|Taking Gaming to a New Level:
Battlefield 3 Simulator
By: Esmeralda Ayala
Imagine a game that offers real combat experience, a game that makes you feel like a real soldier. Imagine a game that gives you the rush of hunting down an enemy or the thrill from completing a mission. A game that makes you feel fully immersed in the battle, all five senses triggered. No video game alone can actually do this. Combat video games, including 1st person and 3rd person shooter games, can only offer a visual of what a combat battle might look like but no real immersion into action.
But now imagine if the game could come to life. If instead of controlling the character with game controllers, you actually become the controller, move through the battlefields, shoot your opponent, and really feel the tension of combat. Now that’s immersion and exactly the purpose of the Battlefield 3 simulator. The simulator transforms the video game into a real life battlefield. In the simulator, the gamer wears full combat gear, holds a gun just like any real soldier would, and is placed in the center of a dome where the game is projected on a 360-degree screen. What helps the simulator be a virtual reality is the illusion of physically moving through the game space created by an omnidirectional treadmill along with the terror that comes from twelve paintballs guns aimed at the gamer. In simple terms, the gamer gets to physically play the role of the soldier in the game. Awesome!
Gadget Show hosts’ Jason Bradbury and Suzi Perry built the simulator to add on to the list of previous innovative simulators on the show that include a homemade rollercoaster ride chair and a Kung Fu fighting robot. The Gadget Show is a UK TV program that showcases the newest and most advanced technologies and gadgets. Bradbury and Perry mention that they chose Battlefield 3 over other 1st person shooter games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops because of the new technologies used to create the game that make the graphics and sounds more realistic.
Battlefield 3 Simulator: How it Works
Picture 1: Battlefield 3 screen shot 
Battlefield 3, the game, is a 1st person shooter game released on October 24th 2011 that uses a new technology, Frostbite 2. This new technology “allows [the user] to experience superior animation, unparalleled lighting and special effects, epic scale and incredible sound design” . Picture 1 shows the quality of graphics the game provides to its user; the characters almost look like real people. Another new technology used in the game is ANT technology, which according to the Battlefield 3 website creates “more believable behavior than ever before in a shooter” .
The purpose of a simulator is to provide a realistic imitation of a certain operation. To make a simulator mimic reality, it must have real-time 3D graphics and animation, character and terrain modeling, artificial intelligence, networking, sound, user interface, and tools for creating synthetic environments .
To make the simulator as realistic as possible many different technologies had to be integrated with the help of many experts. The first step in the creation of the simulator was to decide on the location for the simulator. Bradbury decided to have the simulator in an igloo dome. Five HD projectors were evenly placed in the center top of the dome so that they could project onto a 360-degree screen. However, to make the gamer feel like he or she is fully in the game the gamer needs to move, physically aim, and shoot. In addition the game needs a feedback mechanism to respond to the gamers different inputs.
To create the illusion of movement, an omnidirectional treadmill was placed in the center of the igloo dome. This treadmill allows the gamer move in any direction for an unlimited amount of time without having the gamer ever leave the dome. The gamer can walk, run, or even go up stairs in the game with this omnidirectional treadmill. The implementation of such a device seems obvious, but is nevertheless a genius piece of equipment. The omnidirectional treadmill would be useless if not paired with a tracking device, because otherwise the gamer would be unable to manipulate his or her character or maneuver through the landscape in the game. Therefore, infrared tracking cameras were equidistantly placed around the igloo dome and faced the center, where the gamer would stand during the simulation. These cameras are able to detect in what direction as well as how fast the gamer is moving. But for the game to recognize when the gamer jumps or crouches, Bradbury and Perry had someone hack into an Xbox Kinect and reprogram it so that it could detect such motions. The combination of an omnidirectional treadmill, infrared cameras, and Xbox Kinnect created the element of user interface.
Picture 2: appBlaster gun being used to play Alien Attack 
To have a third person shooter simulator, a gun is essential. Obviously a real gun would not be practical because the gun would make holes in the igloo dome, and t the game would not respond to such input. Hence, the gamer would not be immersed in the game. Therefore an appBlaster gun was used. The gun is made for iPhone augmented reality games such as Alien Attack . Picture 2 shows the gun has two probes that touch the iPhone screen and shoot the characters in the iPhone games. To use the appBlaster gun in the simulator, Bradbury and Perry wirelessly synced an iPhone to the PC that would be running the Battlefield 3 game and programmed the front trigger for aiming and the rear trigger for shooting using a software named Mobile Mouse . The gamer would be able to point the gun at the screen, aim, and shoot. The game would receive this input, and the target would go down. This design of feedback demonstrates another element of user interface.
In video games, the gamer doesn’t experience the same vulnerability that the character in the game faces. When the gamer’s character gets shots, the gamer has to wait to respawn and then resumes the game. For the gamer to get the full battlefield rush, twelve paintball guns were placed equidistantly around the dome so that when the enemy took a shot, paintballs would fly at the gamer . The guns used have the capacity to shoot fifteen paintballs a second . Such an addition gives the gamer the full feel of a battlefield environment. The gamer would most likely be more cautious than a gamer playing on another platform, because now they are at risk of getting shot. The implementation of the paintball guns into the simulator is arguably the best component of the simulator, because it makes the game feel like real life. Good graphics and a 360-degree screen might look real, but the paintballs definitely feel real. The tactile stimulus is what sets apart Battlefield 3 the game and Battlefield 3 the simulator. However, the importance of visual enhancement should not be downplayed when trying to turn a game into real life.
The Gadget Show included 800 LED lights to make the game come to life. Using pixel-mapping software, one could monitor the real time color changes within Battlefield 3 and use that information to control the LED lights in the igloo . So for example, when the enemy shoots, there is usually a muzzle flash, and the pixel mapping software would detect this color change and make the LED lights flash a similar color. These flashing lights along with incredible surround sound help create the visual and audio sensation of a virtual reality.
Combine all these different components and you have the Battlefield 3 simulator, a gamers dream come true.
Picture 3: Bradbury inside the simulator shooting down an enemy 
From comments made on several gaming blogs and website, it seems than any 1st person shooter game fanatic would love to have this simulator in his or her own home. However this is unlikely to happen because first of all, it is way too big to fit in ones living room, and second, the cost is probably too high considering all the different technologies and equipment that went into the simulator. A gaming website GamesRadar jokes, “So for everyone one else without a production budget and a crew of experts, you'll have to make do with a big TV, a cheap treadmill, and a partner who's willing to jab you with a broom handle every time you get shot in-game” .
However, the Singaporean military could be a potential client. In Singapore, they are looking for ways to incorporate commercial off the shelves games into their military experimentation . The Battlefield 3 simulator basically does the same thing that a military simulator does. The simulator creates an environment that might occur in combat and the user’s objective is to complete the given mission in that hostile environment. Through a simulator they are able to practice skills that they would use in combat. A reason why the military might want to use the game is because it’s cheaper than having to build their own missions and virtual world .
There is no doubt that this simulator would take gaming to the next level. Yet, due to its huge size, it’s not ready for at-home use. But with small modifications, such simulator can be accessible to the general public. If a pair of virtual goggles was used, then there would be no need for a large dome or 360-degree screen. In addition, a small-scale version of the omnidirectional treadmill can be used at home with the virtual goggles. Such modifications are plausible and I would not be surprised if they were put into action and on shelves in the next couple years. Virtual reality gaming will soon be the next gaming sensation.
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 "AppBlaster." Apptoyz. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. .
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 Kee, Edwin. "Battlefield 3 Simulator Leaves Mouth Gaping." Ubergizmo. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. .
 "Ultimate Battlefield 3 Simulator Exposed in 'Making-Of' Video, Battlefield 3 Xbox 360 News | GamesRadar." Game Cheats, Video Game News, Xbox Cheats, Xbox 360 Games | GamesRadar. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. .
The creation of such a simulator probably sounds fantastic to all the 1st person shooter game fanatics out there, and the best part is that this simulator can actually be purchased in the UK. But is making the Battlefield 3 simulator purchasable, a good idea?
Fars News Agency published an article with the headline: “Battlefield 3 Video Game Condition American Youth for Another War for Israel” which explains exactly what the headline suggests. The article starts by first explaining the game plot:
“The multiplayer mode storyline has the Pacific Asian Coalition led by Russia invading Europe in France and battling NATO with American troops on the ground in France. In other words WW III. This article will focus on the storyline of the Single Player Campaign. The story is told in a disconnected, non-intuitive way, revolving around the protagonist's flashbacks that he recounts as he is interrogated by Homeland Security. In fact the two DHS interrogator characters actively and forcefully push the protagonist and in so doing you the player to constantly reinforce your casual dismissal of the plot” [ ].
The article goes on to explain what problem arises from having such plot:
Similarity to military simulators-psychological effects
“The way that this game (Battlefield 3) generates cognitive dissonance by turning the plot line into a Picasso to distract the player from the actual plot content, i.e. the invasion of Iran and nuking of Paris, not to mention the beginning of open hostilities with Russia, will produce millions of young males with an affinity for war whose memories will blend Iran with Iraq and therefore they will eventually come to believe that they have always been at war with Iran, and they will think its fun” [ ].