Entropia Universe officially turned ten years old this week and to celebrate, the developers in concert with the various planet partners have opened up a celebration to span the next few weeks where unique time stamped gear with special stats will be distributed through competitions held, hunting, mining, and crafting events, and other social initiatives. A new and unique property ownership experience has also been promised, and will be unveiled sometime in early February.
If history is any indication, the items distributed will have more than just novelty value. Over time they will gain real world value, leaving the players that possess them very happy individuals.
This is not the first time
that MindArk, the developers behind Entropia Universe, have held special events and made promises such as this. While the most famous investment thus far has been the asteroid, aka Club NEVERDIE (now F.O.M.A. Fortuna), other investments such as Treasure Island
and Crystal Palace have delivered handsome financial opportunities to those willing to take a risk on their purchase. Land Areas on Calypso
have also created happy customers, and the Planet Calypso Land Lot Deeds
, which promise a set share of revenue in the actual planet itself round out opportunities by bringing profit sharing in the game down to an affordable level for almost any player. It stands to reason, therefore, that when MindArk says a unique opportunity will present itself to players, they mean it. And that opportunity will likely have the potential to fetch a massive profit over time.
Why is this? What makes Entropia Universe so special? Isn’t Entropia Universe just one of many Massively Multiplayer Online RPG’s on the market? And hasn’t it been widely criticized as easily the most expensive game to play?
Yes, and no.
Entropia Universe has always been a ground breaking product. Originally conceived of in 1995, and brought forth for public consumption in 2001, Entropia Universe utilizes a financial model that until recently has been unique in the MMORPG industry. While products like Ultima Online, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft use subscription based models of payment, Entropia Universe allows participants to convert real world money into in-game currency at a rate of 1 USD to 10 PED (Project Entropia Dollar). This conversion goes both ways, allowing players to sell items in-game for in-game currency, and convert that to real world currency by utilizing a bank transfer method. This has enabled the developer to almost completely bypass the black markets so common in other MMORPG’s, and enabled the players to capitalize off their time investment by potentially earning real world capital.
While some may think this is uncommon, the truth is it is very commonplace for Entropia Universe participants to withdraw small, and even large sums of currency from the system on a regular basis. For instance, as of writing this article my avatar is just over 3 years old and I made my first withdrawal of a few thousand USD from the system seamlessly over the Christmas holiday season. The system does work.
Entropia Universe has earned a bit of a bad reputation for this system, though. Some players have arrived seeing large dollar signs and expecting to themselves bear witness to great returns simply by playing the game. Of course that isn’t how it works. If the developer simply paid every single player, the game would not have lasted 1 year, let alone be on its 10th anniversary. Making money from the game takes time, dedication, and knowledge. You need to know the systems you are working with, but more importantly you need to know the people who work within those systems (the players) and be able to spot a market opportunity to subsequently act on.
This brings me to my point. If you are an MMORPG player, spending hours weekly on the platform games of your choice, Entropia Universe itself is an opportunity. One that should not be overlooked. Every enthusiast of this genre of gaming should, in my opinion, maintain an active Entropia Universe account. Just to see, if anything, where this genre is headed. If only to be on-hand and ready in case you see an opportunity you can’t pass up.
The Nuts and Bolts
The core gameplay concepts of Entropia Universe are not unfamiliar to any MMO gamer. At its heart you have 3 main professions: Hunting, Mining, and Crafting. These are divided up into subsets like Pistoleer, Combat Pilot, Energy Matter and Ore gatherer, Tailor, Armorer… you get the picture. Most 3D MMORPG’s play the same. WASD controls, mouselook, assign buttons to skills or actions. Use them by pressing those buttons. It’s all familiar. This is a good thing. It means it’s easy to understand the basics. I won’t bore you anymore with that. If you play MMORPG’s, you understand this already.
Also included are support skills like Beautician, Hairstylist, Make-Up Artist, Tamer (currently in redevelopment), Mentor, and a variety of other skills. Without any classes or definitions beyond the simple “My character can do the following skills…” Entropia Universe is the ultimate Sandbox MMO experience. It evokes comparisons to Ultima Online and EVE, in this respect, and remains to this date one of the genre’s best kept secrets.
Whatever you see you can likely make. Wherever you look you can likely go. Whether it’s up into the skies and into space, or down into the ground to explore caves, underwater caverns, or the like, Entropia Universe offers it all. With multiple ‘planets’, each run by an independent company who utilizes the core platform much like a franchise, different themed worlds exist, from the hardcore Science Fiction model of Planet Calypso to the eclectic Mixed-Fantasy environment of Rocktropia. These are always expanding, for as new partners come on-board a new planet with a new theme is born. For this reason, early on in my experience with the game I dubbed it ‘the last MMO you will ever play’, since you can take your avatar to any environment you like and basically choose your own adventure, changing your game space whenever you see fit.
Everything in Entropia Universe has value. From your gear to your properties, and even your skills, all of it can be bought and sold using PED, and ultimately converted from PED into real world dollars. While other MMORPG’s may monetize your experience through a subscription fee or an item mall, only a handful of games offer the players an opportunity to recoup their expenses at virtually any time. You can get some, all, or even more money out of the system once you feel your experience is complete than you put into the system in the first place.
While rumors exist of other large companies pursuing this sort of model in days to come, to date the only true competitor to Entropia Universe in this respect is Second Life.
This will not long be the case, however. MMORPG’s have progressed from a subscription model being most popular, to a free to play and freemium model gaining traction in recent years. I do not believe it will be long before multiple real cash economies start to take shape in the MMO space. Entropia Universe, having been designed this way from 1995 onward, is years ahead of the pack. It is, and will remain for years to come, an industry leader. The smart gamer in me says go with this. It will be a long time before other developers catch up.
Comparing Other Platforms
Entropia Universe is among the longest running MMO’s to date. While its Gold date puts it at ten years old as of the time of this article, it has been available to the public since 2001, 2 years before World of Warcraft and 2 years before its competitor Second Life. The only other AAA MMORPG’s older than it are Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron’s Call. Like Ultima Online, Entropia Universe’s development team opted recently to give the entire world a graphic overhaul. Unlike Ultima Online though, Entropia Universe is a true 3-D environment and as such they were able to leverage the power of Crytek’s CryEngine 2 in their most recent design. This is an amazing achievement, putting Entropia Universe at the forefront of technology both now, and in the future, as it positions them to possibly utilize updated versions of Crytek’s technology when these versions are released with a minimum of disruption in service, when compared to the effort other platforms must engage in to transfer their environments from their current engine of choice to leading products within the game industry. Ultimately this positions Entropia Universe to be around for at least another ten years, as the development team has already proven their capability to transfer their product and they have made a wise decision in choosing a new product.
While other games may plan a lifespan of a few years, the developers of Entropia Universe seem intent on providing decades of life to their unique game.
With unique story lines to propel each planet forward, Entropia Universe offers many different games within a game, all at no subscription fee, where the players are afforded the opportunity to choose their level of commitment and level of involvement based on the time they have available, as well as the money they feel comfortable spending. This is a huge advantage. The only other platform to provide multiple games within a single universe is EVE Online, and while EVE and Dust514 exist in the same universe and operate in tandem with one another, they also operate on two different platforms and require two different purchases and two different subscriptions in order to participate fully. This is a recurring monthly commitment in either cash, or time, that is necessary in order to simply retain access. Entropia Universe allows full access to all its systems without the user ever having to deposit one cent, or spend more time in-game than they are comfortable with.
Some users may balk at this though, still. Concerned about the level of advancement of other players within the game space, and their own competitive advantage or relevance within the world, users may be tempted to think that the most competitive, useful, and sought after players are those who spend the most time in-game. This is not true!
Entropia Universe has a high level of engagement necessary in order to achieve maximum level in even one profession, and to date there are 87 professions in game. To my knowledge, no player has maxed out their primary profession in 13 years of the game's public existence. With a system of reductions in place for skill increases as a character advances, much like Asheron’s Call, while there is drive within the community to achieve, the achievements are more based on what you can do within the game space, and not necessarily attached to some esoteric number that states an in-game level. This leaves room for traders, who may not deposit a cent ever, to become well known for moving goods.
Hunters may become well known for their ability to obtain rare items. Miners for their knowledge of the best areas to obtain highly sought-after ores. And in case you were wondering, some of the most well known Player vs Player characters are newer to the universe, leading gangs of space pirates on missions of pillaging as they shoot down large passenger ships and take the spoils for themselves.
What this means, in short, is that a new player is just as valuable to the community as a veteran. Everyone has the potential to achieve greatness, and it can be done on any budget.
A Land of Opportunity?
It’s true. Entropia Universe can be expensive. The operative word here is 'can'. It’s totally up to you how much you put into it, and on what items you spend your money. It isn’t always expensive. Some players deposit nothing, ever, and achieve success. Others, like myself, deposit in the beginning, but later become non-depositors and let the system pay them back.
Game on your terms.
A new player will likely spend a fair amount of money getting their feet wet, but this cost can be compared to the cost of purchasing a game off the shelf, and paying a subscription fee comparable to other online games. Except of course you can get some of that money back when you are done with the game. And the fees are all optional. Your play time or ability to advance is never artificially restricted.
If it were just about the raw expense of playing though, that would be boring. What good is a game that involves real money if people are just looking for a small refund, or to turn a modest profit by killing monsters? Entropia Universe is about much more.
In 2003, Indiana University Professor of Economics Edward Castronova published his work Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier
. This work is very important to the MMORPG community. Not only have multiple books been written by the author on this topic since then, culminating in university classes on the economy of virtual worlds now being taught, but the author has been referenced by scholars and developers alike as a visionary. In short, this piece is pivotal in explaining what is going to happen in the MMORPG industry at large, and what is currently happening in Entropia Universe.
So what’s the big deal?
The same principle it seems applies to online games. In fact, in Edward Castronova’s landmark paper, he determined that based on what people would pay in the real world for the virtual currency and virtual items produced in EverQuest’s world of Norrath, the average hourly wage there was $3.42 real world dollars, and the GNP of this video game was higher than that of China and India. Amazed yet? You should be.
A simple principle of economics is that the practical actions of people, and not abstract arguments, determine the value of things. Put in plain English, people decide what items are worth. Items are not simply worth a lot because they are rare. If a person does not want dinosaur poop, has no use for dinosaur poop, and thus produces no market demand for dinosaur poop, dinosaur poop will be worth basically nothing, despite the fact that it is rarer than gold! Conversely, if a person wants the latest iPad3, whether it is more or less useful than the first generation iPad is irrelevant. People will purchase it quickly, keeping prices on it at the very least stable, and in fact driving a market increase through resellers in times of shortage (eBay anyone?).
But what’s this got to do with Entropia Universe?
While all this was going on, this black market, this discovery of the value of virtual goods, this cyber pioneering in a great unknown land of opportunity, in other games, Entropia Universe was already being designed this way from the ground up. And instead of developers wasting resources pursuing virtual goods sellers and banning them, as documented extensively in Julian Dibbell’s book Play Money
, the developers of Entropia Universe embraced the market. This legitimized activities that users would do on their own anyway. Instead of a few risk takers living the dream to the envy of all other players, everyone had opportunity to build value into their activities. Everyone who played Entropia Universe could, in essence, think of it on some level as a second job. A job they actually enjoyed and looked forward to going to each day.
If that sounds absurd to you, think about this: In the real world, if a country to have a market capacity greater than that of China and not have any jobs in it, what would you think? An entire array of citizens living in a wealthy nation, all of whom were completely unemployed. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But a country, for all its history and tradition, is only a border we create with our minds, and agree on as a society to be true. It is no different in an MMO space.
Though the land itself may be abstract, the people are real. They are living, and breathing. They go to bed, get up in the morning, make breakfast, work out, get old, and so on.
These people choose to spend their time together in a communal space, performing activities that generate value. They generate value because people want what is produced. Whether they want it for competitive advantage, or they want it because they enjoy the community space, but lack the time to get everything they need themselves, it really doesn’t matter anymore than it matters why someone wants a bagel or a cup of coffee for breakfast in New York City. We don’t ask. That’s their business.
For that value to go nowhere, despite the market demand, and for nobody to capitalize off of it, despite over 5,000 years of human interaction and socialization based on trade. That is the real absurdity. Of course it will happen!
Sociologists and economists, and basically anyone else who has studied human nature agree. What we have here in online games are thriving cultural microcosms. People have gathered together with a common purpose in these products. The numbers don’t lie, folks. The popularity of these products is growing by leaps and bounds. A genuine cultural and social phenomenon is happening right before us.
More than a Game
Ultimately anytime a cultural change occurs there are consequences to that change. The advent of the steam engine and later the internal combustion engine brought the United States, a young country by world standards, from relative obscurity to being the world superpower in less than 100 years. Its culture, including Rock n Roll, Levi’s, television, and merchandising brands like Barbie or McDonald’s is felt far and wide. So too I think will the invention of the MMORPG have such a cultural impact. In less than 20 years the subscriber base for MMORPG’s has gone from less than 1 million to over 23 million active subscriptions. This is only subscription based games.
Games without subscribers are virtually impossible to measure, but some analysts project that the number of accounts registered on MMORPG’s in total exceeds 1 billion. Taking into account alts, inactive accounts, accounts from the same individual but on different games, etc, this is still a huge number. It’s potentially in the hundred million active user range. A little uncomplicated math, and you actually have almost 1% of the world’s population potentially using MMORPG technology.
Think about that. In 16 years of public exposure MMORPG’s have gone from obscurity to captivating almost 1% of 7 billion people’s interest. That is a hell of a lot of people!
If this number does not impress you, count yourself among the few. MIT, one of the top universities and think tanks in the world, uses an online game environment in Second Life to teach a class. Indiana University has classes on MMORPG culture, and the economics within these games, Horizon Project is attempting to take MMORPG’s into the educational sphere, NASA is creating an MMORPG. A simple search on Amazon.com for the word MMORPG will bring up a few hundred different books. The list goes on.
Why this is important to you, the ordinary MMORPG gamer
A fact should be emerging to you by now. MMORPG’s are here to stay, and their influence over world culture in the 21st century will spread, only contained by the relative accessibility of the technology used to display this medium. That technology is getting cheaper, while at the same time getting faster and more powerful. Just like television, soon it will be harder to find a home without a computer in it than with one.
Given this trend, a smart MMORPG enthusiast will consider to themselves how they can make the MMORPG boom work for them. What if you’re not a programmer, don’t have the aptitude to write lines of code and generate income through your graphic design ability like those in Second Life? What if you’re not a brilliant news columnist, capable of turning a phrase that attracts readers to your work and makes them hunger for more? What if you’re just a gamer, and your main talents in this industry are leveling up, talking to people, being a leader in your guild, and being an awesome person (at least online). What then?
Then you want to find a game you can participate in that recognizes your effort, and pays you for it now. You want to maintain an active role in that product, and watch it, and your character grow. When you feel like playing it, play it. When you feel like playing something else, play that. The point is, you want to be there, and have some skills ready to be at your disposal for when other people start recognizing this potential.
Because you’re a gamer, and your talent is in being ahead of the pack, and maintaining that competitive edge. A game that pays you for your talent is a game that recognizes that you are, in fact, an awesome person. While some may be talented at music, or art, you are talented at gaming; at crunching the numbers and statistics needed to succeed, at being patient when you must, and pushing when the time comes to push. At working with a team of other like minded people. And that’s OK, because really you’re just like everyone else. You’re good at what you love. You recognize that eventually you will want to play a game like Entropia Universe, where your time and effort are recognized, and the value you put into your character is legitimate and real. You will want to play a game like this because all other games will eventually simply grow old. Your character will reach its max potential, and you will start over again either on an alt, or on a new game. Eventually you will get tired of the treadmill.
You want to play a game like this. A full sandbox game, with real economic ties, and real potential for the future not just in the eyes of the players or developers, but in the eyes of economic analysts who recognize that the trend towards a Real Cash Economy in gaming is undeniable. A game that is a true virtual world. A game where you don’t need to start over at square one when you want a change of scenery. You can simply take your avatar and go to a planet with a different theme.
You want to play the only game on the market, and first game developed of its kind, to recognize the value inherent in the time you spend enjoying yourself, and provide opportunities for normal players to capitalize on that time.
You want to play Entropia Universe.
What’s in Entropia Universe for you?
From Entropia Universe’s emissary program, launched on the Facebook platform and created to provide small sums to players who participate in the process and refer others, to the Land Area ownership and Land Lot revenue share programs, and everything in between, Entropia Universe offers something for every level of MMORPG gamer.
Are you a relative novice to sandbox MMORPG’s, or nervous about the real cash aspect? No problem. Design your avatar using the most advanced avatar creation system in any MMORPG to date, with details so fine some players have made very successful attempts at making their avatars look like their real life pictures!
Sweating, radio parties, and new player oriented societies are a great way to test yourself as a new player and learn about the extensive social environment here. While none of these activities will replace your day job, you can definitely learn how Entropia Universe works, what pitfalls are out there new players commonly find themselves in, and various strategies folks have used to achieve success. You’ll also hear a fair amount of complaints along the way, calls for forming Sweater’s Unions, and be exposed to perhaps one or two get rich quick schemes. That’s all part of the game, though. Just like in the real world (or most other MMORPG’s for that matter), people may be down on their luck, want more bang for their buck, or not be quite what they seem.
Are you an adventurer? Grab one of the many vehicles crafted by other participants and head out for the nearest horizon. Choose your own path. Do you want to travel by land, sea, or air? It’s all up to you. Are you more into mysticism and the paranormal? Pick up a mindforce chip instead, and teleport to whatever location you wish. As you grow in talent, you can use larger chips that allow you to teleport greater distances. Eventually maybe you will be one of the few residents capable of opening up a wormhole and facilitating the mass travel of others. Pick up a lockpick set, or a beacon, or any of the other mission keys in game and take your friends on into your own instance where you battle for hidden treasures.
Are you a money minded investor, capable of spotting trends in prices and acting on them? Try your hand as a trader! Many successful individuals have been created in Entropia from the small funds they accumulate over time trading. If you’re after something bigger, land areas come up for sale, as do shops. And then there are the creative player run initiatives. From the collective investing in gear to group purchase and maintenance of space fleets, it seems the opportunities in Entropia Universe are just beginning to show themselves for a person with a little bit of cash and a lot of market savvy.
There’s even something for the Player versus Player crowd. From the lootable PvP zones on Calypso, many of which carry some of the highest markup ores and most profitable monsters, to the HUB in Cyrene and Zomhattan on ROCKtropia, PvP play styles enjoy support and even profitability within Entropia Universe. If you’re looking for a low cost way to get into PvP, try your hand at being a space pirate! All of space is lootable PvP. And anyone who wishes to trade planetary goods must cross space to make this happen. Other players have seen opportunity here for profit. Are you the next?
Whether you want to meet a rock star, slay alien beasts, tame large tracts of land, or become the next NEVERDIE, reaping huge rewards and earning fame in the process, Entropia Universe offers all of those opportunities to all its players, if you know how to find them
. The best part about Entropia Universe is that you aren’t going to fall behind if you don’t log in and play 20+ hours a week. You can have a life, and still be a serious contender in this game. And you won’t incur any subscription costs for time you don’t use. Ever. Translation: It’s OK to be an adult! Go out and enjoy yourself. The friends you make here will be ready to welcome you back whenever you have time to stop in.
Think about this: You already play MMO’s. You may spend a few hours a week, or even a few days a week playing these games.
Isn’t it time you made your efforts work for you?
Join Entropia Universe. Join it today