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The Military Entertainment Games

Army Opens New Office of Videogames 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the johnny-get-your-joystick dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time, the Army has set up a project office, just for building videogames. The military has been training troops with games for decades, of course. But this is the first wing of the armed forces dedicated exclusively for gaming. One of the first projects: a tool kit that would let soldiers "build and customize their own training scenarios — just like the Marines' did, adapting Armed Assault for military purposes."
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Army Opens New Office of Videogames

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  • Bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:23PM (#21678465)
    So now that the government is making games, are we going to have to not compete with government games? Or can the government order people to give the government rights to use your FPS games? The government needs to step aside fom tech matters otherwise we will get the DMCA X 1,000.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't worry, the government games are very specialized and should not overlap with commercial markets significantly.

      I myself am part of a team developing a project bid. We call our title, "Soldier of Mercy."

      It's basically a sensory-feedback training game. Our test subjects have found it very enjoyable, and I expect it will meet and exceed all the needs of our leaders. We hook the soldier up to a morphine drip, and the flow is increased based on the ability to "urge" a virtual suspect to confess. But it'
    • Re:Bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Yez70 (924200) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @02:46AM (#21680801)
      The government already has the right to use any tech, copyright or patent freely for the national defense. They don't have to ask.
      • by Khelder (34398)
        I find that very hard to believe. What law allows that? The government pays for a lot of software that's used for national defense. I doubt the Department of Defense, for example, would pay for software (for example, a licence to the Unreal engine for America's Army, mentioned in another comment on this article) if they could just use it for free and spend that money on more other things.

  • by celardore (844933) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:23PM (#21678469)
    Terrorists are easier to defeat if you make the game yourself.
  • ... NOT!

    Don't get me wrong, my time in the Army was great and all but it's not for me. Also real combat is just a tinsy bit different from America's Army. You do die easily in the game though and that is realistic of real combat involving infantry on both sides. Can't go rushing in or you die.
  • by twifosp (532320) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:24PM (#21678477)
    ... Before these young impressionable kids are turned into trained killers!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Whenever you say or write down 'his' name, he knows. He can sense it! Its only a matter of time before he start sending subpeonas to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or the President even... oh wait we've past that point already.

      Remember though, Guns don't kill people. People, after years of careful molding using today's cutting edge technology, crisp HD graphics, motion sensing multi axis controls, high fedility sound, innovative gameplay, and a compelling story, kill people.

      • No Sidney, today's cutting edge technology, crisp HD graphics, motion sensing multi axis controls, high fedility sound, innovative gameplay, and a compelling story does not make killers
        Today's cutting edge technology, crisp HD graphics, motion sensing multi axis controls, high fedility sound, innovative gameplay, and a compelling story makes killers more creative

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hitler would have loved this idea.
    • by StringBlade (557322) * on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @10:21PM (#21679343) Journal

      It's really hard to laugh dismiss Jack and his "FPS games are murder trainers" when the U.S. Government is using them exactly for that purpose. Even better they distribute it to impressionable young gamers at no cost (except your voluntary enlistment in their database).

      While I'm not conceding that Jack isn't a certifiable nut, I'm simply seeing this as some degree of validation for some of his arguments.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Marful (861873)
        They don't teach you how to "murder" people. What they teach you is team cohesiveness. I.E. working together for a common goal.

        Which you won't be learning if you play by yourself.
        • Understood, but that's not the way the media and JT can spin it.

          We should know better, these days it's all about spin and emotion not about facts and logic.

        • by prockcore (543967)

          They don't teach you how to "murder" people.


          You mean you don't murder people by clicking on them?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lord Ender (156273)

          They don't teach you how to "murder" people. What they teach you is team cohesiveness. I.E. working together for a common goal--to kill people.
          You left part off.
        • They don't teach you how to "murder" people. What they teach you is team cohesiveness. I.E. working together for a common goal.

          Which you won't be learning if you play by yourself.

          Exactly. I was involved in an early project with the Army Urban Warfare Center about that same time to modify the Quake engine for their use. It had nothing to do with combat training per se: you cannot learn how to fire a rifle from a game. What they wanted to do was to train fire teams in how to take enemy complexes in an efficient manner, play with scenarios and develop tactical doctrine that could then be played out in a live exercise.

          One of the interesting aspects is that (former) Soviet block countri

          • As a superpower, the US would love to define the rules of engagement with the enemy, but unfortunately as the gaming industry has evolved internationally, we can no longer expect that our enemies will attack us using one of the Quake or Doom engines. Increasingly these foreign gaming forces are dominating US FPS teams [gotfrag.com] on digital battlefields rendered using the Counterstrike engine. Fortunately to this date, the most menacing Counterstrike forces are based in friendly European nations. Should Al Qaida attack
        • Of course, another game that keeps going back and forth between the military and commercial markets is Harpoon [computerharpoon.com], which I played for years before and after I worked in the DoD. It is a fleet-level modern naval tactical warfare simulation (real time) that is a real experience to play if you have the patience and mental energy. It has been used in one form or another at the Naval Academy at Annapolis for a long time (customized data set). It has an easily customizable scenario format and platform database. Peop

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Martian_Kyo (1161137)
          wouldn't the common goal here be killing the opponent? So they might not be training them to 'murder', but they are training them to kill.
          If they really want to teach them just to work together towards a common goal, why not use a sports simulation, like ISS or NBA or whatever... in FPS if you're good enough you can ignore your teammates, this is not true in sports simulations. Soooo those would be better to teach teamwork then an fps, right?
      • by Databass (254179)
        I don't know that games are being chosen for their value at being "highly effective murder trainers", they're being chosen because they're what many potential recruits are already interested in. The Army doesn't needs games to train recruits to use lethal force- but teenagers already interested in war games might find they are interested in the Army also.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:24PM (#21678481) Homepage
    Customizing is good - when we went into the trainer, the first day was spent running canned scenarios mandated by COMSUBGOD to check us against deficiences recently noted in the fleet. The second was spent running custom scenarios to investigate weak spots we knew we had (like a new man at a given station).
     
    Then the real training started.
  • BOOOM!

    "Oh my God, your tank just blew up my house! Why? In the name of Heaven, why???"

    "Well, Mrs. Peterson, I'm afraid your little Johnny was spawn camping in America's Army III. We in the Army Office of Video Games take a might dim view of spawn camping, n00b-baiting, and all-around asshatery, and suppress such crimes by any means necessary..."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thegsusfreek (769912)
      Thing is, spawn camping is a good thing in a real war. :)
    • by prockcore (543967)

      Well, Mrs. Peterson, I'm afraid your little Johnny was spawn camping in America's Army III.


      I know you're going for the funny, but in America's Army, there is no spawn camping, because there is no spawning. You're alive at the beginning of the round, and if you die, you're dead 'til the round is over.
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:29PM (#21678531)

    The game is "one of the candidates under consideration for the Army tool kit." But, by then, it won't exactly be cutting edge. The kit may not deploy until as late as 2015. (You gotta love those fast-moving military bureaucracies.) By then, DARPA's made-to-order sim tool could already be in the works, too.
    By that time Duke Nukem Forever will be out for the Phantom..
    • by pravuil (975319)
      No, I'm afraid the second coming of Christ would happen before either of them come out.
      • The phantom will arrive before Christ's first comming
        • Er... pretty sure that the first coming of Christ happened about 2000 years ago. Disputing the man's divinity (by all means, go ahead) doesn't really change that.
          • Disputing the mans divinity does dispute the comming of the "Christ" happened 2000 years ago weather Jesus of Nazarath lived or not.

            • I dunno, I'd honestly consider Christ all but synonymous with Jesus of Nazareth at this point. But technically you're correct, I guess.
    • Don't say "2015"! You'll get everyone's hopes up! Just keep saying "soon".
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:34PM (#21678573)

    Is the Bradley Trainer they made from hacking an Atari Battlezone game. [atariage.com]

    Not a fantastic game of course, but it's old school and a neat hack.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    because everybody here already knows that videogames have no influence on peoples behaviour, if this is true aren't the Army wasting their time and your money ?
    • by LingNoi (1066278)
      They're used for team building exercises, not for brain washing. That has always been the case, even back to the day when they were getting heat from the press about training soldiers on "the murder simulator" Doom.
    • Re:why bother ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by joystickgenie (913297) <joleske@joystickgenie.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @10:26PM (#21679377) Homepage
      Perhaps you missed this quote

      "I haven't seen a game built for the entertainment industry that fills a training gap," said Col. Jack Millar, director of the service's Training and Doctrine Command's (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming, or TPO Gaming.

      As in the army agrees with us that video game do not train, training simulations do.

      • Training simulations may train how to kill, but they don't form an emotional attachment to death. Video games, on the other hand, allow everyone and their little brother to get used to killing and hitting reset. It creates an almost emotional attachment to death and destruction.
        • by tukkayoot (528280)

          It creates an almost emotional attachment to death and destruction.
          Whenever someone makes a bold claim like this without offering any evidence, I get an irrepressible urge to kill them.
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:35PM (#21678579)
    Do they have a little "Mr General" that pops up?

    It looks like you're trying to take that village. Instead of sending in troops on the ground, just call in an air strike to destroy everything. Don't worry about the civilians, their deaths are less politically costly than military deaths. If anyone complains, just say that it's the enemy's fault for hiding behind civilians.
    • I hate to be a douchebag, but I have to be a douchebag about this.

      Terrorists do, in fact, hide behind civilian "human shields". This does not change the morality or political expedience of invading a country that did nothing to us, but sometimes there's an actual reason for hunting terrorists, and when that happens terrorists really love a human shield. After all, humans shields only end up one of two ways:

      1) Alive, in which case the terrorist is alive as well 90% of the time.
      2) Dead, in which case the te
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by caitsith01 (606117)
        Underlying assumptions:

        1. The U.S. army is fighting "terrorists" rather than domestic insurgencies.
        2. Killing civilians is ok so long as it is in pursuit of "terrorists".

        And, by implication, you appear to be arguing that it is morally justifiable to kill innocent people simply because guilty people use them (against their will) as human shields.

        Just thought that observation was worth making.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MrSteveSD (801820)
        I didn't mention terrorists. Perhaps you are assuming that the people the US fights against are always terrorists. The media might like to portray it that way, but its far from the truth. Also the "hiding behind civilians" line is a very old and tired excuse used to justify civilians deaths, particularly when air power is used in populated areas.

        Take the case of Afghanistan. Towns and villages are important militarily and that is why both the Taliban and US forces regularly pass through them or set up po
  • by icepick72 (834363) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @08:38PM (#21678607)
    Duke Numkem Forever is already installed in Area 51.
  • New recruits keep calling out 'SPISPOPD' and then running straight into walls for some reason...

    spispopd would make an excellent tag, by the way.
  • Next they'll discover that playing Counter-Strike is cheaper and less destructive than real combat and soon we'll be fighting wars in simulations (and executing the losers) just like in that old Star Trek episode [wikipedia.org].

    • But not nearly as cool as fighting wars via huge robot boxing matches like in Robot Jox. Man, what a, uh, well, what a moving picture that was.

      Swi
  • What is the sever ip or phone # I have the pass word and I want to play Global Thermonuclear War.
  • Incorrect (Score:3, Informative)

    by chanrobi (944359) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @09:22PM (#21678927)
    The marines (USMC) did not "adapt" armed assualt. They use a version called VBS2 which (Bohemia Interactive) developed specifically for them (and other military customers). VBS2 and ArmA both use the same sim engine but the result is different. VBS2 is more "military" oriented rather than for gamers. For example the AAR/observer/instructor "Real time Mission Editor" which arma does not have. Other things such as realistic magazine change out times - reduced duration to cater to the gamer crowd.

    Previously they used VBS1 which also had a gamer oriented counterpart - operation flashpoint.

    http://virtualbattlespace.vbs2.com/ [vbs2.com]
  • Irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paleo2002 (1079697) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @10:03PM (#21679193)
    Isn't it ironic that the government ends up making the video games designed to train children to kill?
    • Actually, it's not ironic at all.
    • by halivar (535827)
      What I find ironic is that Slashdot will now adopt Jack Thompson's line of reasoning simply because it's the military making it instead of Rockstar games.

      Don't protest America's Army if you don't give a crap about Grand Theft Auto.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by paleo2002 (1079697)

        In the spirit of optimism then . . .

        Maybe one positive result of the military utilizing "video games" as a training tool will be a more accurate, first-hand look at games for government officials. Perhaps they'll come to better understand what players can get out of them. Maybe they'll stop demonizing the entire industry because of a few bad apples.

        (end optimism)

        Or, maybe they'll just end up wasting a lot of money on a mediocre game to use as a recruiting tool.

  • by cmd (56100)
    What is the difference between playing Microsoft Flight Simulator and piloting an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from Boeing for the Air Force?

    Remember the opening sequence to the original Terminator movie? They weren't autonomous robots, they were radio-controlled Unmanned Fighting Units from the US of A.
  • Oh great... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 7Prime (871679) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @10:13PM (#21679283) Homepage Journal
    For now, the games are being developed for training, but sooner or later, one's going to come out that will hit the mainstream... and that's when the shit hits the fan. Before we know it, they'll be making games as a form of "recruitment entertainment", trying to spread the good word of Uncle Sam through games. They're already doing it now through music, "3 Doors Down" has a new song specifically comissioned by the National Guard, and the music video is basically one big recruitment commercial, it's playing in theatres now.

    Something about this kind of army prostheletizing just doesn't sit well with me. Granted, it hasn't happened yet, but the writing's on the wall.
    • by karbin (1047742)
      Americas Army - http://www.americasarmy.com/ [americasarmy.com]
    • by asavage (548758)
      You are 5 years too late. [wikipedia.org]
    • by mazarin5 (309432)
      Is prostheletizing what you do after you've had your real legs blown off by an IED?
    • It's called "advertising" not proselytizing. It's a volunteer Army too, just in case you forgot.
    • by argStyopa (232550)
      "...Granted, it hasn't happened yet..."

      It hasn't?

      http://www.americasarmy.com/ [americasarmy.com]
      ?
      • by argStyopa (232550)
        In point of fact, for all the furor over the America's Army game, it's popularity in terms of online gaming is rather trivial.

        Compared to WoW's 9+ million accounts, and the other data from http://www.mmogchart.com/ [mmogchart.com] (granted, that's accounts, not current-online) AA is small-fry.

        According to Gamespy's stats at this moment:

        1. Half Life 34676 servers, 123626 players
        2. Half Life 2 32855 servers, 59992 players
        3. Battlefield 2 4301 servers, 11245 players
        4. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 2911 servers, 9100 players
        5.

        • by toolie (22684)

          I actually don't understand why AA is so limited in popularity. I thought it was actually a fairly decent shooter, and the price is certainly right.
          Because it is fairly realistic. People don't want realistic where you are using actual tactics, hand signals and weapon characteristics. They are looking for fast-paced shooters that you don't have to pay attention to details such as coordination.
          • by argStyopa (232550)
            I dunno, WW2OL (ok, now it's Battleground Europe) has had a diehard cadre of roughly 10-15,000 paying subscribers for precisely this.

            Maybe you're right, I'd suspect that 10k subscribers doesn't equate to much over 2k online at any time.
  • Ten Hut (Score:2, Funny)

    by ntimid8 (980393)
    Maybe this will set a trend in the industry and ensure games come out on schedule.

    "Soldier, are done debugging that level yet? MOVE IT, MOVE IT MOVE IT!!!"
  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @12:24AM (#21680085)
    Several military R & R leave training simulators are under development at this time. One of my favorites: 'Weekend in Bangkok'.
  • This just screams to be a plot for a modern WarGames sequel. How about a "Burger King" virus invading the "WOPR deluxe"?
  • Just like almost everything else in the Army, it would be cheaper and have better quality to contract it out. This, on the other hand, is a monumental waste of taxpayer money and thins the fighting force out even more than it already is.
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @09:30AM (#21682519)
    I work on an image generator for military simulations. We call it an image generator because the way most simulations work is across several boxes, all talking military sim network protocols - so you have one box running the physics simulations, another controller determining who shot whom, and it gets piped out to several image generators so you can have a big monitor wall or projector wall showing you your simulation.

    The whole construct is pretty high tech - think an ride like the Star Wars one in Orlando but where you have control over where your truck drives. We've actually got a game out at six flags based on the same premise.

    The problem is that, in general, simulators are five years or more behind what is in any sort of modern game. They just have different priorities - the army doesn't tend to care about lighting, more about how many square miles you can show without a break. And the army doesn't own them - they pay some company (like us, or our competitors) a bunch of money for licenses (10k a seat is cheap) to set up even the simpler, normal-PC based training.

    None of this is going to teach you how to shoot straight - but it is useful for cognitive training - what do I do in this situation, how should I respond, how should I work with my teammates. And it's a lot cheaper than (for example) driving around an actual humvee.

    There have been a couple different groups working within the military on their own versions of these "video games" for a while - Navy Post Grad has a system they developed themselves, largely from open source components.

    I was actually almost hired to modify America's Army for use as a trainer - for small scale stuff it would work fine, and the army already spent millions of dollars to license the version of the Unreal Engine it's using.

    But the problem is that game engines don't really support what the army needs, either - they don't support the simulation protocols. They aren't used to passing off all of the game logic to another box, or patching multiple displays together, how many enemies are on the screen simultaneously, or even usually paging in a giant database (the good IG's can do the whole world, or at least the continental US, continuously).

    For small time infantry simulations, though (especially the urban combat that they're most likely training on a sim for) a lot of that doesn't matter, and you can probably subvert a normal gaming engine to do it.

    Heh, of course, the problem then is actually hiring enough artists to not make it look like crap anyway. You can have all the lighting and normal mapping and effects in the engine that you want, if the office still only hires one artist to do all of it, they aren't going to have time to make it look good.

  • Heh, I got Games & Theory...
  • Great! Now Cheney can practice virtual torture without black sites, seeing how far he can push the suspect so that he doesn't die until after they have a false confession in hand.

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