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UK Ministry of Defense Improves War Games For Console Generation 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-war-you-can-relate-to dept.
hypnosec writes "The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has begun updating its Battlespace2 and other simulations to bring them in line with commercial wargames like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Andrew Poulter heads up the technical team behind the war-game and said that while back in the '80s and '90s, military simulations were state of the art, today they have fallen far behind commercial alternatives in terms of graphics and plot. With that in mind, the MoD has been investing heavily in what's known as 'Project Kite' (knowledge information test environment), designed to bring the training software to the forefront of military shooters. Some of this is down to the current generation of new recruits having been raised on shooter titles from both the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. This means they've gotten used to high-quality first-person shooter games. Taking a step down in graphics and immersion is hardly a way to train a soldier how to react in certain situations."
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UK Ministry of Defense Improves War Games For Console Generation

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  • Plot!? (Score:1, Funny)

    by jeesis (2494876)
    Who the fuck plays an FPS for its plot?
    • Re:Plot!? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh (1273756) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:27AM (#38535386)

      There are many FPS games with amazing plots.

      The Unreal (not tournament) series had a great unfolding story about life on alien worlds.
      Doom had a simple, yet interesting plot that you got into. This was nicely followed with each title in the series.
      Gear of War? While I haven't played that, the story telling is supposed to be great?
      And even going back to days when FPS was still in infancy, what about titles like Heretic [wikipedia.org]?
      Dead Space? Deus Ex? You can't play a few games online without touching the single player mode of a game and say it has no plot or that no-one plays for the plots.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        You forgot Duke Nukem Forever j/k

      • doom had a plot (Score:1, Insightful)

        by decora (1710862)

        wow. modern society is truly spiritually dead. if that is what passes for a 'plot'.

        i guess you could also say ms pacman had a plot.

        back in the old days, they produced plotless, boring crap like 'war and peace'. snore.

        hey. at least we have Galaga. now there is a plot.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          War and peace *is* boring. I read super fucking fast so most books play out in my head like a movie. If they don't, you know the book is slow and tedious. I got about a chaper and a half into Shogun, for example, before I burned it for light to read something good.

        • "wow. modern society is truly spiritually dead. if that is what passes for a 'plot'."

          Game plots are not just voice acting and text, they have to do with the art design of a world, the game is EXPERIENCED in real time unlike books where the images are made up by each individual and each individual has a different experience of a book.

          The doom universe is an interesting one to BE in. We've had story based games with excellent plots that bombed financially because they were not immediately immersive (planesca

        • by Loosifur (954968)

          Well, modern education is certainly dead if that's what passes for capitalization these days. (Zing!)

          Seriously, though, of course Doom had a plot. A plot is a sequence of events in a narrative. A plot can be very simple, or very complex. And, yes, even Ms. Pacman had a plot, after a fashion, it's just that the player provided the plot during gameplay. Due to the nature of games, plot is generated during play to a greater or lesser extent by the player(s). Now, did Doom have a lot of backstory? That's differ

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        Max Payne. It was the first time I felt like I was playing a novel. The story was great and the graphic novel panels between scenes really immersed you into the story.

    • The better question is, who considers MW3 as having a good plot?

      • Well, apparently it does when compared to the military simulators.

      • by Lashat (1041424)

        It's a different type of "plot". In MW3 or in squad level combat the "story" is not in prose format. It is a progression of situational action that the user must be aware of in order to "read" the plot. Plus, squad level combat is "multi-player" and requires fluid reaction to squad-mates decisions, good and bad.

    • Re:Plot!? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:33AM (#38535410)

      A few hours ago, Mars received a garbled message from Phobos. "We require immediate military support. Something fraggin' evil is coming out of the Gateways! Computer systems have gone berserk!" The rest was incoherent. Soon afterwards, Deimos simply vanished from the sky. Since then, attempts to establish contact with either moon have been unsuccessful.

      You and your buddies, the only combat troop for fifty million miles were sent up pronto to Phobos. You were ordered to secure the perimeter of the base while the rest of the team went inside. For several hours, your radio picked up the sounds of combat: guns firing, men yelling orders, screams, bones cracking, then finally, silence. Seems your buddies are dead.

  • by kamapuaa (555446) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:11AM (#38535316) Homepage

    So remember slashdot, national militaries use these games as both training and propaganda, but actually there's no relation between video games and violent acts.

    • by Mr EdgEy (983285) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:24AM (#38535378)

      These games often take part using real rifles to aid in the training process as it's cheaper and easier than having guys out on a range.

      Small difference between that and CoD using a controller.

      • by geekmux (1040042) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:49AM (#38535856)

        These games often take part using real rifles to aid in the training process as it's cheaper and easier than having guys out on a range.

        Small difference between that and CoD using a controller.

        You're forgetting about the fact that the target audience here(basically a bunch of FPS addicts) have known nothing else but FPS games and the ridiculous rules within. The ability to take 20 rounds before "dying"(and then being revived again) is completely normal concept, yet hardly imitates real life.

        Putting a real rifle in their hand isn't going to easily remove years and years of disillusioned immortality. Good luck to them surviving on an actual battlefield where bullets hurt and frag grenades kill, not just turn your vision red and vibrate a piece of fucking plastic in your hand. And standing there breathing for 45 seconds doesn't suddenly heal you.

        Cheaper and easier does not always mean better.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You're forgetting about the fact that the target audience here(basically a bunch of FPS addicts) have known nothing else but FPS games and the ridiculous rules within. The ability to take 20 rounds before "dying"(and then being revived again) is completely normal concept, yet hardly imitates real life.

          Your hands are working, but nothing is coming out.

          There's TONS of FPS games that have realistic damage models. We could go back to Tactical Ops for Unreal Tournament, which is like cheaterstrike without the goofy classes, with more realistic weapons, and with many one-hit-kills. A hit with anything in the head with no head armor will off you almost every time, sometimes you can take a glancing 9mm.

          Cheaper and easier does not always mean better.

          Ditto snarkier.

          • by mickwd (196449)

            "There's TONS of FPS games that have realistic damage models."

            Of course. I've lost count of the number of computer games that actually injure or kill you.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Of course. I've lost count of the number of computer games that actually injure or kill you.

              I hear Anonymous has a dandy one, similar to "Uplink"

          • by geekmux (1040042)

            You're forgetting about the fact that the target audience here(basically a bunch of FPS addicts) have known nothing else but FPS games and the ridiculous rules within. The ability to take 20 rounds before "dying"(and then being revived again) is completely normal concept, yet hardly imitates real life.

            Your hands are working, but nothing is coming out.

            There's TONS of FPS games that have realistic damage models...

            Yeah, and how many are 1) popular and relevant with todays gamers, and/or 2) enabled by default?

            It's not near as simple as you paint it when a realistic damage model is hardly ever actually played by gamers or written into the game. The brainwashed immortality of default settings still has to be overcome.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              What's immoral about playing a game that exists in a setting you know to be false? You really think playing a game where you have recharging shields makes you a worse person?

              • by KDR_11k (778916)

                Immortal, i.e. unable to die. Not immoral.

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  HAHAHA! I am hilarious. -1 for me :(

                  I already had my butthole clenched due to a conversation about Monsanto on failbook. My apologies.

                  • by geekmux (1040042)

                    HAHAHA! I am hilarious. -1 for me :(

                    I already had my butthole clenched due to a conversation about Monsanto on failbook. My apologies.

                    Heh, no worries. Kudos to you for being honest.

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          You're forgetting about the fact that the target audience here(basically a bunch of FPS addicts) have known nothing else but FPS games and the ridiculous rules within. The ability to take 20 rounds before "dying"(and then being revived again) is completely normal concept, yet hardly imitates real life.

          Putting a real rifle in their hand isn't going to easily remove years and years of disillusioned immortality. Good luck to them surviving on an actual battlefield where bullets hurt and frag grenades kill, not

          • by geekmux (1040042)

            That's okay. In 40-100 years, we'll be killing 3rd world citizens with remotely piloted terminators, which will completely into line with current FPS shooters.

            Oh yes, I see the writing on the wall, and totally agree with you. I'm certain that Predator Drone pilots likely cut their teeth on flight simulators, which would make sense due to the 1:1 realism there. The type of ground warfighting model you predict is coming, sooner or later.

            But until we get there, most people kinda know their bodies != what's on screen. And the ones that do think that, well, a round of darwin awards on me.

            Uh, no. Most people who have played FPS games and basically never done anything in real life don't, and that was kind of my entire point in targeting and tailoring training around FPS gamers. Run out into the middle of a street

            • But until we get there, most people kinda know their bodies != what's on screen. And the ones that do think that, well, a round of darwin awards on me.

              Uh, no. Most people who have played FPS games and basically never done anything in real life don't, and that was kind of my entire point in targeting and tailoring training around FPS gamers.

              Er... what? What utter rubbish. Citation required.

        • by Gibgezr (2025238)
          The FPS-style training games the Canadian military use have been very successful. I know this because I've chatted with people involved (my school provides many of the development staff in the form of grad students; programmers and artists, the military provides the designers and subject matter experts). In particular, one sargeant in charge of the more normal, "old-school" training was very impressed by the difference in soldiers he recieved for training who had taken the game-training first before being s
      • by sempir (1916194) on Friday December 30, 2011 @02:38AM (#38536026)

        These games often take part using real rifles to aid in the training process as it's cheaper and easier than having guys out on a range.

        Jeezuz...these people must go through a shit load of monitors!!!!

        • I wouldn't worry - in WWII 35,000 round were fired for each person killed!
          • by illtud (115152)

            Oh there go my mods, but I had to call this one. 35k rounds for each American killed, sure. I doubt if there were 1.7 trillion rounds fired to account for the 50 million killed in total.

    • by IICV (652597) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:41AM (#38535458)

      So remember slashdot, national militaries use these games as both training and propaganda, but actually there's no relation between video games and violent acts.

      Well, it's not like these are two mutually contradictory positions, is it?

      I mean, does playing Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane make you more likely to fly airplanes? Does playing Angry Birds make you more likely to throw birds at pigs? Does playing Deus Ex make you more likely to get implants? Does playing World of Warcraft make you more likely to do the Safety Dance [youtube.com]?

      Even if a video game can train you in skills transferable to real life (and honestly, if you've played MW3 or BF3, you'd know that they're not at all realistic except maybe in the graphics department), that doesn't mean that it somehow forces you to use those skills.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I would like to add that there is one thing where skill comes by playing FPS games: Strategy.

      • Haven't tried to verify from a credible source, but I've heard that plane hijackers (including the 9/11 incident) often use MS Flight Simulator as a sort of basic training for flying the planes they hijack. Of course, sitting in a cockpit is a lot easier to simulate realistically in a game than charging tanks.

        And I do the safety dance plenty often without having ever played WoW.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:25AM (#38535726)
      I play fantasy rpgs all time, yet, for some reason I feel unprepared for a sword fight...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's Ministry of Defence, not Ministry of Defense, for Christ's sake! Damned Americans have to include a subtle insult into the normal news stream. Typical.
      • Had to read that six times to actually see what the problem was. Its so common to encounter both American English and British if you don't switch between them automatically you are failing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hopefully they don't take Battlefield's system of how the game progresses as part of the "realism" that they are after. The game, while it does have great graphics, sound, etc., it shouldn't be used as anything similar to a training ground. While I'm sure the "realism" aspect is there somewhere, there are too many glaring aspects about Battlefield that makes it obvious that it is Just A Video Game.

    And what plot? Not only are the plots in FPS games lacking in almost all cases, but how do they compare to a pl

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:43AM (#38535474)

    you cant take a rocket propelled grenade in the face in real life for only 25% health damage like you can in many FPS's

    • Shhhh! Don't tell the grunts, they might just find a way to do it.

    • you cant take a rocket propelled grenade in the face in real life for only 25% health damage like you can in many FPS's

      That's the point I have with FPSs. They are realistic but not really. You don't get into a "due I could die here" mood which would lift the game to a different level. It 'd train the brain in making better split second decision. I should assume that military level gaming would concentrate on mission completion while still getting out alive and that that would be where they differ from commercial games. And I'm not sure there's a market for plots like "Wanna be a soldier? Good, let's start by playing chess."

      • by Fulkkari (603331)
        I used to play Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (the original PC version) a lot, as well as the good old Rainbow Six series. I usually set up a game with 15 min rounds, no respawn, no threat indicators (a cursor that showed roughly in which direction the enemy is). The games were one shot, kill. Some people complained that it was boring, but I liked it. Your heart would beat like crazy at times. When your whole team was gone with only you left, you would definitely feel the pressure knowing the whole other team was
        • by Ardyvee (2447206)

          Ghost recon sure does a lot in the realistic department (sometimes up to annoying in single player) but I do believe playing Multiplayer under those conditions would be joyful. Perhaps I should try it one day, under those rules.

    • by bre_dnd (686663)
      I learnt all I cared to learn about hand to hand combat in paintball. You'll last 5-10 minutes before being shot.

      The only way to win, is not to play.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Paintball is a lot more up close an personal that most casualties in war, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where you are more likely to suddenly explode while driving along a road than get shot.

        That is the way to to play and win. Kill people from a long, long way away where there is no chance of them killing you instead. It is extremely effective which is why we are willing to sacrifice so many lives and legs to defusing bombs rather than just detonating them from a safe distance. The intel you can gather

    • by jjohnson (62583)

      You should see government films of early attempts to use rocket-jumping in the 60s.

      Horrifying, especially because there's over 200 attempts.

  • realistic training (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to see some of the training being conducted with Virtual Battlespace2, check out: http://www.youtube.com/tbocsims

  • by GrpA (691294) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:53AM (#38535532)

    Then you may want to read the free book: "Military Diorama" - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35490 [smashwords.com]

    This book is presently in use with the Military Simulations industry ( or at least with specific companies within it ) as a context model to help people understand why simulation technology is important.

    If you want to examine the ethics behind testing of human subjects for reactions, you can also read "Turing Evolved" which is set 28 years after Military Diorama and is also a free book. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/34627 [smashwords.com]

    Both of the books are free to download and distribute ( released as "Shareware" ), well reviewed on all major ebook sites and both examine the technology of military simulations and the ethics behind them. One of the larger military simulation companies reviewed both stories and now uses them as a context model to explain where the technology is going and what it's purposes are for. They described Military Diorama as "A lot closer to the truth than many of us like to admit"

    GrpA.

  • "I will not kill...Today!"
  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:35AM (#38535792)
    ...while in the very next story China is looking at moving into space in a big way. I take it there are lower "labor" costs and higher profit margin in games?
  • by Cederic (9623) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:37AM (#38535802) Journal

    the current generation of new recruits having been raised on shooter titles from both the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. This means they've gotten used to high-quality first-person shooter games. Taking a step down in graphics and immersion is hardly a way to train a soldier

    Unless, I don't know, you want a soldier to know how to react to a situation in a professional, reasonable, efficient, safe, appropriate and lawful manner.

    All the games will teach him is "Don't touch the door until your sergeant tells you to open it", "headshot the bad guy at the first opportunity" and "don't use your initiative because we didn't program in that path of action".

    Please, if you're not the UK, do use MW3 as your military training aid.

  • Arma 2 is VBS 2 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Graphically Arma 2 is on par with Battlefield 3 and COD. VBS 2 is essentially Arma 2.

    Arma 3 and the next iteration of VBS will blow away the console ports. BF3 had tiny playable maps compared to Arma.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/VBS2

  • by Anonymous Coward

    AA:O completely took me by surprise many years ago. Who thought that the US Army of all things would produce a tactical shooter that was ACTUALLY good!?

    Of course, being the geniuses they are, they managed to fuck it up, though it did take a little while. The Special Forces patch is where, after that, it started to really go downhill. It stopped being a 'video game' and became just a 'promotional tool'. Which it always was, but that's still not an excuse to let quality bottom out...

    The problem: They hired an

    • AA has always favored accurate simulation over pure entertainment because it was originally conceived as a recruitment tool first and foremost. It's often criticized for this by gamers but they forget that AA was not designed primarily for entertainment. It doesn't really compete with the entertainment-oriented and consumer-focused "tactical" shooter games like Battlefield and Call of Duty. Instead, it tries to present a semi-accurate representation of what it might be like to become a soldier. Of course, e
  • by FoltynD (1013459)
    MOD UK is cutting budgets and everything so they will for sure throw away theirs VBS2 1.5 and 2.0 licenses and hardware (irony) just to buy 10 times more expensive less packed fancy visuals console 'sim' where hardware cost only 3 times more :) latest major installment of VBS2 is 1.5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R1gCGaunLA [youtube.com] the upcoming (already being evaluated by customers) is VBS2 2.0 http://armory.bisimulations.com/products/vbs2/overview?qt-vbs2_sidebar=8#qt-vbs2_sidebar [bisimulations.com] which has graphical level of A
  • but Toys has been incredibly, tragically, prescient.

    they are essentially training the young people to kill through robots.

    what's next? obvious.

    they start doing this for mercenary forces and 'security contractors'.

    next after that?

    local police forces, etc.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Mercs are already killing people with drones, security contractors are just mercs so just call them what they are. Police are already using drones for surveillance. Probably is a matter of time before they're weaponized, but you'll always need jackboots on the ground to control a citizenry.

  • I feel it is disturbing using video games to program the mind to be comfortable with death and killing. But reality is that in heavy situations, the amount of hesitation over killing in battle and subsequent shell shock results can be as high as 1:1. Meaning 1/2 of ur men could become effectively useless in heavy battle. Providing a framework for the mind to accept and rationalise the horrors that can occur is essential in getting the most efficiency out of ur men. I hate to admit it, but a soldier who doe
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Its sad though that we have to do program minds like this

      What makes you think we have to? Unless Hitler is invading tomorrow, we don't "have to" do anything of the sort. We go to war because we choose to do so. (and come to think of it, that's even more sad)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The physics in some of our games suck. You get shot, and somebody comes over and waves a wand and you are healed. I would guess the military has had better physical simulation for a long time.

    I know that Atari Race Drivin' is still the most realistic driving game I have ever played. It's graphics are primitive, but effective. Newer games are ridiculous, and noneffective.

    If the military put effort into terrain climbing, including fatigue simulation, fighting boredom, responses to surprises...

    If you have

  • The word you are looking for is FPS. Wargame is a strategy genre.

  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Friday December 30, 2011 @08:58AM (#38537248)

    I had a job for three years as a developer on a 3d engine (Image Generator) for the military.

    In theory, you could make some great graphics for this stuff. Because normally it's running on a dedicated box that you are building from scratch and delivering as part of a solution, that you can stuff the highest end graphics card imaginable into. Moreover, since the simulation needs to be high end, most of the physics, AI, and control are handled by an entirely separate computer, leaving yours free to just render network packets.

    However, then it starts to get difficult. One technical issue is that most of these simulations are running on network using different military simulation protocols. Protocols that are not designed to handle quick-twitch gamer reactions, or good animations, but to show symbols on a top down map. Moreover, depending on what your packet source it is, it may be difficult to get positional updates regularly enough to even make a plane "fly" smoothly - let alone handling infantry reactions quickly enough. Not to mention that the engine I worked on could support play boxes a couple hundred miles across... in CoD3 you can only see a few hundred yards at a time. Imagine walking across all of the generated terrain in the MS flight sims...except for it all has to be accurate to aerial footage.

    But that isn't the real problem with making the engines look nice. The real problem is that the brass don't care about good lighting or artwork. They mostly care about your support tool setup, how easily it integrates, how cheap it is, and how big of an playbox you can support well. This means that the number of artists on a project is 1/50th of that on a good title.

    Most modern games have a small core of engineers, and then hordes and hordes of artists tweaking every aspect of the characters and levels. The shop I worked at had about 3 programmers and a single 3d artist, who also had to do the animation and texturing. Our competitors had two programmers and an artist. I know one major IG shop, one of the big names in flight sims, who were down to one developer.

    Even selling your licenses at something like 10-20k per seat, you can't afford to hire many artists. There's steady work providing these solutions, but there isn't the "make it big" potential. The market is too niche, fairly fragmented, and not driven by graphics.

    And that was the commercial side of things. The military itself had a couple engines that it always was paying someone to work on, but they tended to look even worse. They'd usually try to get contractors to work on them as part of implementing a larger training setup, but the contractors had no incentive to do more than the bare minimum on that engine than to get that one sim up and running.

    I guess what I'm saying is, in the end, the backend engine part of most military sims is a harder and more annoying problem than it is in video games, every deployment requires weird custom code, and there's little to no monetary incentive to spend cash on the armies of artists it takes to make a game look good...

    Which is too bad, because everyone writing these engines *really* want to make them look good ;-)

  • I seem to be the first to point out the bad spelling byhypnosec (the author) and/or bad editing by samzenpus (the approver/submitter).

    The correct spelling for the UK Ministry of Defence is with a C in Defence.

    This quirk of English spelling is not used in some other parts of the English-speaking world, such as where American-English [slashdot.org] is used.

    So, in this context (a report on the UK i.e. Britain / England and associated identities) it is more appropriate to use the original country's spelling of the term.

  • UK Afghanistan veteran (summer past) here. I have never heard of this game. In our unit we had something called a SAAT indoor electronic range. It offered a series of acted out simulations that soldiers/marines 'walked through' and at the end gave a report with accuracy of shot, etc and a replay of the scenario so you could see fall of shot and how well individuals coped with life/death decisions. It was obviously photo realistic and had real (deactivated) weaponry with a few added sensors. I could be wron
  • Some of this is down to the current generation of new recruits having been raised on shooter titles from both the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. This means they've gotten used to high-quality first-person shooter games. Taking a step down in graphics and immersion is hardly a way to train a soldier how to react in certain situations."

    You are saying it's a step down, yet there is a huge disparity between playing a shooter with a keyboard and mouse, or a controller vs holding a weighted weapon replica,

  • "What are you doing private?" "Teabagging you , sir."
  • "We were fortunate to be among the first in the world to see the E3 demonstration of the next game from the maker of Max Payne: the psychological horror action title, Alan Wake."

    http://www.gamespot.com/alan-wake/previews/alan-wake-e3-2005-impressions-6125494 [gamespot.com]

    That is soon seven years in the making.

    Battlespace has a wide margin.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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