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April 7, 2013: The U.S. Navy is following the example of other navies and using video game technology to create FPS (First Person Shooters, without the shooting) games that enable sailors to practice the many procedures they must use to operate, maintain, and save (damage control) the ship they are assigned to. Damage control on ships, especially warships, is the most dangerous work the crew can engage in. Training for this work is difficult and, according to those who have had to deal with the real thing, never realistic enough. This is where the video game tech is at its best, but it’s been found that even ordinary tasks are learned faster and better via a video game.

The U.S. Navy is using the CryEngine 3 software to develop their simulator. The software will be delivered in the form of 10,000 hours of courseware that will cover just about every aspect of operating the two versions of LCS class ships that are entering service, including the several different mission packages that can be added to an LCS.

Two years ago the Australian Navy used this approach in order to train the crew of its new LHD amphibious ships. The Australians had a 3-D, multi-player, FPS game created to help sailors deal with a wide array of damage control situations. Up to a hundred sailors can participate at a time, in a very accurate computer based representation of the LHD. Each sailor controls a computer generated sailor (an avatar) representing himself and has to make all the right damage control moves, in cooperation with other sailors, to succeed.

The new LHD simulator used the most realistic 3-D commercial game engine (CryEngine 3) available. A game engine is the basic computer code for a game. Add your own graphics and scenario information and you have a game. Most commercial games either buid their own engine or, more frequently, rent one from someone else. The CryEngine 3 was developed for Crysis, a first person shooter  wargame acknowledged as the most graphically stunning ever. Crysis 2 came out in 2011, and was even more visually striking than the original Crysis that appeared four years ago.

This is not the first such American FPS training simulation. Four years ago the U.S. Navy began using its DCT (Damage Control Trainer) for recruits. But the Australian Damage Control Trainer was much more ambitious, and many other navies are eager to see how well it works. Combining a high-end simulation engine with a rendering of a specific ship class may well prove to be a major contributor to damage control skills.

 


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