America's Army Report

By Maarten Goldstein, Nov 03, 2005 4:31am PST

GameSpot reports from the Serious Games Summit, where Colonel Casey Wardynski gave a presentation on the state of the America's Army game. As previously reported, America's Army will start using the Unreal Engine 3.0, however according to the report development won't start until February of next year. Wardynski's presentation also unveiled that development currently costs about $2.5 million a year, with a much better return than other Army-sponsored events. Even so, the developers are looking to improve the game's recruiting abilities by adding an in-game recruiting center in the game's next update.

Wardynski uses "cost per person hour" as a metric for the effectiveness of America's Army as a marketing tool: How much does it cost to put the Army's brand in front of someone for one hour? The game delivers a cost per person hour of 10 cents, versus $5 to $8 for TV. Even more telling, 20 percent of entering cadets at West Point have already played America's Army, and from 20-40 percent of new Army recruits have played it as well. Referring to other Army marketing efforts, Wardynski said, "We've had success above anticipated. Compared to the [Army-sponsored] race car, the bull riding, and so on, this is more effective than all of them, but costs less."

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  • I attended this conference, and have seen Col. Wardynski speak several times, and I gotta say this guy is sharp. Every time I do see him speak, I am more and more impressed with the whole AA project. If you ever get the chance to see Col. Wardynski talk, do so.

    Though personally I don't agree with some aspects of the whole US military system, I think what they are doing is smart, novel, clever, and extremely "outside the box" thinking. These guys and gals aren't fools, nor do they take the average gameplayer as being a fool. They aren't trying to brainwash, but rather are trying to educate players to what they see the military as.

    If you ever get the chance to see demonstrations of other projects the US Army has done using AA as the base platform, do so. At the conference, I tried out a bio/radiation contaminant training system at the conference which was pretty impressive. As the "player" you hold a real sensor unit in your hands, and as you move it around, it is like your "mouse look" in-game that changes your view. Click the buttons on the real unit and see the in-game unit do the same. I tried an AA based training system with a real (unarmed) large full-sized anti-vehicle guided missle mounted on a tripod, where you aimed, armed and activated it all with the real switches and mechanics of the real thing, while looking through it's view finder at an AA based simulation. They also had a shoulder mounted rocket launcher system that worked the same way. Put it up on your shoulder, look through the viewfinder at an AA based simulation view, fire the (virtual) rocket.

    Of course if you REALLY are against AA and what it stands for (military), what you should do is take the best of what they are doing (and doing well) and use it for some other cause that you do support. If you're angry about AA, then you must be thinking it's got some ability to actually influence others - as could other games for other causes not quite so controversial. Not that "People's Peacecorps" would be as fun to play...