Army Plans Overhaul of Virtual Training Games

Patience Wait
June 15, 2012
Information Week

Millitary looks to add potential for massive multi-player online games, simulations for construction and management, and real-time strategy.

The U.S Army wants to update the gaming system it uses for virtual training exercises. The Army's simulation office has issued a draft RFP for a new military training game that includes all the components and capabilities of Virtual Battlespace2 (VBS2), the battlefield simulation system currently is in use. In addition, the army wants the new platform to make room for imporvements such as contruction and management simulation, massive multi-player online role playing gaming, and real-time strategy gaming. The game will be used to train individuals and small units in a shared environment.

The new platform will take advantage of ner commercial technologies, such a higher-fidelity graphics, the ability to move across compute platrforms--including web based and mobile-- and interoperability that will allow "live-virtual-constructive' environments. The last enables units in different locations to interact and conduct coodinated fights as though as they are physically in the same place.

Over the past three years, VBS2 has been modified "to include capabitlities such as terrain paging, improved graphic realism, IED training modules, insurgent methodology training scenarios, Special Operations Command..enhacements , and improved cultural and language training capability, and a terrain database plug-in that will facilitate incorporation of synthetic environment ... Core databases," according to the draft RFP. The new game platform must continue to support these elements.

The Army also wants compatibility with already-developed middleware that provides additional features such as enhanced indirect fire skills training and combat lifesaver and medic training. "The required product will provide the User the ability to connect existing and future middleware via an Application Programming Interface (API) or plug-in," the RFP states.

"Whoever comes in as the contractor has to have a fully developed basic game," said Michael Adorno, the senior contracting specilist who issued the draft RFP. "The idea is to get a dialogue going with the industry. We have no expectation for a proposal, we just want to finalize the requirements. The comments should be back by July 12."

Adorno said this draft RFP is "90% to 95% of the solution. We want to tweak it , though we don't anticipate a whole lot of changes. " He said the intent is to release the finalized RFP this fiscal year, within a month or two of the end of the commnet period.

Would Activision's Call of Duty, Microsoft's Halo, or other popular game meet the Army needs? ADomo did answer that question directly, but did say that the Army is looking for a game that is easily customized, which could rule them out.

The contract is going to firm fixed-price, with a value of about $44.5 million over five years for an Army-wide or enterpise license, including updates and technical support.

See completion version of Simulation Highlights, July 2012