Marines combat Doom on PC

The shoot 'em-up game might be a nightmare for parents worried about the harmful
effects of violence on their kids, but in the kill-or-be-killed world of the battlefield,
the Marines Corps thinks it might make the perfect training tool, Corps officials said.
The Marines are evaluating Doom as a way to simulate infantry battle tactics.


Besides blood and guts, what attracted the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation
Management Office (McMISMO) in Quantico, Va., to Doom II was the fact that the game can
include multiple users. Four people can play against the computer simultaneously.


Renamed Marine Doom, the modified game simulates a four-member Marine fire team-two
riflemen, one machine-gunner and the fire team leader-going through maneuvers in a
two-dimensional urban warfare environment.


After buying a copy of Doom for $50, McMISMO spent about three months developing a
Marine version. Id encourages Doom users, like the Marines, to modify the software with
the caveat that enhanced versions cannot be sold for profit.


With the software in hand, the McMISMO staff members surfed the Internet and located
editing tools to tweak the surreal Doom space-like landscape into more appropriate
military venues. They also morphed the attackers. For instance, the service replaced
fire-breathing demons with M16-toting soldiers in enemy garb.


Although the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Charles Krulak, has approved Marine Doom, it
is far from a standard training tool. Marine Doom is being used on an experimental basis
by commanders as a complement to regular field training programs.


"It's not meant to replace field time," McMISMO project officer, Lt. Scott
Barnett, said. "It never will. But there's a whole lot more that you can do with this
tool. The fun factor is very important. That's what makes our Marines want to use it. But
it's an honest-to-God training tool. You can do mission rehearsal, mission planning."


The 2nd Squad at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, N.C., recently held a
Marine Doom tournament. According to the squad's commander, Marine Doom, combined with
marksmanship training, is an important tool in fostering teamwork and coordination skills.


But Doom is not without its limitations, Barnett said. "The problem is it isn't a
3-D environment," he said. "It's still not as flexible as we need it to be. You
can't model a building. You can't have one room directly on top of another. It's basically
a flat plane with varying degrees of elevation."


In search of a more dynamic game, the Marines also have started playing with Quake, a
3-D game from id that can include as many as 16 players. And Good Times Interactive of
Redwood City, Calif., has approached the Marine Corps with a proposal to build a Marine
Doom follow-on.


"GTI has an engine which is based on the same technology as id's Quake
engine-Binary Space Partition-but their's is modifiable," Barnett said. "That
means we can modify the 3-D environment on the fly. If I were to call in some artillery
fire and the rounds hit the ground, they would leave craters. I could toss a grenade into
a room and blow out a wall. Everything is modifiable. In Quake, the environment is
static."


The Marine Corps has accepted GTI's offer to jointly develop the follow-on, Battlesight
Zero. According to Barnett, it will be the first product to premiere using the new,
modifiable BSP tree engine.


The game also will let an entire Marine squad-three four-man fire teams and a
leader-play against each other.


"The nice thing is now we can do human vs. human engagements," Barnett said.
"We could do that now with Marine Doom but you have to break into two two-man teams.
We don't function that way.


"The smallest unit in the Marine Corps is a four-man fire team. Marine Doom plays
against a computer-generated opponent but with Battlesight Zero you can go fire team vs.
fire team."


GTI is investing $1 million to develop Battlesight Zero in return for the Marine Corps'
input and combat expertise.


The Marines will get a free site license, and GTI will have the rights to sell it
commercially.


The commercial and military versions of the game will basically be the same. The Marine
version will include some special training scenarios.


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