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US military looking for better video game training technology

The U.S. Army and Navy are looking for new gaming technology to engage soldiers with virtual training programs, and plans to award "major contracts" this year for PC-based technology, reports National Defense Magazine.

According game technology developer Havok's vice president of sales and marketing Brian Waddle, the military still occasionally uses outdated simulation software. Proposal requests for training technology are often "designed for older technology to win," and soldiers don't take these games serious because "they don't look as good as what they're playing in their living rooms."

The Army is currently holding a competition to find a replacement for Bohemia Interactive's Virtual Battlespace 2 in its Games for Training program. It will award $44.5 million over five years for the creation of a first-person shooter with updated graphics, the ability to move a group of players across larger landmasses (such as in an MMO) and the ability to play across mobile and PC. Proposals were submitted in October, and the winner will be picked in March or April.

This month, the Navy will award three $100 million contracts for virtual training programs in naval courseware, providing more than 4,500 training hours in ship maintenance and 2,250 hours in anti-submarine, surface and mine warfare.

These virtual training curricula will run on Crytek's CryEngine 3, which had been previously licensed for other military programs, including the Army's Dismounted Soldier Training system and a program for the Australian Navy simulating a helicopter dock. Research and development company Alion Science and Technology Corp. is also currently using CryEngine 3 for the Navy's Virtual Maintenance Performance Aid, which will train sailors in readiness control and ship repair.