Back in April, before the Arma Reforger announcement, a small team in our Amsterdam studio held a week-long game jam. Their mission was to create a small game as a mod. The result is Hexcavate, and today we've published it to the game's Workshop for all players to try. We hope it demonstrates how far beyond the original vision of the game you can take the Enfusion engine and its Workbench tool suite. And it may offer a fun little singleplayer distraction, both on PC and Xbox!
You may be wondering why we're doing this now, when there are still issues to iron out in the main game. Don't worry, this isn't taking away any developers from the Arma Reforger development team. Their full focus is on the game itself and making sure it continues to become better and better with each update. For a little bit more background: our Amsterdam studio has in recent years split its focus between Arma 3 Live Ops and Arma Reforger development support. And since not all of the team members had much experience with Enfusion yet, one of the jam's goals was to help them learn the tools and scripting. There's simply no faster way to do so than to create an actual game. Other goals were to test and validate the modding pipelines, and also a bit of team-building and fun together.
Welcome to Hexcavate, an archaeology Minesweeper-like with depth.
Our only briefing for the game jam was to create something inspired by the classic Minesweeper game. After some brainstorming on the first day, we settled on a direction that would use the theme of archeology. You'll be excavating historical artifacts from multiple layers of terrain. But beware of the obstacles! If you're not careful, you'll accidentally destroy a precious discovery. And your sponsors are known for their tight control of your budget, so don't run out of cash.
We'll leave it at that, just go and play for yourself! In Arma Reforger's main menu, visit the Workshop and search for Hexcavate by Bohemia Interactive. Download the mod and then you can start the scenario directly from the item details. Or you can go to the Scenarios menu and start it there. A quick information guide will greet you at the start. You can view it again from the pause menu.
To gamepad players we have good and bad news. The good news is that the game can be fully played on gamepad and it even uses rumble! Unfortunately though, we didn't have quite enough time to add proper control hints (except for a page in the guide). The camera controls should be quite intuitive, using the thumb sticks to move and rotate, and the triggers for zooming. The A-button will dig up a tile and the B-button marks it as a hint to yourself. But here comes the slightly confusing part: selecting the artifacts you're excavating. Use the d-pad to select the artifacts at the bottom of the screen (on PC you can just click them). Then use the left shoulder button to confirm excavation, or the right shoulder button to cancel. Perhaps we'll find some time in the future to improve this, but for now there are other things for us to do.
So now you've played your first round of Hexcavate and you're curious about some of the technical details? What does this mod demonstrate?
- The ability to rapidly create a small game, even one quite unlike the main Arma Reforger experience
- The use of a level that is programmatically generated (meshes and materials), instead of a more typical Arma terrain based on a heightmap
- The power of Enfusion scripting, since no C++ programming was necessary for these results
- The rapid creation and import of custom art assets from third-party tools, with a hexy visual style throughout
- The flexibility of the sound and particle effect editors, by re-mixing base game effects and quickly creating new ones
We know this mod doesn't bring you anything particularly useful within Arma's military gameplay, but we hope it inspires creators as to what's possible. Just imagine what could be created given a little more time and experience. In fact, we're already seeing the impressive first results on the Workshop. If you're keen to learn more yourself, be sure to check out our ever-growing documentation, the sample mod sources, or join community channels like Discord. And by all means, open Hexcavate in Workbench to peak behind-the-scenes (it's published under the Arma Public License). Just keep in mind that it was created during a game jam, so we know the code tends to be hacky and rough. It's perhaps not a showcase of best practices! We'll likely not develop Hexcavate much further, but we will try to keep it functional after future game updates.
Have fun digging!