Army Releases New Video Game Training

By Valerie Insinna
The Army in March debuted its newest flagship video game, Virtual Battlespace 3, meant to help troops practice tactics before enacting them in a live environment. The new game boasts more realistic graphics and larger maps than the older system, but also reflects changes to how the service is training soldiers, officials said.

“As we iterated from [its precursor game, Virtual Battlespace 2] to VBS3, we realized the Army was going back to decisive action, or major combat operations,” said Maj. Greg Pavlichko, chief of the Army games for training requirements branch. “When you think of decisive action, think of the Gulf War in 1991 — mass actions of mechanized vehicles on mechanized vehicles,” as compared to the smaller, locally-aligned counterinsurgency operations of the last decade.

In order to replicate that operating environment, the game contains more expansive map sets to accommodate the movement of mechanized brigades. VBS3 can also incorporate a larger number of entities on screen, which will facilitate larger-scale battles, he said.

Among other changes is a “human dimension” plug-in allowing a user to import their own physical data, training records and marksmanship scores so that a soldier’s avatar reflects that individual’s real-life proficiency. Anthony Rolfe, a gaming technology integrator for the program, said 98 percent of soldiers that tested the plug-in at Fort Benning, Ga., indicated they wanted an avatar that performed like them.

“They didn’t want to have a fantasy avatar, because it really creates a false sense of capability,” he said. 

In April, the Army announced it has issued over 17,000 licenses. Over 50,000 licenses were issued for the game’s precursor, Virtual Battlespace 2. The service anticipates that people will have migrated to the newer format by October, but until then, it will continue to run both programs.

“We’ve got about 36,000 soldiers training on [VBS2] everyday, across the globe, and it is the most widely used simulation in the Army,” said Marco Conners, chief of the Army games for training program.

Industry has integrated myriad products with Virtual Battlespace 2 and devised new applications for the game, such as the Dismounted Soldier Training System — a virtual reality trainer in which sensors capture the movements of soldiers as they physically play through VBS2 scenarios. As the new flagship title, VBS3 is likely to receive similar treatment.

Topics: Business Trends, Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Videogames

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