Kea Studio's 'PetroSims' game enabling training through realistic simulation
Animation Express, Asia Pacific
Simulation Training also known as serious games internationally use 3D game technologies to create training materials that can be utilized in various industries from corporate to public sectors, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, military, medical etc. Serious games essentially are made with a purpose of training but in a fun and interactive way which makes players more apt to face real world scenarios.
Kea Studio's 'PetroSims' is an innovative training solution that enables learning effectiveness through realistic experiences without actual health, financial or environment risks. By using cutting-edge 3D game technologies, high-end graphics, users are able to experience realistic environments and test scenarios. AnimationXpress Asia Pacific's Amrita Valecha spoke to Cheryl Sim, Marketing Manager of Kea Studios as she explained the various stages of development and features as the sim is nearing its launch date.
What is the game play of 'PetroSims' Simulation like?
'PetroSims' is a FPP (first-person-perspective) simulation training tool for oil & gas maintenance and operation professionals. Users select a role and mission, and then complete the required task while exploring a variety of situations in either single or cooperative multiplayer game mode. In order to successfully complete their tasks, the user will need to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the standard safety and operating procedures, troubleshooting, fault-isolation and repair procedures. User performance is tracked and displayed for evaluation at the end of each mission through a post-mission report card.
In a nutshell, 'PetroSims' is like any other FPS (First Person Shooter) games except that the user fights fire with a fire extinguisher instead of killing other NPCs with a firearm.
Which engine have you used for development? What all platforms can 'PetroSims' be played on?
We developed our own game engine, called KeaEngine to help us design 'PetroSims' simulation training courses as most commercial game engines are very expensive and are not intended for proper simulation training course design.
Kea Engine allows fast prototyping and deployment of 3D environments and game play for the simulation training courses. It renders and manages resources contained in the environment, handles player inputs, reacts to user and game inputs, handles the training objectives, and measures the performance of the user in the simulation. We use established technologies from IT (.Net 2.0 and COM) and game industry (DirectX and Scripting) to produce a suite of high level tools to increase the productivity of the complete production pipeline.
KeaEngine is comprised of:
TeRa Builder (World Builder): Enables simulation creator to build a 3D world environment with 3D entity assets available in the library
Scenario Editor: Enables simulation creator to develop their own test scenarios
Entity Viewer: Enables simulation creator to view 3D art objects and assets to accompany simulation models and use in constructing scenarios and populating worlds
FireFly: Enables simulation creator to create and develop particles such as fire, debris, gas, water, chemical splash etc.
What are the various courses in the simulator and what all kinds of training can be given?
'PetroSims' has a range of simulation training courses that cover HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) and Machine Operations subjects.
HSE simulation training courses include:
Machine Operations simulation training courses include Separator, Compressors, Distiller Exchange and much more.
How long did the production take?
The prototype, that includes the development of the game engine (KeaEngine) and Offshore Orientation simulation training course took us quite long (1 year) as we only had 3 people in the team. Further completion of 'PetroSims' is taking another 15 months of development and refinement.
How many developers have worked on the game?
The prototype of simulation training was developed with 3 people with core skills of programming, CG modelling and content and game designing. Further development then required us to expand to a team of 8 with 3 programmers, 3 artists, 1 content designer, and 1 project manager.
Approximately how long does a person need to train on the simulator?
'PetroSims' simulation training courses vary in length of game play depending on what type of subject it is. The Offshore Orientation simulation training is between 90 to 120 minutes. This includes Introduction, Test Scenarios (Missions) and Quizzes.
Does the game have multiplayer ability as well?
Currently, 'PetroSims' is only single player. However, we are planning to include multiplayer and network game play features next year. This will especially benefit training courses that heavily involve teamwork such as Emergency Response and Firefighting.
Are the 3D models based on actual oil rig references?
The prototype development was based on an actual oil platform 25 miles from the coast of Sarawak, Malaysia. The development of the environment was challenging as oil platforms contain complicated machines that have pipes running everywhere.
However, it was made easier with the Kea Studios team being onsite to compile photographs for reference. We were also able to experience the real challenges that offshore personnel experience on a day to day basis. One of the challenges include personnel communicating and working in this boisterous environment making training very difficult and slow. It starts to become clear that 'PetroSims' will be an effective preparation training tool for the personnel before they go offshore.
The environment can be more accurately developed with content material such as platform and machine drawings, lots of detailed photographs, panoramic photographs and videos. Several visits to the site during the development can also be helpful for the team to increase the realism of the environment design.
When is 'PetroSims' releasing? Could you tell more about the Getenergy exhibition in KL?
We are looking forward to launch the Offshore Orientation and Permit to Work simulation training courses at the Getenergy (Global Education and Training for Energy) Convention at University Teknologi Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) in Malaysia on 23rd March 2010.
Getenergy is the world's global meeting place where providers of education and training can build lasting relationships with energy companies. This international oil and gas training exhibition and conference has had their events in Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, London, Dubai, and Europe. For the first time in Asia, Malaysia will be the host of Getenergy in March 2010. It is an event which will certainly bring in interest from our targeted users that includes Training Manager, Offshore Personnel Manager, Training Specialists, Training & Competence Coordinator, Safety & Training Manager, Recruitment Manager, Competence Coordinator etc.
Getenergy will be the launching pad for 'PetroSims' to test the market and build brand awareness for the company as well as the application of this technology in the education and training environment.
What companies have you approached with 'PetroSims'? Have you signed any deals?
Over the 2 year period of development, we received both local and international interest that includes Australia, UK; but most came from the US. This includes oil and gas organizations, training companies as well as engineering firms. Shell Houston, Shell Malaysia, Murphy Oil, Nippon Oil, Petronas, Petrofac Training, MSTS Training, Dragon Oil, Total Hazards Solutions Training are a few organizations that believe 'PetroSims' can benefit their training programs. In fact, General Physics a Texas-based company approached us about integrating the Offshore Orientation simulation training course into API (American Petroleum Institute)'s LMS (Learning Management System). API is the main U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, representing about 400 corporations involved in production, refinement, distribution, and many other aspects of the industry. They are industry standards for most international oil and gas training and certifications.
We are looking forward to further implementation of 'PetroSims' with some of these contacts after our launch in March 2010.
Are you planning to market 'PetroSims' in other countries as well?
Although 'PetroSims' is developed in Malaysia, our marketing efforts will extend to the international front. We look forward to other events such as SimTect (Simulation Technology) Australia in 2010 and Australia Oil and Gas event in 2011 to reach other geographic regions. We envision 'PetroSims' reaching oil and gas professionals in the US, Australia and Europe in the coming 2 years.
What are your future development plans at Kea studios?
Kea Studios' future plans include more development of simulation training courses under the 'PetroSims' brand. KeaEngine will be further developed to include more functions and features such as localisation, multiple-player game play, SCORM standard compliance integration, extended reporting etc.
One of the future plans also include R&D and implementation of KeaTrain which is derived from KeaEngine. Because of market demand, we would like to deliver a game engine that allows trainers to have the flexibility to customize an existing 3D scene or create their own environment from scratch. With a user-friendly interface, they are able to place 3D assets, adjust variables and create test scenarios for game play. This not only gives corporations the control and capabilities to design training courses to meet their required needs, it will keep their training more cost-effective.
Our future plans for market penetration are to establish distribution channel partnerships with oil and gas training facilities and receive endorsements from industry organizational bodies such as OPITO, OSHA to increase credibility of 'PetroSims'.
Could you tell us some background about the founders and how the company was made?
Kea Studios was started up by two enthusiastic founders who have a passion for integrating training into computer games. Christopher Dickson, the CTO and lead programmer has more than 9 years of extensive knowledge and experience. He was previously working with Soft-World International (The largest game developer and publisher in Taiwan, China and South East Asia) on their latest MMORPG. Cheryl Sim, the other founder has worked in the education and game industry, giving her the knowledge and experience in training, branding and marketing in these areas. She was also with Soft-World International previously in Taiwan, BLUE Interactive, and an international online marketing company working with clients such as Hewlett-Packard, Polycom Solutions and Cisco Systems in Singapore.
Our working experiences in these industries in New Zealand, Singapore andTaiwan have developed our skills and capabilities to start up a company to develop something different.
The startup of Kea Studios and 'PetroSims' would have not been possible if it was not for MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) and Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology Malaysia. With pre-seed and seed funding from these two organizations; we are able to launch 'PetroSims' and see its application in today's oil and gas trainings. Our prototype development would have been more difficult if it was not for Muphy Oil (Malaysia) who provided us with industry guidance. Our networks of government agencies and industry organizations like Murphy Oil have helped us realize our vision for 'PetroSims' simulation training.
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