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Offline Asid

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Gaming for training. Does it work?
« on: June 02, 2015, 01:59:54 AM »
Gaming for training. Does it work?
Posted on October 27, 2010 by BrunoNoMedals

This article is as much an informative piece for our serving boys and girls, as it is a game review. It looks at Bisimulations.com commercial product Virtual Battlespace (VBS), examines its gaming heritage, and looks at how the MOD employs this gaming technology to train troops for the front line.

Bohemia Interactive have been making games for a while. Most notably, they are responsible for Operation: Flashpoint (OFP; the original, not that new, gash one), Armed Assault (ArmA), and Armed Assault 2 (ArmA2). Their ethos has been to constantly develop along one line, improving on what they have, while constantly referring to their user community to create some of the most accurate and immersive military simulators on the gaming market. So it was that the Real Virtuality engine was developed, powering OFP, ArmA, and ArmA2 as it was steadily tweaked and improved. The pseudo open-source nature of the engine allowed community modders to make new terrains, models and campaigns for the games and increased its longevity no end.

In the midst of all this, the Australian Defence Forces began looking at commercial games as a possible route for training. One serving soldier, an OFP fan himself, decided he’d take it one step further: Upon leaving the ADF he bought himself into Bohemia and set up a subsidiary, now called Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim), to specialise in converting the Real Virtuality engine and its products into something specifically aimed at the military. They came up with VBS.

Recognising the potential of the software, the UK MOD bought into it as a solution to the http://www.nsc.co.uk/opjcove.html Joint Convoy Operations, Virtual Environment (JCOVE) capability. This training service allowed troops to practice convoy drills prior to deployment in Iraq, by placing them in front of a laptop with some simple USB pedals and a steering wheel. Driving through the synthetic environments provided by VBS, participants were required to communicate effectively throughout the staged missions in order to avoid or react to insurgent ambushes or IED strikes. As the software developed (from a very OFP-centric performance to one more on par with ArmA), so did the capability of JCOVE. Troops were no longer confined to vehicles, and could carry out patrols on foot throughout a wider range of environments – including Afghan villages, markets, and poppy fields.


The old and bold were wary, likely to see VBS-based training as simply “playing games” and of little value. However, user feedback was extremely positive, particularly on return from a tour when http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1257430/The-virtual-battles-soldiers-die-MoD-trains-Army-fight-using-sophisticated-video-games.htmlcommanders would praise the training for its impact. But what makes VBS so impressive, and why is it so different from “proper” games?

Well, for a start, VBS isn’t really that much fun. Far from being a source of entertainment, VBS is made specifically for training – and it’s made it be realistic. There are no 500yd head-shots with your side-arm while running full-tilt between cover. Aiming is difficult, and the ballistics are realistic. Reaction speeds are slow, as the game runs at a reduced pace compared to COD. All this forces you to proceed in a methodical manner, reliant entirely on your team-mates. Such is the reliance on co-operation that communication becomes essential – and this is where the training benefit really kicks in. VBS won’t teach you to shoot. It won’t make you fitter. What it will do is let you understand your drills and your mates so you know who is doing what, and when.

From a technical perspective, VBS offers a wide variety of functions that make it stand out head and shoulders above rival simulations. The intuitive mission-editing suite that comes included with every installation allows those with even the most rudimentary IT skills to create feasible, playable scenarios for people to work through. Not that it’s basic; with skill and experience you can create hugely immersive missions to challenge the very brightest of your troops. VBS2 also comes with an integrated After-Action Review (AAR) tool, which will record every single piece of action that takes place in a mission. When the game is over you can run it back and skip to any player, human or AI, and any viewpoint, to assess performance, positioning, accuracy, judgement calls… the lot. And that’s assuming you need it – if the CSM is stood at the back of the room observing your section assault, he can pause you midway through and pick up your little mistakes before you’ve made them. Indeed, a skilled mission administrator can tweak a scenario while it’s in progress, using the Realtime Mission Editor to add in more OpFor when you’re doing too well, or take some out when you’re getting spanked. The IED that was in the bin when you walked through this market, can quickly be replaced by a bloke with an RPG stood on a roof when the next group go through. Endless variations can be made up quickly, and cheaply, to add a new dimension to every exercise.


Cost… it was always going to be an issue. VBS is extremely cheap. The original procurement of the software actually granted UK MOD, and the entire British government, with a perpetual Enterprise License. So long as you’ve got hardware to run the game on, your unit, your project, your exercise can have a copy for absolutely nothing. This allowed many users to exploit the game beyond JCOVE, setting up small LANs at various bases across the country for a pittance. Even tweaking the game’s shortcomings and gaps is cheap, with the open source community providing plenty of competition for replicating new equipments within the game. You can even download ArmA and OFP models off the Internet and feed them straight in – which is how MOD obtained a workable model of the new FRES SV at zero cost within minutes of the question being asked. If only the rest of the FRES project went that well!


Being cheap does not immediately mean poor quality. As the use of VBS within MOD continues to expand, and MOD becomes more experienced in exploiting it, so to does the capability of the software. With the recent introduction of a Type 45 model, the Matelots can now practice ships clearing drills, or deploying embarked Marines by helicopter. By acquiring the “VBS Fires” package, Gunners can now practice high-fidelity Call For Fire, training forward observers. Even the simple addition of new weaponry, such as the latest sharpshooter rifle and new sight systems, can allow troops and commanders to understand the new capabilities on offer and experiment with their usage prior to deployment.

VBS might not look as Gucci as Bad Company, and it might not play as smoothly as Modern Warfare, but where else can you and 200 mates jump into a network game, pick up any weapon you can think of, jump in any vehicle you want, and do a proper “afternoon war” with ISTAR assets, fast- and close-air support, and indirect fire support, on a 50km-square map of Afghanistan? Crucially, what other game can you put down and think to yourself “that might actually save a life”?

If you want to give it a whirl, Op JCOVE exercises are available to all units preparing for a HERRICK deployment. If you’re lucky (like those based at Larkhill, Lulworth, Lympstone and Collingwood) you might have your own network permanently on base. If you’re a proper wargaming buff, Bohemia do a Personal Edition of the software (which includes the vast majority of upgrades sponsored by the UK MOD, US DOD, Canada, Australia…) for the bargain basement price of… £150. A bit steep, admittedly, but this isn’t a two-hour linear campaign you’re buying! The alternative is to try http://www.jcove-lite.co.uk VBS JCOVE Lite a reduced-functionality version of the software that gives you all the “playing” ability without the mission editing, AAR or model import.

If you’re in a unit and want some more info on the software, how to get hold of it for your own unit or any other details, please drop me a PM with a MOD email address and I’ll help you where I can.

Original post: http://www.arrse.co.uk/reviews/games/gaming-for-training-does-it-work/

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Offline Frankie

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Re: Gaming for training. Does it work?
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2015, 03:58:11 PM »
« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 04:04:07 PM by Frankie »

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Offline Asid

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Re: Gaming for training. Does it work?
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2015, 09:08:52 PM »
Great find Frankie

Very interesting. VR will take over more and more.

Thanks for posting

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