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  • Dev Notes

    by Published on 01-16-2015 13:31
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    Some time ago Elias posted his introductions on Calypso forum. I suspect it was then that I decided to contact him for an interview, although I'm not entirely certain of this.

    I contacted Elias because I thought music is often an overlooked aspect of game development and not discussed as often as other aspects e.g. game graphics. I am very interested in knowing your thoughts on this and if I made a good choice.

    Elias has been a pleasure to work with. I sent him a rather random and disordered list of questions. No complaints-he just sent a professional reply back. When I contacted Elias again later to ask for some pictures, and he did one better. Not only did he send in some pics, but also some more detailed responses. Going beyond the call of duty is always appreciated.


    Tell us a little about yourself, where you were born etc.
    I was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden where I still live and work. I became interested in music at the age of nine years old when I started to practice the piano. Apart from music, programming has always been an interest as well, and thus I’m quite happy to be able to do both at MindArk now, especially since I have higher education in both software engineering and music.

    How long have you been working in the music business?
    I have been doing studio work from time to time for about fifteen years now. Usually I get hired by bands that need some keyboard work, arrangements etc. Prior to working as a musician at Mindark, I composed music for a couple of other games for PC/Xbox360 and iOS. I also play keyboards in a symphonic metal band called Dragonland. So far we’ve released five albums and toured countries like England and Japan.

    When did you realise music was your calling?
    When I was about nineteen years old I discovered the music of Rachmaninov and started practicing his C# prelude feverishly. Before that I had been playing with different bands, both keyboard and drums, but it was from this point that I really started to practice methodically and started to learn more advanced music theory.

    Is there anything special that inspires you to write your music?
    Rain and gloomy weather in general, which makes Gothenburg an ideal place to work.

    What do you think about writing music for games?
    I love it - running around the beautiful environments of for example the Calypso Thule area and just letting the inspiration flow is a great experience.

    Have you worked in any other role apart from a musician?
    Indeed, at Mindark I am employed as both software engineer and musician.

    Tell us a little about Sweden
    Sweden is a quite large country geographically in relation to its small population. For being so few, we have a great music export and an excellent games industry.

    Whats your favourite film? what do you like about it?
    If I have to name an all-time favorite I think that would have to be Gladiator, and especially the powerful and emotional score that Hans Zimmer created for it.

    Name some of your fav pop music? what do you like about it?
    Some popular groups that I like are Muse, Solar Fields, Mitch Murder, Crystal Castles, Daft Punk, Soilwork, Electric Youth and Finntroll. I also listen a lot to classical music; composers like Beethoven, Domenico Scarlatti, Brahms and Rachmaninov. Film/Game music as well of course – everything by Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, Steve Jablonsky and Jesper Kyd. In general, I’m attracted to interesting/emotional chord progressions and strong melodies, usually regardless of genre.

    Which band do you particularly like and why?
    My favorite band will always be Bal-Sagoth, a symphonic black-metal band from England. What I love about them is the extremely keyboard driven and forceful music with melodies and harmonies like no other (certain melodies from the Planet Suite by Gustav Holst would be the closest as well as some parts of the scores that Basil Poledouris wrote for the Conan movies).

    Whats your fav book? what do you like about it?
    This is a hard one, but if I’d have to choose I’d probably choose one of the novel collections that I have by H. P. Lovecraft. The sense of creeping horror that he manages to give his readers is astounding.


    What attracted you to work for MindArk?
    MindArk has been one of the foremost game companies in Gothenburg for quite some time now and when the opportunity came I applied for a job immediately since I always wanted to work in the game development business.

    What do you like about your role at MindArk?
    That I have the privilege to work with both code and music since I always thought that would be an ideal situation for me.


    What equipment do you use to create your masterpieces at MindArk?
    I use Cubase with plugins such as East West libraries, Symphobia, Zebra2 and Omnisphere. Wavelab for mastering. As master keyboard I use my good old Korg N5EX.

    What advice would you give our budding musicians reading this article?
    Study some fundamental music theory, it’ll always come in handy when inspiration is lacking.

    Which music software would you recommend for beginner music hobbyists?
    I started out with sequencing using Cakewalk which at that time was a user-friendly and simple sequencer. Nowadays I don’t know, but if there are some stripped down and cheaper versions of Cubase they might be worth checking out.

    Is the music all your work?
    So far, I’ve done music for various dungeons, the title screen, Calypso start room and Thule. When it comes to Calypso I’ve done all the music for the quite recently revamped Cape Corinth server. For the remaining servers, most music was done by a previously employed musician named Lars Falk.

    Is it under your sole control? or do you work as part of a team?
    Yes, the only musician working here is me.

    Do you commission external musicians to create new tracks?
    No, not at MindArk and Calypso, the other planet partners might have done that though.

    Any news on some upcoming music tracks?
    Currently, work is being done on various Calypso background ambient tracks, as well as more action oriented tracks (for hunting, using vehicles etc). I designed a system for handling the dynamic alteration of music for different in-game situations a while back. So far, the system has been utilized for Cape Corinth (as well as some dungeons). A long term project is to make use of this system across the entirety of Calypso.

    How important is music to a game?
    For me, game music is of uttermost importance in order to enhance player immersion. If done properly it can really make you feel part of the game.

    How important is music from a global community perspective? taking into account the internet and it's impact on global communities...
    We use Soundcloud to make people more aware of the music. Hopefully some people hear it before knowing what Entropia Universe is, enjoy it, and give the game a shot. Furthermore, given the sheer scale of the game, new musical content might easily be missed, so to be sure to hear new tunes it’s a good idea to check out the Soundcloud page. It can be accessed at: soundcloud.com/entropiauniverse

    The name Elias features in all three main religions and refers to a name adopted by a prophet. Does this give you any special powers from time to time? prophetic visions about EU or in general life perhaps?
    Of course! I hereby predict that Entropia Universe will be greatly improved and enhanced over the course of the next few years, both content-wise and from a player experience point of view. We have a great team now of experienced people and we’re working hard to make Entropia Universe an even greater game. Also, expect some nice new music flowing through your headphones in the near future.



    Sadly it is here we must end this interview, and thank Elias for taking the time to entertain our curiosities. Although I am tempted to ask Elias exactly what these "greatly improved and enhanced" aspects will be, I leave that to you, our enquiringly savvy readers.

    Discussion Thread
    by Published on 11-13-2014 12:18     Number of Views: 3692 
    1. Categories:
    2. Dev Notes


    In the upcoming Entropia Universe Version Update 15.1 (currently scheduled for early December), planet-specific auction sections will be removed. This change will result in a single unified auction, something that many participants have requested and something that MindArk believes will result in a more efficient and dynamic interplanetary economy.

    After VU 15.1, buyers will have three options when winning an auction that was listed from a planet that differs from that of the buyer:

    1. Pickup at Origin - Items won from auction will be placed into the buyer’s inventory on the planet of origin (the planet where the auction was created). Buyer must then travel to the planet of origin to retrieve the items from storage.
    2. Normal Delivery - Items won from auction will be transported to the buyer’s storage at the buyer’s current location after a specified period of time (TBD, approximately 1-4 hours). This option will incur a small transport fee, based on the weight of the items to be transported.
    3. Instant Delivery - Items won from auction will be transported immediately to the buyer’s storage at the buyer’s current location. This option will incur the same transport fee as Normal Delivery, along with an extra convenience fee.



    The transport fees collected for the Normal and Instant Delivery options will be held in a special transport fee pool. In a subsequent Version Update, transport missions will be made available that can be claimed by spaceship pilots via a queue system that incorporates the available transport fee pool, pilot skills, time limitations, and ship cargo capacities.

    Those missions will take the form of cargo boxes which must be delivered to a destination in return for a PED reward funded by the transport fee pool. Cargo boxes are at risk of being looted by other participants in cases where the transporting ship is defeated in space combat; the looted cargo boxes can then be delivered to the assigned destination by the looter to claim the original transport mission reward. Note that the cargo boxes will correspond to the value of the transport mission reward rather than the actual items traded via auction sales. In this way piracy of cargo boxes will not negatively impact interplanetary trade.

    It will still be possible to transport goods and resources through space in the current manner, though changes will be made in upcoming Version Updates to address currently existing issues and loopholes that allow for risk-free transport of goods and materials through space.

    MindArk believes that this new Galactic Transport system will result in increased activity and efficiency in the interplanetary market for goods and materials, along with more accurate and informative market history data that will benefit participants on all planets. It will also make for a much more exciting and engaging gameplay experience in space and pave the way for further development of space systems including combat, hunting, transport and resource gathering.


    Originally Posted Here

    Discussion Thread
    by Published on 05-29-2014 06:47
    1. Categories:
    2. Dev Notes



    Communication and Development Roadmap

    Dear Entropians,

    Given the real-cash aspect of the Entropia Universe economy, it has historically been MindArk’s policy to be very careful when releasing information related to future development plans, mainly to prevent undue disruption of the economy. However, considering the plethora of information channels now available to participants to stay up to date on official Entropia Universe and Planet Partner announcements (the Client Loader, Facebook, Entropia Buzz, information from which is also syndicated on many community and planet forums), MindArk has made a decision to be more active in sharing its future development plans with participants.

    And the sharing starts now!

    Below is a summary of some of the projects the MindArk design and development teams are currently focused on. In future communications we will give increasingly more detailed information on each of these projects, and announce additional projects as they become closer to implementation.

    Client & Server Stability

    MindArk’s highest priority during the next several releases will be improving stability of the Entropia Universe client. Several of the most common causes of recent client crashes have been identified and our developers are hard at work on resolving those to improve the Entropia Universe experience for all participants.

    New Player Experience

    Ongoing improvements to the New Player Experience have been implemented with every platform and planet partner release so far this year. These efforts will continue to be a top priority during the rest of 2014 and into 2015 in order to maximise the marketing efforts of MindArk and the planet partners.

    Creature Control System Stage 1 - (Planned for June 2014 Release)

    You may already be aware of a new feature introduced not long ago which allows officials and planet partners to control various creatures during special events. This system will be extended to participants in the form of Creature Control Capsules, consumable items that will allow you to transform your avatar into a specific creature for a limited time. This fun feature will be made available exclusively through the loot system, and will be monitored closely to prevent abuse.

    Taming Stage 1 - (Planned for Autumn 2014 Release)

    Some of you will be happy to hear that we plan to (finally) reintroduce Taming to Entropia Universe. In the first stage the core functionality will be quite similar to the original taming system, with added improvements to usability and fun-factor. Initially, pets will be to able accompany your avatar in its Entropia Universe travels, with more pet abilities and features planned for later stages (see below).

    PVP Improvements - (Planned for Autumn 2014 Release)

    Various improvements to PVP combat have already been implemented this year and more are planned after the summer, including adjustments to the landgrab and fort systems.

    Taming Stage 2 - (Planned for Late 2014 / Early 2015 Release)

    In this stage it is planned to implement additional skill-based taming abilities which will expand the capabilities of tamed creatures beyond the pre-VU10 taming system. In addition, a limited number of stables will be made available that will fulfill various roles within the taming system such as stabling, feeding, expert training, trading and more.

    Creature Control System Stage 2 - (Planned for Winter 2014 Release)

    Through a new Battle Octagon interface, your avatar will be able to control various creatures and challenge other avatars to battle in special CCS octagons. With lots of options for attack and defense customisation, each battle promises to be unique and exciting, especially considering the possibility of creatures and robots from different planets engaging in reckless combat against one another!

    Taming Stage 3 - (Planned for Early 2015 Release)

    Battle Arenas will be introduced which will allow tamed creatures to battle one another. Each battle will be unique, with a wide range of offensive and defensive pet buffs and upgrades along with customisable attack and defense profiles.

    Web-Based Battle Arena - (Planned for Early 2015 Release)

    A web-based Battle Arena game is planned for early 2015. The game will be developed as a cross-platform solution available on the web and for mobile devices, and will have direct ties to the Entropia Universe taming! system. Players will have the opportunity to acquire, upgrade and customise their pets for battle against the pets of others.

    Entropia Universe participants will have the ability to acquire Battle Arena Deeds and share in the revenue and excitement of the Battle Arena action. 200,000 Battle Arena Deeds will be offered via the Entropia Universe in-game auction and upcoming webshop at 100 PED each. Revenues generated from the Battle Arena Deed offering will be used exclusively for Battle Arena development and marketing. More detailed information about the Battle Arena Deeds will be made available very soon.

    Affiliate System - (Planned for Early 2015 Release)

    Work is moving forward on the affiliate program mentioned in the State of the Universe Address 2014, though the expected release date has been revised to 2015 due to integration requirements with other planned projects.

    Citizenship & Political System - (Planned for Early 2015 Release)

    The announced political and housing system is still in the initial design and development stage. As with the taming system, we expect to roll out this system in several stages during 2015. Further information will be made available as each development milestone draws closer.

    Regards,

    David Simmonds
    CEO MindArk PE AB



    Originally Posted Here

    Discussion Thread
    by Published on 05-28-2014 11:30
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    2. Dev Notes


    Starting your avatar's career is about to get much easier. With a selection of three brand new starter packs featuring the new Harrier Armor, Weapon, Fast Aid Pack and more, you will be ready to jump right into action.

    The new starter packs, labelled Bronze, Silver and Gold, will be available for $5, $15 and $40 respectively. The Silver and Gold packages will also contain an amount of PED, the currency of Entropia Universe, so you can participate in the economy right from the start.

    Starter packs will be available to new players at account creation. For existing players, the starter packs will be available in the web shop that will soon be launched at https://account.entropiauniverse.com.

    We plan to release the starter packs for new accounts in early June and the webshop for existing accounts within a couple of weeks.


    - Note that the Starter Pack items are non-tradable, i.e. its items can not be transferred between accounts.

    Discussion Thread
    Published on 02-27-2014 07:11     Number of Views: 4334 
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    2. Dev Notes



    Greetings Entropians,

    MindArk is happy to report great progress achieved in many areas of Entropia Universe in 2013. The MindArk team spent much of the year improving the user experience and upgrading infrastructure to improve performance and accommodate more simultaneous users.

    2013 Highlights
    Entropia’s 10 Year Anniversary
    At the beginning of 2013, MindArk celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Entropia Universe. Special events were held, and hundreds of special TEN Edition items were looted throughout the year to celebrate this exciting milestone.

    Infrastructure Upgrades
    A series of major infrastructure upgrades was performed during 2013. These upgrades have helped to improve server capacity and stability, and allowed for faster and smoother deployment of Version Updates, patches and hotfixes. These upgrades also help our developers and partners to more efficiently develop new content and systems by streamlining the internal development pipeline.

    Marketing
    MindArk vastly increased its marketing efforts in 2013 resulting in a more than 110% increase in the number of new participants compared to 2012. Those marketing efforts also resulted in a very encouraging 57% increase in the number of new depositors. By all significant measures such as average simultaneous users, new accounts, and daily economic turnover, overall activity in the universe was at an all time high during 2013, due in large part to the MindArk’s latest marketing efforts.

    New Player Experience
    Additional improvements to the new player experience were implemented in 2013, carrying on the focus given to this area in late 2012. These efforts have synergized well with the marketing efforts described above, and have contributed to the improvement in conversion rates and participant retention. A series of player-contributed YouTube tutorials were also created in cooperation with MindArk, and new participants were encouraged to view those informative videos to get off on the right foot in the Entropia Universe adventures. The new player experience is an area that will continue to have MindArk’s attention moving forward, as it is an essential component of the growth of the universe.

    Payment Processing
    Many participants were thrilled with the addition of Paypal as an official Entropia Universe payment processor in the second quarter of 2013. In addition, new participants have the option of purchasing special starter packs via Zong, Paypal’s mobile payment solution.

    Avatar Graphics
    A major overhaul to the avatar graphics and creation system was implemented early in 2013, resulting in incredibly realistic looking avatars and enhanced avatar customisation possibilities.

    Moon Estate
    A new type of estate management opportunity was offered in 2013. A group of participants pooled their resources and bid 1.5 million PED to acquire the rights to manage the first such estate, which subsequently was launched as the Monria moon estate in May 2013.

    New Systems/Features
    Several exciting new exciting features were introduced to Entropia Universe in 2013 which have been widely approved by participants. Those features include mission and skill progress tracker modules, as well as new types of consumable items that buff avatars in various ways. In addition, weapons and other items introduced in 2013 sport interesting new abilities, for example: life leech, faster reload speed, or damage blocking. New convenience items were also introduced toward the end of 2013, including portable trade and repair terminals and auto-loot pills.

    Veteran Appreciation/Cost to Play
    • As promised in the 2013 State of the Universe Address, MindArk implemented several changes and features that helped to reduce the overall cost to participate in Entropia Universe, including:
    • Average TT returns were increased across the board for hunting, mining, crafting and other activities.
    • Removal or lowering of many unpopular fees, such as the armor equipping fee.
    • Increased the unlimited item tiering speed.
    • The minimum condition of most items lowered to 3%, freeing up a large number of PED, especially for owners of older UL weapons.
    • Reduced the volatility of many activities, especially for lower level avatars.
    • Decay and ammo consumption were removed when using a weapon not aimed at a valid target.


    2014 Roadmap
    MindArk has ambitious plans for the development of Entropia Universe in 2014, with planned primary focus on the following areas.

    Systems Development
    Social Interface - A completely overhauled and improved social interface has been under development for the past several months, and is getting close to implementation. This upgrade will bring several long-desired features, including offline messaging, custom chat channels and much more.

    Affiliate System - An affiliate system is under development which will allow participants to earn PED by referring new Entropia Universe participants.

    Premium Accounts - Still in the early design stage, MindArk is planning to offer premium account upgrades for a small monthly cost. Benefits of the various premium account types are still being decided, but may include such features as increased storage limits and increased number of simultaneous auctions. We are also considering making premium account upgrades available via daily mission tokens as well as special lootable items.

    Citizenship & Housing System - Development of these systems was unfortunately delayed in 2013 due to the critical infrastructure upgrades taking quite a bit more development time than anticipated, along with several other projects receiving higher priority in the second half of 2013 and early 2014. This project now is now tentatively planned for release in Q4 of 2014.

    PVP - Lots of improvements and enhancements to player vs. player (PVP) combat are planned for the second half of 2014. More information will be made available in a future Entropia Buzz developer notes article.

    New Player Experience - Among MindArk’s highest ongoing priorities is improving participant conversion and retention, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is to continually find ways to improve the experience of new participants. As such, we plan to continue working closely with our planet partners in 2014 to implement systems and features that make Entropia Universe as exciting and user-friendly as possible for new participants.

    Legacy Systems - Progress is ongoing for the reimplementation and refinement of various legacy systems.

    New Systems - Several other interesting new systems are in the early development stage, and are planned for release in Q3 and Q4 of 2014 depending on prioritization of the other projects mentioned above. More details and teasers will be released throughout the year, so be on the lookout!

    Marketing
    MindArk plans to continue to expand and refine its marketing efforts in 2014 in order to maximize the number of new participants joining Entropia Universe. As outlined above, our marketing efforts in 2013 were very promising and we plan to become even more aggressive in 2014.

    Planet Toulan
    MindArk was excited to bring its newest planet online last week. Though still in its beta release, Planet Toulan promises to bring exposure of Entropia Universe to a previously untapped sector of the online gaming audience, and add a unique Arabian theme to the existing planet partner roster. Full release of Planet Toulan is expected mid-2014.

    Cost to Play & Balancing
    Continuing with the improvements made in 2013, MindArk plans to further improve average returns for many activities. One example would be the removal of the clothing equip fee in an upcoming platform release.

    Infrastructure & Development Tools
    Additional improvements to the Entropia Universe infrastructure and development tools are planned, which will allow MindArk and its planet partners to more efficiently develop and deploy new features and content, while minimizing server latency and downtime during patches and version updates.

    Deed and Estate Management
    Several new deed and estate management opportunities are planned for 2014. One of these will be announced in the upcoming planet partner release scheduled for early March.

    Entropia Platform
    Several major public and private organizations have expressed interest in making use of the Entropia Universe platform and collaborating with MindArk for future projects.

    In conclusion, MindArk is looking forward to an exciting and productive 2014 for Entropia Universe and hopes all our participants will enjoy the improvements and efforts we have planned.


    Best regards,

    David Simmonds
    CEO MindArk PE AB

    Discussion Thread
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