The Ministry of Defence has been forced to rework its computer simulation games, because army recruits found them too dull in comparison to modern console shooters.
The likes of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 have massive budgets which have led to a situation where the MoD’s training simulations seem rather flat and lacking in visual realism, apparently failing to capture and hold troops’ attention.
Supplementary training on war games is seen as an important part of the recipe of preparing for action, particularly as recruits are likely to take on more training in their spare time if they enjoy the game.
Current budget cuts have also meant that virtual exercises are important in terms of cost savings versus real world drills.
The MoD uses a program called Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2) to enact scenarios such as ambushes and mortar attacks.
VBS2 is developed by Bohemia Interactive, the Czech outfit responsible for Operation Flashpoint and its successor Arma series.
Andrew Poulter, the technical team leader of the MoD’s defence science and technology lab told the Guardian that back in the eighties and nineties, its virtual war sims were cutting edge.
He told the paper that: “Now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using. The truth is, the total spending on games development across the industry will be greater than spending on defence.”
He added: “Certainly, there is a level of computer games experience in recruits. So the plots have to be realistic and the image generation has to be high quality.”
But at the same time, a level of realism is necessary as well as immersion. Poulter noted: “The weapons need to be credible. If they fire a rifle and the bullet travels three and a half miles, then that is not right. If they are steering a vehicle, then that has to be right too. Realism is more important than entertainment.”