Hybrid production studio Psychic Bunny have announced that ELECTBiLAT, a project spanning four years and one of the largest efforts to which the firm has contributed its game design and writing services, is being deployed for training.
Developed by the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), BiLAT is a 3D game environment and bilateral negotiation simulator with emphasis on cultural sensitivity for use by the U.S. Army. ICT tapped Psychic Bunny to develop the story, characters, and pen over 40,000 lines of dialogue for virtual characters, as well as to produce live action scenarios and additional course materials featured in the game.
Psychic Bunny's Jesse Vigil and ICT's Eric Forbell will present ELECT BiLAT at the Game Developers Conference Serious Games Showcase, Tuesday, March 24 at 5 p.m.
In BiLAT, players must decode intertwined scenarios about building civil society in an unnamed Iraqi town that involve improving local markets, shoring up the health care system, maintaining the power grid, supporting local law enforcement, and cleaning up endemic corruption in the area's government. The scenarios were based on real life stories as well as information gathered from subject matter experts and other resources. ELECT BiLAT is an integration of best industry practices and off-the-shelf capabilities and the latest in new research technologies. It also represents a significant achievement in system engineering and research tech transition. The service-oriented systems architecture enables separately developed, role-based capabilities to be introduced in a cost-effective manner in order to contribute to the overall user experience.
The software package is built on Unreal Engine 2.5. Virtual characters portray 3D on-screen performances using dialogue, behavior, and negotiation decision-making, and the animation is driven by the SmartBody character animation system. An intelligent tutoring system provides online coaching and guided after-action-reviews, ideal for instructorless environments. The PsychSim social simulation system models the negotiation. Video-based instruction accompanies the system to provide the pre-requisite knowledge of cross-cultural negotiation principles to be practiced in the system.
For Psychic Bunny, the project represents the full scope of its capabilities from production, to animation and story development and writing. "We started out small, writing content for the software simulation, "explained Psychic Bunny Partner/Creative Director Jesse Vigil. "But from there our ideas and work spider-webbed outward to include fundamental aspects of the game design itself, interface design, collateral including a fast-play card-game version, and a series of short films intended to accompany the software experience itself."
"By tackling these many diverse aspects in-house," he continued, "We were able to build upon hard-earned knowledge (anyone anywhere knows that the situation in the Middle East is complex, but how complex is continually astonishing) to move quickly without starting from square one. We were also able to better sync the diverse pieces of the overall project together, including cross-weaving narratives and building a richer, more full experience."