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ARMA 3
ARMA 3 (A3) is a First Person Shooter/Simulator game from Bohemia Interactive.  Rather than a typical FPS that is focused more on 'run and gun' type game play, ARMA 3 is less shooter and more simulator.  Because of this, gamers who are looking for a more realistic portrayal of infantry combat are drawn to A3.  Because it's a PC based game and was designed from the ground up with the A3 community in mind, the game also supports the use of modifications created by users, or mods/modding.  This means that if a user wants to add or change a feature, functionality, map, scenario, or pretty much anything else you can thing of, they can do so.  

There are a couple of downsides to all of this though.
  • Because it is a simulator, it has a longer learning curve to it than most shooters.  As a matter of fact, almost everyone I know who plays the ARMA series, absolutely hated it to start with.  There are many more controls and functions to get used to, and because gameplay is more realistic and occurs in an open environment, you end up dying a lot in the beginning, and have to actually pay attention to things like cover, concealment, route of march, weapon selection, loadout, etc.  You can try to run and gun in A3, but you probably won't get very far.  But, if you stick with it for a couple of hours, you start having multiple 'ah-ha' moments on how to get successful and get things done.  That is when the addiction starts.
  • If you want to make use of the mods that other people have created, or want to create you own, you are going to have to learn a little bit about the file structure of the game, and spend a little bit of time organizing your ARMA world.  But the payoff is WELL WORTH IT.  Not sure what I mean by that?  Let me demonstrate (stay with me here)...​

A3 out of the box comes with one campaign broken into three sections of several missions (scenarios) each.  It is set in the near future with weapons and factions that don't necessarily exist in the real world today.  Most of the weapons, aircraft, vehicles, etc are based somewhat on today's stuff, with a little 'what will likely come next' approach.  But, what if you want to recreate current or previous real world situations?  Well, you find, download, and install the appropriate mods and scenarios, and presto-chango, you are set!  But, the process does take some knowledge of where to get the mods, how to download and install them, how to activate or use them in the game, and what to do if they don't work as expected... like causing the game to crash or start generating a bunch of errors.  

So I thought I would share a little of what I know to help out those desperate enough to be looking for help on this website.  Trust me, if you're still reading this, you MUST be desperate!  I'm definately not an expert, nor do I claim to be.  As a matter of fact, I think my lack of expertise in ARMA is exactly why I felt the need to write this.  I struggled a while to figure out the basics, so I thought I would share them to save you some of that pain.

The Arma 3 Mods I Use

Here are some lists of the mods, scenarios, maps, and server sets I use most.  Hopefully these lists will help you get dialed in and playing faster and easier.

ARMA 3 Management Basics

You can purchase ARMA 3 in two ways, either via Steam, or in the traditional manner via disk/download from a number of retailers.  I personnaly prefer using Steam for all of my software purchases anymore.  I didn't start out as a fan, but now that I have used it for a few years, I definately prefer it.  Games supported on Steam are much easier to keep up to date with the most current updates, and the Steam Workshop is a great resource for mods, extras, scenarios and the like.  If you have a Steam version, you can still use other mods not posted on Steam as well.  But, if you have the non-Steam version, you can't use their content.

So, there are two things you really want to know up front to begin your modding experience.  
1. Where to Find Mods. There are two primary places:  the Steam Workshop and Armaholic.com.
  • The Steam Workshop is only for those who have the Steam version of Arma 3.  If you don't, then skip down to the Armaholic section.  If you have the Steam version then you should already have the Steam client installed and a Steam login.  
    • To get to where you need to be to find mods for A3, open your Steam client, then hover you mouse cursor over 'Community' in the upper left.  Then click on 'Workshop'.  In the search bar that opens, type Arma 3 and hit enter.  You are now in the A3 Workshop!
    • Search for whatever you are looking for.  When you find it, click the green box that says 'Subscribe'.  Make sure you read the full description of the mod and see if there are any dependencies.  A dependency is when one mod depends on content from another mod to work correctly.  Some will be available on Steam, others may require you to follow the Armaholic process below.  In either case, this will start the process to download and install the mod.  Notice I said 'start' the process.  There is more to do.
    • Once the Steam client has downloaded the mods you want (you should see a 'x of x downloading' at the bottom of the Steam client page), you will want to launch Arma 3 from the Steam client.  Do this by hovering over 'Library' and the top of the page, then clicking on 'Games'.  This will open a list of all of the games that you have purchased and installed via Steam. Click on Arma 3 from the list that will open.  This will start the Arma 3 Launcher.
    • With the launcher open, click on 'MODS' on the left side.  You should now see a list of all of the mods you have downloaded.  
    • On the right side, click on the 'Load All' button.  This will look for any updates to your mods, then install and activate them in the game.  If you don't do this for Steam mods, they won't show up in the game.
    • Now you can run the game and your mods will be available.
  • Armaholic.com is likely the largest location to find almost any mod available for Arma 3.  It's not always the easiest to navigate, but the mod is probably there somewhere.  Remember that even if you have the Steam version of Arma 3, you can still use mods from Armaholic. However, I would recommend checking for that mod on Steam first.  If it's on Steam as well, I would use that version.  As the name implies, Arma 3 is not the first game in the series, there have been others in the past.  Just pay attention when you find a mod you are interested in that it actually is for Arma 3.
    • Installing mods from Armaholic is much different than the Steam process, and is more involved, requiring a little more computer savy to be successful.
    • First, find the mod you are looking for on Armaholic.com. Once you have found it, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and look for the entry that says something to the effect of; 'Click to download (whatever the name of your mod is).  That text should be right above a line of info telling you what type of file it is (likely .rar or .zip), how big the file is, and how many times it's been downloaded.
    • Don't forget to look for dependencies and to get those downloaded as well.
    • Once you click on it, you browser will begin the download process, likely placing the file in your 'Downloads' folder.
    • When it is done downloading, extract the contents of the file.  If it's a zip file, then Windows will do that natively.  Just extract it to the same folder it's in now.  We'll move it in a minute.  If it's a rar file, then you will need a .rar extractor.  I use Z-Opener, but there are a bunch of good ones that are free to use out there.  Just pick one and figure out how to use it.  The most important thing is knowing where it will extract the file to.  Figure out that location, as you'll need that info next.
    • Now you need to copy the extracted data from where ever your extraction tool put it, into a folder where Arma can find and use it.  There are a couple of options, but I have found the simpliest is to use the Arma 3 folder in your 'Documents' folder.  So I'm going to talk about that option.  If you want to use the other options, well, read about them on Armaholic and have at it.  The default location of your Arma folder in your documents folder should be C:\Users\username\Documents\Arma 3, but Windows generally gives you several options to get to it via menu and desktop shortcuts.  They should all point to that same documents folder.
    • So, copy all of the extracted data and paste it into your Documents/Arma 3 folder.  The extracted data may have a file folder that has an @ symbol in the beginning of the name.  Not always, but most of the time.  Just put whatever your extraction tool gave you into the Documents/Arma 3 folder.  The cleaner you keep this folder, the easier mananging your mods will be.  If the mod comes just as a collection of files without a parent folder, then I will put it in a parent folder. 
      • If there is a "userconfig" folder, move it into your game install folder, usually:
        "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Arma 3", but if you changed the default location, you will need to find it and put it there.  You may already have "userconfig" folder from other addons and/or mods in which case it is safe to merge the contents from this archive.
    • Now you need to get these new mods active in Arma 3.  You actually have a couple of options.  You can use the Arma 3 launcher, or you can use a custom launcher.
  • ARMA 3 LAUNCHER
    • You can open the Arma 3 launcher and go to the 'MODS' tab.  Look at the top left of the page and look for the 'More' button.
    • Click on that, then click on 'Add Watched Folder'.
    • Then click on 'Add Custom Folder' in the lower right corner.
    • Navigate to your Documents/Arma 3 folder and click 'Select Folder'.  You should now see that folder in the list presented.
    • Click on the 'MODS' button again, then click on the 'Load All' button on the right.
  • CUSTOM LAUNCHER
    • I prefer to use a custom launcher called ArmA3Sync.  This is available via Armaholic here .
    • The reason I prefer the launcher is because it allows me to better manage my mods.  This will become important as you start to load more and more mods.  They don't always play well together, so being able to make it easy to pick and choose which mods load when I start the game based upon what I was going to do was important to me.
    • You can do this from the Arma 3 launcher as well by using the 'profile' feature, but I think ArmA3Sync is easier to use than that.  To each their own..
  • In either case, you should now be able to load your mods and be good to go... well... kind of.  That brings us to the next item you need to know about.

2. Mod Dependencies and Conflicts. 
  • Managing mods can get complicated if you don't pay attention to what the mod maker tells you in their discriptions, and if you don't have some sort of organization or method to manage your mods.  Not sure what I'm talking about, let me show you.
  • I will take one of the mods I use all the time: WW_AiMenu.  This mod gives more options when you are communicating to ai characters in the game.  
  • This mod has a dependency on another mod: CBA_3.  CBA_3 is a base mod that opens up additional features that modders can capitalize on to create their custom mods.
  • If I don't ensure that CBA_3 loads when I am going to use WW_AiMenu, then AiMenu won't work.  The challenge is, that there are some mods that crash the game if CBA_3 is running, generally because they use a different base mod as their foundation.
  • What dependencies each mod has, which mods crash what other mods, etc can get confusing.  This is where the profiles or custom launchers come into play.  I will build profiles so that I can easily switch on and off whole sets of mods, with all of the appropriate base mods included.  This way I don't have to remember the details forever.  Once I figure it out, I build a profile, save it, and then activate that profile when I need it.
  • This gets important when you are wanting to play online with some other actual human players.  Many online servers run particular mod sets to enhance the realism in the way they choose.  So if you play with 'group A' every week and they use a set of 5 particular mods, but those mods clash with another groups mods that you play with only once in awhile, it can get to be frustrating and confusing to get successfully connected to each server every time.
  • Having a quick way to turn on/off mods based upon what you need makes this much less painfull.  Afterall, this is supposed to be fun right?

TIPS FOR SETTING UP ARMA 3

Being that Arma 3 is a bit more complicated than your normal shooter, there are also some tips that I can share that have made the use of the sim more enjoyable, and have overcome some hurdles that took a while to figure out.  I thought sharing them here would be the best way to not only spread the word, but to also keep track of them so that I would remember them myself.  Afterall, there is a LOT of useless information floating around in my old brain bucket... sometimes the stuff I need doesn't always float to the top when I need it on it's own, having it here will keep it where I can get at it.   

If I remember to look here for it....

Controlling AI

Being able to quickly and consistently interact with the AI in the game has always been a struggle for me. Figuring out how to quickly give commands to them while also doing what I need to do has frustrated me from the very beginning.  That is, until I came across DWVAC, or Voice Activated Commands (VAC) .  VAC is an amazing program that lets you use your own voice to issue any number of commands in any game.  It does this by learning how your verbal command relates to a set of keyboard presses that are sent to the computer.  For example:

In Arma, to give a command to two members of your AI squad to hold fire, I might have to make the following key presses; F2-F4-3-2.  That selects squad members two and four, then opens menu #3 for engagment orders, then option 2 with is hold fire.  To do this rapidly I would first have to remember which of the nine order menus holds the command I want to give, then once it's open, I have to find and select it.  Do this dozens of times during the game, and you slowly end up giving your troops a few commands then just decide it isn't worth the effort and go Lone Wolf again.  Not the best solution.

But with VAC, I can now just press my push to talk key and say: "Two, Four, hold fire".  Easy peasy.  I have a robust VAC command file that I am willing to share with you.  I started mine by building on the shoulders of other VAC users.  There are more out there on the net that have some additional commands, but I have never found the extra commands necessary.  So mine has fewer commands in some areas, more in others.  Mine also reflects my use of the WW_AI Menu mod available on Armaholic.  I HIGHLY recommend using that, as it adds in some very useful commands like having the AI rearm from specific points (like fallen soldiers or weapons/ammo crates), or to do things like clear a building.  

By the way, one of the power users of VAC built an Arma scenario just to help you learn and practice using it.   VAC Voice Command Training

VAC doesn't require any voice training or anything like that, and it supports PTT (push to talk), playing of wav files to acknowledge success in recognizing what command you just issued (I use a nice mic squelch sound), and a host of other useful features.  You can experiment with a limited trail, but for the whopping $18.00 USD payment, you get an excellent tool. The use of these two things, VAC and WW_AI Menu make the use of AI actually beneficial!  I also use it in all of my flight sims...

If you decide to use my files put the VAC profile in your C:\Users\ussername\Documents\VAC\Profiles folder, and the wav file in your C:\Users\ussername\Documents\VAC\Sounds folder.  Both of these folders should exist after installing VAC.
Get my VAC ARMA 3 Profile
Get my VAC Successful Command Wav file

Getting Things to Work Together

I recently just resolved some challenges I was experiencing getting some of my add ons to work with Arma reliably.  The interesting thing to me, and what spurred on my adding this info to this page, was that I had figured it out a year ago to resolve the same issues on another PC, but I couldn't remember how I did it when I had the same issues on my simpit PC.  I spent ages trying to remember or figure it out, and suddenly this past Saturday morning the solution just popped into my head.

Always, always, always run Arma 3, and any other programs you are going to use at the same time, like Voice Activated Commands, Track IR centering, custom keyscripters, touch screen interfaces, whatever, in ADMINSTRATOR mode.  This is especially important in Windows 10.  It seems that even if you only have one user account on your PC, and it has full administrator rights, it doesn't always mean that when you install and then run a program, it will run as an administrator.  This can cause odd things to happen... like the VAC PTT key to not register or the key to recenter you Track IR head tracker to not function... ask me how I know.

If you don't know how to set up a program to run as an administrator, it's very simple.  Of course with Windows there are always multiple ways to do something. I prefer to go right to the actual executable file to make the change, that way no matter how I start the program, it will run as an administrator.

For VAC that would be the VACSystem.exe located in the install directory for VAC. 
Right click on the VACSystem.exe file
Select 'Properties'
Select the 'Compatability' tab
Select the 'Change settings for all users' button
Check the 'Run this program as an administrator' box
Click Apply
Click OK
Click OK

Now when you run VAC (or any other program you do this for) it will run with administrator rights, and you will likely have much greater success in the program actually working correctly.

You can do this instead to the shortcut on the desktop (if you have one) for the program, but that will only take effect if you launch the program via the shortcut.  If you start it any other way, it won't run with the admin rights.  That's why I just do it once to the actual program and I never have to worry about it again.  I have found this to help out with issues I was having in all sorts of programs, not just Arma!  It is now one of my first steps when troubleshooting an issue with some software.

TIPS FOR A BETTER ARMA 3 MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE

ARMA 3 continues to evolve, which is excellent for those of us who play.  One of the best ways to enjoy ARMA is to find a group of players who you get along with and have the same style of gameplay as you, and then get online with them and start tackling missions.

I was lucky that I stumbled across the Onion Gamers group, who play the amazing BMR Insurgency mod.  I won't go into to all the details here on how to get connected and such yet, but I did want to throw two items out, if for nothing else so that I would remember them if I ever needed the links later.

TeamSpeak

Get TeamSpeak3.  If you don't have it already, get it.  It costs nothing and is the basis for most online chatting/teamwork you will come across.  www.teamspeak.com.

If you are going to have TeamSpeak3 up and running, especially on another monitor, you will want to tone down the bright background and menus.  The easiest way to do that is to change the 'style' of TS3 by going to 'settings' > 'options' > 'design'.  The default styles are listed 'Theme'.  Yeah, it gets confusing.  I would have called them themes from the get go, but whatever.

I found a style/theme I like that was deisnged specifically to resemble/compliment ARMA.  If you download it from the link on the left, it will automatically load it to your TS3 client, and enable it.
Get the ARMA 3 TS3 Style