6 Questions You Need To Answer To Make Sure 3D Simulations Will Work For Your Company
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3D Simulations: How To Make Sure They Work For Your Company

In today's fast-paced, technology-driven working environment, simulation-based learning is not really a new phrase. A couple of years ago, the bulk of industries that would even consider using training simulations included mostly the military, aerospace, and mining. This is certainly not the case anymore, as many smaller companies are adopting this approach of learning, and the results are now starting to show. But what are these results like? And are they really positive? More importantly, how can you make sure that you don't fall into the same traps that others did?

In this article, I will attempt to answer 6 questions that I have seen time and again during our experience with clients over the past 6-8 years. This is certainly not the holy grail of obstacles you need to overcome, but my list is based on hardcore, firsthand experience in the training simulation industry, and it will act as a very strong go-to guide. Let's work through that list.

1. What Theme Should You Choose For Your Simulation Project?

This is without any doubt the cornerstone of the success of your project. The concept you decide upon has to lean itself towards the training simulation. If you have a process that involves a lot of theoretical steps, it might not be the finest subject of choice. You need to keep this in mind when conceptualizing your idea, storyboard, and implementation. Make sure you do a proper needs analysis before diving into a final decision, and try not to let your personal agenda dictate your decision. Make sure you include management, staff, and prospective learners in the process.

Many companies like to gradually introduce the concept to their management and staff, and that seems to work well for them, especially if the concept is new.

2. Do You Have Someone Driving The Project With Passion?

An instant killer to your project is to have someone in charge who does not really want to be there. It sounds apparent, but I have seen this time and time again. People are tasked to manage a project like this, and they either have zero experience or zero interest. Experience is one thing because everyone has to start somewhere. But, to have someone in charge that is not interested will destroy your project before it starts.

Please, also don't think a project leader for 3D training simulations has to be a gamer. It might help in many cases, but a hardcore gamer might struggle to recognize that most learners are non-gamers. This has an influence on many aspects of your training simulation project and can have a huge effect on the outcome.

3. Did You Choose A Developer With Actual Experience?

Developers of training simulations are not software systems developers. Well, yes and no. Yes, we do 80% of our work in a programming language, but it is very different from typical, more traditional systems development. Some, for example, focus 80% entirely on simulation development making sure that they can assist clients with each and every question they might have, as well as the questions they do not ask.

Make sure you choose a developer that has firsthand experience in simulation development – not games or apps, but simulations. Ask your developer for demos of previous work, and make sure you have an open discussion about their experience. You should easily be able to pick up if they know what they are talking about. Lastly, be careful of developers that push their own agenda. That might be a telling sign that they don't have your best interest at heart, and they might be pushing a specific technology rather than what is significant for your project.

4. How Are You Going To Roll Out Your Simulation Training Project?

Oh, the roll-out...
Call it what you want: "Publish", "Roll-out", "Present" or suchlike. Without a proper roll-out plan, you don't have a product. There are various options at your disposal, and I don't want to go into too many particulars, as this is a whole topic on its own. However, you will need to answer a subset of questions related to infrastructure, results, platform, and more. This shouts for a separate article, so I might make that my next topic. Bottom line, make sure you know how you are going to get your product realistically to your learner.

5. Can You Keep It Simple?

Custom training simulations can quickly become very complex to develop and implement. For example, just throw in a few human characters that must talk, gesture, and have facial expressions, and you are immediately in a different level of complexity. If it is your first project and you can avoid it, try to keep complex animations limited where possible.
There are many tools and tricks you can use to maintain an engaging simulation without over complicating things. To give you an idea, here is one simple example that can make a massive difference in a project.

Let's imagine you have a 3D character that must talk to your user on the screen. Is it really necessary that the user must see the character's full body? If you simplify it to only a head-shot, no animation is needed for the full character body, and you save yourself a load of time.

6. Do You Have A Comprehensive Storyboard?

I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to provide your developers with a comprehensive development plan and storyboard. I have worked with clients that are notoriously bad with this and without one single exception, it made the development, communication, and relationships strenuous and difficult. The result is a lot of changes, and frustration builds quickly between developer and client.

The opposite is certainly also true. When working with clients that provide you with a proper storyboard (another article on its own?), it streamlines development, you can quote them way less and without an exception, they get their project on deadline. It is a big win for everyone.

As a final note: this list is not perfect and certainly not complete, but as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, if you can work through these questions and handle the challenges posed by them, your project will be a success.

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