US Army goes with CryEngine 3 for Military Simulator
The United Sates Army has decided to spend $57 million USD to enlist the help of Intelligent Decisions Inc. and Real Time Immersive Inc. utilizing the CryEngine 3 with the goal of developing the most realistic military simulator to date. The vast majority of the $57 million price tag for this technology will be going towards the actual equipment, which will feature the most advanced motion-tracking technology available today and a bunch of commercial off the shelf made in China/Taiwan hardware. You can view some of the technology preview videos of the game at the bottom of this post.
Called the new Dismounted Soldier Training System (DSTS) and being developed from tech company Intelligent Decisions and what looks to be Real Time Immersive, honestly I’m not entirely sure if Intelligent Decisions owns Real Time Immersive or are just contracting with them for this project, although I think Real Time Immersive provides the gaming technology while Intelligent Decisions provides the actual hardware while I’m sure those lines will start to blur if they keep working together. Either way, the platform will enable soldiers, leaders, and units to train within a realistic video game environment that will feature real time weather conditions, squad interactions, and advanced motion sensor technology for full 360-degree movement in-game. The Army is expected to have have 102 systems in place globally by the end of the year.
Floyd West, Director of Strategic Programs, at the Orlando Division of Intelligent Decisions (which incidentally is also where Real Time Immersive is based out of) explained. “What we’re trying to do with infantry squad-level training is suspension of disbelief, and the CryEngine 3 is the best video game technology on the market today. With CryEngine 3 being used for Crysis 2 and the capabilities that game engine provides, it allows us to make the most realistic simulation possible. We’re able to transport soldiers to accurately recreated locales like Afghanistan and Iraq, where we can simulate everything from visuals to 360-degree sound.”
Soldiers aka players will gear up with special head-mounted displays on their helmets to bring the virtual world to life, however they’ll still require some real-world peripheral vision to ensure they don’t bump around blindly. Each player will also wear a backpack, called a “man wearable system” which is basically a maxed-out gaming laptop.
The training area will consist roughly of a 10-by-10 foot area for each soldier to operate within. The game will capture a full range of motion allowing the soldiers to move and look around in a fully 3D 360 degree space and firing will be controlled via joystick. Naturally there will also be full in game VOIP communications to communicate amongst squad mates.
“The goal is to complete common operating environments, so the things the Army is doing today would be Afghanistan, the mountainous, cavernous regions, and the Iraqi desert-like regions, as well as wooded areas. We have some geotypical and common operating environments built-in for training, but the system will come with an editor that allows real missions to be created in the field.” explained Floyd West.
West went on to explain that Crytek’s game engine would allow editors to create photo-realistic and detailed environments within the virtual world. DSTS will accurately simulate the movement of ground vehicles, aircraft, dismounted infantry, and guided weapons. The training system will also conform visually with the environment by allowing the ability for players to identify such elements as footprints, disturbed soil and grass, rolling terrain, and the density of vegetation. The system will also offer highly realistic precipitation, wind, and storm effects, along with lifelike atmospheric light propagation, light scattering, and photo-realistic scene lighting that will provide the soldier with a sense of realism that other simulators are simply not able to achieve due to their dated game engines when compared with the technical capacities for CryTek’s CryEngine3.
The technology will basically allow the army to literally “mod” a mission on the fly in the field before sending soldiers out in the real world to accomplish their task. In the past, soldiers could rely on aerial photography, schematics, or “word of mouth” before heading out on their mission. However now they’ll be able to play through a precise mission over and over again with their fellow squad mates until they feel they are confident and fully ready to head out into the field to do it for real. Soldiers will also have the ability to receive scores and detailed AAR’s in a report after each session, so they can see what they’ve done right and wrong.
West said that the simulator has out of the box already been programmed with five operational themes, including major combat operations, irregular warfare, peace operations, limited intervention and peacetime military engagement, as well as offense, defense, stability and civil support.
West continued, “A soldier could practice a scenario alone or with squad members, just as they would play an online video game. Soldiers and instructors could also play roles within the simulation. For example, they might play civilians that interact with someone from that squad, or they could play an opposing force, an enemy combatant. They could also control a group of semi-automated forces in the world.” This is basically what we call “role playing” here at Operation Reality, and we literally have years of experience with achieving this sort of thing in-game and we concur, it’s a great way to add an element of realism and critical thinking for the players.
All in all it sounds like a very promising advanced and intelligent simulator, here at Operation Reality we’ve had our eyes on Real Time Immersive’s technology for some time now and concur that the CryEngine3 is probably the best engine out there to achieve this sort of game. The engine is certainly a lot more suited to this sort of simulation than Bohemia Interactive’s Real Virtuality Engine which is starting to show its age and lagging in many technical facets and capabilities. It will be interesting to see what comes of this project, we’ll do our best to keep you posted. You can check out some in game preview videos of the CryEngine3 in action below.