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US Army in $50m video game upgrade

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The US Army plans to spend $50m over five years to develop more video games for training soldiers for combat, according to the Army pub Stars and Stripes.

The money was approved to fund a new "games for training" program beginning in 2010. It intends to watch for trends and technologies used in commercial video games that can be used for military training.

"The Army takes this seriously," said Lt. Col. Gary Stephens of the army's Simulation Training and Instrumentation division to S&S. "We own gaming for the Army — from requirements through procurement."

Army game development will continue on its present course of adapting tech used by the multibillion-dollar video game industry rather than entering the market itself.

"We don't have the intent or capability to be a commercial game house," Stephens said to the publication.

On an separate (and undisclosed) budget from the $50m, the Army gaming unit also intends to purchase a "state-of-the-art commercial video game system" to replace the current first-person-shooter used to train soldiers since 2003 called DARWARS Ambush.

DARWARS Ambush runs on a modified version of Operation Flashpoint engine to simulate road-convoy operations.

The new game, appropriately dubbed Game After Ambush will also be an off-the-shelf commercial product. While the original game was particularly useful to the Army in that it allowed users to author their own scenarios, the new game (in addition to improved graphics) will let the Army make terrain, mission, and scenario changes during gameplay.

Game After Ambush can also hook into the Army's real-world computer battle command systems and allow more soldiers into the exercise at once.

"We have an impending award announcement for the contract that we will make in the next couple of weeks," Stephens told S&S.

Another program planned for Army fielding in 2009 called "dismounted solider" lets a soldier wear virtual-reality goggles and virtual gun to shoot up a digital battle space. ®

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