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America's Army Tweak Guide

[Page 5] Important Basics (Pt.2)



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Offline Mode


Even though America's Army is primarily an online game, you can practice offline to gain familiarity with the maps, weapons, and general dynamics of the game, not to mention allowing you the opportunity to thoroughly tweak control, graphics and audio settings at your own pace. It is strongly recommended that you spend some time practicing offline on all of the more complex maps.


To begin offline mode:


1. Start America's Army and open the Console (press the TAB or ~ key).


2. Type "Start mapname" (without quotes) to open a map, where mapname is the name of a particular map (e.g. Start Pipeline or Start Sfcsar). All the mapnames can be found in your \America's Army\Maps\ directory.


3. To be able to move around and fire weapons, you will have to choose a character class. Type "Class code" (without quotes), where code is one of the following (e.g. Class M4M):


R - Rifleman (M16A2)

RCT - Recruit (no weapons)

SF - Special Forces

SL - Squad Leader

FT - Fireteam Leader

G - Grenadier (M203)

S - Sniper (M82)

D - Door Breacher

J - Javelin Missile (FGM-148)

S24 - Sniper (M24)

AR - Automatic Rifleman (M249)

M - Rifleman (M4A1)

M4M - Rifleman (Modified M4A1)

M9 - Pistol (M9 Baretta)

BDM - Bunker Defeat Munitions (M141)

AT4 - AT4 Rocket Launcher (M136)

SPR - Special Purpose Rifle (MK12 SPR)

AK - Opfor (AK-47)

AK74SU - Opfor Special Forces (AKS-74U)

GP - Opfor Grenadier (AK-47 / GP-30 launcher)

RPK - Opfor Automatic Rifleman (RPK)

SVD - Opfor Sniper (Dragunov)

MOS - Opfor Sniper (Mosin-Nagant)

RPG - Indigenous Forces Rocket Launcher (RPG-7)

V - Opfor/Indigenous Forces (VSS Vintorez)


To create some basic soldier 'bots' for target practice, type the following command in the console:


summonNPCSoldier


That creates an inanimate opfor soldier who stands with his arms outstretched like a scarecrow. You can shoot him and he won't move or fight back. You can set some of these dummies up at different spots on a map and use them for target practice. In previous versions of America's Army, if you wanted a bit more of a challenge, you could open the console and type "Walk" (without quotes) to animate these dummies with some basic AI, but this no longer appears to work. In previous versions you could also summon other NPCs (Non-player characters) and objects using commands such as summon agp_characters.NPC_AirborneSoldier or summon agp_inventory.PickupT_M67_Frag. However these do not work as of Version 2.6 onwards.



Playing Offline Against Bots


As of Version 2.7, with the introduction of genuine Artificial Intelligence (AI, or 'Bots') there are now two maps which can be used to give you a much better offline practice. The two maps are SF Snake Plain and Interdiction, and you can start them in the normal way. That is, open the console and type Start SFSnakePlain or Start Interdiction and the relevant map will be loaded. As per the instructions further above, select a class for your character, and you can now run around shooting and interacting with the bots - without any teammates of course - which is a useful way of familiarizing yourself with various weapons and tactics in America's Army.


In Sf Snake Plain in particular you can practice driving a HMMWV, using the CROWS gun, and also firing the Javelin missile system (if you spawn using Class J) against actual targets. This is very useful for those who are unfamiliar or not confident with this equipment, even after completing training.



General Offline Commands


Some useful/fun commands which can be used only in offline mode are provided below:


Fly - Lets your character fly around the map. Use the Walk command to disable

Ghost - Allows you to move through solid objects

Entropy - Toggle invincibility mode on/off

Invisible - Toggles player invisibility

AllAmmo - Give player ammo for all weapons

Wpnrecoil - Toggles weapon recoil on/off

Judas - Toggles perfect weapon accuracy

Switchlevel [mapname] - Goes to the specified map

Viewbots - Views from the next summoned character

Freecamera [0, 1] - Changes the view to a free floating camera (1) or back to the player (0)

SetCameraDist [range]- Set camera distance from the character

Lockcamera - Locks the camera view in one spot and lets the player roam around

Slomo [number] - Lets you change the rate at which time passes

Setspeed [number] - Changes the player's speed

Setjumpz [number] - Sets the player's jump height (325 is default)


For more information on the commands that can be used in offline mode see Appendix D of the Official America's Army Manual, and for more commands used in the console (in both online and offline modes) see the Console Commands section on page 10 of this guide, as well as this extremely comprehensive list of Console Commands, Switches and Keybinds.



Weapon Modifications


Go to the main menu in the game, select Record Brief, and under the 'M4A1 Mods' tab you can customize the SOPMOD M4A1 rifle issued to US Special Forces soldiers. If you've passed the Special Forces Tour (See Training above) and you have 15 or higher Honor, then whenever you join a Special Forces map and select a free Special Forces soldier slot, you will be assigned the SOPMOD M4A1 with the modifications you've chosen for the M4A1 in the Weapon Mod screen. At no other time can you use this modified M4A1.


There are four sections on the M4A1 where you can attach a mod: the Top, Front and Bottom Rails, as well as the Barrel. Each rail has a Heatshield by default, but you can add options like the M203A1 grenade launcher, or M68 Aimpoint sight where available. Some things to note about weapon mods:


  • Some mods cannot be installed with others. For example you cannot install the M203A1 grenade launcher and the Harris Bipod on the same weapon, because they take up the same mod slot. Alternatively some mods override others - e.g. installing the Reflex sight will replace the Acog 4x sight and vice versa.
  • When you join a Special Forces map, your weapon's camouflage will automatically be set according to the map, e.g. white for Arctic maps. You cannot override this.
  • If you have the M4QD Suppressor installed as a mod, you must press a key (default is L) to attach it to your gun at the start of each round. It is not on by default. Note also that using this mod does not affect accuracy or damage.
  • Use of the M203A1 grenade launcher mod requires pressing the Supported Fire key (default is H) to switch to launcher mode - the same as the standard M203 rifle. The same key applies for using the Harris Bipod mod if that is installed instead of the M203A1.

  • Once you've chosen your mods here, they are saved automatically so that you can use them when next on the relevant map. Remember, on non-Special Forces maps where the standard M4A1 is used (e.g. Radio Tower) you will not have any of your weapon mods, since you will be using a standard-issue non-SOPMOD M4A1. Only certain Special Forces soldier slots on SF Maps get modifiable M4A1 rifles.



    Playing Online


    Once you've created a new account, logged in, completed Basic Training, set up your Weapon Mod and perhaps spent some time practicing offline you can then join other people in playing America's Army online. To do this, click on the AA Browser option on the main menu screen. The Master Browser Server will appear, with the default screen being for online play over the Internet. Before doing anything else, make sure there is a tick mark against the 'Enable PunkBuster' setting at the bottom of this screen to enable the PunkBuster anti-cheat software (See PunkBuster section in the Troubleshooting Tips section, and further below). This is strongly recommended since firstly you cannot join most servers unless you enable PunkBuster, and secondly because playing on PunkBuster-enabled servers means you will be less likely to run into people who are cheating.


    To view a list of available America's Army servers on which you can play, you can first set the particular Filters you want to use to filter out servers which would not suit your needs. For example you can filter for servers which are not password protected, and which are not empty. Go through the categories listed on the left side and select all the options which suit you, and when you click the 'Apply Filters' button at the bottom of the browser, it will refresh with the servers which meet your filtered requirements. You can close (and open) the Filter display by clicking the vertical bar in between the Filter settings and main browser server.


    Once all the relevant servers have been found, click twice on the 'Ping' column title at the top right of the browser list to sort all the servers by ping from lowest to highest. Now try to find a server with a low Ping (See Network settings under the In-Game Settings section for more details on pings), highlight it, and if there is an open slot you should either double-click on it to join, or press the Join button at the bottom of the screen. Again, note that you may need to complete certain Training missions to join certain maps, such as the Special Forces (SF) maps.


    Note that there are two Ping figures shown, the figure to the left of the slash is the ping to the server (which is most relevant for our purposes); the figure to the right is the average ping of all the users on that server. Furthermore in the server browser the Pings for some servers may appear incorrectly as unusually high or low - if you find the Pings don't display correctly or if you just don't like the default AA Browser you can switch to the 'GameSpy Browser' option (See In-Game Settings) to browse servers.


    Note: To use the default or Gamespy browsers successfully you may need to open a range of ports on your router as detailed here.


    Finally if the in-game browser doesn't suit you, you can use a third party browser like All Seeing Eye which is popular among AA players.



    PunkBuster Updates


    PunkBuster is the official anti-cheat software used in America's Army. You can find out more about it on the PunkBuster America's Army Support Site. There is also a America's Army PunkBuster FAQ you can read if you have any basic questions about PunkBuster and how it works in America's Army. For the most part it works in the background and doesn't require any additional action on your part.


    However, whenever you first join a server after launching America's Army you may notice that you cannot start playing because PunkBuster is updating to the latest version. PunkBuster updates are released quite often simply because as cheaters find new ways of cheating, PunkBuster has to update to detect and defeat these new variations. As a result you may find that virtually every time you start AA and connect to play a game online, PB will update at the start of your first match. This updating can effectively take anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes depending on your connection speed, but note that the speed at which it can download to your system is capped, so even the fastest Internet connection will see the update taking several minutes.


    The better alternative is to manually update PunkBuster before starting a game of America's Army. To do this, go to your \America's Army\System\pbsetup\ directory and run (double-click on) the pbsetup.exe file. This will open a series of agreements you must click 'I Agree' to, and then the 'PunkBuster Setup' window. Here you can select to add any game to the list of PunkBuster supported games displayed by clicking the 'Add a game' button. Do so and select 'America's Army' from the Game list, then click the OK button. Now on the main screen listing, click the 'Check for Updates' button. If a new version of PB for America's Army is available, it will be downloaded and applied automatically. The next time you go to play AA online, there will be no need to wait for a lengthy update process to occur - so long as you remember to manually update PB as often as possible. You can also update your other PunkBuster supported games using this utility, so you might want to create a shortcut for it on your desktop (Right-click on the pbsetup.exe file and select 'Send to Desktop').


    Note that as Version 2.8.3.1 onwards, you can also update PunkBuster using the AA Loader screen - when you click the main 'Play America's Army' button, you will be presented with an option to 'Update PunkBuster', which if clicked will simply run the PBSetup utility and check for PB updates to AA only.


    As a final note, do not modify any of your America's Army files, either by editing them, or adding or removing them. This can be detected as a cheat by PunkBuster. The only edits allowed are those to the .ini files as described in the Advanced Tweaking section of this guide. Note that recently Punkbuster has also made changing the USArmyMainThemeBoostEQ256.ogg file with another .ogg a cheat as well. So do not add/remove/alter anything in your America's Army directories or have any cheating software installed on your system and you will be perfectly safe. If you are kicked by PunkBuster from a server, you can check this list of reasons for being kicked, to see what the probable cause might be.



    Dynamic Content Delivery System


    As of America's Army 2.7, a new Dynamic Content Delivery System (DCDS) has been incorporated into the game. This allows players to download and install maps and other America's Army content directly to their machine through DCDS. For example the map Steamroller is not installed by default with the game; you will be prompted to download it the first time you connect to a server using the map. For the most part DCDS is automatic and very easy to use, simply follow the prompts.



    A final piece of advice to new players - there's nothing wrong with being new online and your teammates will usually take this into account when they see your Honor. You will find there are many experienced players who are willing to help you out should you need it. But at the same time people generally join public games to play, and not to spend most of their time helping you learn the basics. You will get the most positive response from other players by showing that you've already put in some effort to learn the maps and gameplay as much as possible beforehand.



    The next section covers the In-Game settings and their performance and visual quality impacts in detail.