I read a recent article on the PC World web site, “Monopoly City Streets’ Online Game: Will Buying Park Place Be Any Easier?” where Hasbro has taken Google Maps and combined it with their highly successful traditional board game Monopoly. Here are some thoughts.
First off, this is a great idea! Of course, Monopoly and Google Maps! I’ll bet that one was thought up over a pint or two!
One of the Lon Safko quotes on my web sites says, “Innovation is taking two things that are ordinary and combining them in a way that makes them extraordinary”. That’s kind of what I’ve done throughout my career. Nothing truly new is ever invented. This is just two items we all knew, combined in a unique way. Still, very innovative!
Now, does it have staying power, stamina, substance of a true strategy board game or will the player get bored? The reason that Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, 1934 original Monopoly game is still with us is structure and a very delicate balance of rules, surprise (random occurrences both good and bad), strategy, and the ability to comprehend the object and strategy of the game easily.
There are 10o’s of 1,000’s of board games that have been invented that no one has ever heard of. The story line or theme might be fun, but it never achieves that delicate balance enough to make people want to play it more than once. Heck, even I invented a board game 15 years ago call “The Search For The Lost Dutchman’s Gold”, based on a true legend of the richest gold mine ever here in Phoenix. In 1992, I actually located the mine. I thought the game was really cool, had all of the elements listed above, and based on 300 years of history, it was historically correct. Here’s a link to my pdf book I wrote several years ago about it and other stories: http://www.lonsafko.com/internet_downloads/Gratuitous_Serendipity.pdf
The problem was, the game lacked that delicate balance. It didn’t keep my interest for more than one play. The reason board games are successful and have stood the test of time is that balance.
Chess has been around for hundreds of years in one variation or another. Chess lasts because even though the number of possible legal moves are estimated to be between 10^43 and 10^50 (this is a “10” followed by 50 zeros), there’s only 16 pieces allowed to make 20 initial moves.
Checkers has withstood the test of time because even though there are 500 billion billion (5 x 1020) possible situations in Checkers, there are only 64 squares with each player moving only 12 black or 12 white or red pieces.
Tic Tac Toe has only one “piece” per player “X” or an “O” In Tic Tac Toe there are only possible series of moves (9 factorial: 9 x 8 x 7 x … x 1). ( know I stretched the definition of board game to accurate Tic Tac Toe, but it is a board game; a grid of 3 by 3 squares for a total of 9.
All of these games above, including Monopoly are called “Closed Mathematical” games. There is a finite number of possible plays and solutions.
The reason Chess keeps you interest is because in the human mind it’s nearly open ended with that massive number of possible moves. Chess keeps your interest because it’s easy to comprehend, and the play is never the same twice due to its large number of possible moves.
Checkers, while it is still a closed mathematical game, for all intent and purposes in the mind of the player is still open with its 500 billion billion possible moves.
With Tic Tac Toe, which is also closed mathematical game, its total number of possible moves are only 9. Hence you get bored with the game after only a few plays. (Also, there are only two spaces you get on the first move where you can win. If you don’t get one of those two spaces on the first move, the game will always result in a tie or a loss. This make the game unsuccessful. Only very young children can tolerate the game.
So, back to Google Monopoly. From what I’ve seen it’s too open ended; using any streets in the world. There’s no “track” to follow around, no structure. The random surprises have to be balanced, but I didn’t see that. And really, the only difference between playing the tried and true version of the original Monopoly and Google Monopoly is instead of its recognizable square track and familiar street names, you play on a map. A confusing, unfamiliar, random geometry map.
Lastly, on-line participation, collaboration, virtual play, trusted networks, and MMOG, (Massively Multiplayer Online role-playing Game) is going to have a great appeal. With games such as Halo 3 and World of Warcraft exceeding 10 million registered players there should be a short term appeal for this game. And, if the Monopoly “money” was tied to actual credit cards similar to other on-line gambling… Now you have a winner I would invest in!