Optimizing Your System
Before you do anything else, first head over to my System Optimization Guide and read through it from start to finish. It has all the resources you need to optimize your system for running any game, including details on how to update your BIOS, install the latest drivers correctly, stress testing an overclocked machine, links to Tweak Guides for every version of Windows, and much more.
In particular, if you run Windows XP, try my two XP Guides:
Windows XP Tweaking: From Reformat to Relax
Windows XP Tweaking: From Relax to Righteous
I really can't stress how important it is to optimize your system, especially by using the first WindowsXP guide listed above. You will resolve many problems and greatly improve your overall performance by making sure all the Windows settings are correct, and by stripping away unnecessary resource hogs.
Download the Game
If you don't have America's Army, you can download the game for free from the Official America's Army Site or America's Army Files, or from Fileshack or Fileplanet. The latest version of the game is Version 2.0.0a, the full version of which weighs in at 650MB. If you already have an earlier version, there are several patches available to update to 2.0.0a which can also be downloaded from one of the sites above. Note that America's Army is a free game, so while some sites might offer you the option of paying for a download, that is a premium service. If you don't wish to pay, download from one of the other sites listed above - they offer the same files and are absolutely free.
If you have problems with errors after patching an earlier version to 2.0.0a, a solution can be found here. For user account-related errors see the Personnel Jacket section below.
Generally speaking if you're updating from a much older version of America's Army it is recommended that you do a "clean install". That's done by going to Control Panel>Add/Remove and uninstalling the game. Once you've done that, go to the program's folder (typically C:\Program Files\Army Operations\ or C:\Program Files\America's Army) and completely delete it and all of its contents, just to be safe. Now install the full version of America's Army. Note that uninstalling the game will not mean that you'll lose your online soldier and his honor and training - that is recorded on the central AA server, and so long as you remember the username and password then you can access that character and his full history from any computer with AA on it. Also note that America's Army is an online-only game. While you can practice offline, you'll need to be online to login, save your training mission results and play online. See below.
If you're new to America's Army it's important to create an online soldier. This is done by firstly making sure you're connected to the internet, then run the game, chose the Personnel Jacket button and click on the Create Account button. Follow the prompts given and you'll be taken to a site where you can register a new account.
Once you've created a new account, or if you have an existing account, you will need to enter the details in the Soldier Login section. Enter your username and password exactly as they were registered, make sure to tick the "Remember Username/Password Box" and click the Login button. You should see a "Transmission Completed" message after a few seconds meaning you are logged in. If you are having errors logging in, there are several possible causes and solutions:
Cause: The central authorisation servers are down/having problems (e.g "Timed Out", "Communication Error").
Solution: Try again a little while later.
Cause: The "Error Unknown" message may be caused by an account transition issue.
Solution: There are several things you can try.
Cause: Your account may not exist, or you entered the details incorrectly, or entered non-permitted characters in your name.
Solution: Make sure you have a registered account which has not been banned, enter the details exactly as they appear in your registration email, and don't use these non-permitted characters in your name: \ / : * ? " | < >. Note also that you cannot login or play online as "Enter Username Here".
If you keep having connection problems or getting strange error messages when running the game then read the Official America's Army FAQ for more troubleshooting help on specific errors/problems.
If you're a new player, you need to understand that America's Army requires training before playing online. It may seem tedious at times, especially when attempting for Special Forces qualification, but in keeping with the game's overall theme, it is designed to familiarize people with the concepts and methods involved in being in the real US Army.
To enter training, click on the Training button. There are five sections under the Tours drop box - you must complete Basic Training before you can play any mission online. If you complete the Marksmanship component of the Basic Training to a high level (i.e. hit 36 or more out of 40 targets) you will also qualify to complete the Advanced Marksmanship course - Sniper school.
Once you've completed Basic Training you can then attempt the various tours and complete all the missions therein. It's important to be persistent and try to complete all training as without completing certain Tours you will not be able to play certain roles or use certain weapons in the game.
For example, if you do not complete all of the Medic Tour, you cannot be a medic within the game. If you do not complete (or don't have access to) the Advanced Marksmanship Tour you cannot select the Sniper role in the game. And finally, if you do not have 15 or more Honor (see below) and complete both rigorous components of the Special Forces Tour, you cannot play as a Special Forces soldier on the Special Forces maps online.
Joining an Online Game
Once you've completed Basic Training, you can join other people in playing America's Army online. To do so, you must go to the Deployment screen in the game. To view a list of online servers where you can play, click the Refresh List button in the Internet (default) screen. Note however that you must select the "Enable Punkbuster" box at the bottom right of this screen in order to be able to see and play on Official Servers and most Leased Servers. Punkbuster is a cheat detection program which you can find out more about here.
You can tell when the game has refreshed all the servers by looking at the progress area at the bottom left of the screen (e.g 256 Servers, 14% complete). Now try to find a server with a low Ping (See Network settings under the In-Game Settings section for more details), highlight it, and if there is an open slot then you can 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.
The Score System, Honor and ROE
One of the unique features of America's Army is the Honor system. Your Honor is represented by the number to the left of your name on a server when you press F1. This represents a combination of experience and playing time, although it is not necessarily a reflection of skill. You may wonder exactly why your honor is going up or down, what influences it, and what it influences in the game.
Without getting into too much detail, Honor is affected by your score when playing on Official servers, and Leased servers which are honor-enabled. The more enemy you kill, the more objectives you guard/achieve, and the more times your team wins mean the higher your score, and this contributes to achieving higher honor.
Conversely, if you don't follow the Rules Of Engagement (ROE) such as attacking and/or killing teammates or civilians - whether accidentally or on purpose - you will get ROE points which detract from your score. A negative score will slow down or reverse your progress towards higher honor. If you are kicked from a server due to high ROE and end up in Jail several times then this virtually guarantees that you will lose honor points. You can find out more about ROE by pressing the Support button in AA, and clicking on the Overview button.
Honor plays a large part in determining whether you get your weapon of choice in the Weapon Selection phase of online play, as well as the requirement for 15 Honor or more to be able to play as a Special Forces soldier. If you want your honor to increase, you need to play as though you were in the real Army - be very careful not to violate ROE and try to achieve the team's objectives as often as possible and your honor will steadily rise. The America's Army Manual has a section which details how to identify friend and foe, and is also useful in familiarizing yourself with weapons details such as the fuse time on grenades and the possibility of misfiring an RPG-7. I strongly urge you to read it (See the AA Manual section below).
Here are the points (score) needed for each point of Honor for each Honor Range:
So for example if you have 13 Honor you will need to gain 1,000 points (net of any ROE) to go up to 14 Honor. If you have 53 Honor, you will need 9,000 points (net of any ROE) to go to 54 Honor, and so on.
If you want to see how many points you have left before reaching the next honor level, go to the America's Army Website, click on "Your Account" at the top right of the screen, click on Maintain Account, login using your AA username and password, and you will see all the details of your account, including how many points you have left before gaining another honor point.
You should also register for the ArmyOps-Tracker, and regularly visit the AAOTracker site to check out your various AA game statistics.