The Army comes out to play

Posted: 10.24.03

Lt. Colonel Wardynski, game developer

What was the biggest hit at E3? Was it the new Matrox AIB, the unbelievable new games from EA, Nintendo's price cut, the Sony party, ATI's R300 in the Activision booth running Doom III? Nope, none of the above. It was the Army, the US of A Army to be specific. We kept running into all these guys in full battle gear and we thought they were actors, but there were so many of them. What's up? Turns out these guys were regulation GI Joes, the real thing and they even had a booth. We found the Army camped out in the back of the North Hall, just off the Sony booth, and it was the best attended, (packed might be a better word) booth, showing a new game - "The Army."

This is the brain child of Lt. Colonel Wardynski, a professor of Economics at West Point. In 1999, while working on HR models he did some thinking about who the Army is trying to attract -- young men who are looking for adventure and maybe a career. And what, the Colonel asked; do such young men do in their spare time as civilians? Duh, they play first person shooters, RPG, and strategy games. And what does the US Army do for a living? Ah, well, sort of the same thing.

So Lt. Wardynski put together a business plan that demonstrated a $10 million, 3 year development program would pay off in ROI if it attracted 300 new recruits a year. Sounded doable and the good Lt. Colonel got the go ahead. He built a team with 5 game developers, 5 artists, 1 audio designer and about 5 other odd jobs people. Most of them are in the army (the audio designer is Navy, and they got some civilian help) and they did the work at the Naval Graduate School in Monterey, California.

Unlike most game projects, the U.S. Army game came in on time and on budget. It  will be introduced in July with two modules, Soldier and Operations, and they're planning more including Airborne and Special Ops. The game will be distributed as a free download, in a free CD from PC Gamer or Computer Game World Magazine.

Gives an entirely new meaning to the term war games, doesn't it?