Nature of MMO War - 8

By the word "Information," we denote all the knowledge which we have of the enemy and his country; therefore, in fact, the foundation of all our ideas and actions. Let us just consider the nature of this foundation, its want of trustworthiness, its changefulness, and we shall soon feel what a dangerous edifice war is, how easily it may fall to pieces and bury us in its ruins. For although it is a maxim in all books that we should trust only certain information, that we must be always suspicious; that is only a miserable book-comfort, belonging to that description of knowledge in which writers of systems and compendiums take refuge for want of anything better.

Great part of the information obtained in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false, and by far the greatest part is of a doubtful character. What is required of an officer is a certain power of discrimination, which only knowledge of men and things and good judgment can give. The law of probability must be his guide.

Players must understand the enemy in and out - as Clausewitz states, it guides their every action because actions are the product of our ideas about the abilities and weaknesses of the enemy. We see the ruin that is cause when our ideas of the enemy clash with the reality of what the enemy can do. Guilds are often at their lowest morale when the enemy, either the game's AI, or opposing players do not fit into the formula leaders have provided for their members.

No matter what someone may write or post about a character or class in a game, only through experience is knowledge gained that will guide proper actions within the game. No matter how often a player may read about doing something, until they have done it will the ideas and actions combine properly.

Probability in a game is different, as AI is limited whereas the human imagination is not. The AI in the game is held bound by the rules of the game as put forth by the developers. While players are within the same construct they can bend the rules to their favor, and developers expect and want this to happen. This is often seen when one guild uses a strategy to defeat a boss or opposing team with success, while another team may also be successful using a completely different strategy that wasn't thought of by the developers. In this way, both players and developers feed off each other to create content that is both challenging while allowing for ingenuity on the part of the players.

Over time, players gain experience through their game play to allow them to expect certain constructs to occur, and this happens during the game experience. It does not happen through just reading about the game.


Nature of MMO War - 7

Resolution is an act of courage in single instances, and if it becomes a characteristic trait, it is a habit of the mind. But here we do not mean courage in face of bodily danger, but in face of responsibility, therefore to a certain extent against moral danger. This has been often called *courage d'esprit,* on the ground that it springs from the understanding; nevertheless, it is no act of the understanding on that account; it is an act of feeling. Mere intelligence is still not courage, for we often see the cleverest people devoid of resolution. The mind must, therefore, first awaken the feeling of courage, and then be guided and supported by it, because in momentary emergencies the man is swayed more by his feelings than his thoughts.

Players in an MMO must be of the same mindset, the same understanding of events, the same acknowledgement of their responsibilities as a single player and how their role affects an entire group. They must be resolute to complete their task to the utmost of their ability, with the understanding that giving their all, along with every other player can result in fantastic results. On the other hand, simply knowing the strategy, or knowing all the variables but having no will to play to their utmost ability can and most likely will cause the larger group to fail because of their inability to put their intelligence into action.


Nature of MMO War - 6

The *military power* must be destroyed, that is, reduced to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the war. This is the sense in which we wish to be understood hereafter, whenever we use the expression "destruction of the enemy's military power."

In MMOs, the enemy's military power relates to all metrics of the opposing characters. This includes class type, level, number, group size, guild size, position, and synergies within each.

On the MMO battlefield, victory is not only beating the enemy in one battle, but victory through building a force that can win against all viable means the enemy has and against all strategies the enemy devises. Consequently those leaders who can motivate, train and equip such a force in an MMO are few.

But if even both these things are done, still the war, that is, the hostile feeling and action of hostile agencies, cannot be considered as at an end as long as the will of the enemy is not subdued also; that is, its Government and its allies forced into signing a peace, or the people into submission; for whilst we are in full occupation of the country the war may break out afresh, either in the interior or through assistance given by allies. No doubt this may also take place after a peace, but that shows nothing more than that every war does not carry in itself the elements for a complete decision and final settlement.

In MMO war, the enemy is never truly defeated until the point to where they refuse to fight against the presented force. Because of how games are developed this is not often the case early on, but later in the MMOs development it becomes a valid source of victory. As victory is obtained through smaller battles, when a force meets against another force whose reputation and triumph has already been presented as unstoppable, then victory over the opponent's will is apparent as those who would oppose them make hasty retreats. When the notion in the player's mind is, "that guild is unstoppable," then that guild has already won the battle.


Nature of MMO War - 5

"War is, therefore, not only a true chameleon, because it changes its nature in some degree in each particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordinate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason.

The first of these three phases concerns more the people; the second more the general and his army; the third more the Government. The passions which break forth in war must already have a latent existence in the peoples. The range which the display of courage and talents shall get in the realm of probabilities and of chance depends on the particular characteristics of the general and his army; but the political objects belong to the Government alone.

These three tendencies, which appear like so many different lawgivers, are deeply rooted in the nature of the subject, and at the same time variable in degree. A theory which would leave any one of them out of account, or set up any arbitrary relation between them, would immediately become involved in such a contradiction with the reality, that it might be regarded as destroyed at once by that alone.

The problem is, therefore, that theory shall keep itself poised in a manner between these three tendencies, as between three points of attraction."

MMO players and leaders need to understand that within their chosen MMO, the conflict that arises through the game design is different every day, every hour, and every moment. While objectives may be static (e.g., obtain control of fixed points), how those objectives are obtained will change as players become smarter, developers change classes, skills, and code within the game.

Hitting upon the first two phases, leaders must inspire the passion within those they lead, which in turn encourages heightened display of ability. The interaction between leaders and general players is of the utmost importance to harmony when engaging the enemy. Because players will naturally gravitate towards guilds and clans that have goals which align with their own personal wishes and desires for their play time, it is important for leaders to recognized the goals of the individual in their development of goals and objectives for the guild, which will then be a part of the overall strategy in the game.

In the case of government, a guild's leadership and how it interacts with the greater game community is also of vital importance to the guild's success or failure within the game. Guild's that bring about a negative community are made pariahs (and their notoriety will stay with them across many games) while a guild who is a positive influence in the game will lead to long-standing success.


Nature of MMO War - 4

We see therefore how from the commencement, the absolute, the mathematical as it is called, no where finds any sure basis in the calculations in the art of war; and that from the outset there is a play of possibilities, probabilities, good and bad luck, which spreads about with all the coarse and fine threads of its web, and makes war of all branches of human activity the most like a game of cards.

It is very interesting that Clausewitz chooses to use a card game for his example of how war is played out. The website pokerology.com has a A Poker Winner's Checklist which would help MMO players, especially leaders in PVP, to better prepare their teams for victory. The key points of the poer player's checklist (discipline, focus, planning) are inherent in the development of strategies that win wars.

Theory must also take into account the human element; it must accord a place to courage, to boldness, even to rashness. The art of war has to deal with living and with moral forces; the consequence of which is that it can never attain the absolute and positive. There is therefore everywhere a margin for the accidental; and just as much in the greatest things as in the smallest. As there is room for this accidental on the one hand, so on the other there must be courage and self-reliance in proportion to the room left. If these qualities are forthcoming in a high degree, the margin left may likewise be great. Courage and self reliance are therefore principles quite essential to war; consequently theory must only set up such rules as allow ample scope for all degrees and varieties of these necessary and noblest of military virtues. In daring there may still be wisdom also, and prudence as well, only that they are estimated by a different standard of value.

Often MMO leaders only acknowledge their own morals, beliefs, and understanding of strategies without taking into account the same from those they lead. In some cases doing this make bring about a defeat; a team cannot stand if it is divided in its objectives. But as many recognize in MMOs, the individual player is not only playing for their side, they are playing for their own self-gratification through their chosen hobby. Therefore, the values and understanding each individual player brings are important towards determining the outcome of battles; a collective understanding of the strategy among players must exist, which in turn allows for victory through this understanding.

There is room for both the team and the individual in MMO war, but the role of the individual must always further the strategy of the team. Self-gratification outside of the strategy is at least a distraction towards victory, and if over-consuming may lead to self-destruction as well as loss.


Nature of MMO War - 3

"War is never an isolated act."

In MMOs one must look at the entire situation, rather than just a single battle. In PVE, a dungeon often consists of many small engagements, and a few larger engagements. In a strategic sense, how a group of players engages the entire dungeon to meet their goal of beating the content is just as important as each individual battle. In PVP, the smaller battles that happen do not just spring up for no reason at all, they in fact are outcomes based on the will of those participating in the game. Each event in the game is a step towards a future engagement, and the leader who can see in advance the outcome of the steps is indeed more prepared in the long run to defeat their enemy.

"It does not consist of a single instantaneous blow."

In MMOs one single battle of all forces does not bring about the final outcome of the game, instead it is a continuous sequence of battles over time. In most MMOs, PVE has a resolution through completion of content until a future expansion brings more challenges to the players. In PVP, many different mechanisms are used, often through continuous battles over terrain, or through ranking systems.

"The result in war is never absolute."

MMOs are unique in that the war never ends, and are continually subject to the process of strategy development and execution. Therefore, leaders much always strive to perfect their strategy given the changes within the MMO.


Nature of MMO War - 2

"The fight between men consists really of two different elements, the hostile feeling and the hostile view."

In an MMO, players develop hostile feelings (emotions) towards the opposing side from the fact they pose a threat to the advancement of their character, and the objectives of their guild and/or faction. While most MMO players are not hostile in their daily lives outside of a game, passions often run high in the game. The development of this hostility towards the opposition is both detrimental and helpful to a guild leader.

Players who have a hot-headed temperament become easily distracted by what is going on in the moment at the tactical level, rather than seeing how their actions in anger can bring down a strategy. For example, the player who is dead-set on killing a running enemy may walk into an ambush blinded by their desire to defeat the enemy. The opposition upon seeing this player act in such a manner can continually bait and trap them thus negating their effect in the game.

This is not to say that feelings do not matter; one cannot be a player without having a vested emotional interest in the outcome of the battle and how it will affect their character, guild, or faction.

Contrasted to this emotion is the hostile view, which is built upon the understanding that the opposition threatens the well being of the friendly faction. While emotions may run high, this understanding is necessary to build upon a strategy rather than acting out in blind rage when the opposition appears. When a guild shows intelligence in their ferocity, they engage in violence with meaning, and are able to impose their will upon the enemy.


Nature of MMO War - 1

"War therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."

As Clausewitz explains, violence within the game is the means with which to obtain the objective, which is the the fulfillment of will. In MMOs game designers often create wars and create objectives. As such a guild or a single player creates for themselves subsequent lower tiers of objectives to accomplish within the game. These can range from taking or capturing one or multiple positions on a battlefield to gathering more game resources than the opponent. These minor objectives though are part of the main objective, which is to win the overall battle through violent means.

Additionally, means are also everything available to the player within the gaming construct, and those available to play the game. Computer components and accessories, as well as internet connection speed are means along with communication practices (e.g., voice or typing), just as much as character classes and abilities are means. Leaders shouldn't take this lightly; a player is a sum of their abilities to play the game, both outside the game world and within it.


On MMO War - Introduction

Our look at On War will be different than our look at Sun Tzu's The Art of War; this will not be a complete rewrite but an expansion of thought and principle. This is important because unlike general guidelines, Clausewitz used a much more scientific approach in his writings on warfare.

As always, the opinions on the material are my own. 


The Use of Spies - 14

Only the most knowledgeable leaders can use spies effectively without bringing about their own downfall.

Players: Once the enemy knows that a guild uses spies, they will never be trusted again in any way, either as enemy or as friend.


Game Review - #Gauntlet 2014 #needfoodbadly

I picked up the 2014 version of Gauntlet (available on Steam) by Arrowhead Studios. I've given the game 15 hours so far since its release so I believe I can make an honest assessment of game from both the nostalgic (I put at least $300 into the original arcade version) and modern game design and playing perspectives. Keep in mind I play this with a keyboard and mouse (Razer Naga).

The Good

1. The game play and design are polished with a few exceptions. The game feels like Gauntlet in 2014 and that is a good thing. The same run around, find keys, open doors, get potions, and the characters and narrator are all there from the original. What has changed is the fun factor and a much shorter game. The characters do more, they are flashier and more unique, and they feel solid when played. Questor the Elf definitely has the easiest playstyle, followed by Thyra the Valkyrie, Thor the Warrior, and finally Merlin the Wizard who is definitely the hardest to play.

2. I found myself enjoying Thyra for the best balance of defense and offense. Thyra has great movement, can block any attack (yes any, even the end boss), and has a great offense as well. I suggest for starting players if you want to get into the fray, choose Thyra first.

3. The mastery levels are nice touch and I really like how they build your character up. You have to choose before you go in whether you are going for no deaths or to dying a million times on purpose.

4. $20 is about the perfect price for the game. I can honestly say I am glad I bought it.

The (Somewhat) Bad

1. Numerous bugs still exist in the game (crashes at times, sound cuts out, visual bugs). Luckily these aren't game-breaking.

2. The camera tries hard to be there for you but currently it leads to more deaths than to give you a clear view of the game. In reality I wish each player had their own screen to look at (e.g. Diablo 3) versus the 3/4-view that traps players.

3. Not being able to check your mastery progression at any time in the game is very annoying. A key to do this needs to be added.

4. Merlin plays too much like Magicka (another Arrowhead product). I programmed my Razer Naga to switch between the nine spells he has and it then became much easier to play. My guess is a lot of other people are going to do the same thing.

5. Cosmetic items are essentially worthless. I'd rather see that you have to buy new gear with better attributes after finishing a difficulty to do better in the harder difficulties than have just a look that nobody cares about.

6. Mastery progression is way too high of a curve at times - it's a ploy for replay value. I do not want to go from 2,000 to 8,000 just for 5% more of an attribute.

7. The game is too short. Normal is completed within 5 hours with a halfway decent team of players. Hopefully Arrowhead now that they have our money have a plan for future content.

8. You are forced into being only one of the four characters. While this mimics the original arcade, in this day and age I shouldn't be forced to play Merlin if I don't want to. Again, this needs to be changed to allow multiple people to live out their Legolas dreams if they wish.

The Ugly

1. The game has no way to chat with other players so you spend a lot of your time in public games using the emotes to try and cajole other players to go the way they need to go, or for you to move due to the camera getting you stuck.

2. The world leader-board was hacked within one hour of release. Currently there are players hacking to over 1.9 trillion points in single player mode. Arrowhead has yet as of this review to respond to a plan to either secure the boards or (as I've suggested on the Steam forums) remove them entirely until they have a way to fix them.


If you are looking for a game that can help you pass some time and is casual, then Gauntlet is definitely the kind of game to lead to a night of fun. If you are looking for something more robust and long-term then this is not the game you are looking for; I would suggest another Action RPG such as Path of Exile or Diablo 3.

The Use of Spies - 13

The purpose of spying is to know the enemy better than oneself, thus an enemy spy who is converted should be treated well.


The Use of Spies - 12

A spy must be disavowed with great fanfare, so as to gain the trust of the enemy leaders.


The Use of Spies - 11

A spy who is found out can still be useful, they can carry false information to the enemy with which to secure their position and remain a source of the enemy’s designs.

Players: If your spy is found out, they must feign conversion to the enemy at all costs, or their ability to collect information is lost.


The Use of Spies - 10

Enemy spies should be brought in and tempted, thus converting them and making them the example of your design.

Players: The opportunity is great to take a spy and convert them to you ways, if the spy can see that your methods and designs are better than their employer. In this way they are snatched up, and their information of the enemy is assured.


The Use of Spies - 9

A spy who is lost by the enemy gives more information than one who stays loyal to them.

Players: Once the enemy disavows their spy, they will be motivated to give up every secret of their previous alliance. The time is fleeting when to gain as much knowledge as possible and every effort should be used to gain the trust of the disavowed spy.


The Use of Spies - 8

Once a spy is sent to the enemy, consider them a traitor in your mind and take note of their words. Trust nothing of their intentions except to please the enemy. In this way your designs are held tight while the battlefield will prove the worth of your spy.


The Use of Spies - 7

If a player switches their allegiance from enemy to friend, beware the spy wishing to gain knowledge of your designs. The relationship with these players should be close, and their every move watched. Let them know nothing of your true intentions but feed them information with which to deceive the enemy. Thus the enemy is used against itself.


The Use of Spies - 6

Leaders may use the boasting of the enemy to discern their designs.


The Use of Spies - 5

Foreknowledge of the enemy cannot be obtained through deduction during the battle, but can only be obtained by direct observation from within the enemy’s camp.

Players: Developers often use non-player characters (NPCs) to guard enemy positions. These NPCs are often so strong they cannot be beaten, and can see through any game mechanic that would otherwise hide players from other players (e.g., stealth attributes or skills). To gain foreknowledge with this restriction will take extra effort beyond placing a player in a location to observe the enemy from within.

When a player can successfully hide themselves within the enemy camp to observe and send reports to the main force, a leader can overcome the enemy at any time.


The Use of Spies - 4

What enables an MMO leader to gain victory is foreknowledge of the enemy’s designs.


Next Project: On MMO War

After the completion of The Art of MMO War, I will next delve into Carl von Clausewitz's On War, in a new post series titled On MMO War.

I am excited to start this new project, which is expected to last over the next three to five years. I hope you will continue to enjoy this journey as much as I have.



Don Juan Matus on the Mood of a Warrior

"The hardest thing in the world is to assume the mood of a warrior. It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing so, believing that someone is always doing something to us. Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior."
Don Juan Matus


Mark Lawrence on Armor

"Pretty armor doesn't make a warrior."
Mark Lawrence

Most have become aware of MMO developers increasing the visual representation of armor over time (World of Warcraft is a great example of this trend over the last 11 years). What is frightening is most players have become aware that these representations no longer display the ability of a person to play the MMO, but their ability to be carried along by others to get shinier pixels.


USAF Air War College Strategy Definition

Strategy is a plan to use resources to achieve an objective.
USAF Air War College - Foundations of Strategy 2014


The Use of Spies - 3

A leader who is able to know the enemy’s plans beforehand shows true wisdom.


The Use of Spies - 2

In MMOs, one who is unaware of the advantage of knowing the enemy’s designs cannot master victory when leading a guild in battle.

Players: In PVP, a leader must always know the opponent's strategy. This will increase the preparation time before the battle, but ensure the battle is swift when it happens, and victory is assured.


The Use of Spies - 1

Players will face each other for years in any MMO, seeking to obtain victory. Even so, to remain unaware of the enemy’s plans because of a fear of reprisal is the height of ignorance.

Players: To ignore the tactics of the enemy is to give in to defeat before beginning to fight. One must carefully note all aspects of the enemy, even down to the smallest detail.


Miyamoto Musashi on Strategy 2

Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close, and to take a distanced view of close things.
Miyamoto Musashi


The Use of Spies - Author's Note

The use of spies in MMORPGs is a very controversial subject. Purposefully gaining access through a network of players to another group can lead to reputations being ruined. Gone are the days when a players can switch from game to game and lead an anonymous existence on the internet. Players often use the same in-game name in each game they play, staying with a gaming community across multiple games. 

Guilds should, through their recruitment process, look for background information on a player and previous guilds they have been a part of to ensure no conflict of interest exists. To be labeled as a spy by other players and communities can and often makes a player a pariah for their gaming career. Read this section with the utmost caution in mind.


The Guild Attacks - 16

A good leader is understanding, and cautious in his approach. This will keep the guild harmonious, and morale intact.

Players: As Sun Tzu wrote, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” By treating guild members as family, not just pawns in a greater scheme, or as equipment with which to further selfish gains, a guild leader enables members to rise to leadership positions, and normal members will gladly follow their leaders. One of the greatest enemies to a guild is the animosity of its members.


The Guild Attacks - 15

Once morale and order is gone from the guild, it cannot be restored.

Players: Leaders must ensure that their players are both willing and able to follow the rules and regulations of their guild. Those unwilling to do so should be removed at the first sign of disharmony. This quick action is often seen as being too heavy-handed, but on the contrary it shows the willingness to do what it necessary to keep harmony in the guild. Players whose goal is to bring disharmony are a virus that will only spread unless dealt with quickly.

Leaders must also be wise to understand the difference between disharmony and open discourse. Often players will voice complaints with passion, but do so because they see problems arising they want to fix to ensure further harmony. View these times as opportunities to progress the guild as an entity, and not as one to the power invested in the leader to remove a player.

Those who want disharmony are most active when the leader is directing battle, or when the leader is away. During battle they will ensure defeat. When the leader is away they will use rumor and gossip to usurp the harmony of the guild.


The Guild Attacks - 14

The good MMO leader is always cautious, and keeps harmony with his players.

Players: Leaders must engage their players on a personal level. Too often guild structure is a hindrance to meaningful relationships between players and their leaders; leaders often create cliques as roadblocks towards being approachable by the average player. While leaders cannot, nor should they have to address every issue, they must take the time to get to know and understand those they lead. This will strengthen the guild as if forging iron into steel.


The Guild Attacks - 13

Once lost, victory cannot be retained, nor the morale of players regained until future battles.

Players: It is essential for MMO leaders to understand the desires of the players following them. Consistent defeat will lead to players leaving a guild. Players must achieve victories, however small, to want to continue to be a part of the guild, and the grand strategy. Sending players on missions with assured defeat will motivate them to find victory elsewhere.


Backing Camelot Unchained

Today I became a backer of Camelot Unchained. Their foundational principles are what put me over the edge. Give them a read and see if this is a game you might find interesting!



The Guild Attacks - 11

MMO leaders should avoid fighting solely to show the might of their force.

Players: Tactical battles should only be fought to gain the advantage as part of a grand strategy. Resources are wasted if fighting only for pleasure.


The Guild Attacks - 10

Do not move without having the advantage, do not fight without assured gains and in a critical position.


The Guild Attacks - 9

The smart MMO leader plans well ahead, and consolidates and coordinates his players and resources well.

Players: Most MMO leaders think only of now, and fail to plan well in advance. Good leaders, having basic and complex strategies as templates to change when clashing with the enemy, are few and far between, giving only the air of someone in the know, and failing miserably when met with a strong opposition.


A Return To The Art of MMO War

Due to some life obligations, I as the author have had to put this project aside. Now, having done extensive reading in the art of strategy, return to finish this project and continue to write on strategy in video games.

I have taken a hiatus from MMORPGs due to work and family requirements, but I still enjoy single-and multiplayer "dungeon crawlers." I am looking forward to playing the 2014 version of Gauntlet, which you can pre-purchase on Steam. Follow @PlayGauntlet on Twitter and follow Gauntlet on Facebook.

At a point where I can put full effort into MMORPGs, rest assured I will return to them, until then I will continue to write.


The Guild Attacks - 8

Leaders must be able to take advantage of the initiatives made by individual players.


The Problem Guild Member Solution

The problem guild member is one of the most distracting and time-consuming of members. I will provide guild leaders the best answer, that is seldom if ever used.

Remove problem guild members upon recognition they refuse to be a contributing member of the guild.

Guild members and leaders have a commodity that is always in short order, especially for leaders: time. Guild leaders are always short on time as they must plan and execute the purpose for which the guild exists. This often includes the organization of guild events, but when problems arise, they are forced to use their time dealing with problem guild members.

Simply put, a guild member who causes a problem takes the attention and time of the leadership and the guild members who are also involved. This change in focus takes up time that can be used for the normal operations of the guild.

The longer a problem guild member is allowed to be in a guild, the more time and focus they consume from everyone else. Many guilds allow these types of members to remain in the guild after multiple offenses. I disagree with the philosophy. If a guild member changes their ways after the first offense, it is quite acceptable to give them a second chance. But too often these turn into third, fourth, and beyond chances in a guild. I disagree with allowing someone to be in a guild beyond the second offense, simply because of the time commodity they consume from the rest of the guild. Remove them, bid them good luck, and put your time to good use.