Serious game developer Virtual Heroes has teamed up with Hilton Garden Inn to create a new interactive training tool called "Ultimate Team Play."

The game, which utilizes Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 technology, is the first of its kind in the hospitality industry, according to Virtual Heroes founder and CEO Jerry Heneghan

“’Ultimate Team Play’ leverages cutting-edge, games-based technology in a realistic and immersive virtual Hilton Garden Inn environment where real-world hotel staff can further enhance their training and guest interaction,” explained Heneghan.

The initial interactive game will be beta-tested in select HGI locations in which team members will play the role of a front-desk service agent. The full interactive game version, set to launch to all Hilton Garden Inn locations in January 2009, will include positions in housekeeping, food and beverage, engineering/maintenance and front desk.

“’Ultimate Team Play’ allows our hotel team members to play their hotel-specific role and show them how their various actions directly affect the guest and the hotel,” said Adrian Kurre, senior vice president at Hilton Garden Inn.

The game, which is the fourth and final step of a four-part training program that every new member will have to complete within 90 days of hiring, was custom designed for scenarios that could play out at a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

Players will have to stop and decide what their best courses of action will be to make sure they are able to fulfill a guest’s request and/or complete a specific job task within a limited time. Their immediate or non-immediate actions toward guests—since guest interaction will be the primary focus of the game— will directly affect the mood of the guest as well as the hotel’s Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking (SALT) scores.

SALT is the real-world survey tool that Hilton Garden Inn uses to measure and track guests’ loyalty, satisfaction and their overall experience at a particular HGI hotel as well as their thoughts on the brand in general. The chain sends surveys via e-mail to guests who have recently stayed at a hotel, and the results of the surveys generate the SALT scores.

Each survey asks the guest to rank his or her satisfaction on a variety of amenities and the aspects of the stay. The ranking scale is from 1 to 10 ,with 10 being the highest.

Kurre said that including SALT was key because it really emphasizes to the entire team that no matter what role they have or what job they do, each person ultimately affects a guest’s overall hotel experience.

"Ultimate Team Play" uses a branching dialogue system so team members will select their level of guest interaction from a list to best determine which response best suits each guest’s demeanor and attitude while ensuring they are also completing their specific hotel duties (i.e., answering the telephone, checking guests in and out and interacting with guests in lobby) as efficiently as possible.

Because guests already have their own values with varying degrees of anger and patience levels and flexibility, scoring will be based on the guest’s happiness and how quickly, politely and correctly the team member performs.

The overall goal of "Ultimate Team Play" is to show hotel team members how their actions impact the hotel by affecting the guest’s mood, which in turn moves the SALT scores up or down, Heneghan said. Once implemented in all of the hotels, employees will need to complete this game after going through orientation, reading the chain’s Ultimate Skills manual and watching an Ultimate Service DVD.

Since launching in 2004, Virtual Heroes has become a leader in the burgeoning serious-games business. The company is also providing virtual training solutions for the government and in medical fields. Most recently, Heneghan’s company grabbed national attention by orchestrating the technology behind Intel’s Consumer Electronics Show keynote demonstration “Virtual Jam Session.”