The History of OFPEC
In the Spring of 1999 a small company in the Czech Republic called Bohemia Interactive Studio (BIS) announced they were developing a new game. It was to be a first-person shooter with a difference: the environment would be completely open; every vehicle in the game would be usable by the player; the AI would be smarter than anything seen before in gaming. BIS was going to call it 'Flash Point'.
Flash Point creates a large and detailed world and engages a huge variety of Cold War military equipment and vehicles directly in the combat without any limits. The players can play as the infantry and use all mobile, armored, aircraft units in both single player and multiplayer. Everything is created in accurate 3D graphics and with decent physical simulation and complex AI routines.
Life-like graphics, animations and sound effects help the total immersion. The game offers a simplified action-type user interface but there's a deep tactical simulation behind it - every single bullet has its own simulation and ballistics. This game offers more freedom and realism than any other game and we think it's a refreshing change after tons of simplistic shooting infantry games and/or sci-fi military games full of colored lights and effects. Flash Point is similar to Delta Force or Hidden and Dangerous in some respects but it offers much more realism and more opportunities to the player.
We think there are three areas in Flash Point each of them with about the same priority: multiplayer (both massive online and standard LAN or Internet play), single player campaign and mission editor. Single player is very important for newcomers and I expect most of the hard core fans will play it as well. Multiplayer is so great for this type of game that it's an absolute must. And the mission editor enables people to fully exploit the potential of the game because it's so complex we're not able to create a good mission for every possible combination in the game.
- Marek Spanel, CEO Bohemia Interactive
The Operation Flashpoint Editing Center
In March 2001 BIS released a demo of what came to be called Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (OFP), three months ahead of the final release of the full game. It caught the imagination of gamers worldwide - at the time no other game had come close to offering such a wide-ranging free-roaming environment. Even though the mission editor interface was not active in the demo, several enterprising individuals took it upon themselves to delve into the demo code to discover its secrets. One of them went by the name LustyPooh, and in May 2001 he set up a website in which to post his findings.
Welcome to the Operation Flashpoint Editing Center. This site contains information and tools to help you develop custom maps for the first person tactical combat simulator Operation Flashpoint (OFP). Right now only a demo is out for the game so this site contains info on how to create custom missions for the demo. When the game is officially released this site will be expanded to include information on how to create custom missions for the official game using BI Studio provided tools as well as any 3rd party tools.
I want to thank everyone who has provided info on OFP editing. Without this collective effort the OFP Editing Center site wouldn't be a tenth as informative as it is.
- from the web archive of http://lustypooh.tripod.com/
Aided by Niosop and others, LustyPooh wrote the Unofficial Command Reference, the first draft of which was made available two weeks before the full game was released. It became a kind of editing bible, expanding into new areas as a succession of authors further developed and refined it over the following 6 months. For some time after the release of OFP in June 2001 editing documentation from BIS and Codemasters was scarce (BIS released their official Command Reference 5 months later in November 2001) but LustyPooh and his fellow pioneers gave the newly-emerging editing community a head start.
News spread quickly thanks to sites like the OFP Tattler, set up by The Avon Lady, whose good rapport with BIS provided her with tidbits of teaser info to write about, straight from the Spanel brothers. The OFP Tattler went on to become The Avon Lady's OFP FAQ, which remained a central site for the Community for several years.
In July 2001 LustyPooh took his website offline (read the details here) but a well-known contributor to the site named Tigershark preserved the material and used it to launch the next incarnation of the OFP Editing Center on his own site, www.concept-5.com/ofp.
Tigershark at the Helm (2001)
OFPEC circa 2001
OFP had clearly hit a nerve worldwide, and gamers were turning to editing in droves. Script snippets were being developed to broaden the possibilities of the game, like customising loadouts, simulating artillery and airstrikes, and enabling rappelling from choppers. Lists and references were being produced, along with tutorials on how to create the various facets of a mission like briefings and cutscenes. Community-created missions were being churned out faster than ever now that the in-game mission editor interface was available, and despite it being the only official 'tool' available discoveries were being made by the likes of Kegetys about how to manipulate island and model files to produce retextured addons: his Winter Kolgujev was among the first community-made addons released.
"What's New" section
Tigershark envisioned a website which catered to all of these editing passions in OFP, professionally branded and with the tenets of attention to detail and quality of content at its heart. The main problem was the growing amount of traffic and the number of resource submissions. LustyPooh's site had consisted of static HTML pages with links to resources being maintained by hand, and while the Community was still in its infancy this approach was adequate, but something more dynamic and easily updated was required to deal with the volume of new content being submitted.
OFPEC Forum, 2001
Tigershark happened to be a coder and business analyst, and he brought these skills to bear on the task of building a new website. Using ASP pages supported by a backend database, and incorporating automation of common tasks wherever possible, he began organising and categorising the content. Since so much material was being submitted he introduced a degree of quality control, but naturally he couldn't do all of this himself, and so other 'staff' were invited onto the ranks, the first being master editor and tutorial writer snYpir. Tigershark also created beta-testing boards on the forum so that resources could be put through their paces before being submitted, again with the intention of improving the quality of resources available to the Community.
A moment of note during this time was the birth of the Original Missions Center, which began life as a section on www.karlsplace.co.uk and which became a sister site to OFPEC called www.opf-missions.net.
Staff list, Dec 2001
Over the next few months, there was a huge amount of activity and growth, with staff numbers climbing as the workload increased. It was noted that with the extra content came extra demands, and it was soon realised that the free hosting solution being used at the time did not match the demands the site was placing on the servers.
Staff list, Apr 2002
It was at this stage that Tigershark, snYpir and Wolfsbane sat down in deep discussion, and decided to take an offer put to them by a gentleman called Jeff Compton, who owned an ISP company called Confluent Technologies and had graciously volunteered a server for use. In November 2001 the transition was made from free hosting to a fully-fledged, unlimited storage, no-charge professional outfit. This allowed all the depots to grow incredibly quickly with content, reviews, downloads and more. Staff numbers once again increased, to the stage where over 76 people were 'employed' as volunteer staff.
Wolfsbane at the Helm (2002)
During this new phase of OFPEC Tigershark decided to stand down from the Site Admin position due to other commitments and handed the reins over to Wolfsbane, who had joined in 2001 running a small map-making workshop. This period saw new pressures applied, primarily due to the increase in content and visitors putting an unacceptable strain on the free hosting supplied by Confluent Technologies, who had to put a cap on the bandwidth available to OFPEC just to keep their servers up, making the site slow to a crawl. Once more the site was struggling to stay afloat.
Then came a revelation in the way OFPEC was run. It was decided through discussion between the Administrators and Staff that OFPEC needed, quite simply, money. Wolfsbane entered into negotiations with Codemasters for financial support and/or a server on which to host the site. Operation Flashpoint was put on sale in the site, with a small commission going towards the fundraising effort, and most importantly the first ever Donations Run was carried out. This involved a heartfelt plea to the members from Wolfsbane on the homepage. With several hundred GB of files and hundreds of people downloading every day, it couldn't be sustained much longer.
By the generosity of the OFPEC Community money started to come in, both from game sales, support from Codemasters, and general donations. Over $2000 was raised in the first month, and this allowed OFPEC to migrate many of its larger and more popular files over to an independent ISP called Streaming Hand for downloading. It cost around $260 a month but took a massive strain off Confluent Technologies, and provided us with some leeway - Jeff Compton was showing concern over our use of his system and how it had completely outgrown his expectations, to the point where he approached Wolfsbane with an offer to sell OFPEC, to the tune of $5000 for the entire site and content, on the understanding that both he and Tigershark remain on the staff. The intention was to turn it into a content-payable site, and to greatly increase the amount of professionalism and quality available. It took only a few minutes of discussion between Tigershark and Wolfsbane to firmly say 'No' to that offer.
With that, our time with Confluent Technologies had come to an end and OFPEC was forced to move, but not before an outage and other issues caused a large chunk of information to be lost from the server. The domain name was also retained by the ISP, and we were out on a limb. Thankfully, www.ofpec.com had been registered as a backup and now came into full use, although it took a while for many people to discover the new address, during which time OFPEC was afforded a break in order to build itself back up.
OFPEC circa 2002
The site was down for a couple of months and there was a total rewrite of the code by snYpir and Backoff, who transposed the site files from ASP to PHP, and moved the raw data into a new MySQL database. OFPEC was then re-launched in July 2002 on a server provided by HuBBa, who hosted the site free of charge from his bedroom in Sweden.
During the initial phase, all looked well. True, OFPEC had lost a massive user base because of the time off-line, but during that time of apparent inactivity, behind the scenes it was chaos. Backoff burned himself out completely by the demands being put on him to meet deadlines and upgrade entire systems from scratch and Wolfsbane was becoming quite ill with the hours he was putting in on top of a 12hr day job. It was at this stage in April 2003 that Wolfsbane stood down.
OFPEC circa 2003
snYpir at the Helm (2003)
The Site Admin position was handed over to snYpir, who had been Editors Depot Admin. He had always made it clear that his stint was going to be a short one, and he devoted a huge amount of energy in the 5 months that he was in charge. This was the point at which OFPEC went from being just another OFP editing site to being the premier editing site. snYpir quit as he had always planned to and Noon and Sefe took over administration of a thriving and successful site.
Sefe & Noon at the Helm (2004)
Sefe and Noon performed their role in the sense of caretakers - the quiet and steady night-watchmen between the dynamic movers and shakers of the day watches. They took up the joint admin posts in August of 2003 with gusto and enthusiasm, but in terms of what was happening with OFP and the wider Community, their job basically came down to maintaining OFPEC in the face of a settling Community and an increasingly inactive and dwindling staff-base. Operation Flashpoint was now 2 years old, and in gaming terms becoming somewhat long in the tooth.
The server and connection were struggling under the load OFPEC placed on it, such that the Addons Depot frequently couldn't cope with the demand. More donation runs were made in an attempt to generate funds with which to buy more bandwidth and keep the depot open. In addition, the custom code snYpir had created needed some tweaking but there were no suitable candidates who could take up the challenge. Nevertheless, the site maintained a steady volume of traffic through the core sections that mattered to OFPEC's identity, with the reduction in traffic over those two years being about what was expected from a naturally shrinking Community.
Sui at the Helm (2005)
Sefe stepped down in December 2004, and Noon kept going as de facto solo lead admin until eventually real-life got in the way, and he decided in May 2005 to leave OFPEC in the caring hands of Sui, who was brought out of semi-retirement to take over. He inherited the ongoing problems of progressively disappearing staff and a waning Community, but with the help of Artak, Macguba, Tyger and the rest of the remaining staff, he resolved to turn things around. Rumour reached our ears of a new game from Bohemia Interactive in the pipeline, and so the race was on to prepare the site for the arrival of Armed Assault.
OFPEC's Darkest Hour (Jan 2006)
Servers, by their nature, need to deal with a lot of internal activity, especially hard drive access. In January 2006 the hard drive in HuBBa's server was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and he bought new equipment as a replacement. When it arrived, he took down the server to install the new drive, with the intention of backing up the contents of the failing drive onto it. When he switched the server back on however, the old hard drive simply died.
In the end the biggest issue with the hardware was the amount of traffic going through, since traffic also generates hard drive and overall system usage. In hindsight there are several things we could have done differently, and maybe even see if we shouldn't have possibly done some sort of clustering solution (with a few servers collaborating). But hindsight is easy, foresight is not.
The first machines we ran off were just normal out-of-the-box desktop computers, and we didnt get anything remotely similar to server hardware until the last donation run. But not even that got us "proper" server hardware (SCSI drives, high-traffic tuned network cards/motherboards/etc.) since those were extremely expensive back then - and still are. We were actually setting up a RAID configuration when the main hard drive died on us. When Mr. Murphy strikes, he strikes hard.
- HuBBa, February 2010
Luckily the database in which the forum posts were stored had been backed up externally, but the editing resources and the custom code upon which the depots and forum relied were utterly lost. It was perhaps OFPEC's darkest hour.
Obviously the forum was inaccessible, so there was no place for the staff to coordinate the rebuilding effort - in fact many of the regular staffers remained in the dark about what had happened. Artak organised an emergency board on the OFP Team Finlanders forum, and gradually word got around by instant messenger and email, and the staffers began to congregate.
Once HuBBa had assessed the damage and rebuilt his server, the decision was made to move away from the customized forum and integrated depots to something more off-the-shelf and easily maintainable, so a combination of a Mambo content management system and Simple Machines Forum was chosen. Ktotte installed the new software, Bedges and Planck - at that time forum Moderators - worked to give the site a new face, and with Sui coordinating the rebuilding effort, gradually, day by day, the site began to breathe again.
The Biki (April 2006)
Bohemia Interactive chose this moment to announce that they intended to create a Wiki dealing with all aspects of their software, and invited us to participate in setting out the groundwork. Naturally we accepted, although privately the staff expressed concerns that with OFPEC in such a tender state, splitting our priorities might not be wise. Nevertheless Hoz, Planck, Mikero and others began transferring the COMREF to the virgin Wiki, and somehow still managed to keep the momentum going in rebuilding OFPEC.
The site was down for 5 months in total and it's little wonder that we lost many staff due to the apparent lack of progress. The forum was eventually opened to the public in May 2006 and a trickle of visitors began passing through, but even though there was a wealth of knowledge in the 4 years' worth of forum posts, there were no other resources for members to use, and they were understandably wary of another crash.
OFPEC circa 2006
Planck uploaded his own copy of the OFPEC COMREF as static HTML pages, and Artak began collecting many of the resources we had hosted in the past from staff members' local hard drives. We recovered quite a lot, but it was still a fraction of what had once been available and had little or no organisation behind it. At the same time Mikero, Rhysduk, Cheetah and the Missions Depot staff made a huge effort in collecting as many of the previously hosted missions and their reviews as they could. The next problem was making those salvaged resources available to the public.
The plan was to create a dynamic, database-driven submission system which would form the backbone of the depots, but as each week passed little progress was seen. Bedges was becoming increasingly aware of the lack of motivation among the staff, especially those to whom the main rebuilding tasks had been delegated. Since he still had access to the back-end of the site he threw together some static pages of links to the old editing resources which had been restored to the server, and reopened the Editors Depot. There was a murmur of disapproval from the admins because the established hierarchy had been side-stepped, but the resources were now at least available for the members.
MachoMan's Revolution (2007)
Life and job commitments began creeping up on Sui, such that he felt unable to devote the time required to get OFPEC back to full strength. At the end of July 2006, he stepped down. Bedges and Planck rallied the remaining staff, and got them all together on instant messenger. This represented a key-change in the way OFPEC was run, since up to that point staff members were basically confined to their own depot and the top-down hierarchy was seen as concrete. After the crash it had become obvious that even though a core group of staff members had the time and enthusiasm to rebuild the site, their 'rank' was placing unnecessary limitations in the way. Planck and Bedges removed those hurdles and promoted an inclusive atmosphere among the staff. Thus there was much more immediacy of communication than there had been for a long time, and the entire staff began to feel more involved and valued.
As a result of two extremely generous donations from members of staff, we were suddenly financially able to free HuBBa's server of the OFPEC albatross. MachoMan took over the role of sysadmin and in September 2006 moved the entire site to a commercial host called Servage. He also began work on a Mambo-based component which would form the basis of the submission system which would enable the reopening of the depots.
In just a few short months Servage proved to be as unreliable as they were cheap - i.e. very. The site ran like treacle, and often wouldn't display at all. The ISP's customer service offered only amusement as their automated answers to Artak's queries danced around the issues. Then in January 2007, the site collapsed. We discovered that our database backups had not been fully completed, and the last full backup was from October 2006. It took over 5 weeks to get the site back up and running. Naturally we started looking for a new host, but by then OFPEC's reputation had taken a serious hammering, and our traffic was almost non-existent.
Assisted by Artak, MachoMan sourced a new ISP, organised a dedicated server, installed all the software and moved the entire site yet again, all while keeping up with his studies and social life. The site was reopened with Leaseweb in April 2007 with a new, less graphics-intensive design.
OFPEC circa 2007
It cannot be overstated how much effort MachoMan put into stabilising OFPEC - for the most part unthanked - and it goes some way to explaining why he began to lose heart. Progress on the integrated depot system he was building ground to a halt, and finally in August 2007 he called it a day. Jerry Hopper was on hand to reassure us that the server wouldn't immediately blow up; nevertheless it was a depressing end to a stressful time among the staff.
Complete rebuild from scratch (2008)
By chance Bedges had found employment as a web developer, and he began using his newly acquired skills to code applications which would fulfil the requirements of the depot staff. The Editors Depot and Missions Depot were recoded to make use of the database, and the effort put forth by the staff in transferring all the existing static resources into the new dynamic systems cannot be emphasised enough - in particular Hoz and Planck, who got yet another chance to go through the entire COMREF, transferring each command to the new system one by one.
It became clear that the bridge between the Mambo content management system and the Simple Machines Forum software was to blame for the site's slow delivery speed. Since the only parts of the site dependant on Mambo were the frontpage news stories and Jerry Hopper's hand-coded Tags interface, Bedges developed bespoke alternatives for these and in December 2007 we ditched Mambo altogether. The site was suddenly lightning fast and responsive - it was a definite high point.
To celebrate we held the first OFPEC Member Survey, where we asked members what they thought of the site, how it could be improved, and how they felt about ArmA and the Community generally. The response was good, and on the basis of the survey feedback, plans were made for further improvements to OFPEC.
OFPEC The Editing Center
OFPEC circa 2009
Between July and December 2008 Bedges restructured and optimised the site code and a new design was created, resulting in the website you're sitting in front of right now. New sections were added to the site, including the Sound and Face libraries, the Recruitment Lounge, FAQs and tutorials, and RSS feeds for each Depot. After several years at the bottom of the priorities list, the Addons Depot was finally reopened, staffed by recognised experts from around the Community. The new site was relaunched as "OFPEC The Editing Center", an attempt to move away from the OFP-centric acronym towards a more generic and forward-looking identity that took Armed Assault into account, while retaining the familiar Community brand.
Fast forward to the present day: OFPEC now supports a new fresh, long lasting look. Staff members have the tools in the back-end of the site to respond to all aspects of editing for a long time to come. We've expanded into new areas like the Sound Library and the Face Library, and the recently reopened Addons Depot. All these changes are aimed at improving the overall knowledge of the Community, and encouraging the creation of top-notch tutorials and resources.
OFPEC circa 2010
In April 2010 we lost Planck one of our most dearest OFPEC staffers, he passed away on us and left behind a legacy of work and community spirit.
The staff continue to create ground-breaking scripts like Mandoble's Mando Missiles and Spooner's Holo Map, while taking the time to help those new to editing missions, scripts and addons. The site admins Planck & Hoz spend plenty of time discussing and focusing the goals of OFPEC so that the site will continue to prosper for future gamers. After all, that's why we're here... to have fun and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
It's been 9 years and, all things considered, OFPEC is looking not too bad. Having said that, without a dedicated staff of volunteers and contributors, without a Community with questions, comments and donations, OFPEC would not continue to exist.
Life after OFPEC
There comes a time when a person decides that they aren't able to continue contributing to OFPEC in the way they have in the past. Whether it be due to a broken-down PC, marriage or kids, real life eventually gets in the way and it's time to move on. Many great people have volunteered their time to contribute to the site over the years, and below is a list of those who have served OFPEC in their most professional capacity.
Site Administrators: Tigershark › Wolfsbane › snYpir › Sefe+Noon416 › Sui › Planck+bedges › Planck+Hoz
Editors Depot: snYpir › toadlife › KTottE › macguba › Baddo › Mr.Peanut › Mandoble › Mandoble+Worldeater
Missions Depot: Mike Beil › Anmac › Artak › Mikero › Cheetah › savedbygrace › savedbygrace+mathias_eichinger
Intel Depot: macguba › Tyger › nominesine › Hoz › Hoz+nominesine
Addons Depot: KTottE › Asmodeus › Wolfrug › Wolfrug+Gnat
Forum: Tigershark › Wolfsbane › Noon416 › Sefe › macguba+Artak › macguba › h-
Retired Staff Members List
There have been seven leaders who had the opportunity to run OFPEC, each bringing their own individual views and thoughts on what role OFPEC would have in the Community. Over 90 dedicated staff members have had important roles at OFPEC over the years, from helping out in the Missions Depot to answering questions in the forum.
Many years have passed since the very first release of Operation Flashpoint, and in keeping with the OFPEC tradition of documenting peculiar things that need to be documented, the current staff have decided to dedicate this page to all those who have served under the name of OFPEC. This is a reminder that over the years, a team of well-rounded individuals have continued to follow the original ideal of what OFPEC is all about:
"By the Community, For the Community"
Special thanks go to Hoz, macguba, Wolfsbane, bedges, Noon416, snYpir, The Avon Lady, HuBBa, Tigershark and LustyPooh who made contributions to this article.