As previously mentioned, SWIFT supports a vast variety of turn-based games from very structured games with significant numbers of game pieces and rules to turn-based seminars where managing temporal, spatial, and behavioral complexity is a key element of game facilitation. Game play can be a series of sequential or simultaneous player moves depending upon game requirements. Multi-level games can be supported in a single instance of SWIFT as players play in different theaters and/or echelons. SWIFT tracks changes caused by each of the actions and adjudications allowing traceability and understanding during post-wargame reviews and analysis. Additionally, SWIFT games can be played in a local or distributed environment. Using SWIFT in a distributed design creates a dependency on the network supporting the game, but even in local games the quality of the computers, projectors, and room layout are relevant factors. Infrastructure issues should not be underestimated! Regardless, the successful application of the SWIFT environment to a wargame implementation depends upon the wargame design and the specific requirements of the computer medium. SWIFT is not intended to compensate for poor planning and there are many circumstances and designs where it may provide limited to negative value.
We have encountered several questions when discussing SWIFT:
- What are SWIFT’s technical characteristics? Is it easily available for use by a DoD organization? SWIFT is GOTS software written in the Java programing language. All data is stored via XML. SWIFT has been used at all levels of classification to support COCOM, Service, and OSD games.
- How long does it take to set-up a game? It depends … how complex is the game design? SWIFT can be instantiated to support simple visualization within several days. Games with complicated designs characterized by multiple adjudicators or extensive orders of battle can take weeks. A key question when considering automation is what requires automation and what can be left as manual processes. When the question being examined lends itself to modeling and simulation approaches rather than a wargame, use the technique or tool more suited to the problem. SWIFT was designed to interact with other tools, but not replace them. Wargames are best for examining very complex, wicked problems where the conditions change and the relationships among the elements are unclear. Difficult but highly structured problems are best examined using the appropriate modeling tools.
- How long does it take to run through a game turn? It depends… how complex is the game design? Learning a complicated game tends to far exceed the time it takes to learn how to move actors and make actions in SWIFT.
- How scalable is the tool? This question has a complicated answer. SWIFT can support many game objects (we have instantiated orders of battle up to several thousand units). Note that SWIFT tool has some optimization for speed but it can be a challenge..
SWIFT is a powerful tool for designing, executing, and analyzing wargames, but it is not the entire answer for supporting DoD wargames. SWIFT is a wargame support tool that allows DoD professionals to build aspects of their game into a computing environment without a software developer present. It is not a shrink-wrapped wargame, but an engine for wargaming. It is not a model, simulation or artificial intelligence application even though all three have been considered as sources of adjudication or computer-based opponents. SWIFT requires humans are still required to be in the loop. Secondly, it can’t capture data at the speed of thought and there is no voice-to-text. Many so-called wargames involve discussions (many at the same time in the same room). SWIFT or even a handwritten note-taker is not going to have the capacity to record every element of conversation. However, if you have an experienced facilitator, who pauses and emphasizes the key points, you should be able to record the key actions and results in SWIFT.
Third, SWIFT is not a map/GIS application such as Google Earth. SWIFT can import Google Earth data and look just like Google Earth but without the 3D. In fact, it adds the ability to move objects around while capturing their new location and path. It also can capture the player’s intent. Many groups are using Google Earth for their COP; however, they have to capture intent and move data in a spreadsheet, then combine everyone’s data and create a new COP in Google Earth. SWIFT integrates all these steps. Finally, and most importantly, SWIFT is not a substitute for a good game design. You can create a bad game design in SWIFT, just as you can write a bad book using a word processing application. SWIFT simply provides a tool for you to write the Shakespeare.