Jan 292013

Put one part paintball, one part cyber warfare, one part video game, one part tourist and one part theme park all together and what do you get – Combat Theatre.

This article is about a new technology, or really a collective use of existing technology, with an interesting business model that could have a positive impact for paintball.

A couple months ago I wrote an article on “Paintball in China.”  As a small side-note at the end of the article, I mentioned a professor of ‘embedded systems’ that I met there had asked me a number of questions about paintball. Embedded systems are small computers that have a very specific functionality designed into them, allowing dedicated miniature computers to control many different types of devices. Following up on this a bit, I began to unravel an interesting product that was in development. Not specifically for paintball, as you will see, but where paintball could be an integral part of its potential and promise.

I also mentioned in my last article on “Personalizing Paintball” that the paintball industry is behind in its use and understanding of modern social-technology. Manufacturers can build excellent markers and other gear directly related to paintball, we have cameras and walkie talkies, but there is not a fusion of paintball into today’s social world that kids (or adults) live in. These ideas will be the focus of this article.

The product is called Combat Theatre, and this article will provide a sneak-peak at what it is. I will attempt to fill-in and connect-the-dots. The company, which I will call LS Corp. (or LSC), is a U.S. company in Silicon Valley (San Francisco area), with an extension in China (thus my China connection). They have agreed to let me write about their overall product, and later in the year in more depth as it gets further along. What I have now are general descriptions of its design, their business model, and my own knowledge of technology.

The best way to describe Combat Theatre is to think of a video game that also has real people playing IN it. Connected into the mix is a cyber warfare (software hacker type stuff) capability. When you put all of this together, you have a scenario game going on, with the players connected into the video game, while computer ‘hackers’ are also connected in, and everyone is playing together. Each of the three participant areas can affect the others. The key to this is in technology, and specifically technology that has been here for a while and is known to work when integrated properly.

On the video game side, it is no stretch to think that while you are playing one of the combat type games (Halo, COD…) there can be external influences going on that can affect the game. The game can be altering how it interprets your actions based on these external influences and as result can send influencing data out to the paintball players.  It is all about having the ability to know what is taking place – communications between the parts.

Paintball players are connected to video games. Video gamers are part of the paintball game. Here is how:

Like creating cell phone coverage, Combat Theatre creates a communications ‘bubble’ around a paintball field using a Wi-Fi type technology, and provides tactical HUD type helmets for the players. This enables the players to communicate and be located. Combat Theatre makes this work by enabling the producers of a scenario game (or even thematic open type play) to be configured into software that gives players, refs, commanding generals… what they need. The people in the scenario game can communicate within these definitions, but at the same time their actions are integrated back into the video game (3rd person style as an augment to either 1st or 3rd person games). This is an ‘electronic bridge’ between the scenario game and the video game, each affecting the other. For example, a paintball player’s ability to locate the enemy (using the tactical helmet) can be improved or diminished on the field based on how their side is fairing in the video game. It’s all electronic, controlled by computer software.

Software programmers are also part of the paintball and video game. Here is how:

In addition to the paintball live-action players and the video gamers (playing whatever their game is), there is a third component representing the software developers ability to conduct cyber warfare through the use of cyber bots (electronic manifestations that also take sides with the paintball players) and do electronic battle. This in turn affects the individual player and the video gamer. Cyber warfare can be played through a simple game-type console or via a software interface that enables computer software developers (the cyber warriors) to directly create their own cyberbots and enter the battle.

This means that large numbers of people are now able to connect together and play.

As far as actual play is concerned, there are four pieces of technology that make it work:

  • Tactical Helmet
  • Communications and Positioning System
  • Command and Remote Devices
  • Software to create the actual functionality

Here are a few of the highlights for each area (and I will show I bit about how they are used in a sample scenario game afterwards).

Tactical Helmet

  • Will show some type of field display, location and directional capabilities
  • Voice communications
  • Message communications
  • Camera (still and video)

Communications and Positioning System

  • Identifies to within 1 meter where players are located (up to the promoter and software to determine if any particular player gets to see the enemy positions)
  • Processes message requests to others (player to player, player to commander, commander to many players, team to team, player to external person…)
  • Enables communications (voice, message, video) to remote users via the Internet

Command and Remote Devices

  • iPad and iPhone device functionality for refs, medics, commanders…
  • Remote turrets (they have not created the actual turret, but have allowed for the idea of remote-positioning and firing so that video gamers or others could connect even further).

Software Functionality

  • Radar capabilities to locate others (passive and active pings…)
  • Jamming capabilities to disable others radar, tracking, messaging
  • Tactical Alerts (alerts the player when their electronic surveillance detects something)
  • Threat Assessments
  • Nanobot scouts for personal electronic warfare that ‘hang out and scout’ for each player
  • Special roles (spy, commander, helicopter, scout, medic, sniper…)
  • Remote Advisors can evaluate situations and advise the generals
  • “Kids” mode (to give kids and novice players more of an advantage in scenarios)
  • “Spy” Mode (everything configured for defensive electronics)
  •  “Mom” Mode (connectivity to parent, wherever they are)
  •  “Super Hero” mode (I asked them to rename a function to this as I like the name. It sends anyone signed in as a super hero tactical info on where kids need help.)
  • “Movie” mode – sends info on where the main activity is happening, and suggests videos and highlight actions that are taking place. The idea is to create data for television coverage.
  • Cyber warfare connectivity
  • Video game connectivity

Writeup courtesy of Matt and Kelly Wical

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  2 Responses to “Combat Theatre – Part One”

  1. We have this systems as well with a few more bells and wistles .. , aslo chinese connection , lets have a chat if you want

    patrick holmes
    owner P&C Micros P/l

    • If you look at http://www.markstonsports.com and the CCC command control centre , we can not only pinpoint players , but send messages in real time , communicate via radio, show players location on their weapons , perform virtual flyby , satelite recon , artillary , all from the operators consol . its rolling out now and I see it as a future path for high tech games. And would make an awesome TV / watching experience ..

      Patrick Holmes
      P&C Micros P/L Australia
      Zone China Systems Nantong

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