Leadership: The U.S. Navy Builds An MMOG


December 6, 2009: The U.S. Navy is looking for a game development company to bid on a project to help create a multiplayer game for training and brainstorming. What they want initially is a feasibility study on the creation of a " Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI)." The proposals are due by December 28th.

The navy wants a game that will enable them to further explore what they might be able to do with a multiplayer game, that can be used by players all over the world. The following description includes material from the navy solicitation document (in "parenthesis").

"It is anticipated that the number of players will be between 50 and 1000. Players will be drawn from a pool that includes military officers, government civilians, and government contractors. It is expected that players will be generally knowledgeable but not necessarily be Subject Matter Experts."

"The game will be unclassified; however it will not be open or available to the general public. Respondents should be prepared to address game play within a restrictive information assurance environment."

"For the purposes of the pilot, the graphics environment should be just enough, but not more than, that needed to facilitate the play of a turn based strategy game."

"The game is non-deterministic and will be played in three moves that are related to, yet still distinct from, each other. It is conceivable that insights gleaned from game play during Moves One and Two may be used to modify Moves Two and Three respectively. Respondents should plan on some level of effort being dedicated to being part of the game controller team during game play, and to making changes to the scenarios of subsequent moves. Each move is anticipated to last between one to two weeks of calendar time, with one to two weeks of calendar time between moves for game controller activities. "

"Move One - Protecting the Sea Lanes: Move One is designed to get the players engaged in the game - collaborating and thinking strategically. Players attend a major International Anti-Piracy Conference being convened under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization. Players, representing various anti-piracy stakeholders, sign up as members of various working groups which are tasked with addressing aspects of the piracy problem. Once formed into teams/working groups, the players will have tasking to address activities related to military and operational coordination, information sharing, and the operational role of the regional coordination center. The complete player tasking is contained in the attachment. What the players produce: working as part of collaborative teams, the players will produce n-# of multimedia responses to the tasking they receive, where n-# corresponds to the number of teams. Assignment of players into teams: To the maximum extent practical, it is the intent that game controllers allow the teams to self organize and self manage. Thus, it is conceivable that a distribution of team sizes will exist, including some that are very small and some that are very large. "

"Move Two - Attacks at Sea: The scenario is multiple near simultaneous attacks on ships transiting the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa. Players would be self selecting and self organizing into collaborative teams of either Red (pirates) or Blue (US and Allied response). It is conceivable that players may have the option of signing up to be part of a third party as well, representing e.g. NGOs, other governments, etc, but this has not yet been determined. "

"Players will be provided with a menu of Red forces to work with, Blue forces to work with, constraints on how much of each they can use, and a description of the targets. This will be government furnished information. The attachment has more complete details. The first action belongs to Red, who is tasked with developing a plan of attack, with a deadline. The players would then produce n-# of multimedia responses, where the response describes their plan of attack. Once the Red plans of attack are submitted, then Blue takes over. Blue teams may respond to as many of the Red plans of attack as they wish. Blue's output consists of n-# of multimedia responses, where the response describes their plan of defense/counter-attack to the various Red attacks. "

"Move Three: The game continues with a final move consisting of a range of scenarios that are logical outcomes from Move Two. These scenarios include, but may not be limited to: . Conducting a hostage rescue ashore . Conducting a hostage rescue at sea . Dismantling pirate base camps . Disrupting the pirate support infrastructure ashore and/or overseas . Helping the Somali Transitional National Government and Puntland officials restore order and the rule of law. Developing a viable indigenous Somali Coast Guard . Providing humanitarian assistance. Others, potentially based on insights gleaned from play in Moves One or Two."

"Teams will have the option of selecting which scenario(s) to play. The format of game play will mirror that of Move Two, this time with Blue owning the first action and Red having the response. The players would produce the same output as in Move Two, i.e. n-# of multimedia responses consisting of a plan of attack (for Blue) and a plan of response or counter-attack (for Red)."

The navy also wants a Unified User Interface (the MMOWGLI Appliance).

"As discussed earlier in this document, it is envisioned that the primary level of effort for the pilot will go toward integration of existing component technologies. To that end, respondents should address, to the maximum extent practical, having a unified user interface. In the ideal outcome, players and participants should be able to run a single program to participate meaningfully in the game. The term "appliance" is being used to mean a unified system consisting of an integrated hardware and software deliverable. Upon initial entry, users will be given the opportunity to create an account to enter personal information such as education and professional background. The addition of interests and hobbies will be encouraged to create a well rounded profile. Information should be organized in such a way as to promote social networking and used by others as Teams self organize."

"An online help system will be will be available to user along with basic system usage training. Player responsibilities will be explained in this system and it should be accessible at any time. Help topics will cover tools provided by the MMOWGLI Appliance."

"Players will be guided to documentation/media library where they are exposed to an initial presentation of the scenarios and background information. Users will be presented with questions to answer and are provided with expectations of minimum satisfactory responses to be completed by the end of each move. Game controllers are people tasked with the duty of guiding game play. Players may be provided with additional information, injected by the game controllers, at any time. Game Controllers may answer questions and encourage teams to gel. Key questions may be posed during a move in response to player inputs. "

"Players will have the ability to create, edit, share, and compartmentalize all content created and archived within the appliance. Content may be defined as documents (text, word processed, spreadsheets, and presentations), audio, and video. Users will have the ability to send alerts via instant messaging or email to team members when content has been added or changed. Players will be provided a suite of online collaboration tools where teams would be allowed to create private forums. The team may assign moderator rights to the leader. Teams would have public and private chat capabilities, allowing polling."

In a section of the document titled, "Scoring, Ranking, Adjudication and Other Factors Affecting Player Engagement":

"Respondents should address having a scheme for ranking and scoring players and teams both publicly and privately. The scheme should combine elements that are objective as well as subjective (i.e. determined by the game controllers). It is envisioned that these criteria would be made known to the players. Since the game is non-deterministic, it is envisioned that the game controller team will have to adjudicate winners and losers for each Move (i.e. human-in-the-loop). In addition to the basics of scoring and ranking, respondents should address other aspects of game play that they assess as important to making the game experience meaningful."

The navy eventually wants to add analysis, of player actions, to the game, but not in this prototype version.

"Future Considerations 

Re-Use and Re-Purposability: The feasibility study should also address the re-purposing of this pilot into an eventual platform for ongoing experimentation and innovation. Topics to address include the following: 

Data capture mechanisms and protocols,

Data analysis tools, Modular design.

Support for user authored games and user generated content beyond the scope of the scenario described in this document.

Support for user generated real time changes in content, i.e. injection of excursions. 

Integration of 3-D graphics

Planned support for external connections to other simulators such as High Level Architecture Real-time Platform-level Reference Federated Object Model (IEEE 1516 HLA RPR FOM) or the Distributed Interactive Simulation Protocol."


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