In the 1980s and 90s, if you wanted realistic graphics the only place to go to was the military. Fast forward to today, and game studios have upped the ante to such an extent that the British Ministry of Defense is bringing technology from today’s FPS games and integrating them into military simulators.
As Andrew Poulter, the technical team lead at the MoD’s Defense Science and Technology Lab, said to The Guardian:
Military-built simulators were state of the art. But now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using. The truth is, the total spending on games development across the industry will be greater than spending on defence.
Project KITE (Knowledge Information Test Environment) is aiming to refresh the capabilities of military simulations for the UK by incorporating technology from big game studios – like the Frostbite 2 Engine which powers Battlefield 3.
With new recruits playing games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, the lackluster graphical capabilities of current military simulators like Virtual Battlespace look antiquated and dull. Players lose any notion of immersion when they know things could look even better.
FPS games aren’t the first to illustrate how far games have advanced either. Flight Sims have been nearly on par with many military grade flight simulators. Games like Falcon 4.0 and DCS: A-10C Warthog detail the operations of fighter jet piloting down to the switch, come with game manuals thicker than many college textbooks and flight models that rival the physics simulations in driving sims like Gran Turismo 5. In fact, the only things that separate these games from a military-grade simulator are several classified systems on the planes and the giant, wraparound, hydraulics-enhanced simulator modules.
All that said, realistic graphics can only get you so far in training. Sometimes a physical simulator is still the best kind of practice – like if you had to train a crew member for a C-27J… you just might need the whole damn plane.