Video games make good fire drill simulators

Academic research at Durham University in the UK has suggested that video games such as Far Cry, Doom and Counter Strike, make better fire drill simulators than traditional virtual reality toolkits.

Using the Source engine, a single developer was able to create a 3D model of the Computer Science department of Durham University, as well as three fire scenarios complete with fire and smoke effects, in just three weeks - significantly quicker than if the simulation had been created using virtual reality toolkits, which often require much more advanced programming.

Research has previously shown that real evacuations often fail due to poor building layouts or people not following evacuation procedures or protocol.

The scientists behind the research believe that using a virtual world can help identify problems with a building's layout, as well as help teach people evacuation routines and practices.

Lead author, Dr Shamus Smith believes that video games make better simulators is because adding features such as fire and smoke were easier in comparison to virtual reality toolkits. "In order to include these features using toolkits, it often requires additional programming skills and a substantial time investment on the part of the developer. By using readily available computer games, these features can be very easily simulated and are obviously vital in creating a virtual fire evacuation scenario", he said.

The study also tested use of the virtual environment, with most people finding the simulation to be realistic, although the study noted that gamers performed better in the simulation than non-gamers.

You can see a video of the simulation here.

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Very intense :P

Good job to the guy though. Sounds more like a basement project to do for fun just to see how the gears, bells and whistles work.

I can't account for effectiveness, but I love clever people like this single developer. Having worked heavily in Doom mapping, I could've created something similar, myself

This may just be my opinion, but fire evacuations do not fail because of what computer software you use. Fire evacuations fail because the majority of people tend to panic and act like idiots.

If anyone saw the special 1-Hour episode of The Office after the Super Bowl, as funny as that episode was, that's pretty much how people tend to react to a fire evacuation in real life. You can drill all you want, but when people see fire and smoke, they tend to throw out rational instructions in favor of "every man for themselves."

Source is very easy to program for, but it lacks things that are beginning to take shape in nearly every newer FPS (one of the things being visible feet). Its technology is getting out-dated (not just the graphics), and its animations tend to be pretty stiff. It's easy to develop with, which is one of the few advantages it holds over other engines in today's market. It remains to be the number one platform for mods and non-commercial development, allowing an easy way for new aspiring developers to get a glimpse of where to start out in the industry. Source has done a great thing for the video game industry, including this. And now I challenge VALVe to make a new first person shooter engine that doesn't lack the features when compared to the behemoth CryEngine 2, and make it easy to develop for at the same time. That's when we'll start seeing the evolution of video games and simulators to even higher levels.

Just an FYI, "feet" have absolutely nothing to do with the engine at all.

Left 4 Dead and I believe Dark Messiah of Might & Magic are both Source powered games with "feet".

Athernar said,
Just an FYI, "feet" have absolutely nothing to do with the engine at all.

Left 4 Dead and I believe Dark Messiah of Might & Magic are both Source powered games with "feet".

Yeah i realize that, but what I'm talking about is that feet in Source are extremely hard to program. The v_ models are completely separate from the w_ in every way. No interaction with that outside world will affect what your hands look like. Mirror's Edge is a game that broke this principal, almost completely immersing the third person body and the first person body as one.

Fires don't just hang out in between stairwells, there's got to be something a little more realistic than a chop job in source. I would think creating as realistic fire scenario as possible there would need to be a ton more variables considered and implemented before anybody can say that video games are better than real life simulations.