Friday, December 14, 2007

Serious Games Update

Coming on the heels of the NM Higher Education Summit (12/5), the HTC sponsored Digital Media Summit in Las Cruces, and last night's Rio Grande IGDA meet-up, it's more evident than ever that the area of serious games offers great potential for New Mexico. Work in areas similar to what's described below is already happening locally, and the possibilities for application in health/biotech, clean energy, aerospace -- and other high priority fields are tremendous.

The US Army has founded a new project office for games that will focus on training simulators.
The new project office is called TPO Gaming, short for Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming, and is part of TRADOC’s National Simulation Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

TPO Gaming hopes to fulfill certain elements of soldiers’ training needs—needs that some soldiers are satisfying at the local Best Buy, reports TSJOnline.

“Units should not have to spend training dollars to purchase training simulations,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey, who’s the training director at the Pentagon. “If Army units are expending training funds to purchase games, there is probably an unfilled training requirement.”

TPO Gaming is developing a toolkit that soldiers will be able to use themselves to create combat training scenarios. The toolkit is still a ways off, as it’s slated for release sometime between 2010 and 2015.

“We will focus on the visualization piece of those technologies, not so much the entertainment piece,” said TPO Gaming’s director Col. Jack Millar.

Currently, TPO Gaming is focusing on FPS and RTS games, although it may expand into other genres.

While there are plenty of war videogames available to everyday consumers, TPO Gaming doesn’t believe that any fill the requirements of a true simulation.

Millar said that aside from being immersive, the simulations should be “scalable, feature an intuitive interface, model behavior at the entity level, contain an after-action review capability and allow easy distribution.”

While military and federal research once drove fields like graphics and high end computing (New Mexico was once home of one of the largest, most active SIGGRAPH Chapters before CGI Animation and Game Development really took off), the needs of business in fields like Bio (Health, Tech, Big Pharma), Oil & Gas, and enterprise level IT are, let's say, considerable markets as well.

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