With the progress of the games up to what is today ARMA 3, that potential has been grown and nothing frustrates me more than having an amazing milsim, where you can fly your friends around over gorgeous scenery in a highly detailed environment and extremely immersive experience, but the helicopters are not really that good.
The flight model is actually quite good but the rest…
Back in 2017 I interviewed ARMA 3’s coordinator, Joris-Jan Van’T Land hoping to get some great news for us, virtual helicopter pilots. But it was a no-go.
ARMA 3 keeps on having a huge amount of potential.
And it’s out of our reach.
I have been following both projects with a lot of interest and I decided to talk to the team behind the most recent one, the H-60 pack. So, I got a hold on Yannik and Marek, the folks behind the project, and asked them a few questions about it.
Above: Yannik and Marek, the team behind the H-60 Pack
Hello, guys. Thanks for accepting to answer a few questions and congratulations on what’s already a great project. Could you please tell us a bit more about the team behind the H-60 pack and how you got together?
Yannik: Thanks a lot for taking the time to chat with us.
It started in late 2018. I was making realism mods that added capabilities to aircraft in ARMA, adding interactive MFDs, though in 2D overlays instead of in the actual cockpit models.
At the same time Marek started contributing to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet mod, overhauling the cockpit and adding some nice graphics to the MFDs, and experimenting with some basic cockpit interaction.
We got interested in each other's work and both realized this was an opportunity for us to join forces. We ended up working together very closely on the super hornet and managed to build a really cool mod, we also learned a lot about building cockpit interaction and the technical limitations of doing so in ARMA.
Marek: For me the experience started with modding some custom HUDs for some jets in ARMA. Later on, I started to learn 3D modeling and after some basic models I wanted to try my best at making more complex one. So, I decided to create Superhornet cockpit from scratch which eventually became part of F18E Superhornet mod. I also did some scripting with it like almost dynamic MFD data displays.
At some point I wondered if cockpit interaction in ARMA was possible, to make experience more DCS-like. It turned out that at the same time Yannik came up with the very same idea and we immediately started to work together on this together. The rest is just like Yannik said.
What’s the overall project goal? What are you trying to achieve?
Yannik: Our end goal is to provide a Blackhawk that gives the most authentic experience blackhawk crew experience we can make in ARMA. We want to build something that gives the player a feel for the capabilities of the Blackhawk. Perfectly authentic switchology simulation comes second to that.
Marek: It is also pretty amazing what we can currently do in ARMA. And what Yannik can code Blackhawk to do :D
What got you to start this project?
Yannik: The super hornet reached a point that we were comfortable with functionality wise. After a couple months away from any mod development we were looking for something new that would let us apply our lessons learned, and work around some of the things that we felt held back the super hornet.
Marek: When we were working together on Hornet, we thought on starting something new. We had basic idea how to make cockpit in ARMA clickable and we wanted to choose vehicle that would fit ARMA setting and capabilities. We thought of other jets like Harrier, but at some point, we started to see more and more limitations of the engine. However, with updates to PhysX engine and RotorLib, ARMA became pretty good platform for helicopter simulations.
I was amazed how many features it packed, VRS being one of them (and we know that it isn’t granted in every simulator). And choosing Blackhawk as our platform was not only logical (it very versatile platform after all) but we also wanted to make it fit in ARMA. And I personally love the look of it.
What challenges did you face? What is it that you struggled to overcome?
Yannik: One of the biggest challenges for us has been deciding with each bit of content how far down the rabbit hole we go. It is very tempting to build a feature that has a fair bit of depth, but is very rough around the edges, lacking polish, testing and documentation. We had to learn at what points to stop ourselves and say, “we’ll do it simple, but we’ll do it well”.
Marek: I think that one of the challenges was lack of information or media available. To know how something work we had to google a lot (it is a mod after all). Fortunately for me, when I was working on Blackhawk model, Yannik found a gold mine of photo references.
Do you have any contact with Bohemia Interactive in regard to this project? Do you have any feedback from them?
Yannik: We have not been in contact with Bohemia Interactive Studios about our project, though we’d love to know if they’ve seen it and what they think of it!
At which stage of the project would you say you are right now?
Yannik: We’re intending to do an initial release with a limited feature set and expanding functionality down the line, for that initial release I think we’re roughly at the 75% point.
Is there anything you’d like to do but you found to be completely impossible to achieve in ARMA 3?
Yannik: We would have loved to implement a fully capable autopilot. Unfortunately, through the ARMA scripting system we can only manipulate collective. We have pretty great collective captured autopilot modes, but it would be amazing to also be able to do the pitch and roll ones. Further we’d love to be able to draw more on the MFDs, unfortunately there’s a hard limit on how much you can add scripted moving elements on them, which is limiting our capacity to draw things on the moving map by a lot.
Marek: As Yannik said, we want to make MFDs as functional as possible, but engine is pretty limited in this area, compared to let’s say DCS. Nevertheless, we do have working PFD, EICAS, TAC with moving map and more. I would love to have fully working navigation computer, but it isn’t possible with what we currently have in ARMA.
What are the next steps? What’s the path you’re following with the project?
Yannik: We’ve slowly been increasing the amount of people with testing access, and we’ve gotten good feedback and found bugs we never would’ve been able to find on our own, the community has really come out and helped us by spending hours trying to chase down bugs that intermittently happen only on multiplayer servers.
We’re pretty much going to continue down this road until we feel ready for an initial release, then we’ll do final touching up where we remove various debugging messages and do some extra nice to haves, like add some missions to the mod and maybe make a short release trailer.
Marek: Debugging is our main goal. We have limited time as work and studies can be overwhelming but testing comes along nicely and in the meantime we are still adding some more features and polish existing ones. But the closest one I think will be some trailer.
And how far would you like to bring the project? If you had a way to solve all the issues you found, how do you envision the project to be in the end?
Yannik: In the end if we could solve all of our problems, we’d love to bring it further than any other flight sim. Not in cockpit fidelity but cabin fidelity.
ARMA has this amazing platform where you can have your door guns manned and ten guys in the back, and really the dream state would be that the whole cabin of the helicopter would be detailed enough that even the guys in the back would be impressed.
Things like custom fast-roping systems with manual preparation, controllable rescue hoist, intercom panels for not just the pilots, all kinds of goodies that will really make the helicopter a cool experience for everyone, not just the guy flying it.
Marek: Exactly. Seeing how it handles in ARMA, how it can be interacted with is amazing on its own. There are a lot of people playing on milsim servers and we think they will like it a lot. We want to make this experience unique among other simulators while utilizing what ARMA has to offer.
We also hope we can inspire other modders to do similar mods for this game, offering similar fidelity. There are a lot of high-quality mods available now, and we all just want more of them.
Do you have any plans for more versions? Or even a different helicopter in the future?
Yannik: While I genuinely would love to make a million helicopters to our quality level, it takes our two man team a large portion of our free time for a year to make a helicopter like this, so it’s not very likely that we’ll start off another project like this. We might end up advising other teams on how to build cockpit interaction systems in the future if anyone is interested, but we probably won’t be picking up another huge project like this any time soon.
Marek: I’d love to make more too. But time is the main issue here. Lack of it to be exact. For now, we want to continue polishing current versions of Blackhawk which now include M, S and armed versions of both. Full feature list isn’t available yet because we still decide what to add and what can’t be done due to many reasons.
I agree with Yannik that we strongly encourage other people to create mods. There are a lot of people willing to help including us and a lot of fellow modders on Discord servers that share our passion.
Thank you very much for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish the interview?
Yannik: We’d like to thank you for reaching out to us. We honestly never expected anyone outside of the ARMA community to be interested in a project like this, but we’ve been blown away by the feedback we’ve received from all over the internet.
Mark: Thank you for having us and for noticing our mod. It surely added a lot of recognition to our mod and hopefully can get even more people to ARMA!