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United States The Military Entertainment Games

US Army To Invest $50 Million In Game Development 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the games-are-serious-business dept.
$50 million in funding has been approved for the Army to establish a unit that will develop games. The purpose of the games will be to train soldiers for various tasks, and they say there is no intent to compete with commercial games. We've previously discussed other efforts by the Army to integrate games into their training programs. "Col. Mark McManigal, the capabilities manger for gaming under the Training and Doctrine Command, said the selected game must provide low-cost training and must not require large number of technicians to run. It must also have a play-back function for after-action reviews, he said. 'One of the major events for training is to be able to capture all these events, good or bad, throughout the entire scenario,' he said. Trainers must be able to edit the game during play to change the difficulty level or add complexity to an exercise. For example, they must also be able to edit terrain to replicate training areas or combat zones, he said."
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US Army To Invest $50 Million In Game Development

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  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:36AM (#25871717) Homepage

    Deja vu means the trainer changed something.
    The hard-core difficulty level will result in actual death of the player.
    There won't be any cheat codes.

  • Acoording to this [wikipedia.org] man, murder simulators are already out on the shelves, and have been for quite some time
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What they need are some simulations to help with military micromanagement. This [purepwnage.com] guy would be very helpful in such an area as a consultant. He has mad micro skills.

    • Re:quake? (Score:5, Funny)

      by PinkyDead (862370) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:57AM (#25871833) Journal

      How about a nice game of chess?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jsse (254124)

        How about a nice game of chess?

        That reminds me Chinese military leader Mao Zedong required his generals play chess game weiqi [wikipedia.org] with him. I'd mod him insightful if I've any mod point. ^^

      • While chess improves planning and critical thinking, it certainly is not enough. Unless you have a new variation of chess with pieces to represent unmanned aerial surveilance and attack vehicles, strategic air strikes, squad based tactics, and the enemies guerilla tactics. If you do, I'm sure the Army would be willing to have a look, and at the least I'd be most happy to try it.
        • by Nutria (679911)

          While chess improves planning and critical thinking, it certainly is not enough.

          Exactly. Russians love to play chess, but their military (except during the GPW, and even then soldiers were basically vengeful animals, and still political officers needed to be behind them with "bayonets", prodding them forward) is, and has been for hundreds of years, endemically corrupt and incompetent.

          Maybe increased use of kontraktniki will turn the Russian Army into a professional force, but I have my doubts.

          • xiang-qi/chi is definitely more analogous to "Chinese chess" than Go. it's even a possible predecessor of western chess given the great similarities.

            in any case, games have always been an excellent teaching tool. video games are simply an extension of that using virtual reality to create more complex/advanced games. however, educational games are rarely successful due to most suffering from poor implementation. most of the time educational games are simply adopted for the novelty rather than providing any p

            • but i really don't see how this would be better than real-world training exercises using blanks or paintball rounds

              I was mobilized in 2005 for a tour in Iraq. And during my unit's mobilization training the most commonly heard phrase was, "For training purposes and training purposes only." Basically the CO of the base (neither of which shall be named) was so concerned about safety that we could not effectively "train as you fight". I cannot easily place myself in that CO's shoes, so I cannot pass judgemen

              • by PinkyDead (862370)

                I seem to remember that the reason soldiers in WWI walked towards enemy positions was because some general thought it was safer that way for non-veteran troops.

                Didn't work out to well, that.

      • No Let's play Global Thermal Nuclear War

      • Colossus would so totally pwn WOPR.

  • FTFA, it seems more like the military is spending the dough to seek out off the shelf technology that can be adapted and integrated into their current systems. I wonder where they look for inspiration? Are they chatting with the folks at Rock Star and Valve?

  • They will be investing more than 50 mil technically, if you count the development costs associated with Americas Army game, which is soley owned by the US millitary as a recruitment tool.
    • by DingerX (847589)
      Er, this description says they're buying COTS stuff, and then looking to customize it and deploy it to labs. The set of requirements out there sounds suspiciously like the [url=http://virtualbattlespace.vbs2.com/]VBS[/url] platform. Heck, the even snuck the title "Virtual Battle Space" in there. And as a "21st-Century" replacement for DARWARS Ambush! (technically a 21st-century platform, as it is basically Operation Flashpoint), what better than the next generation of the same game?

      Disclaimer: I do not hav
    • by Lanforod (1344011)

      They will be investing more than 50 mil technically, if you count the development costs associated with Americas Army game, which is soley owned by the US millitary as a recruitment tool.

      America's Army has been around a long time already... RTFA - the 50 mil is going to be used to develop a new game starting in 2010, while they use a new off the shelf extensible commercial product as an upgrade to the current game that is out of date.

    • by revbob (155074)

      TRADOC funds the unit, which burns up money thinking. Then the unit tries to interest some university lab to build a demo. By the time the contract is let, most of the money's gone. Then the university kids run over budget and lose interest. The Colonel who came up with the idea gets promoted, and our kids are out on the battlefield of the Neverending War defending themelves with trashcan lids.

      How the hell is TRADOC still in business after FCS?

  • This should better equip the troops to handle zombie or alien invasions! :D
  • Cheaters (Score:3, Funny)

    by Andr T. (1006215) <andretaff@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:00AM (#25871847)
    US troops are cheaters. They use all those hi-tech weaponry and the other teams only have AK's, knives and home-made explosives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by HungryHobo (1314109)

      Ya but the other sides are mostly swarm based or covert.They just need to build more warg banners and invest in espionage tech.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      US troops are cheaters. They use all those hi-tech weaponry and the other teams only have AK's, knives and home-made explosives.

      and yet they get their butts kicked.

      High-tech stuff and training doesn't quite cut it when you fight to pay for college studies when you get back home, but the enemy is fueled by a hysterical desire to see you die, preferably in horrible ways.

      • Re:Cheaters (Score:5, Insightful)

        by qbzzt (11136) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:08AM (#25872187)

        and yet they get their butts kicked.

        Are they? From reading people who have first hand experience (military, serving or ex-) I got the opposite impression. They are suffering casualties, which is expected in war. But they are winning overall.

        We all love to laugh at the TSA, and the fact is that an open society such as the US will always be vulnerable to terrorism. Yet we haven't seen any attacks since 9/11/01. Either we haven't made anybody mad enough to attack us (yeah, right), or we kept those who would attack us otherwise occupied. For example by making them attack US soldiers in Iraq instead of US civilians in here.

        High-tech stuff and training doesn't quite cut it when you fight to pay for college studies when you get back home, but the enemy is fueled by a hysterical desire to see you die, preferably in horrible ways.

        Anybody who enlisted or re-upped in 2002 or later just for college funds is stupid. Almost everybody who isn't an officer have to have enlisted or re-upped in the last six years because of the way the contract works.

        Either the majority of our military is stupid (and they have tests to prevent that), or they are fighting for more than a college degree.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          My personal experience:
          I have three brothers in the National Guard, and I know three friends of my youngest brother who are also in the National Guard.

          All three of my brothers joined because they had nothing better to do. The oldest joined before 9/11, the next joined before the war, and the last joined about 1.5 years ago. None of them were patriotic when joining and the youngest is almost assuredly a fucking idiot.

          Of the youngest's friends, one of them seems somewhat intelligent, one seems somewhat vaca

        • by ldierk (1270930)

          Either the majority of our military is stupid (and they have tests to prevent that)

          you made my day.

    • It's asymmetric warfare, my friend. If you can pay for an advantage that you can take to the battlefield, by all means, do it. However, it doesn't always help, as the more assets of greater value you have in combat, the more committed you are to protecting those assets, even when it's disadvantageous for you to do so. And low-cost solutions for dealing with asymmetries usually emerge. Did you see Black Hawk Down? The Somali militants were clearly out-teched, and yet they kicked the US forces' asses bec

      • by Nutria (679911) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:29AM (#25873037)

        However, it doesn't always help, as the more assets of greater value you have in combat, the more committed you are to protecting those assets, even when it's disadvantageous for you to do so.

        An important factor in spawning the Anbar Awakening was that while US Army "patrols" rode around Baghdad once a day in *heavy* APCs, the Marines were consantly pounding the streets, showing their faces, rebuilding water and electricity plants and schools. When locals *finally* tired of Al-Qaeda, they already had a face-to-face comfort with the Marines.

  • by Roland Piquepaille (780675) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:03AM (#25871857)

    One that lets you experience:

    - the joys of running through snow and much with a 20kg backpack and a submachinegun

    - the wait/RUN-RUN-RUN!/wait cycles of a standard soldier's day

    - guard duties during which, if you fall asleep, your CO kicks your ass and throws your in jail for 5 days

    - toilet and shower cleaning duties

    - obeying to stupid conflicting orders without being able to respond anything but "yes Sir!" (failing this, see 2 previous sections, in that order)

    - Binge drinking after service

    etc...

    That would give potential recruits a real taste of military life, something that romanticized war games don't exactly provide.

  • This will be great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:06AM (#25871879)

    For anyone who plays counterstrike or any similar games, you know how important it is the know your terrain... B, A, middle, doors, etc.

    If they would be able to train themselves on a portion of a city they need to raid or attack, they should do much better than looking at a map and photographs. They'd have spatial memory of wherever they needed to go. Just like the locals.

    Still, someone or something would have to get in there for the initial data. I think I read a story about cameras on bug sized flying machines somewhere.

  • Take the troops from the world's bully off the streets. All that we need to do now is to persuade all the world's other bullies to do likewise, beat each other up in cyber space and leave the rest of us in peace.
  • by n3tcat (664243) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:33AM (#25872357) Homepage
    When I went through WLC (Warrior Leader Course [wikipedia.org]), we had some training in one of these games that was based on what appeared to be the Full Spectrum Warrior engine. The training was very "regimented", not because they were trying to teach us anything specific, but rather because they didn't want us to "break" the system. These contractors running the game obviously did not fully understand their own game, but acted more like substitute teachers. They were ex-military guys who understood tactics and whatnot but not the system itself. When things didn't go right, they would blame the soldiers and never the system, even though there were huge flaws within the game itself. There were 3 or 4 classrooms with around 14 soldiers per classroom playing this game on one game server per classroom. Only one guy was really "proficient" on the system though, and he ran back and forth between the classrooms fixing situations as they arose.

    I guess my whole point in recounting my experience with this is just to say that this is going to work like every other government contract. It's a great theory that gets glossed over in politics and pro/buzzwords so as to make a great powerpoint brief for the general, but in the end the soldier gets nothing out of it that they couldn't get from taking the soldiers out to a small town built out of plywood with some paintball guns.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GMonkeyLouie (1372035)

      That's a really good point, the entire system they're building could probably be made obsolete by a fake city saturated with closed-circuit cameras and some good old-fashioned paintballs. That way you could still replay and review any event that you found interesting, and you also build the actions of taking cover and using terrain effectively into your muscle memory and not just your episodic memory.

      Were the WLC games useful to you at all later?

      • by n3tcat (664243)

        I don't want to completely discount the games, as there's always something to be gained by forcing a group of people who are "new" to each other to act in a group-like way so as to accomplish a mission.

        But this could be accomplished in hundreds of cheaper and more effective ways.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These contractors running the game obviously did not fully understand their own game, but acted more like substitute teachers. They were ex-military guys who understood tactics and whatnot but not the system itself.

      Welcome to military contracting.

      Having both served in the military and have worked for a contractor in my experience this is the norm. You end up with a lot of prior military people in just about every job description except for that of hard-core engineer. It's kind of like welfare for prior serv

    • You've described my experience with that system exactly. I'm sort of pensive to see how TRADOC will go about this, because I think $50 million is on the light side for a system that really works. For instance: I regularly qualify as expert on the pop up range, and as a civilian have shot in the top 10 in international tournaments. With my weapon of choice (an AI-AWSM .338) I can put an infinite number of rounds inside the X ring at 200 meters. When using this system, shots are all over the place or don't r
  • itsatrap (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by sgt scrub (869860)

    They are trying to lure young geeks into the military. You won't be allowed to play video games. Trust me.

  • The article mentions DARWARS Ambush!, but gets the genealogy wrong. DARWARS Ambush! was a military-funded mod for the commercial game, Operation: Flashpoint.
  • What an irresponsible use of taxpayer money.

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