Entropia Universe

Entropia Universe is an online virtual universe designed by Swedish software company MindArk. It advertises a unique "Real Cash Economy (RCE)" in which Entropia Universe currency (PED - Project Entropia Dollars) can be redeemed back into real world funds at a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar, where 10 PED = $1 USD. This means that virtual items acquired inside Entropia Universe have a real cash value, and a participant may, at any time, withdraw their accumulated PEDs back into real world currencies according to the fixed exchange rate.

The Entropia Universe is a direct continuation of Project Entropia, with MindArk reporting a 2006 in-game turnover of 3.5 Billion PED ($350 Million USD).

There are no strict levels within the Entropia Universe, and it is not officially categorized as an MMORPG; however, it shares elements of regular MMORPGs, in that skills and special items figure prominently.

The Entropia online community claims to have over 575 000 registered participants from over 220 countries, with the average number of players online at any one time previously stated to be around 600 (as of August 2005). The community has produced several real world marriages as well as creating a multitude of cross-border friendships.

The Entropia Universe entered the Guinness World Book of Records in 2004 for the most expensive virtual item ever sold.

Development of Entropia Universe (formerly Project Entropia) was started in Sweden in 1995 by Jan Welter Timkrans and a group of colleagues. During its testing phase in 2002 the offices of MindArk were raided by court officials following a complaint by Microsoft that MindArk was using unlicensed software. MindArk has stated that this may have been an attempt by Microsoft to derail the game's development because of its threat to their game Asheron's Call. The game was launched commercially at the start of 2003. The latest Version Update of Entropia Universe took place on 2007-03-20.

In a distant Sci-Fi future, participants assume the roles of colonists who must develop the untamed planet of Calypso and can explore its two continents, Eudoria and Amethera. Populated with fierce and dangerous creatures, the perilous wilderness on Calypso is also rich in minerals and ore, both of which can potentially be a source of income for would-be colonists.

There are two space stations in orbit over the planet. However, in order to travel to them, players either need to own a hangar which contains a working spaceship, or alternatively, players can pay other participants acting as pilots to fly them there.

The outposts, cities, and auction posts on the planet serve as trading hubs where virtual items such as tools, weapons, and minerals are bought and sold by colonists. The wide range of professions available to colonists makes the accumulation of skills and resources a lively business.

The service can be downloaded and played for free, following an account registration procedure. However, when someone new first starts playing they are not given any other items or clothing beyond a bright orange jumpsuit and a pair of brown shoes. As such, although one can participate for free, more involved gameplay is difficult without depositing funds. Players with little or no money are initially limited to the following actions:

* Using the service as an elaborate 3-D virtual chat room.
* Exploring the virtual universe.
* Collecting "fruit" and "dung" which can then be sold to other players to raise funds.
* Using an in-game process called "Sweating" or "Sweat Gathering" where one spends time using in-game "Mindforce concentration" abilities on creatures to extract bottles of "Vibrant Sweat", which can also be then sold to other players for variable PED values.
* Performing numerous "jobs" for other players; for example, acting as a trader, selling other players' virtual possessions for a profit.

Participants with funds often attempt to kill and loot Calypso's tougher creatures which are usually more likely to yield a higher number of valuable items, or they can also participate in the "Mining" and "Crafting / Manufacturing" professions, which can produce saleable items, to try to fund further gameplay. However, an element of risk and luck is involved in all these activities, and the eventual total payback is often less than the funds required to initially partake.

There are, however, alternative ways of trying to generate funds that are less luck dependent. Many players attempt trading as a fun and seemingly attractive method for acquiring PEDs, but the necessary time required and the typically low margins mean that profiting is often difficult. One exception to this is trading so-called "uber" items, which are very rare and highly efficient versions of normal weapons and tools. Such items are usually highly sought after and can retail in game for tens of thousands of PEDs (the equivalent of thousands of US dollars).

Other potential ways of earning PEDs include, but are not limited to, organizing events within the Entropia Universe and selling tickets, operating a player owned shop or providing a service (such as a beauty salon), managing a land area or shopping mall and acquiring taxes, working as a pilot and providing a travel service into space, or acting as an estate agent (realtor) of virtual property.

The reality is that most participants need to make regular deposits in order to fund their play without making a relatively large initial investment, and discussion of depositing habits (including requests and suggestions for means of self-control) is quite common on the various community forums. Attempting play without depositing is usually considered a point of pride, because of the difficulties involved and the fact that participants who deposit $100-$200 a month are not at all uncommon.

The visual side of character creation is very highly detailed compared to many current online games. Before beginning the game, the player's character model can be manipulated in a variety of ways, similar to the avatars in the virtual world of Second Life. As well as the standard variable traits which can be changed, such as skin and eye color, other aspects can be altered to give the character more definition and distinction from other characters.

The traits which can currently be changed include:
Body: Fitness, height, head size, skin colour, chest size.
Face: Ear position, ear size, nose size, nose balance (how 'uplifted' it is), mouth size and tilt, cheeks, cheek bones, face skin (a selection of the 'texture' of the face), eye position, eye size, eye colour, chin size, forehead size.
Hair: Hair size, hair style, hair colour.

The cultural city of 'New Oxford' within Entropia Universe offers participants the opportunity to purchase real world items, such as contemporary art and clothing.

Some of the companies that have partnerships to sell real world items within the Entropia Universe include 'Vexed Generation Clothing Ltd' of London, England, and '21st Century Fine Art' which has its real world offices in New York. 21st Century Fine Art have also opened a gallery in the heart of 'New Oxford' within the Entropia Universe.

Many players are attracted to Entropia by the prospect of making money, and MindArk itself has actively encouraged this belief by stating that the service "must offer unlimited income opportunities to the player". However, MindArk's business model is based on the fact that it usually costs an average player a mean figure of between 0.5 and 1.5 USD per hour to play. Often participants are encouraged to regard this cost as an investment, whilst some players believe that many aspects of the service function more like a game of chance and that they have limited rights under the EULA and also little legal protection if MindArk were to go bankrupt.

MindArk retains the right to change the game rules, income from player activities and algorithms to meet their commercial objectives, and 'investing' in the virtual universe can be regarded as extremely risky. Experienced participants are often more likely to view any payments into the game as an alternative to a traditional monthly fee for online games and expect little profit, if any, in return. In community forums, long-term players often encourage newer players to try and enjoy the more unique elements of the virtual universe, rather than striving only to profit.

Entropia participants also encounter the same problems with virtual crime as other traditional MMORPGs. However, the fact that virtual items and money can be quickly converted into real money arguably makes the game more attractive to fraudsters and the consequences for individual players more serious.

The real cash economy of EU arguably tends to make participants view their time online more "seriously" than with traditional online games, and also more secretive about their knowledge of game mechanics and strategies adding an additional challenging and attractive dimension. Perhaps one of the biggest controversies of all in EU is the constant struggle by the virtual denizens to wrest a real economic advantage over others through a better understanding of the way things work, and the inevitable class conflicts this can lead to, just as in real life.

* On 14 December 2004, the game creators MindArk announced the conclusion of the first "Treasure Island Sale". This was a virtual island put up for auction. The winning bidder, an avatar named Zachurm "Deathifier" Emegen, paid 265,000 PED ($26,500 US Dollars) for the island. At the time this was the highest price ever paid for a virtual item. According to the press release, it is "a large island off a newly discovered continent surrounded by deep creature infested waters. The island boasts beautiful beaches ripe for developing beachfront property, an old volcano with rumors of fierce creatures within, the outback is overrun with mutants, and an area with a high concentration of robotic miners guarded by heavily armed assault robots indicates interesting mining opportunities."

* On 24 October 2005, a virtual 'Asteroid Space Resort' was bought by Jon "NEVERDIE" Jacobs for a sum of 1,000,000 PED ($100,000 US Dollars), greatly surpassing the sale of Treasure Island. Jon Jacobs is also the writer and producer of a song played within the Entropia Universe called "Gamer Chick". The Asteroid was named Club NEVERDIE after Jacobs's own in game Avatar and has made headlines around the world for the high price of the purchase and his own ambitious plans to turn the resort into a venue for "Live Entertainment in Virtual Reality".

* On 9 November 2005, the BBC reported that the 23-year-old gamer known as "Deathifier" who spent £13,700 on an island that exists only within Entropia Universe had recouped his investment in under a year. He made money by selling land to build virtual homes as well as taxing other gamers to hunt or mine on the island. "The money made to date is only a taste of what can be achieved with my virtual island purchase," said Deathifier.

* On 2 May 2006, MindArk announced the introduction of an ATM card enabling player to withdraw the real-world currency equivalent of their PED funds directly from any real-world Versatel ATM machines. As reported on the BBC newsfeed users could sell virtual items online and then go purchase a dinner for themself down the street in real life with this cash card technology. It was stated that $165 million had "passed through the game" in 2005 and that this figure was expected to double in 2006.

* On 20 July 2006, the owner of the Virtual Space Resort, Club NEVERDIE, purchased a unique virtual egg for $10,000 US Dollars. The "Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg" was the final prize in a multi-part story quest, that tens of thousands of gamers participated in. The actual function of the Egg is still unknown and there has been much speculation as to its true purpose and value. "The absurdity of paying $10,000 USD for a virtual egg is not lost on me," said NEVERDIE, "but in fact I'm confident it will prove to be a great investment. Club NEVERDIE is already the #1 privately owned entertainment venue in virtual reality, whatever hatches out of this thing is sure to prove a big draw to the Club."

* On 7 August 2006, Entropia Universe announced the final sale prices from its July 2006 virtual real estate public auction totaling over $200,000 US Dollars. The auction began on July 5, 2006 with an opening release of six new land areas full of hunting and mineral rights and closed late July with a total of thirteen properties sold. The various virtual land masses including remote snow covered mountains, riverfront estates, vast rainforests and jungles, lake homes and more sold for a combined $213,784.00 US Dollars.

* On 21 August 2006, Jon 'NEVERDIE' Jacobs, the Gamer who bought a Virtual Asteroid inside Entropia Universe in late 2005, reported that 'Club NEVERDIE', his virtual Resort, grossed $100,000 USD in the first eight months of operation. The Resort opened on December 19th, 2005. "It's a tremendous vindication to reach the break-even mark so fast; very few people really believed a turnkey virtual business inside an MMORPG could do these kind of numbers, but the dynamic real cash economy in Entropia Universe is extremely conducive for operating a business or developing a trade; however, once you have the tools or skills it's really up to the individual to serve the community and develop the business. It's definitely work, but since it exists within a Video Game style world, I'm in my element," said Jacobs. "But, not everyone is going to get rich. In many respects, Virtual Reality is like the wild west, you have to be bold and not a quitter; many of the laws that will eventually govern Virtual Reality are not in place yet; it's fiercely competitive, there is always intense debate in the forums, of course not everyone is going to make money; you need vision and you have to place your faith in technology. But, this is definitely the decade of the gamer!". The $100,000 USD Gross Revenue to the Asteroid is broken down into $82,270 from the 5.5% hunting and mining taxes levied on virtual colonists who use the Asteroids bio domes to gather natural resources, $11,340 from sales of Virtual Apartments which the players use for storage and socializing and $6,340 from the sales of Shops in the Virtual Shopping Mall. NEVERDIE said, "Club NEVERDIE is the #1 destination for live entertainment in Entropia Universe, and if the numbers are anything to go by, it is probably the most successful player-owned and -operated turnkey business in any Virtual world!".

* On 10 October 2006, it was reported that Mike Everest, a home-schooled high school senior from Durango, Colorado had paid for his siblings' college fees by trading virtual goods within Entropia Universe, and withdrawing his profits as real US Dollars. Everest, better-known as "Ogulak Da Basher" on the planet Calypso, claims to have made over $35,000 USD. Of that profit, $12,000 was used to help his two siblings attend college. When asked if he suggested this to other high schoolers looking to make money, he said, "Not really, unless they can be devoted to it. It's really hard in the beginning to play the game." Everest spends an average of three hours a day on Entropia. "Some days I don't get on at all. But other days I can spend half of the day playing in Entropia." Since he is home schooled, he is allowed this freedom. Moreover, it can be argued that he learns life lessons from within the universe. Within Entropia, Everest is a captain in the Entropian hunting society, "ck Coat Killers." There, he is a hunter/miner who constructs weapons and sells them to make a profit. Though this is not your traditional business model, it teaches a real lesson about costs and demands. Now that the two older Everest children are set up in college, Mike says he plans to save for his own college education--"and maybe a car". When asked if he will remain active in online worlds in the coming 10 years, Everest says he is not going anywhere, but also knows what a commitment virtual worlds can be. "It depends on how busy I am. But I think I will, because I've made friends all over the world. I couldn't see myself ever leaving it."

* On 17 October 2006, MindArk announced that Entropia Universe had achieved the milestone of over 500,000 registered users. "The growth of Entropia Universe is an enormous achievement for us and the members," said Jan Welter, CEO of MindArk, developer of Entropia Universe. "As the world of video games evolves to become more than just a means of two-dimensional entertainment, we are seeing a demand for the integration of real-world features in virtual environments. Individuals are joining the Entropia Universe community to interact, meet new people, learn new ideas, reach entrepreneurial aspirations, create societies and even foster new relationships in everyday reality."

* On 28 December 2006, in conjunction with the release of Version Update 8.8, three Shopping Malls were made available for purchase through the public auction on Calypso. The Shopping Malls are located in some of Calypso's busiest trading regions: Port Atlantis, Twin Peaks and a newly discovered outpost on the Amethera continent called Emerald Lakes. After two final hours of exciting bidding, all three Shopping Malls were sold. Twin Peaks Shopping Mall was sold for $35,000 USD (350,004 PED) to avatar "Onkel RobRoy Bob", Port Atlantis Shopping Mall was sold for $70,067 USD (700,667 PED) to avatar "Epsilon Eps Vaz", and Emerald Lakes Shopping Mall was sold for $74,601 USD (746,007 PED) also to "Onkel RobRoy Bob". The owner of each mall also receives a 2.5% land owner sales tax on any items sold within their mall. However, shortly following the end of the auction, famed avatar and owner of popular community website EntropiaForum.com, "Flerin Neomaven Flerinson" controversially purchased the newly acquired Twin Peaks Shopping Mall from Onkel RobRoy Bob for an undisclosed sum, having previously registered several relevant internet domain names prior to the announcement of the mall sales.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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