Serious Games or Serious Trouble

Topics: Requirements analysis, Proprietary software, Source code Pages: 17 (5087 words) Published: July 22, 2013
Abstract
The Term “Serious Game” generally refers to gaming technology which is used for purposes other than entertainment. The rational for doing this is apparent when viewing the stunning visual imagery of a $50 dollar game compared to that of a multi-million dollar simulation. It is very appealing to leverage off the mass market budgets of computer games. This has spawned a number of gaming based development environments that can be used to create professional simulations.

This then raises a series of questions. Where exactly is gaming technology being used in the simulation industry? What are the differences between a serious game and a professional simulator? How can companies tasked with creating professional simulations for training best use gaming technology?

This paper will discuss some fundamental differences in game software architectures compared to professional simulator architectures. This paper is based upon experiences in developing applications using proprietary simulation and rendering engines as well as using tools such as VBS2 and Delta 3D. Some of the top down design considerations will be explored. These need to be determined up front prior to deciding if a game based solution is feasible. Technical areas will include, Artificial Intelligence, after action review, coordinate systems, interpolation, networking, and digital asset creation.

1.OVERVIEW
Serious games and the application of gaming technology for use in the simulation industry is currently a very hot topic; discussed at great lengths at industry forums. There is no denying the visual quality of the average game can be visually stunning – particularly when compared to some high price simulators.

If the application of gaming technology is really a paradigm shift for the simulation industry then there would be an assumption that it is being used in a host of current programs. However, while gaming related computer hardware such as video cards has widely been accepted in major programs, gaming software has not.

This paper will look at the many reasons for this, from a variety of angles including detailed technical issues, as well as, program issues.

The following sections provide an overview of some technical features typical of gaming technology, along with the features application for use in a professional simulator. In addition, features that are often missing in gaming technology and why the absence of these features can prevent the technology from being used will be discussed.

2.GAMING TECHNOLOGY
For the purposes of discussion gaming technology is broken down into the following technical areas; rendering engines, physics engines, Artificial Intelligence (AI) network architecture and After Action Review.

2.1.Rendering Engines
The rendering engine provides the ability to generate real-time 3D imagery in a game or simulator. Rendering engines use various methods to render imagery, as well as, generate lighting effects, shadows and textures. The rendering engine also provides special effects such as rain, snow, fire and explosions.

Many of the requirements of rendering engines are the same for both gaming systems and simulators. The following paragraphs discuss some of the areas where there are significant differences.

2.1.1.Scene Management
To maintain a good frame-rate, rendering engines require a cohesive scene management strategy. The strategy used is dependent upon the size and composition of the geographic area being rendered. For example, is it predominately outdoors, indoors or a combination of both? If it is outside is it comprised of buildings, forests or water?

Multiple Levels of Detail (LOD) are usually used in scenes with many entities such as aircraft, vehicles and humans. Multiple LOD entities which are close to the eye point will be rendered with a higher number of polygons than those that are far away.

There are several methods for using LODs. Two of...
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