No, this article has nothing to do with cybersex in MMOGs. It has to do with what is missing from the games \’e2\’80\ldblquote The seduction, the bluff. Creating an illusion for your opponents so they believe they have seen all your moves when you are only showing them what you want them to see. It is the ability to know your opponents\’e2\’80\’99 limits before they ever sit down at the table. What is absent from MMOGs is thinking as the core, the essential element, to successful game play.

In the past few weeks I\’e2\’80\’99ve spent a few hours playing online versions of board games and it made me think about why these simple games have such great mass appeal. At any moment during the day more people are playing these games online than all of the MMOGs combined. Of course, there are many, many reasons why most people prefer these games but this is a short article and not a thesis on game design.

I r00k j00!!!

Take chess as an example. Each player starts with equal equipment. Each player has the same number and type of pieces and each is limited to the same types of moves. The players do not gain special abilities or items as they advance their status in the course of the game. Pretty boring, eh? A true master creates an art form out of a game of chess. They are able to think on another plane, see moves well in advance of being played and strategically align both defensive and offensive moves. The intensity of a chess match can be fierce. Reputations and potentially large sums of money can be at stake (A PAWN IS AT STEAK!) and it can leave both the players and the audience mentally exhausted. Even the loser may walk away from the game smiling, satisfied he played the best game he could.

It is the skills that come from the PLAYER and not some artificially induced system, that make board games, such as such as chess, preoccupy many a gamer\’e2\’80\’99s evening. You do not play the game pieces. You play against your opponent\’e2\’80\’99s mind and skill. In the current crop of MMOGs there may be many fighting skills or spells \’e2\’80\ldblquote far more than 20 chess pieces on a small checkered board \’e2\’80\ldblquote but only a few combinations are effective against an opponent. Once a few players figure out and publicize the best combinations, they are used over and over by the rest of the population. A mage with 100 possible spells will likely use the same half-dozen advantageous spells throughout his play. This limits the players input of reasoning and logic. There is no mystery. There is no need for a player to strategically determine what the next move will be because it has been predetermined exactly what player should do next.

Know When To Hold Them, Know When To Fold Them Biyatch

A good poker player is the ultimate fan dancer. Instead of feathered props hiding his assets, he can bluff his way into a stack of chips with facial expressions, calculated moves and a little bit of luck. A standard deck has 52 cards. Although each card has a value, an individual card is worthless unless combined with additional cards. A skilled poker player will be able to work with a bad draw or at least bluff his/her way through the hand.

In MMOGs, you will only see a player bluffing, as a way to gain advantage over an opponent, when they are scamming you. Occasionally, you will see it in a few roleplay situations but scamming is far more common. There is simply not an opportunity to enjoy combining both brain and brawn or luck and skill in most game situations.

Is reasoning and logic essential to MMOGs? Certainly not and often we use these games as an escape after a day of meetings, writing proposals and brainstorming sessions. But adding decision making and thinking into these games would add another level to them and maybe bring in a few online gamers that would never play a MMOG otherwise.

Now the trick is how to implement this. What do you suggest?