Interoperability Is a Complex Keystone

via Tim Marler

As game engines see increasing use outside the entertainment industry, third party developers are providing new integrated capabilities, which now includes enhanced interoperability, but interoperability can be more complex than it seems.  Pitch Technologies, which focuses on distributed-simulation capabilities, has recently delivered their Unreal Engine Connector, which “…connects the Epic Games Unreal Engine with HLA (high level architecture) and DIS (distributed interactive simulation) interoperability standards.”

The prospect of leveraging game engines as a platform for simulation capabilities that reach beyond the game and entertainment industry (and associated audiences) is exciting.  It responds to a clear demand signal and could unlock many helpful capabilities.  Part of this scalability involves ensuring accessibility to non-traditional users, users who may not necessarily work in the gaming industry and who may not have the skills of a seasoned game developer.  Potential interoperability that fosters the connection of various independently-developed software models further supports this expansion.  In this way, game engines like Unreal provide a platform for crowd sourced development, and two minds are better than one, a dozen minds better still.

Interoperability requires that various modules, and perhaps an underlying platform, essentially speak the same language, and Pitch’s new “connector” provides a step in this direction.  However, simply using the same standard falls short of “enabling customers…to seamlessly integrate current and future simulations with cutting-edge game technology.”  Not all HLA files or DIS files are created equally, and a single standard can allow for substantial variability.  As an analogy, consider that just because everyone in a room is wearing a brown shirt does not mean everyone matches.  The devil is in the details.  Availability of common standards in a particular context (like game engines) also requires testing to ensure modules are in fact interoperable.  Furthermore, use and testing of data standards requires incentives and resources for pursuing practical interoperability.

To be sure, common technical standards are necessary for coordination and interoperability that can fuel exciting development.  However, the momentum from technically enabling use of these standards should continue into the policy arena with consideration of mechanisms and incentives for collaboration.

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