Games: A few days of basic training can lead to better games
The U.S. Army’s series of computer games is known for keeping it real.
The “America’s Army” franchise has been creating realistic first-person shooters since launching its first title more than five years ago. That tradition continues with “America’s Army: True Soldiers” for the Xbox 360 and a third-generation computer game that’s in the works.
In order to keep a high level of authenticity, the Army sends developers through “green ups.” These are miniature versions of basic training, in which developers and others experience physical training, learn the Army’s core values and fire weapons.
Last month, developers for the Army’s next — as-yet-untitled — computer game visited Fort Jackson, S.C., for a bit of training.
Brandon Foster, a technical artist and associate producer, participated in it and agreed to discuss what to expect from the next “America’s Army” game and how the training will help the staff maintain the high level of realism.
Q: What will make the next game different from the previous versions?
A: The first thing people will notice when they start up the game will be the visuals. With the new Unreal 3 engine we are able to produce everything at a much higher fidelity than we could in 2x.
Starting in training, players will begin to see a tangible reflection of the Army Values. Choices you make in the beginning, and all the way through your career as a soldier, will affect how you experience the game.
Did an animal wander on the range during BRM [basic rifle marksmanship] practice and you resisted the urge to shoot at it? That was a display of integrity and respect. Did a member of your squad get injured on a mission, and you moved them to a safe location and patched them up? I could list how you’ve displayed each of the seven values right there. When players live the Army Values in the game, they will be rewarded.
We will also be streamlining how people go through training. In 2x, many players who tried the game became bored with the first few training missions and would quit before getting to the real meat of the game. So we’re exploring ways to get the same information across but in a much more efficient manner. …
Two of the training features we’re very excited about are Combat Life Saver and Medic. Being a medic in 2x required the player to simply press one key to treat a player. This time around, the system will be much more robust.
Combat Life Saver will cover the basics of treating wounds: slowing/stopping bleeding, treating minor wounds. As a more highly trained Medic, players will have to diagnose the injury then properly treat it as they would in the real situation. Administering morphine, tourniquets, even performing chest decompression will be options available to a Medic. Being a Medic will be challenging, but rewarding.
Q: What did you most anticipate about the green up beforehand?
A: I was really looking forward to the weapons qualifications. In the Scouts, I was never very good at the rifle range, so this would be a good opportunity to perhaps redeem myself. I ended up scoring 28/40 on the final test, Marksman!
Q: How did you do in the physical training?
A: I held my own in physical training. … The drill sergeants found my, and everyone’s, physical breaking point, and then pushed us past it. We lost four people on the first day due to the physically demanding things we had to do (they went home). The drill sergeants knew our energy and strength wasn’t limitless, but as long as we kept trying to eke out one more push-up or one more military press, they seemed happy.
Q: What was most challenging physically?
A: Day 0 [arrival day] was the most physically challenging. We ran through the Fit to Win obstacle course right after being issued our uniforms. I was tired and winded, but not down. All the different exercises we had to do during our line-up drills and every time we got the Soldiers Creed wrong were what drove me to the breaking point. My muscles simply would not do what I was asking them. Others in the platoon around me were grunting and moaning in pain. I kept trying to move instead of lying down and giving up like many had done.
Q: What was the “coolest” activity?
A: Definitely the MOUT [Military Operations on Urban Terrain] site. It was sort of the culmination of everything we had learned that week: our weapons training, discipline to follow our orders, and working as a team to complete the mission. With explosions going off around us, smoke obscuring our vision and people all around yelling orders, it seemed so chaotic. But each squad performed their roles perfectly and we accomplished the goals that were set before us.
Q: How will this experience help you when you’re working on “America’s Army”?
A: Going through a fraction of what real soldiers have to go through in BCT made me want to make sure our game can do the experience justice. I want people to be able to see what I saw in my week there.
These soldiers have so much strength, heart and dedication, it was really inspiring to be among them. Hopefully through our game we will be able to show how they follow the Soldier’s Creed and live the Army Values.
Something else I also took away from the training was the importance of working as a team. Goals (individual and team-based) were accomplished so much faster and efficiently when the squad was working together to accomplish that goal.
We live in a very individual-centric culture where we’re always looking out for ourselves first. Hopefully we can begin to change that and be as concerned
Q: How did this experience affect your opinion of U.S. soldiers?
A: I already had a great deal of respect for our soldiers. This experience has only further solidified and strengthened my respect for them.
They work so hard, and sacrifice so much to allow us to have the freedoms that many of us take for granted. It takes a great amount of courage and dedication to do what these men and women do. My hat is off to them.