit is usually a 6 man squad. In ARMA II, the whole team is on the same mission working together.
The difference is also felt in the way the team operates. In Project Reality you can take your squad on an adventure totally detached from the rest of the team, as there is usually no commander leading a coordinated effort. In ARMA II, the game is designed to be a team effort from the outset. This leads to two different game experiences from the coordination aspects of the two titles.
In Mumble with Project Reality you can do positional audio, but not everyone uses it and it can sometimes become just a bit overwhelming to the senses. With in game VOIP, commander chatter, scrolling text, Team Speak and Mumble running I sometimes loose my sense of what is going on in Project Reality from audio overload. Since I am old, I usually just go for the in game audio, unless I am doing a Project Reality event where Mumble is better controlled and used properly. It can just be a bit much running 3 programs to get 5 versions of input during a game.
ARMA II has a system called Advanced Combat Radio Environment or ACRE. ACRE is a TeamSpeak based in game positional audio and radio system that is like Mumble on steroids. It not only has in game positional audio, ACRE offers a combat radio system where you can choose from 4 different radio types, each with frequency selection. This allows an integrated in game system of communication that is central to the game and the way it is played. There isn't 3 programs to run and 5 things to differentiate between during play - you have 1 integrated communications system for ARMA II.
In the case of communication, it isn't just a question of a different approach between platforms. It is really a different level of technology in ARMA II that would be like making Mumble actually part of Project Reality / BF2. The system in ARMA II is just hands down better.
Bots vs. People
The big one - bots vs. people. ARMA II is currently pretty much a human versus artificial intelligence game. You get your team together and go out to kill the enemy bots. They are pretty good at times, but in the end, they are doing scripted things that are pretty predictable. I also find I have a lot more time to get myself oriented in ARMA II in a fight, as I am fighting bots. If I took the same amount of time in Project Reality I would be dead every time.
Project Reality at Tactical Gamer is the best place in the world for game play. That is because of the players we have and the fact that you have a 32 vs. 32 game on almost all the time. Players are good as well. You don't have many slackers here on our server, so intensity and that feeling of combat flow is just second to none. This to me is the intangible awesomeness of Project Reality at Tactical Gamer that makes it unlike anything else. The combination of the game's simplicity, the combat flow, the Tactical Gamer community and the server administration just can't be found anywhere else.
The nature of the game also drives the number of players. In Project Reality the number of players is limited by the server slots available. Usually at Tactical Gamer, we have close to 64 players on at a time, with more trying to get on the server. In ARMA II if the mission selected for the server has 12 slots for humans, then you cannot get on until someone leaves or a new mission is selected with more slots. I can't wait to see more ARMA II player vs. player missions in the future, but for now there don't seem to be any. ARMA II would be more like every mission is a scrim in player vs. player mode, so that is something to get your mind around as well.
I know there are new things coming in ARMA II to make it a more player vs. player environment. This article is commenting on the here and now. I am really looking forward to advances in ARMA II that bring on the player vs. player challenge that will really make it awesome.
Project Reality and ARMA II at Tactical Gamer are at different places in time and in the size of the community. Project Reality is an old title and has many followers here. ARMA II is not as old and has a smaller base, mostly due to the complexity and nature of the game. It will be interesting to watch as BF3 comes out what will happen at Tactical Gamer's Project Reality community. With the apparent lack of modifications available in BF3, it may be a different world in a year or so when it comes out.
This is a totally different ball game between titles. In Project Reality, administrators control the map list and server through a software called Battlefield 2 Command and Control of BF2CC. BF2CC is a clunky, old software that allows for the admins to monitor play, kick and ban players, read log files and administer the map list. This places a large burden on the admin team to maintain order in an ever changing player base and server population. This requires on-duty administration that is a 24-7 job.
In ARMA II, one player is the administrator for the server. Usually that is whoever came along first and set up a mission. This pretty much means he has map and mission control. Missions are either stock missions from the game or missions developed by players and are made available on the server for use. The "real" admin team can control the server, but not in the same way it is done in Project Reality. The ARMA II servers also usually have a password at Tactical Gamer, so it is like password night all the time.
Due to the nature of the server population in Project Reality, the admins are mostly organizers, managers and judge and jury for rule violators. In ARMA II, due to the complexity of the game and the way it is set up, admins seem like organizers, managers and teachers. That is a big difference in the way things are done between titles.
Due to the public nature of Project Reality, there are a lot of admin issues to deal with. People come in the server violating rules every day - a constant mission to keep our server in line. In ARMA II, there are little or no non-TG players. It is not such a big issue to keep the servers running according to the TG primer.
I hope that describes some of the differences I have seen between Project Reality and ARMA II here at Tactical Gamer. Again, these are just some of my personal observations so far after trying out both games - one for years and one for weeks as a new player.
I have had a great time playing both titles, and have come to understand the differences that make them two games that have the same basic premise, but vastly different game play feel. I think if you haven't tried both, you are really missing out. I am looking forward to learning more and more about ARMA II and helping to build up the Tactical Gamer ARMA II community while keeping my ties to Project Reality alive and well.
Thanks for reading my comments on the here-and-now state of both games and how they interrelate. I would appreciate your comments on the article and some thoughts on your experiences learning ARMA II coming from the Project Reality community.
See you out there on the battlefield what ever title you are trying out!