Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Wired has an article on the modeling of terrorist tactics in World of Warcraft (via mindhacks again). Quote:

"Warcraft has a history of in-game terrorist activity. Early on, players found a curse in a high-level dungeon that would turn them into living bombs. They would then teleport to major cities and detonate themselves, killing nearby players. These suicide bombers gradually began to target areas where large number of players gathered, usually at auction houses or banks. Eventually, attacks occurred with enough frequency that some players simply avoided dangerous cities."
Some thoughts on this ...

Portals, Terrain and War

First is how a world in which teleportation existed would effect the way we would move and think, especially thinking spatially against an adaptive portal moving enemy. Whilst teleportation might be way off down the future timeline, two recent events have made me consider the notion of its effects. One was the movie Jumper and the other was the video game Portal. Portal was a game in which to move from stage-to-stage you had to solve increasingly harder puzzles using a portal gun. The female you controlled in the game would fire the gun at a wall and it would open a portal. You could then fire a second portal elsewhere around the environment, enter through the first portal and pop out of the second. A diagram of the possible combinations is below (via on googleimages).

What the game created for me was a thought process in which you were thinking outside the normal confines of the spatial environment. Other gamer sites have described this process as "thinking in portals". Possible Portal locations through portal recognition and the ability to judge acceleration through portals became a valuable skill in finishing all the stages (see the diagram above and positions marked 3a and 3b for examples of acceleration in portal environments). The immediate military uses of portals are fairly obvious e.g. appearing behind your enemy or deep penetrations into his most secure environments. Fighting an enemy who has the exact same capabilities will prove more spatially complex than just being able to teleport anywhere you want.

Something else to consider is the generations of war model strictly from a spatial perspective. Early generations of war, according to the model, were what I would consider spatially straight, that is, straight lines (tactics of line and column, linear fire and movement etc.). To use a mathematical analogy (yes, horrible I know, mathematicians will KILL me) first and second generations of war were simple geometry of lines and squares whilst 3rd and 4th progressed to increasingly complex forms of geometrical movements similar to fractal geometry. Far off future generations of war with portals would be fighting in topological environments with worm holes and knots. Although if you read the works of H. John Poole you would think our enemies are already taking advantage of our spatial linearity by fighting in underground tunnels.

Intelligence gathering in virtual environments

If there is conflict between groups of individuals they need information for attacks. This is something I have written about awhile back on another blog but I'll bring it up again here. Some of the intelligence gathering in online games is very sophisticated. One article I have linked to before is this brilliant one from Terra nova which covers the topics of intelligence and covert action in virtual environments. Key quote:
"We at Goonfleet have an extensive intelligence agency: quite a few of us lead front corporations, sleeper units with which, after a time, we penetrate enemy alliances to gather intel, disrupt logistics and spread discontent. It's hard work, but a nice change of pace from relentless alliance warfare. The result is that we have people leaking information from many of our enemies' forums."
If you are interested in virtual intelligence gathering and conflict in virtual environments I recommend that entire blog post.

One of the best examples of the sophistication of the intelligence gathering apparatus of online gamers is the Guiding Hand Social Club. They were part of the Eve Online world, which is known for being very competitive and machiavellian. In one particular operation they were to assassinate a key member and steal ingame materiel. The group did this by penetrating an agent to high levels of the target group. The Guiding Hand orchestrated the agent's rise to the top by creating fake battles in which the agent fought and won against fake enemy (for fans of Asian warfighting philosophy they "created something out of nothing"). The agent then gained the trust of the target leader and became the leader's right hand man, effectively wiping out any counterintelligence capability the group had up till then. After a build up in real world time of a number of months the Guiding Hand Social Club attacked and wiped out a major faction in an online gaming world.


Ymarsakar said...

People are very creative when you turn them loose from bureaucracy and get the ones closest to the field making the key decisions.

As with any human hierarchy or organization, even a virtual one, the ability to coordinate actions between individuals in different positions with different expertise and responsibilities, is the key to success. It creates a team that is more than the sum of its parts.

Government tries to do this but any large organization, not just the government, is hindered by the sheer bulk and length of their decision making cycles.

It also factors into things that the more people are in a covert operation, the chances of discovery by the enemy increases exponentially.

Ymarsakar said...

I just finished Portal actually. The ending was great. And when I mean "just", I mean last 10 minutes.

The video walkthroughs were entertaining and interesting as well, when I found myself stuck in a few spots

Purpleslog said...

Munz...I know you won't get a commission or anything, but I just ordered portal and I am looking into Eve.

A long time ago I played a PBM called "Beyond The Stellar Empire" or just BSE that for all its faults was very much character/player/alliance driven. I do not believe that game exists anymore (in went on for decades). Eve looks like it might fill that nagging craving that I have.

M├╝nzenberg said...

Ymarsakar, yeah it was a great game with a fun ending. Pretty short though, but I can always find new combos to finish each stage.

Purpleslog, ha! You should enjoy portal. Very mind bending at first. I haven't played Eve, some of my mates do, they seem to like it, there are also a few articles round on the net on how indepth it is with its own economy etc. I became interested in Eve from the war/intel perspective, a lot of the groups that take eve seriously are fairly crafty. It sounds very "survival of the fittest".