Why every MMO enthusiast should have an Entropia Universe Account

Entropia Universe just turned ten years old. The developer celebrates with events where unique time-stamped gearwith special stats will be distributed through hunting,mining, crafting and social initiatives. A new propertyinvestment opportunity has also been announced.

If history is any indication, the items distributed will have more than just novelty value. They will have a real-world value, which will, if history is any guide, very likely increase over time. MindArk, the developer of Entropia Universe, has held special events before. The most famous investment opportunities thus far are the asteroid, aka Club Neverdie (now F.O.M.A. Fortuna), Treasure Island and Crystal Palace. All now generate healthy profits for those who invested.

Land Areas on Calypso have also created happy customers. In 2011, Planet Calypso Land Deeds were launched. They offer a share of Planet Calypso’s revenue and brings profit sharing in the game to an affordable level for almost any player.

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.

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.


Breaking Ground

Entropia Universe has always been a groundbreaking product. Originally conceived 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 are subscription-based products, 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 within Entropia for PED, and then convert that to real world currency. This has enabled the developer to almost completely bypass the black markets so common in other MMORPGs, and has enabled players to potentially capitalize on their time investment by earning real world money.

It is common for Entropia Universe participants to withdraw small, and sometimes even large sums of currency from the system on a regular basis. For instance, 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 expecting 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 long. Making money from the game takes time, dedication and knowledge. You must know the systems, know the players who work within those systems and be able to spot a market opportunity and act on it.

This brings me to my point. If you are an MMORPG player, spending hours each week 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 maintain an Entropia Universe account. If only just to see where this genre is headed. If only to be on-hand and ready in case you see an opportunity.


The Nuts and Bolts

The core gameplay of Entropia Universe will be familiar to any MMO gamer. At its heart you have three main categories of professions: Hunting, Mining, and Crafting. These are divided into specific professions such as Pistoleer, Combat Pilot, Laser Sniper, Archaeologist, Tailor, and Armorer.

The Nuts and Bolts

Most 3D MMORPGs play the same: WASD controls, mouselook, assign buttons to skills or actions. This means it’s easy to understand the basics. If you play MMORPGs, you understand this already.

Also included are support professions like Beautician, Hairstylist, Make-Up Artist, Mentor and many others. 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, and remains to 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, Entropia Universe offers it all.

With multiple planets, 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. As new partners come on board, new planets with new themes are 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 feel the urge.

Everything in Entropia Universe has value. From your gear to your properties, as well as your skills. All of it can be bought and sold using PED, and converted from PED into real world dollars.

While other MMORPGs may monetize your experience through a subscription fee or an item mall, only a handful of games offer the players an opportunity to withdraw their in-game funds at any time.

While rumors exist of other large companies pursuing this sort of model, to date the only true competitor to Entropia Universe in this respect is Second Life.

This will not long be the case, however. MMORPGs are progressing from subscription models to free to play and freemium models. It will not be long before multiple real-cash economies take shape in the MMO space. Entropia Universe, designed this way from 1995 onward, is years ahead of the pack. It is the industry leader. The smart gamer in me says go with this.


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, two years before World of Warcraft and two years before Second Life. The only other AAA MMORPGs 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 graphics overhaul. Unlike Ultima Online though, Entropia Universe is a true 3-D environment. 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 storylines to propel each planet forward, Entropia Universe offers many different games within a game, all at no subscription fee. The players are afforded the opportunity to choose their level of commitment and involvement based on time and money available. This is a huge advantage. The only other platform to provide multiple games within a single universe is EVE Online. 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 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. Concerned about the level of advancement of other players, and their own competitive advantage or relevance, 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 a single profession, and there are currently 87 professions available. To my knowledge, no player has maxed out their primary profession in 13 years of the game's 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 arbitrary number that states an in-game level. This leaves room for traders, who may not ever deposit a cent, 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 desirable resources. 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. This means 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 that you can get some of that money back when you are done with the game. And the fees are 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 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, 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?

In 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. The GNP of this video game was higher than that of China and India. Amazed yet?

One 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 nothing, despite 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?).

Sales like this were on the black market. Back in the day us old timers used to sell game related goods on online auction sites. Why, it’s rumored one suit of armor called Nexus Amuli, on Asheron’s Call’s Darktide server once sold for $7,000 USD. Characters regularly sold items from multiple games for at least a few hundred dollars apiece. This was a highly unauthorized use of those games, and caused many developers to create Terms of Use that expressly forbade such activity.


But what’s this got to do with Entropia Universe?

When this discovery of the value of virtual goods took place, this cyber pioneering in a great unknown land of opportunity in other games, Entropia Universe was being designed this way from the ground up. 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 was given an opportunity to build value into their activities. Everyone who played Entropia Universe could think of it 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 were 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 may be abstract, the people are real. They are living and breathing. They go to bed, get up, make breakfast, work out, get older.

These people choose to spend their time together in a communal space, performing activities that 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 any more 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 on 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, economists, and basically anyone else who has studied human nature agree. Online games are thriving cultural microcosms. People gather with a common purpose. The numbers don’t lie. 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

Any time a cultural change occurs, there are consequences. The advent of the steam engine and later the internal combustion engine, brought the United States, a young country then, from relative obscurity into a world superpower in less than 100 years. Its culture, including Rock n Roll, Levi’s, television, and merchandising brands like Nike or McDonald’s is felt far and wide. So, too, will the invention of the MMORPG have such a cultural impact. In less than 20 years the subscriber base for MMORPGs has gone from less than 1 million to over 23 million active subscriptions. This is only subscription based games.

Games without subscribers are hard to measure.Some analysts project that the number of accounts in MMORPGs exceeds 1 billion. Taking into account inactive accounts, accounts from the same individual but on different games, this is still a huge number.

It’s potentially in the hundred million active user range. You actually have almost 1% of the world’s population potentially using MMORPG technology.

Think about that. In 16 years of public exposure MMORPGs have gone from obscurity to captivating almost 1% of 7 billion people’s interest!

MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 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 MMORPGs into the educational sphere, and even NASA is creating an MMORPG. A simple search on Amazon.com for the word MMORPG will bring up a few hundred different books.


Why this is important to you, the ordinary MMORPG gamer?

MMORPGs are here to stay. Their influence on world culture in the 21st century will increase, constrained only by the relative accessibility of the technology used to display this medium. That technology is getting cheaper, faster, and more powerful. Just like television, soon it will be harder to find a home without a computer than with one.

As a MMORPG enthusiast you may consider how you can make the MMORPG boom work for you. What if you’re not a programmer? What if you’re not a brilliant news columnist, capable of turning a phrase that attracts readers to your work? What if you’re just a gamer, and your main talents are leveling up, talking to people, being a leader in your guild? What then?

Then you want to find a game you can participate in that recognizes your effort, and rewards you for it. You want to maintain an active role in that game. 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 at your disposal for when other people start recognizing this potential.

Why?

Because you’re a gamer. 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 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 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 characte 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. 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 those 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 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, 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 to provide small sums to players who participate in the process and refer others, to the Land Area ownership and Land revenue share programs, Entropia Universe offers something for every MMORPG gamer.

Are you a relative novice to sandbox MMORPGs, 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 and learn about the 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, and strategies folks use to achieve success. You’ll also hear a fair amount of complaints along the way, calls for forming Sweater’s Unions, and perhaps be exposed to get-rich-quick schemes. That’s all part of the game, though. Just like in the real world, or most other MMORPGs 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, a beacon, or any other mission key in game and take your friends 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 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 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 slay alien beasts, tame large tracts of land, become the next Deathifier or Neverdie and reap huge rewards and earn 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. 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 welcome you back whenever you 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.


- By Edward Stanaway, Entropia Avatar "Edward Magyar Republic"