Support: December 31, 2004

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The war in Iraq has generated a lot more enthusiasm, and money, for combat simulations that can be put right to work. The most obvious ones are those dealing with convoy protection. Most of the troops driving around Iraq are not combat troops. They need realistic training on how to fight, and they need it fast. So there are over half a dozen convoy protection simulators in use. Theres also a need to sharpen the combat skills of reservist infantrymen, as well as armor and artillery troops temporarily converted to infantry duty in Iraq. Along those same lines, more wargame software is concentrating on urban warfare. The U.S. Marines have modified the commercial game Close Combat to enable troops to practice urban warfare in a Middle East setting and are using this converted game to train troops.

Military wargame software developers are now quicker to add features that were first developed for commercial adventure and wargames. One popular example of this is non-player characters (NPCs) that talk. Most computer games are still played solo, and players interact with software. This has led to decades of work on better AOs (Artificial Opponents), as well as AAs (Artificial Allies). These are the NPCs. Many American troops are enthusiastic users of commercial games, usually first person shooters, and expect to encounter convincing NPCs. So military training simulations have been quick to beg, borrow or whatever, the latest software tools for creating convincing NPCs. For the best training effect, the player must have accurate communications with NPCs representing other soldiers they are working with. 

After years of experience, commercial game developers have gotten used to working with military developers, and the commercial and professional games often look indistinguishable. But once you start playing a military sim, you quickly become aware of the differences. Its a lot easier to get killed in military wargames, and things are harder to do. Its more difficult to stay hidden, more thing break down, and you can easily run out of ammunition if youre not careful. Not as entertaining, but a lot more realistic.

 


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