Last week I broke the story of the Army’s attempt to design a “first-person thinker” video game for training future generals. Now one senior Army game-designer tells me that the ground combat service wants to go one step further … and build a “Massive Multiplayer Online Game” (MMOG) where a wide range of Army training could take place.
“Potentially an MMOG could be created which adheres to the physical and behavioral reality of the world and provides an ‘always on’ environment in which to execute training, something like World of Warcraft, but focused on the military training customer,” says Dr. Roger Smith. (Tactical Iraqi game pictured.)
The MMOG would be run out of a central server farm at some secure location in the U.S., but soldiers all over the world could log in, slip into a digital avatar and trek over to a particular exercise. Terrain, simulated enemies and special rules could be tailored for every training event. Want to hone your urban combat skills for an upcoming Iraq deployment? Then play “laser tag” in a 3D town based on actual maps of Baghdad. Need to improve your cultural skills for Afghanistan? No problem: sit down for teatime with an avatar belonging to an PhD in Central Asian history.
Sadly, it’s a long road from today’s stand-alone military training simulations like Tactical Iraqi to the “whole virtual world” that Smith imagines. “There have been a number of partial explorations in this direction, but nothing near a complete system has been created to our knowledge,” he tells me.
But Smith’s taken the first small steps. “I have been exploring new technologies for the server side of our systems (pdf!), and applying Web 2.0 tools to the planning process and the creation of scenarios for our sims. All of these technologies appear to complement each other — hopefully creating the 21st century replacements for training tools and methods that have been in place for decades.”
(Photo: Tactical Language Training LLC, via MSNBC)