By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 03, 2014) -- The most recent version of the Army's 3D virtual training game, Virtual Battle Space 3, allows players to personalize their avatar within the simulation and the scenes and scenarios look a lot more real as well.
Using new human dimensioning modeling within Virtual Battle Space 3, known as VBS3, Soldiers using the training will put in personal characteristics, including their own height, weight, Army Physical Fitness Test scores and even their weapons qualifications scores, "so then the avatar will only be as capable as the individual Soldier," said Robert Munsey, an analyst with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager -- Virtual & Gaming.
Soldiers who are not qualified on a weapons system will not be able to use it in the simulation. And unlike in some video games, where every player is represented on the screen with a hulking, ripped avatar -- with VBS3, an overweight Soldier will also be overweight on the screen. And with the system's fatigue modeling, his character will get tired faster too, Munsey said.
Munsey said within the game, a fatigue bar at the top left hand side of the screen will "go down a lot quicker" for somebody that has scored a 160 APFT score, versus the person who has an average at 220, or the "APFT stud or studette at 300-plus."
"If the Soldier is one of those 270-300 physical training performers, the fatigue model will model that in the game," he said. "Then the leaders, the small unit leaders have the capability to understand the performance of their squad."
Soldiers who have used the system have noticed the difference, Munsey said.
"When they tested this last year, one of the Soldiers said 'I look fat,'" Munsey said. "And the other Soldier sitting right next to him said 'that's because you are fat.'"
The Army's VBS3 system is a multi-user "realistic semi-immersive environment" that allows units, usually company and below, to train at home station on more than 150 battle drills, platoon level collective tasks, combined maneuver tasks and other collective tasks.
In a budget-constrained environment, company commanders can put each of their Soldiers in front of a networked computer running the system and train things inexpensively before going out to the field -- where things get more expensive.
"It's really mostly focused at the company level and platoon level -- it's a cost-saver in the fact it gives us a chance to do the crawl/walk phases of your training before you go out to training areas and execute," said Capt. Chuck A. Williams, field operations branch, TCM-V&G. "You get a chance to work out bugs and kinks and rehearse before you go out. And you don't get out there and waste fuel and ammo messing things up."
Also new in VBS3 are "ambience"-related plugins that allow the game to inject crowds of simulated personnel into a simulation.
"Soldiers maneuvering through an environment, whether an urban environment or a fringing and rural environment, are going to see the normal pattern of life so it's not vacated of civilians," said Munsey.
Something called "insurgent ambience" allows the computer to simulate the activities of an insurgent cell "so the insurgent cell can initiate the attacks," Munsey said.
With fewer training staff now available, computer-controlled "red team" inputs "allow the trainer to have the computer play some of the portions of the OPFOR to meet the training objectives of the training commander."
Munsey said commanders at Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Riley, Kan., have in the past mandated the use of VBS2 as a simulation prior to execution in the live environment. Stryker units, he said, have no virtual simulator of their own, but were able to train on Stryker's inside the VBS2 system.
"The Stryker community has been using VBS2 a lot longer before the Army did -- about a year or two before the Army," Munsey said. "They have a lot of experience and this is one of their preferred simulations."