What a year it’s been.
In 2019, we released the most Bohemia games in a single year since our founding in 1999. And, yep, that’s right; we’re also celebrating our 20th anniversary.
Meanwhile, we’ve been plotting the course for the next decade or so. In this blog, we’d like to recap this year’s milestones (if you're short on time, scroll down for a brief summary).
In between the many releases, you could say this year has been the start of an internal transformation. Now that many of our games have entered a post-release ‘live ops’ phase, we’ve begun to double-down on future new projects powered by our new in-house Enfusion technology. By itself this already represents a major shift as it means we need to familiarize ourselves with new pipelines and tools.
Furthermore, after a period of rapid expansion, we’ve needed to address some of our growing pains. This might not be directly visible on the outside but has involved several organizational changes. We’ve also made a concerted effort to improve our internal communications by introducing better online collaboration tools and striving for even greater management transparency. While being mindful of our increased size, we hope these steps will enable us to uphold the ambitious, independent, flexible, and open company culture that’s been at the root of our success.
On that note, we’ve also needed to acknowledge that, as a business, we simply need to keep earning money to be able to fund our long-term plans. Here the most important change in direction is that we’ll no longer be a PC-exclusive developer but are looking to make multi-platform games. Obviously, the PC will always hold a special place in our heart thanks to its unique content creation possibilities, but as DayZ and Vigor have demonstrated, we believe there's room for Bohemia’s brand of hardcore experiences on game consoles as well.
We’ve tried to be a bit more visible to the wider public, too. In doing so, we hope to grow our network, exchange industry knowledge, and attract new talent. This push resulted in the sponsorship of two major game development conferences in the Czech Republic, namely Game Access and GDS, as well as various Bohemians visiting international game dev events to give presentations or participate in panel discussions. In terms of consumer events, this year we focused on a quality presence at gamescom (Cologne) with Vigor and EGX (London) for DayZ. We also organized a big 20th anniversary party last Friday for all Bohemia personnel plus several invited guests.
These are all important aspects of running a business. It’s a process that’ll never be finished. There’s plenty we still want and should improve. And we’re likely to make mistakes. But the foundation is there. We’re on the right track. And we’re fortunate enough to be in an industry where both the creators and the players are incredibly passionate, which – in our eyes – is the key to sustained success.
It’s been a big year for DayZ with its Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases, 6 major updates, and the recent arrival of the Livonia terrain DLC. We’re pleased to say that there are now 5+ million survivors combined across all platforms.
After all the post-release updates, the game is now in a far better state than a year ago. Besides implementing hundreds of miscellaneous fixes and changes, we’ve added new content in the form of 14 weapons, 3 vehicles, grenades, bears, and numerous other in-game items – plus a fresh new premium terrain. But, perhaps even more importantly, we’ve introduced core gameplay features that massively enhance the experience, such as vaulting, climbing, throwing, firearm melee, fishing and improvements to voice chat and medical gameplay.
That’s not to say there haven’t been issues. Certainly not. We recognize that the game still deserves plenty of improvements, and clearly there’s work to be done with regards to server stability. Losing your progress and/or not being able log in for hours is incredibly frustrating, and preventing this remains a top priority. To focus our attention on these critical issues, we’ve also had to make the difficult decision to stop the production of the Survivor GameZ game mode. It simply proved to be too much for us to be taking on.
All things considered, though, we’re pleased to have seen DayZ hit its stride in 2019, and we hope to build on that through continued support in 2020.
This year we also released our brand-new IP, the shoot ‘n’ loot game, Vigor. Graduating from the Xbox Game Preview program, Vigor was officially released as a free-to-play title on Xbox One in August. So far we’ve already welcomed more than 3.5 million players (or rather ‘Outlanders’) to the game’s interpretation of a post-war Norway.
Developed on the licensed Unreal Engine, Vigor is all about managing risk versus reward. To build up your Shelter, you’ll need to head into ‘Encounters’. These are match-based sessions, set in various unique locations, with up to 12 players. You then have up to 15 minutes to scavenge as many resources as possible. You can try to avoid other players or dare going after their possessions – even if it means you might end up losing all of yours. Vigor distils elements from the survival and battle royale genres into a much tighter experience, and adds its own fresh twists to make for a surprisingly original game.
Over the course of this year, we released 6 updates for Vigor, bringing the current version number to 1.2. Notable changes include the implementation of a spectator camera, new gestures system, quick play queue, achievements, social boosters, improvements to shooting and movement, a stamina system, buried caches, the new ‘Brodalen Bridges’ map, new weapons, tools, and cosmetics, a Battle Pass, and various challenges and rewards. Currently, there are still a few pressing issues that we need to address in coming updates. We’re also in the process of forming our roadmap for 2020, which will aim to deliver lots of free and premium new content on a regular basis.
As a free-to-play game, the main challenges we face right now are to keep players interested in the long-term, and to offer enough value for people to make in-game purchases. That said, it’s important to note that, for us, Vigor is important not just financially, but also to learn the ins and outs of a fair free-to-play business model, gain experience in designing and publishing a console game, and take inspiration from Unreal as being one of the industry’s leading universal game engines.
If you need an escape from Vigor’s harsh Norway, then let us welcome you to our other, more cheerful, and nowadays free-to-play (more on that later) game, Ylands. Made in the licensed Unity game engine, Ylands is as much a content creation platform as it is a sandbox game. Now, after two years, we’ve finally released out of Steam Early Access on PC. And, simultaneously, we launched Ylands on mobile for both iOS and Android users.
Over the course of 2019, Ylands received 4 major updates, including the official release of version 1.0. As for update highlights, there’s simply been too much to mention all here, but some of the most notable changes have been the facelift of the entire user interface, improvements to the camera, combat, and ships/sailing, the addition of various social features, Playlands, persistent player progression (a.k.a. a leveling system), an overhaul of the animals’ AI, visuals, and animations, a bunch of new content, and the list goes on. We also deployed hundreds of fixes and optimizations.
But hold on, there’s more. Much more. We introduced many powerful new features for those looking to create their own Ylands objects and/or entire (mini-)games. This involves things like entity welding and object grouping, a custom UI editor, and new scripting functionality. Additionally, players now have the opportunity to ‘monetize’ their projects via the in-game economy. This makes it possible to earn Ylands’ currency, Coyns, with your creations, which in turn you can use to rent servers, or spend on costumes, pets, or another Ylands game, for example.
Now that Ylands has released out of Early Access, its content creation component has adopted a free-to-play model. This removes the most significant barrier of entry for potential players and creators. We see that decision as vital for the adoption of Ylands as a creativity platform. After all, more players attract more creators, and vice versa. The Ylands Exploration mode (formerly referred to as “Explore”), however, remains premium (but is naturally given for free to everyone who joined us during Steam Early Access, along with several bonuses and extras). Speaking of Exploration, this mode was completely revamped in Ylands 1.0, making it much more fun and compelling to play.
All in all, if you consider our company’s core values of curiosity, creativity, and community, then Ylands is arguably the most Bohemian game ever made. At the same time, it’s an attempt at reaching new audiences, in terms of age, but also geographic location. Specifically, with the strong support from our partner Tencent, we hope for our special Chinese version of Ylands to become popular in the massive Chinese gaming market. Granted, this is primarily a business concern, and might not be immediately relevant for you if you live in, let’s say, Europe or North America. However, if it succeeds, it will enable us to reinvest into Ylands and our other projects in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.
Six years ago, in 2013, we released Arma 3 version 1.0. Back then none of us had expected to be supporting the game for so long. But here we are. And even though we announced that we’d be winding down official Arma 3 development, we still managed to pump out a couple of updates this year. The two main events, however, were the releases of the Arma 3 Contact spin-off expansion and the externally-developed Global Mobilization - Cold War Germany DLC.
Available on Steam since April, Global Mobilization is the very first Arma 3 Creator DLC. This is our program for new and original Arma 3 projects created by third-party developers (in this case, a two-man team called Vertexmacht) and published by Bohemia Interactive. As such, talented external content creators can earn a financial reward for their hard work. Meanwhile, Arma 3 players get to enjoy more quality content, whereas our own developers can fully focus on Bohemia’s future projects. We’re extremely grateful to Vertexmacht for having the courage to pioneer this new initiative with us. And thank you to everyone who shared their feedback on the program and the DLC itself. In response, we aim to make some direct changes to how future Creator DLC will be released, and Vertexmacht remains committed to delivering fixes and additional content via free updates. Despite some initial launch issues, Creator DLC seems off to a splendid start with Global Mobilization already achieving more than 50,000 sales to date.
The other Arma 3 release was probably our biggest surprise this year. Following the positive reception of Laws of War DLC, we saw an opportunity to do something even a bit more… unexpected. Meet Arma 3 Contact. This spin-off expansion, which arrived last summer, explores a premise that some of our developers have wanted to delve into for quite a while: “what if humanity suddenly encounters extraterrestrial intelligence on Earth?”. The I-want-to-believers among you can experience our take on a First Contact scenario in the expansion’s singleplayer campaign. In order not to alienate those on the other end of the ‘believe’ spectrum, we made sure to pack in plenty of ‘traditional’ Arma content as well. There’s the Livonia terrain, but also two new smaller military factions, 5 weapons, 2 vehicles, and various new gear. Moreover, we deployed a free update with bonus content for all Arma 3 players, such as 100+ decorative props and terrain objects related to Contact’s story and the Livonia setting.
With Contact made, we now have just one other Bohemia-developed piece of Arma 3 content in the works. “Arma 3 Apex: Old Man” is an experimental open-world singleplayer scenario that has just released in beta on the Steam Workshop as a free bonus for all Arma 3 Apex owners. Aside from that, multiple Creator DLC projects are currently in active development, some of which are already quite far along. And then there are the many mods, addons, and player-made scenarios. We can never credit our community enough for embracing Arma 3 like they did. As a result, the game’s content library has grown to become enormous, and this keeps expanding every day. o7
Mini DayZ 2
In 2017, we launched Mini DayZ on mobile devices. Surprisingly, the smallest game in our line-up quickly attracted one of the largest player counts for any Bohemia title ever (7+ million!). It immediately became clear, however, that the old Construct engine would hamper any further ambitions for the game, and so earlier this year we announced that we’re building a mini-successor in Unity. Since then, the team has made some steady progress. However, in all fairness, the project is and has not been among our key priorities, especially when considering everything happening behind-the-scenes at Bohemia. Therefore, we're currently discussing how Mini DayZ 2 would fit into our plans for next year. We'll report in with more information as soon as possible.
As you probably know, we’ve been working on our new proprietary game engine called Enfusion for several years now. It’s the technology that should power all future Bohemia games. DayZ is our first game to make use of some of its components. Specifically, it has adopted its rendering solution and animations system. And, with those two complex parts in place, we believe to have crossed some of the biggest hurdles towards making a game that fully runs on Enfusion.
So that’s what we’re doing. We’re building new games entirely on Enfusion. As you might expect from our previous titles, key characteristics of this engine will again be detailed simulations, big open worlds, large-scale multiplayer, and modding – but this time supported by far more powerful dev tools, and compatible with multiple gaming platforms. On the topic of tools, our intention for Enfusion is to adopt pipelines that are largely in line with industry standards. That way it’ll be easier for developers to make a transition when they’re already familiar with, for example, Unreal. On top of that, Enfusion aims to support open source 3D software tools, making it so that there are no financial barriers to, in this case, creating art assets for our upcoming games.
Perhaps the biggest achievement for Enfusion this year is that it managed to serve a large group of ‘end users’, such as our artists, animators, programmers, scripters, and designers. It means we now have dozens of people really using the engine to produce content. Consequently, this has accelerated the development of the engine itself as well as its tools – making them more useful every day. There’s still a ton of work to be done. But it’s an investment that will directly empower us to create bigger and better games over time. And to demonstrate that the modder’s mindset is very much present whilst developing the engine, a recent feat made it possible to already script your own Enfusion plugins and extensions.
Right now, our primary goal with Enfusion is to have an internal game prototype ready by the end of this year.
- 2019 has been the busiest year in Bohemia's 20-year history with lots of game releases and updates.
- This year has also been the start of an internal transformation. It's a process driven by many of our projects entering a 'live ops' phase, but also by assigning top-priority to the next generation of Bohemia games powered by our new proprietary Enfusion engine technology.
- In terms of our public milestones this year:
- DayZ was released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, plus we've deployed the Livonia terrain DLC. There were also 6 major updates, which added lots of new content, and introduced several important core gameplay features and improvements. Unfortunately we've had to stop the production of the Survivor GameZ game mode due to insufficient resources and other priorities.
- Vigor released on Xbox One and has saluted more than 3.5 million players so far. In 2019, we released 6 updates for the game that brought along a wide range of new content and features. We're currently in the process of forming Vigor's roadmap for 2020.
- Ylands just released version 1.0 on PC and mobile (iOS and Android). The game also adopted a free-to-play model to lower the barrier of entry for new users and creators. This past year, Ylands received 4 massive updates, which implemented many new features and improvements for both players and content creators. The Exploration mode (formerly "Explore") enjoyed a big overhaul, too.
- Despite Arma 3's official development slowly coming to an end, we still released a few updates this year. The most notable Arma 3 highlights in 2019, however, were the release of the first Creator DLC, Global Mobilization - Cold War Germany, and the Arma 3 Contact spin-off expansion. We currently expect to publish more Arma 3 Creator DLC projects in the coming year.
- A small development team has been working on Mini DayZ 2 for mobile. However, it has a lower priority than some of our other projects, and we're currently evaluating how to move forward with its development.
- As of this year, a large number of Bohemia developers (across various disciplines) have started to use Enfusion to create an internal game prototype. Consequently, we were able to make significant progress with the engine itself as well as its tools. With regards to the latter, our new tools are meant to be much more in line with industry-standards, which will make the process of producing content much more efficient for our own developers, but eventually also for our modding community.
- Did we already mention that Bohemia Interactive is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year?
As this year comes to a close, we start to look forward to an equally exciting 2020. Many of us will still be supporting our live games, such as DayZ, Vigor, Ylands, and Arma 3. Behind-the-scenes, however, an even greater portion of Bohemians will be focused on what’s next: a new generation of Bohemia games.
If you read this blog all the way until here, then it’s safe assume that you care about our company and wish to see Bohemia do well. Thank you for that. It really means a lot to us. Hopefully this blog helps to inform your understanding of what we’ve been up to and some of the challenges ahead.
If you’re interested in what we’re doing and wish to join the Bohemia ranks, then do check out our 25+ open positions at careers.bohemia.net. Or, you’re always welcome to send us an open application, and – who knows – there might just be an opportunity for you here.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways you can contribute, too. Keep sending us your feedback and bug reports, help each other get the most out of your experience, and continue spreading positive vibes so that more people might discover our games. In the spirit of 2019, that leaves us with just one more thing to say: you’re all breathtaking!
On behalf of 400+ Bohemians,
Korneel van 't Land
P.S. Did you know Bohemia now has its own Discord server? Just click on this invite link to join. While you’re at it, be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter and stay up-to-date with all the latest Bohemia news!