Arma 3: Dead Air – A story that has never been told
The year was 2012. I was working as an external contractor in Bohemia Interactive on Arma 3, more precisely on the massive Altis map. I have started playing a lot of EVE Online and was living the life of a college student at the Technical University in Liberec. When it comes to my modding ambitions, I was still pretty energized from the very popular release of Namalsk for DayZ Mod and it got me thinking of what to do next?
My obvious choice was to continue in Arma 3 as I have gained lot of experience due to my work on Altis. I knew I could simply just port Namalsk again, but at the same time, I wanted to use my skills on rather something brand new. If you are following my work, you probably know that fate had a different plan for me (I have ended up updating Namalsk for DayZ SA). But lets not focus on that in this article. Without a further a due, this is the untold story of Arma 3: Dead Air mod.
My work was always focused around the atmosphere and the story. From the beginning of the Dead Air project, I knew I wanted to iterate on the story that I have done in Arma 2 with Namalsk. I very much liked the idea of the escalation that happened at the end of Arma 2 Namalsk story and the idea of global superpowers trying to stop the covert operations of an unknown PMC with a lot of mystery to it. I have very much enjoyed the idea of Russian and US sides somewhat ending on one the same side of the conflict, turning themselves against other power blocks in the world (with highly influential China in the lead). The use of the non-conventional weapons during the conflict on Namalsk only strengthened that idea.
So the setting was pretty much set. The aftermath of the Namalsk crisis has left deep wounds in the relationship of the old superpowers and the influential China. This so called “diplomatic winter” has led to the information warfare, never seen before and has split the world more than it was during the cold war. Rising danger of the PMCs and continuous conflicts within Middle-East has were only the tip of an iceberg and as the differences have become more and more obvious, the alliance of the Canton-Protocol Strategic Alliance Treaty (CSAT) has emerged. This coalition of many, primarily Asian countries, was formed to ensure the military and economic stability within the region. While China has officially not declared its membership, it was believed to be the main driver behind the alliance. Russian Federation, failing to repair the diplomatic issues with its Asian neighbours, even years after the Namalsk crisis had to side in a very unexpected alliance with NATO.
Now, lets talk about the setting and places I have tried to replicate for these troublesome times. Unique environment was always a key aspect to me and Dead Air was no exception. This time, I have put two terrains into production.
First one is Shemya. An island with landmass of roughly 15 square kilometres, located within the western part of Aleutian Islands, Alaska. It is a home to TF Bering with a massive airbase (Eareckson Air Station), radar stations (from cold war era, now targeted against DPRK / China) and beautiful rocky coastline. It features an abandoned military installations mixed with lot of newly installed prefab military objects, supporting the idea of TF Bering moving in in a hurry to stabilize the region (which is also in a vicinity to Namalsk). Terrain was captured in early winter time. At some point, I have envisioned the terrain to be a perfect BR map, but sadly, that never happened. This terrain has been almost finished before the project was put on hold.
Now second terrain was a lot more ambitious one – the Musan Pass. I was very fascinated by re-creating an environment from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). I have picked up a mountainous region of Chagang province. It was very challenging to get good references, but that was part of the fun (I have even got all the DPRK traffic signs). My goal was never to really replicate a specific area, but rather project the feel of the country and its architecture into this beautiful mountainous landscape. This fully inland early winter 105 square kilometre landscape features deep valleys, heavily industrialized forests, big urban city of Kar-Ien, major industrial complexes scattered within the main valley with a frozen river and railway network. Other features included several radar stations alongside a secret launch complex for the Korean Unha orbital launcher.
Now little bit more about the personal side of the story aka what would players witness. Just a disclaimer though: the story has sadly never been put into production and only has remained on a paper. Largely because of my full focus on finishing up the Musan terrain (which did not end up happening either due to work on Namalsk). The story would be told through a mini-campaign, playable both in single player and co-op mode.
Players would been put into roles of 3 operators of a newly formed Task Force Bering, which has been formed by various NATO, Commonwealth and Russian units.
The beginning would put players into a rather tricky TF Bering operations deep within DPRK, where they would be tasked with searching an intel on the orbital launch capabilities and specific cargo, going to orbit. This would be through the eyes of Netanya Keitner (who you may know from Namalsk). Sadly, the operation was disrupted by the CSAT special forces, who managed to uncover TF Bering covert operations, killing one operator in process.
The discovery of the covert operations of TF Bering left CSAT no other option than to strike TF Bering at the hearth – Shemya. Players would witness this massive assault on this Aleutian stronghold through the eyes of Ryan Coben, battling alongside various other units, entrenched around the whole island of Shemya.
While this battle could be eventually be won, players would learn that it was a smoke screen to much bigger events, happening in DPRK and in the South China Sea. The remaining operators in DPRK would be racing against the clock, trying to stop the launch of an experimental Huen-shi probe while also trying to escape in time.
The story would have two endings, depending on the success of the covert operations within DPRK. In both cases, players would be left with a rather open ending, that would give pointers to what CSAT may be actually doing and what implications it has related to the crisis on Namalsk, which happened earlier that year and divided the world so much.
One last thing I would like to talk about is a little project I have been working alongside Dead Air production – a stealth fighter jet called MiG-37B Ferret E. While this aircraft mostly appeared at modeler’s display case, it has some kind of real life background as being the eastern counter of western stealth fighters. I have fell in love with this one the moment I bought the plastic model (which was like 15 years ago) and to this day, I still have it at display in my room (though the execution is questionable :D). The aircraft was meant to be part of Dead Air and stationed on Shemya.
Well and that’s it, I have no more secrets to share about Dead Air. Like I mentioned in the beginning, this project has sadly never seen the public, but I have had fun working on it. There was lot that I have learned during the development too, which eventually helped me greatly during the work on Namalsk in DayZ (which ultimately pushed Dead Air completely out of my focus).
Nothing from what I have shown has been released and before you ask, no, I do not have any plans to release anything. But I still do hope it was an interesting read for you. I have certainly enjoyed going back in time and digging through the old data.