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Army Discusses MMO Troop Training Sim 401

An anonymous reader writes "Over at GameSpot, there's an interview with Dr. Michael Macedonia of the U.S. Army about the AWE training sim, a 'massively multiplayer simulation [based on the There 'virtual world' game engine] that will be used by military personnel to train troops in urban situations before they are airlifted to a battle zone.' Macedonia says 'We built downtown Baghdad in this environment', and also says 'we call our games tactical decision aids. Our thing is not making people shoot better; it's making people think better.'" We previously featured an initial announcement of this project in January.
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Army Discusses MMO Troop Training Sim

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  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:29AM (#8936898) Homepage Journal
    Battlefield confusion when the commander dies? Their own death? A commander in chief willing to sacrifice American lives for a people who would be better off left to their own devices?
    • By "their own devices", you mean the torture devices of the monsters employed by their 'benevolent dictator', right?

      Oh, sorry, I forgot. Saddam was a Nice Guy(tm).
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Oh, sorry, I forgot. Saddam was a Nice Guy(tm).

        Once upon a time, he was. Whose foreign policy was it to deliberately ignore his gassing and torture of Iraqis in the 80s? Whose bright idea was it to support him militarily then?

        Here's a clue, pal. US foreign policy objectives have NOTHING to do with human rights or democracy, except as a matter of piety.
    • by Trent05 ( 70375 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:55AM (#8936998) Homepage
      A commander in chief willing to sacrifice American lives for a people who would be better off left to their own devices?

      Really!?!?! []

      Umm, don't let Sean Penn fool you, life under Saddam wasn't too swell.
    • Regret and Guilt?

      Or will they remove [] that component so they don't have to simulate it.

    • Hopefully it'll be free, like America's Army was! Even though I'm not joining the army, I wouldn't mind training under it just incase I ever wanted to kill a few Iraqi Thugs.
    • ^^^ FIRST (egregiously political) POST! w00t!
    • The simulation MMO isn't very realistic at all if you ask me.

      There are no rocket jumps, no teleporters, no rail guns, no quad can't even capture the enemy flag for god's sake!

      Doesn't sound very real to me...
  • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:30AM (#8936904)
    Finally... I can get rich by selling my hand crafted virtual weapons of mass destruction on ebay!

    Any takers, they are rarer than the admins would lead you to believe!
  • by heironymouscoward ( 683461 ) <[heironymouscoward] [at] []> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:33AM (#8936917) Journal
    How long before war game training/simulation slides into becoming real-time tactical control of the battlefield?

    It's probably already technically possible, and just requires a generational change for the generals to accept it.
    • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:51AM (#8936983) Homepage
      The military seem to think that micromanagement of small units remotley is not a great decision as 1) it removes general's attention from the big picture 2) it removes leadership from the unit officer who has to gain the trust of his men and keep it.

      Instead the complex information systems seem to be more geared up to provide line officers with the same information the generals see so that they can consider more factors (without undue performance penalty) in making their own decisions. For example if they can see a tank brigade over the hill in their link from Dark Star/Division Intelligence, they sure as hell will chose to sit on the ridge with anti tank rockets rather than saunter over holding machine guns and not expecting any trouble.
    • Since any of those online games can track statistics, and find out who's best, I wonder how long it will be until gamers online are unwittingly controlling drone planes or remote control tanks in actual combat?

      How long until someone is unwittingly invading their own country?
    • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @06:07AM (#8937186)
      Um actually, I worked for a research lab which recieved a presentation on the Air Forces "Global Battlesphere" Initaitve, what you're describing is *EXACTLY* what they want to be able to do. Communicate with every platoon, vehicle, troop, aircraft, weapon etc from one console.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:35AM (#8936921)
    "Newb" will now be an official military term.
  • No need to panic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by banana fiend ( 611664 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:40AM (#8936930)
    Why worry that we now have a "new toy" to train soldiers?

    Humanity has been using war games to train soldiers since the time of sparta. Then, as now, the aim was not to sharpen the fighting skills, but the thinking skills.

    My feelings on the war in Baghdad aside, I feel happier that the soldiers being sent into the streets of baghdad will feel less nervous, and therefore less trigger happy

    A well trained Army is not a more blood-thirsty army, as a matter of fact, the opposite is porbably true.

    • by Kinniken ( 624803 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:06AM (#8937036) Homepage
      Why worry that we now have a "new toy" to train soldiers?

      Humanity has been using war games to train soldiers since the time of sparta. Then, as now, the aim was not to sharpen the fighting skills, but the thinking skills.

      My feelings on the war in Baghdad aside, I feel happier that the soldiers being sent into the streets of baghdad will feel less nervous, and therefore less trigger happy

      A well trained Army is not a more blood-thirsty army, as a matter of fact, the opposite is porbably true.

      Well... I strongly agree on the need for soldiers better trained to handle conflicts like the one in Iraq, but I wonder if the very American approach of using new technology for that is the best. While there is no doubt that for the war itself the US army's hi-tech approach has worked extremely well as the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have clearly shown, when it comes to maintaining order on the ground and fighting militias it has its limits. British troops in Iraq have globally been better able to pacify the cities they are in charge of than US soldiers, and the reason behind their relative success is not more high tech, geeky new technology but on-the-ground experience in similar missions acquired in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. I can't see a simulator replacing real experience in dealing with the population; it's not something you can simulate like an air battle.
      • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @09:09AM (#8937907) Journal
        ...the reason behind their relative success is not more high tech, geeky new technology but on-the-ground experience in similar missions acquired in Northern Ireland and Bosnia

        I think you're right, but the only answer to this is gain 'better' education by committing our troops MORE widely into the innumerable 'peacekeeping' engagements around the world?

        I guess if the choices are
        a) no experience
        b) experience with the dynamics of the situations, albeit in an imperfect and incomplete way
        c) on-the-job experience

        b is better than c, insofar as one could guarantee at least the b) is not teaching the WRONG dynamics because of the medium.

        Personally, I think it's more important that the actors/instructors in the MMO be actual individuals from those cultures (and not just American instructors playing the roles). Their perspective may be ENTIRELY alien to PFC Smith from Brooklyn. To me, the value of being exposed to that dynamic is much more important to being able to cope with such situations, especially under stress.
      • So what should we do send our military into LA and New York to practice? If I recall corrently Northern Ireland is part of England, but there are folks that don't like that so have been fighting it.

        Think about how much practice our military would be getting if the Waco thing was still going on. Or if it spread alittle and we had a few random bombs in every large city for the past decade. We may freak about Ashcroft because he seems that type but in government. But that's really what he is trying to preven
      • Good point, being Irish - this hits quite close to home

        But unless you allow Texas their independence, and then invade them - you won't have a similar situation. which leads us back to training. Train the living bejaysus out of them, because if they don't have experience, it's the only advantage they can gain.

        Mainly my point was that people are going to start worrying about the use of technology in warfare - if that's the case, then worry about uranium depleted shells and self-healing landmines (I won't ev
  • WTF?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:41AM (#8936934)
    When did it become more expensive to outift our troops with the testing gear they use then to create virtual worlds?? If a movie can put together insane sets that look like 1950's new york, just for example, why can't the US Army put up a mock up of Babhdad and let the grunts try it out for REAL. With REAL guns firing paint rounds, REAL backpacks on loaded with REAL survival supplies, and the REAL screams of your men around you. Not a glorified video game. I don't want this to be labelled troll, but it almost seems like by giving them such shit training they are sending the soldiers to die, cause there is no way possible that "virtual" training is anywhere near as helpful to a green soldier as "real" training. If it was the ARMY would have a clue and be heavily recruiting FPS clans around the world....
    • why can't the US Army put up a mock up of Babhdad and let the grunts try it out for REAL.

      Wasn't there a report of US military gathering volunteer Iraqi-Americans to act as civilians for reserve training of soldiers in crowd-control and civilian interaction situations? Maybe they even created a mock Iraqi suburb, who knows.

    • speaking as a US soldier of a number of years, I kind of agree with you in that hands on training is the way to go, however, I know that the number one way you learn in training missions is feedback.

      if I take my team and clear a building, top to bottom, I'm going to need about 20 closed circuit cameras and an A/V van recording all of it, so that when it comes time for the after-action review, we can see each and everything we did right and everything we did wrong.

      if we do it in a video game, I can custo

    • This isn't going for skills it's going for battlefield intelligence training. Obviously there are better ways to train a soldier to point a gun than to hand them a mouse. This is entertaining, cheap training that all of the soldiers can use when they aren't on duty. Think checkpoint training...
  • New MMO? (Score:4, Funny)

    by OriginalChops ( 773524 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:46AM (#8936960)
    Where do I sign up for beta?
  • by Killjoy_NL ( 719667 ) <slashdot@remco.palli . n l> on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:46AM (#8936961)
    Will this also be available to the general public (possibly in a dumbed down version)?

    If so, will "terrorists" be able to learn from this as well, to see how the US soldier gets trained?

    Personally, I'm interested, could be a fun game, IMHO there's nothing wrong with virtual killing (in RL I'm kind of a pacifist)
    • n RL I'm kind of a pacifist

      Just curious--how is it "kind of"

      • You apologize after cold-clocking someone.

        You paint smiley faces and flowers on your smart bombs ("just saying hi!")

        You shoot for the knees rather than the head (hey, extra challenge)

        You send nice flower bouquets and balloons to people you just fragged

        You run your tanks on "green" diesel

        You think about it for a really really really long time before krushing someone

        You train your special forces to creep up behind people and say "BOO!" really loud to try and scare 'em off.

        Whenever you wipe out a third
    • The game this is based on has been in open beta for a year now. Follow the second link for a trial.
      • Damn thanks for pointing that out - they are going to base this on some anime'esque game (There) ? Oh fsck me - somehow I was sort of hoping for either CounterStrike or maybe use the UT2004 engine but put in real weapon ballistics (the voice comms in UT2004 would have been a nice touch.)
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:47AM (#8936965) Homepage
    Boy are they going to be pissed when they discover that god mode doesn't work in the real world.
    • Re:Uh oh (Score:3, Funny)

      by SinaSa ( 709393 )
      Yeah. My friend heard on the news that kids were using Quake to train as killers. He spent about $10,000 on computers as a "training camp" for local high school kids (the plan was to take over the city).

      Boy was he astounded when all the rocket-jump training didn't work as planned.
    • Sure it does! Unfortunately you aren't generally allowed to chat with the players in-game, and there is no respawning. :(
  • by supersam ( 466783 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:51AM (#8936980) Homepage
    'we call our games tactical decision aids. Our thing is not making people shoot better; it's making people think better'

    hmmm ... if only they could build a game to help the leaders think better rather than shooting their mouths off!

    In any case, these games will only take the soldiers upto one point. After that, comes the most important aspect of urban warfare... the mind of the enemy. That is where the battles are won or lost. And every adversary is prone to thinking differently in a given situation!
    • Battles are won or lost at the tactical level and having well trained, seasoned warriors makes all the difference in the world - watch the older Kurt Russel movie 'Soldier', in particular towards the beginning when the Soldiers are in combat (some war, I forget) running through the city streets as a unit and shooting on the move. The ability to remain focused, work as a team, effectively communicate, recognize and eliminate threats, not shoot your buddy by mistake, and not freak out when you are getting sh
  • cheaters (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sv-Manowar ( 772313 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @04:55AM (#8937002) Homepage Journal
    Can't wait for the hell to break loose when someone perfects their wallhack and aimbot. "omg u cheater, you just killed the whole US army!"
    • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @10:43AM (#8938761) Journal
      I trained at Ft. Knox on SIMNET, the granddaddy of MMO war games. Battalion on battalion combat in full M1 mockups+3d virual world back in the late 1980s. (And people use "military intelligence" as an insult- they are vastly ahead of the civilian world in a lot of things.)

      We were explicitly told not to ever drive off the map. Doing so reset your height variable to 0. Driving back onto the map didn't change this, so you became a "submarine tank", able to see (and kill) everyone but nobody else could see you. They'd had several simulations ruined by people doing this, and SIMNET was very, very expensive to run in terms of time, money and personnel. It was cause for serious disciplinary action.

  • Thinking soldiers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by draxredd ( 661953 )
    Thinking soldiers ? Wonder will never cease.
    Reminds me of the strange artifacts reported when using Massive IA system in rendering battles scenes for LOTR
    The soldiers ran for the hills. That's what's happening when you think
    This is not a rant against the military, but again orwelian newspeak. they dont want soldiers who think better, they want soldier with better reflexes (as opposed to consciousness) and who think they are in a videogame.
    Definitively NOT thinking better
    • No, the artifacts as you describe them were a bug, plain and simple, because the AIs weren't thinking enough. The issue was that with those prototype agents, if they couldn't see an enemy in front of them, they would run forward on the assumption that they would eventually encounter one. The developers forgot about this when they spawned the armies with soldiers facing random directions. Many of them spawned facing away from the battle, therefore wouldn't see an enemy, hence they ran.
  • Friend or foe (Score:2, Interesting)

    How about training on the difference between Friend and foe. I'd feel happier thinking US troops had a couple of hours training showing them the equipment used by allied and enemy troops, than a frag fest, before going into combat.
    • Quite often, that equipment is the same on both sides, and/or your 'enemy' has the same equipment you do.

      Take a conflict between Pakistan and India. Let's hypothesize that Pak is the agressor, and we side with India.

      Pakistan has US F-16's, India has Russian MiG-29's. Both sides have French Mirages.

      All sides would have to be very, very careful with target identification.
  • Nothing New (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teclis ( 772299 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @05:43AM (#8937133) Homepage
    Americas Army [] has been around a while now training soldiers of all ages in basic combat. Puts you through basic training and keeps a database on your skills. It is run by the U.S. Army and when you join, they look up your skills in the database to help direct your training. It's a totally free game developed by the Army for your training pleasure.

    It scares me somewhat the the U.S. Army is spending $$$ to train 12 yr old kids how to navigate battlefields.

    If you really wanted a good sim, why not just use Paintball? It's probually as close as you can get without killing each other.

    • Re:Nothing New (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JMJ ( 15496 )
      Paintball sucks as a marksmanship test. I could put a 5.56mm round through your head at 100m but i doubt i could do that with a paintball.

      For close quarters fighting, i suppose it could be useful, but then doesn't the US use something called "Miles" for training (laser based targets?)

      Using a weapon other than your standard issue for training is a bad idea IMO.. How do you simulate reloads / missfeeds / stoppages with a paintball gun?
    • If you RTFA, you'd see that while America's Army was a recruiting and marketing tool, this MMO is an actual training tool for internal use. It's very different; the reason why this MMO is actually worth mentioning is because it's meant to be used to TRAIN people, whereby America's Army is meant to show 13 year-old how cool war is. It's NOT training in any way, shape or form.
  • You want to join the Airforce, they get to play with the Stargate!!
  • would be to consider what happens after they've occupied a place. US army doesn't have a good reputation as an occupying force and seems to make no effort whatsoever to win over the "hearts and minds" of the locals. UKs Channel 4 [] ran an interesting piece comparing US and UK occupation strategy - the film piece was much more detailed than the link, but the closing paragraph is very illustrative:

    America's response? Barring some miracle in the Fallujah talks, it is to do precisely what the British attempted

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 )
    Meet new people on an island, hold interesting conversations, play cards with them, then frag 'em.


  • Knowing the map (Score:4, Insightful)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @08:00AM (#8937562) Journal
    What can really give you an advantage is knowing a 'map' if soldiers could run around in a virtual mockup of a real city they would naturally learn the map before they fight in it for real, it would be a big advantage knowing where to find cover and tactical positions, not to mention where all the power-ups are! Im guessing one of the reasons the forces in iraq arnt doing so well is that the other side (lets not get into who they are and weather they're right or wrong) knows the terrain and all the allys and connections between buildings much better than any foreign force, but how do you map out things like that?
  • Flight sims too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @08:23AM (#8937650) Journal
    Austin Meyer, the author of X-Plane [] has been working with some military and implemented some functions for them so that they could turn X-Plane into a UCAV pilot training program. The details can be read in the Beta new features announcement.
  • Peace simulations? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danharan ( 714822 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @10:02AM (#8938391) Journal
    Well, if the army uses these, I don't see why pacifists couldn't.

    Peace protesters have long used role-playing to practice strategy, from hassle-lines to multi-actor games. In fact, one author has cataloged 198 forms of non-violent action. [] The oldest one on record is known as Lysistratic nonaction, where the women refused to sleep with their husbands until they agreed to stop fighting. The play Lysistrata depicts men with huge erections desperate to sign a deal :)

    Some of the strategies that have been used historically include:
    -fraternization with the soldiers (including outright seduction, playing sports together, etc...)
    -non-cooperation (refusal to hand over information, "losing" municipal records for jews during WW2)
    -demonstrations from standing in front of tanks to vigils

    It would be quite interesting to use these same tools to figure out which methods are most effective and result in the fewest deaths for all parties, and MMORPG would be a very good tool.

    If we can't get non-violent means to work better, I'll stop protesting paying for war preparations and our militaries. If they work better however, I ask you to consider what you can do to stop this :)
  • by jamonterrell ( 517500 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @10:12AM (#8938485)
    I see this as an excellent opportunity to make use of the millitary's super-secret robot project the "AWESOM-O 4000." These robots are just amazing... from the re-inforced rugged paper-based shell to the numerous spare-battery holders on the unit.
  • woohoo! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Thursday April 22, 2004 @10:21AM (#8938557) Homepage
    How many Therebucks for a Weapon of Mass Destruction?

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.