When you start Arma 3 today, five years from its release, you’ll find several singleplayer campaigns in the list. There’s the vanilla one, East Wind, and the Apex Protocol introduced in the expansion. There are also several mini-campaigns added in recent DLCs, all of them released in past several months. If you play all of them, you may notice that production value of the DLC scenarios somewhat improved over the content from the major releases. If you were to do the same with Arma 2, you could spot the same trend, with the DLCs offering more solid experience than the vanilla content (although none of them would get even close to Arma 3 standards).
This may sound like a natural progression, caused by devs learning new skills and processes getting fine-tuned over time. And while it’s an important part of the picture, it can’t be the sole explanation. After all, they’re not always the same people, and it’s often the exact same processes. Despite the recent introduction of 3D editor, designing scenarios haven’t changed much over the years. There are objects to place, waypoints to plan, scripts to write; doesn’t matter whether you’re creating the flagship campaign or simple community scenario. No, there’s more to it, and it’s not limited only to playable content.
The reason why post-release additions can achieve higher quality is because they are developed on stable, mature platform. Core development, meanwhile, is about building that platform, in far less hospitable conditions.
This may seem self-evident, but it’s easy to forget about it, especially when the game spent far more time in its post-release growth than in the initial development phase (which, in fact, is the game development in traditional sense). Let’s take a look at it in a greater detail.