Those of you who keep tabs on the industry will remember that Entropia Universe turns 16 this year, meaning that not only can the game now drive in most states, but it retains its discount card along with the other long-lasting MMOs. As it goes, I had to know what their secret was. Thankfully MindArk was kind enough to let me chat with their CEO Henrik Nel to answer my numerous questions.
The full interview is below, and once you are finished I highly recommend checking out Entropia Universe for free.
MMO Fallout: Entropia Universe launched in 2003, which in the gaming industry is basically three lifetimes ago. What is the secret formula that has kept the game running so long?
Henrik Nel: If we told you it wouldn’t be a secret would it? We are very proud about our real cash economy. Having the game being built around it has created something truly unique which can’t be found anywhere else in the gaming industry. We have achieved a level of trust after 16 years where players can feel confident about their investments being secure and treated with bank level security. It also helps that our community is very mature, entrepreneurial and newcomer friendly.
M: Being free to play, Entropia lacks a barrier to entry. Does Entropia still see a lot of new people peeking their heads in?
H: Yes, we do have a constant stream of players eager to check out the game. Even though some our players started over a decade ago, it is still very possible to start from nothing and
play with them on an even field with some cunning strategies quickly.
M: It seems like growing technology is the biggest threat to older MMOs; with some titles shutting down simply because they have hit their ceiling with new operating systems/hardware. Have you had any major technical hurdles to cross with Entropia now being old enough to get its learner’s permit?
H: In 2009 we made the change from Gamebryo game engine to Cryengine 2. With that change, we had to re-develop a lot of our systems to adapt with the new game engine. As many of the developers are still around from that time, we still possess the knowledge from that transition which will make another upgrade much smoother. We do actually have a graphical improvement just around the corner which utilizes Cryengine, but unfortunately I can’t go into detail about it just yet.
M: How would you most succinctly describe Entropia’s real money economy to someone who only knows it as “that real money MMO”?
H: In Entropia Universe everything has a real-life value since all items has a PED value. PED is our in-game currency which is exchangeable with USD at a 10:1 ratio, so if you loot an item
worth 1000 PED it is worth $100 in the real-world. Your avatar skills can also contain a PED value so everything from your weapon to your acquired skills is worth real USD. Just like in the real world, the actions you make inside Entropia Universe have a real economical consequence.
M: Similarly, I think that for a lot of outsiders, their major experience with Entropia is through these record-breaking land deals. Can you give a brief detail on how land ownership works and how people end up spending tens of thousands of dollars investing in virtual property?
H: Sure, a good example would be the Crystal Palace Space Station which was originally sold in 2009. The player who purchased it at the time got access to four different domes filled with unique creatures only found there. These creatures offer users in Entropia the possibility to loot rare and unique items and in exchange the land owner receives a small tax from the users. The land owner also needs to stay vigilant and listen to the users of their land too as they to possess the ability to alter the look and feel of the area. If done properly, they, just like anybody else in Entropia Universe can withdraw their profits to their real-life bank account.
M: And for a final question in that category, how would you bring in a gamer who is curious but afraid that they will need to put in a substantial investment to get started?
H: Try it out and see for yourself, speak with other players when you are on the inside. There is nothing to stop them from downloading it as it is free to play. We do have Starter Packs for new players which are intended for people that want to start out with a smaller investment, but again it is not a prerequisite to enjoy the game. The Starter Packs are made in such a way that they are extremely helpful for all newcomers. Another important thing is the great society we have inside the game, that as well as the mentor systems really help new players to get a great start and a good way to meet new friends.
M: What kind of content updates does Entropia see these days? Looking at the website there appears to be a steady flow of events for players to participate in.
H: You’re right, we do have a lot of events which is suitable for a lot of different users no matter if you’re a high level or new user. And we have some very interesting content updates coming out this year, with new systems attached. But as Entropia Universe is a Real Cash Economy I can’t go into details on this as it might affect the in-game markets.
M: Has the idea of an Entropia Universe 2.0 ever been tossed around the office?
H: It has been tossed around for sure, and while you should never say never, it is nothing that we are planning to do in the foreseeable future.
M: With many MMOs making the leap to other systems, is the plan to keep Entropia PC-bound?
H: In the future you might very well see more parts of Entropia Universe on other platforms, we already have an Android app connected to our systems, which we have had since 2012. With Virtual Tycoon users can craft and trade while on the move. But currently, we focus a 100% on our PC platform.
I want to extend a big thank you to Henrik Nel and the folks who helped make this Q&A a reality.