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May 18, 2006

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» Dumb Move from Discourse.net
Dan Hunter posts on (confused) threats he's received from the proprietor of an online game whose press releases Dan had the temerity to suggest might be slightly inflated. As one of the commentators to his post noted, sending this sort of threat to a t... [Read More]

» The Next Project Entropia or Online Casino - Wager Island Leased for $320,000 from PlayNoEvil Game Security Blog
After the fun with Project Entropia over at Terra Nova, this announcement seemed to be the icing on the cake. First International Holdings Limited (FIH) of Dominica seems to have fused the marketing nerve of Mindark's Project Entropia with online gambl [Read More]

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vs maxx texas hold em tv poker The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant, the ... [Read More]

Comments

1.

Not much of a man, are you Mr. Hunter? A simple apology when one is wrong is all that is called for. Too bad you weren't able to pull it off.

2.

I can't say anything but '/owned'...
Dan, its good to hear you speaking out about companies trying to strong arm. Keep this place free of that garbage.
-Jess

3.

Awesome.

Well said, mate. Companies try to pull this off all the time. Good to see you a) won't stand for it, and b) have the ability to disseminate the incriminating information of stupidity.

4.

Oooooo.

Dan said "sockpuppet."

***

I, for one, am mapping this onto the Harlan Ellison / Penny Arcade thing, and I will be interested in seeing the [...contact details snipped...] results.

5.

Awesome.

Well said, mate. Companies try to pull this off all the time. Good to see you a) won't stand for it, and b) have the ability to disseminate the incriminating information of stupidity.

6.

Mr. Hunter, you still haven't stated why you didn't contacted Mindark before your initial story?

7.

Rico Diaz :
I don't believe that Mr Hunter is obligated to concidering this forum of communication is just that, a forum of communication, not a legal or marketting environment. Your statement is like saying that ever time I mention WoW over lunch I need to contact Blizzard and ask thier permission.

8.

Not much of a man, are you Mr. Hunter? A simple apology when one is wrong is all that is called for. Too bad you weren't able to pull it off.

Still trying to figure out what exactly Mr. Hunter needs to apologize for. ??

Oh also, please let Jan know it's not slander that he's accusing Dan of. It's libel. Go ahead, Wiki it. We'll wait.

9.

This is exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from a company whose product stinks.

A CEO who gets so emotional in his missives to critics is doing a great disservice to his stockholders. Then again, considering the poor PR some of our snow-bound northern neighbors' CEOs have been generating lately, one should not be surprised that there may be additional Scandinavian CEOs in sore need of medication.

I also love the first comment. That last sentence looks like it continues with "Too bad you weren't able to pull it off. Now you must die. Number 2, throw him in the pool with the Sharks With Laser Eyes".

I'm not sure who is weaker, idiots like this guy or the dimwits who give him investment capital.

10.

Couldn't say much more, Mr. Hunter. Bravo on a well-written argumentative post; there's nothing to apologize for, as you said nothing wrong in the first place. Entropia and other 'usercreated worlds' -- even Second Life, for all its brilliance -- have been on occasion labeled as pyramid schemes; whether or not this is an example of what leads to those schemes is a question of some merit.

As for the obligatory, already-posting Mindark folks? You're not making any friends here, and when you decide to make enemies in influential places, you find that they can do ugly things to your profit. You're making a blog post into a criminal affair, and directing attention to something that you probably shouldn't want to. You're pressing, and pressing, and pressing -- and eventually Newton's Third Law is going to bite you in the tailbone. Cut your losses, deny, deny, and deny more, and maybe you'll pull out of this one all right. But as it stands, I wouldn't be surprised to see retractions from papers...particularly as nothing he said is untrue.

Oh, and if Mindark's guys intend to level the legal cannon at bloggers, simply on issues of semantics...I would also suggest that they determine the precise difference between 'slander' and 'libel'. It might 'help' them 'in court'.

11.

Jesse:

That is missing the point a bit, I am afraid. The problem is that Mr. Hunter makes assumptions that are faulty in his story, stating it more or less like the truth. It's more like a poor man's rhetoric not verifying the facts prior to publishing it. I understand the reaction from Mindark, though. The post of Mr. Hunter today comes off to me as very arrogant.

The basic thing is that Mr. Hunter doesn't appear to know anything about what he writes about, beyond his biased opinions, and that is the problem.

12.

I couldn't find anything wrong in both posts, but if there are "assumptions that are faulty", can you please say them?

13.

"The problem is that Mr. Hunter makes assumptions that are faulty in his story, stating it more or less like the truth. " --rico diaz

Rico,

You ever read the New York Times? Washington Post? What you describe (though I'm uncertain it's behavior of which Dan is responsible) is daily occurence in the press, here in the U.S. and abroad. In England I guess the press can be sued, but in the U.S... faghedabouttit. It's a little novelty our antecedents penned into our constitution (even if it was a second thought).

And, yes, honorable men do (unlike the press) apologise when they err, but in this case you have failed to convince Dan (or most of us) that he has erred.

Make your case if you like. This is an (mostly) open forum. Facts, citations, links all would be interesting.

Personally, I think you're milking the old "any publicity is good publicity" cow raw. And that aphorism is a truism at best. There IS such a thing as bad publicity, and you are practicing it.

14.

In this current age of "I'm mad, can't do anything about your opinion so I'm suing you" lawsuits I think that it is commendable that you are standing your ground against this BS. I can't even understand how an opinion is libelous anyway...

15.

The best defense is the truth.

If Mindark wants to refute these charges, refute them. I am sure Mr. Hunter would happily make a correction and apologize if any of his statements were shown to be in error. He raised a number of legitimate issues that Mindark should be able to easily, quickly, and factually dispense with.

From all appearances, Mr. Hunter did a thoughtful analysis of Mindark's publicly available information to put together his article - a reasonable standard for traditional journalism as well as a blog entry.

I suspect most people here are/were intrigued by the idea of Project Entropia. They would like to see a game/world/business that smoothly fuses real money and virtual environment. Korean games like KartRider and Maple Story have taken this route with a tremendous amount of success by using a virtual asset sale business model.

However, the idea that it makes more sense for Disneyland(TM) to sell Tomorrow Land(TM?) than to run it itself may get at the heart of the question that one would have about PE' Space Station Sale (though some of us live in a country where our government sells its own office buildings and leases them back).

16.

MindArk, I dub thy product Project Spintopia.

17.

Mr. Hunter, I think you owe ME an apology for contributory negligence in causing my eyes to suffer physical and emotional trauma when you did so willfully and negligently (did I say that already) force them to view the name MindArk ... ACK!! You did it again!

18.

The basic thing is that Mr. Hunter doesn't appear to know anything about what he writes about, beyond his biased opinions, and that is the problem.

That sounds exactly like what he says is wrong with the press. Further, he's NOT press. He's a professor, and a blogger (a role which has been slammed over and over for not being as thorough as a professional journalist); it's not his job to step into PE and get a good look at them. It's the job of the press reporting the stories and the company feeding them. If someone says something wrong about your product, you don't try to get them fired; you issue a statement in response where you refute him and show why he's wrong and you're right.

They didn't do that.

What I don't understand is why they bothered to react at all. He basically gave them free publicity by advocating that people look into them more carefully. Really... in reading the thread that instigated it, the general conclusion was Malaby's: Go and play PE.

That's slander?

19.

Bah. I wait a little to post and I get beaten to the punch.

20.

I have been waiting five years to see the likely source of that stupid threatening phone call get the public tongue-lashing he deserved. Very satisfying.

We academics could have been your biggest friends and allies, but from day one - hell, from BEFORE day one (my survey was about a week old and my paper was months from being written when you, o anonymous person traced to Sweden, called and threatened to have my university fire me) - you saw us as a threat. I guess you were afraid we would publicize your secret scheme to take over the world. Turns out that that would have been a good thing for your business. Lots better than these stunts. Look where you are now, and look at Second Life.

Grade: F. Richly deserved; threats and intimidation don't work in business, and certainly not against academics.

21.

Well, this MA sockpuppet has wondered why their press releases are so-over-the top. Now, having seen some examples of the writing (and thinking) of the CEO, it all becomes clear. He's an idiot. Big surprise, the boss often is.

That said, you are flat wrong about the card being nothing new. As stated elsewhere, the card, the vehicle for the transaction, is not the point. You can *generate* "peds" in the game, assets which you did not have before, and withdraw them (nearly) immediately as actual cash profit. This will be a genuine first (if it ever becomes a genuine reality :^). (Also, your ideas about Jacobs are misplaced, albeit entirely due to MA's own stupidity; but the guy is apparently not an actual paid employee of MA.)

The real story you have missed here is the way MA promotes this hypothetical "profit" angle so heavily, in their PR, at the website, and even rather annoyingly, in-game. The reality, quickly understood by players, is that MA have the stats of the game very carefully rigge... er, 'balanced' so that the house always wins in the end. And not surprisingly, comparison to an online casino is common among players. As well as depressing signs of serious addiction. 10 - 14 hour hunting sessions in compulsive (and expensive) search for the next "HoF" or at least a few good "Globals" are points of pride.

That said, the most common opinion I encounter among EU players is that it's just a fun and inexpensive online game, with a uniquely mature player base, and well worth $15 or $20 a month to play.

BTW, ROFLMFAO @ "the Sharks With Laser Eyes", for real tho...

22.

Oh, too funny! Apparently legal bluffs and offline threats don't work so well on a tenured legal expert. Like play chicken with a freight train.

I agree with those wise ones above - What's most revealing is that the content and import of Dan's argument is left entirely unaddressed. Companies that claim their biggest selling point as the "ability to convert real world money into in-game money and vice versa" would do well to pay a bit more attention to the content of the discussion here (rather than just policing it with such self-absorption). Honestly.

23.

1. Dan can say what he wants. Even if it is slander or libel, it's incredibly hard to prove those things in court. Which is where you have to prove stuff with neat, precise, focused, legal labels like "slander" and "libel." The only really negative or derogatory term Dan used in his original post was, "bullshit," which he applied to Mindark's PR. Most of his criticism was for the media, e.g.;

"...media sources will buy any story, no matter how flimsy. It turns out that the flimsiest stories of all are about Project Entropia."

That ain't a crack on Mindark, but on the MSM, who are eating up anything with "2.0" or "virtual" tattooed on its ass.

2. I would caution Mindark's folks (or anyone) to be really careful about acusing people of specific crimes, especially through casual contacts with their employers. That is, in some countries and states, I believe, a crime; not sure if I'd classify it as harassment or blackmail. If Mindark truly wants to accuse Dan of a specifc type of criminal behavior, it should be acting through its lawyers and doing so via the court system -- not by emailing his boss. That's so uncool I can't even begin to say.

3. As a marketing schmoe, this is an example of really bad, heavy-handed, wrong-think. You don't go after a fly (sorry, Dan) with a hand-grenade or a Presidential Order. Imagine if instead of complaining to his boss, Jan Welter Timkrans had come HERE and made his case for why the whoziwatzis card was a guut thang.

Yow! The CEO? Here?!! On TN? That'd be so cool! And if the debate was kept clean and fair and all back-and-forthy, what kind of good PR would that have generated for him! Lots of people (me included) would have said, "Neat. Mindark *gets it* about being in touch with us gamer grognard weirdos. They're not just corporate wonks."

Whoops. Went the other way.

4. Didn't have time to say so on the original post, but I disagree with Dan. With a regular bank card, you can't go into a bank, scrub the floors or paint a wall and ask for more money out than you put in. With the Entropia card, you can earn dough in a virtual world and pull it out to pay for a Big Mac. That's different.

5. If Jan Welter Timkrans had made point #4 that quickly and simply, he'd probably have a few more customers.

6. Keep rockin' the free speech thing, Dan. I agree with you 2,229% that the use of spurious legal and pseudo-legal activity in order to get people to "not say stuff" and "un-say stuff" is total crap. And it's going to hurt virtual worlds more than help them, because virtual speech is "easier and slipperier" than real life speech in so many ways. So companies like Mindark should actually be looking for ways to make sure that our speech rights are MORE protected, rather than less so, or else there will be a chilling effect on their own products.

If I'm worried that I or my avatar will get sued for "slander" every time I/he/she/it calls another player's (or the company's) activity "bogus" or "BS..." how likely am I to want to play?

Blogs are a kind of virtual world, Mr. Welter Timkrans. Be careful what you sow...

24.

Guys, please call me "Dan". We don't stand on formalities here.

Or if you're a sockpuppet, then "Dr Hunter" or "Professor Hunter" is my correct title.

25.

Just to add a little fuel to the "Neverdie possibly being connected with MindArk" fire, this article from the Telegraph was once referenced on EntropiaForums (not affiliated with MindArk) and the thread was quickly deleted from said forums.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2005/01/09/ccmmorpg09.xml

The relevent quote comes from Jon Jacobs, where he says: "I'm negotiating with the developers to build the greatest virtual nightclub ever,"

That article ran on January 9, 2005. Jon "Neverdie" Jacobs supposedly won that virtual nightclub in a fair and legitimate auction in October of that year. He may have "negotiated" with them, and gone through the pretense of an auction for the publicity, or it may have happened as all the press releases say it did. However, it is not libelous to say that his quote doesn't necessarily jibe with those press releases and makes one more curious about the transaction.

However, and I believe this was part of Dan's original point, the mainstream press seems to have no such curiosity. Hype sells. Pointing that out is nothing to apologize for.

26.

This is too depressing to be a true story.

I'm hoping Dan is experimenting with some kind of blog-u-drama... Please, let this not be a true story.

27.

Ok, not a lawyer, but it seems that, even if what Dan said was incorrect factually, he framed it properly to show that it was opinion based, or a critique on appearances. There's no smoking-gun factual error.

Now, one pending issue seems to be the employment of Neverdie with Project Entropia. Apparently, Jon's used the title "Project Entropia, US Spokesman" in the past, and that would imply employment... but according to statements from Entropia, Jon is a fan, not paid, and fans are often used to speak out about the game in certain events ( and be compensated for any costs incurred while acting as a spokesman )

The appearance of improprietary is perhaps the most noteworthy: While not necessarily explicitly PAID, Jon's financial well-being is tied to the game's success, and one can see how such ties could develop a tit-for-tat relationship, and that it SHOULD raise some skepticism in the media....

Now, what gets me, is we live in an era where AOL had to drop volunteer forum moderators, because any "perk" given to them would imply employment that must be reported (or payment as a subcontractor). When I was a "battlemaster" for WizKids games, I had to report my "perks" of an occasional limited edition on tax forms. MMO's have dropped many features of player-volunteer-help programs for similar "perk" compensation issues.

So, how the heck does Jon manage to speak for Entropia so much, gain so much in the deal, and skirt the tax law there?

28.

I used to have an account on Project Entropia and was intrigued by their claims for some time -- I still pop in to their web site occasionally to see what they're up to.

I partially agree with Dan here, the new (debit)-card has been heavily spun by MinkArk(MA) as a new type of credit card based on a "virtual currency". My own "hype-detector" goes off when I hear this or see the platinum blonde spokesperson for PE. :)

But I can think of a way this could be functionally true (if not specifically true). Dan, what if MA is acting as a proxy service between the virtual microtransactions in PEDs and the regular bank transactions in dollars (i.e. a branded real-world debit-card)?

* deposit real cash into a real bank and likewise make real-world purchases with your debit-card (because it *is* a real world debit-card as Dan says).

* make additional money in PE, (it's likely that MA converts PEDs to "dollars" and deposits it in your debit-card account somewhere) and/or spend your money in PE (it's likely that MA bills your debit-card account for the corresponding cash).

* pay someone else in-game in PEDs (trade). (MA could bill your debit-card and deposit to the other guy's debit card.)

Now, ordinarily all this would create a billion microtransactions (each worth fractions of cents) that no external bank would ever accept on debit-cards. However, since MA is acting as a proxy here, they can put in place delays and controls to allow them to consolidate the daily or even weekly net transactions against balances available to the debit-card. They can even hold onto "fractional funds" virtually backed by their real-world escrow until they sum big enough to become transactions on the real-world debit-card. (someone who has a card could check the fine-print for evidence of such controls)

I don't belittle MA's accomplishment in that area if that's what they've done. It would be a huge e-financial system in its own right. Although not bound directly by the international banking laws and regulations it would be in effect mimicking the transaction systems of real banks for microtransactions in the virtual world and interfacing with real banks via standard merchant controls. (i.e. a proxy bank)

But I'm a bit surprised by the thuggish reaction of MA's PR/Legal team, which I think was uncalled for-- look guys, seriously, you really have to reign that in a bit-- you might let your technical team provide a rational technical response beforehand if you think someone is uninformed rather than yell "slander".

Dan, stepping back from the fray for a moment, what are your impressions of the kind of approach I outlined whether or not it's actually what MA implements? Does it bring us closer to true hybrid economies or still have a ways to go?

29.

Rico Diaz :
Thanks for the responce, I would like to point out however, that while Mr. Hunter could very well be wrong, we (You and I in any case) are simply a readership of a number of individuals whome speak thier mind, be it flawed or perfect, in a public environment. I am not saying that Mr. Hunter is grandstanding, but simply saying what he thinks. And you must admit, regardless of the medium or the responce, that Mindark as a company has very little to loose from a loose cannon Law Prof. In fact, accusing him of Slander is perhaps worse for thier PR then simply ignoring him and hoping he would go away.
If we were to draw a parallel to Blizzard for a moment; David Sirlin once wrote a rather disparaging post regarding World of Warcraft, as a company Blizzard had two choices, attempt to have it removed from its syndication (http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060222/sirlin_pfv.htm) or (what the actually did) ignore it and let it flow into the past as someone who was unhappy about thier game. Mr Hunter is free to express his oppinions where ever and however he so chooses, and I think we as a public need to either choose not to read them or realize that they are just that, opinions.

-Jesse

30.


It will be a sorry time indeed when people have to apologize for expressing a reasonably held opinion. It is rather pathetic for them to try an silence a detractor using bully tactics. Particularly for a company who's well being is rooted in communication between people.

Please answer. At this stage I will be content with an official apology.

ROFLMAO... I suspect you'll have to settle for being insignificant and largely ignored.


31.

Wow. Long time reader, first time call... err... commentor.

Just wanted to let ya'll know that this post recieved a mention over at CNet earlier today. The link is:
http://news.com.com/2061-10797_3-6074064.html

As a former journalist and an avid supporter of both First Amendment rights and collaborative online games, I'd just like to offer a bit of support to Dan. Good job on sticking it to those Swedish folks. I was rather impressed to read about how Linden Labs had handled uprisings within its population because it showed their commitment to the idea of the free marketplace of ideas... But MindArk? Please... heavy-handed legal threats and dejected whining is so, like, 1995.

32.

I noticed cnet news picked up the story now. Heh

Larry Kyrala,
The way you lay it out is as I imagine things working also. From that co-branded debit, mindark manages the array of microtransactions. It still isn't anything very noteworthy- it just makes getting money in and out a bit easier... They were tracing the micropayments anyway.

I'd also bet that it'll make any inflationary tendencies even more difficult to manage.

Remember, I CAN earn the ingame currency the hard way- hunting, mining, etc... (and paying a "tax" to the landholders). That game currency wasn't generated by real-world money, but can be pulled out for real world currency just as easily... ingame currency will always be growing faster than the real-world cash deposits that back them.

Either the game developer will have to back the game currency with their own (forcing them to create and sell more landmarks to support the endeavour, potentially devaluing existing properties if done at a rate faster than new player growth will support) or the game developer has to vary the exchange rate (killing the entire ATM system instantly- would you risk losing to a hyperinflating currency? Today, it's $10 ingame to $1 real world. Tomorrow, its $11)

Seems its VERY dependent on getting new business in there to support new land sales without diluting the value of existing land sales.

Maybe the "pyramid scheme" reference isn't THAT far off. (NOTE: That's maybe- not a slanderous assertion, just speculation suggesting that maybe this needs more attention :P )

--
Now, the rusty (it's been 10 years) crim student is getting interested:

As the system seems to stand now we have:
-a fixed exchange rate,
-money that can be easily drawn in and out,
-a history of handling relatively large cash transactions
-plenty of internal game-currency transactions happening within the confines of a "game model" that can muddy the view of where the money went or came from

We've alluded to the risky nature of MMO's used for money laundering. Don't these features make PE a rather valuable resource for just this kind of business?

(NOTE: I'm not claiming that there is anything CRIMINAL about the Entropia business model, or that people are using it for this purpose now. I'm not implying that a Miami DJ/actor to remain nameless got any of his money illicitly, nor that he'd need to launder it for any reason. (the press releases would kinda destroy that motive anyway) Nor am I suggesting that Entropia may be banking on... well... banking laundered goods. It's an observation that the processes in place might make the game more appealing to MMO money laundering than other games. Don't sue me. I'm not a lawyer- and I'm broke :P )

33.

I just have a couple of things to say here.

Frankly, I don't really give a rat's ass about what some professor thinks about Entropia or the company behind it. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But what I do care about is getting the facts straight.

I don't really care what you call the ATM card, that's not the issue. The issue is that everything that is talked about here has links to news articles here and there and not a single direct link to the OFFICIAL press release that is right there on the OFFICIAL site of Entropia. You are all welcome to bash, flame and do whatever about the thing IF you refer to the official source, otherwise you'll just lose credibility when you go by secondary sources. I have participated in Entropia for 3 years and I've read quite a few press releases and even more articles made from those releases, and oh boy, those articles are almost hilarious to read after the official releases. The press has an astonishing ability to "miss by a mile" when someone gets the brilliant idea "hey this sounds a lot cooler to me than that official thing". It's even starting to seem like all the news reporters of the world are underpaid or something so that they just don't bother to think what they are writing or double check their facts.

And the Jon NEVERDIE Jacobs (yes, his ingame name IS all uppercase for the nick part) case, oh joy... When will people learn to stop beating a dead horse? Is conspiracy theories a new major in universities? That issue has been dealt with several times in the past but people just keep on digging it up and conveniently ignoring the already provided answers. Jon Jacobs was never working for MindArk PE AB (note the correct case here too). He was speaking in some events and he asked MindArk if it was ok with them that he uses the term "spokesman" for the sake of credibility and MindArk allowed it (and it seems that it was a bad idea). He was never compensated monetarily or otherwise for that. Jon has always been very open about his doings and has with great patience and good manners always answered the same questions from these conspiracy theorists and taken the dirt thrown at him with a grain of salt. And if someone feels that there are still questions without answers I'm sure that they can ask them from Jon himself, he's not that hard to contact. No matter what people say, the virtual estate deed to the asteroid space resort was in public auction inside Entropia and Jon Jacobs bought it. End of story.

I'm pretty sure that the exact thing that angered MindArk was how that sale was described. Accusing someone for shady deals is bound to create a reaction.

And I'm surprised how Dan reacted to MindArk's message. Am I the only one that sees the words paranoia and overreacting flashing before my eyes? In my opinion Jan worded his messages quite politely and asked for a response and straightening the facts, which Dan in his arrogance decided to deny, and instead started jumping on the walls screaming "Threat! Threat! They are going to sue me!" I can see no lawsuit threats in the text provided by Dan. And the overall arrogant tone of the whole text really strikes at me. It's like palying MC Hammer's song "U Can't Touch This" over and over again, only this time the artist seems to be MC Hunter with the lyrics "You Can't Touch Me".

And in response to Chas's post with speculations about generating money inside Entropia:
Entropia is a (almost) zero-sum system meaning that the total value of items and money inside the system can never exceed the amount of real money put in by all participants. The "almost" there comes from the fact that almost every item in the system decays when used and a portion of this decay is removed from the system as MindArk's income. The participants then repair these items and transfer some of their money to the value of the item. When the item decays again, some of the money goes to MindArk again. There are also some small fees associated with certain activities, like putting an item into auction. With some small reseach effort this information is easily available.

Now you all must excuse me, as I'm planning to go burn some Project Entropia Dollars and generate income for MindArk PE AB.

34.

Remember, I CAN earn the ingame currency the hard way- hunting, mining, etc... (and paying a "tax" to the landholders). That game currency wasn't generated by real-world money, but can be pulled out for real world currency just as easily... ingame currency will always be growing faster than the real-world cash deposits that back them.

Incorrect. The ingame currency total CANNOT grow faster, thanks to the "decay" of the conditions of items. And without it, the ingame currency would grow at an EQUAL rate, due to the way the looting/deposit spawning system works.

35.

Oops, looks like I was beaten by 41 seconds :P

36.

Dan pwns

37.

Sendaran>And I'm surprised how Dan reacted to MindArk's message. Am I the only one that sees the words paranoia and overreacting flashing before my eyes?

No, everyone else is seeing it too, only we see it when we look at MindArk, not at Dan. In Dan's case, it wouldn't be paranoia anyway as MindArk really ARE out to get him.

Although bluster may work as a strategy in some situations, this is not one of them. If MindArk want Dan to apologise, then they'd be better served producing evidence that he has something to apologise for; a copy of a bank statement showing the arrival of $100,000 from NEVERDIE's account would do it.

Even in the unlikely event that we do see such evidence though, I suspect the best that MindArk is going to get out of Dan, if they catch him on a really good day, is "oops".

Richard

PS: MindArk's quarterly accounts are at http://www.mindark.com/docs/reports/Del%E5rsrapportQ1-2006.pdf. I don't speak Swedish, but it looks as if there's room in their 4,731,296kr Kassaflöde från löpande verksamhet ("Cashflow from running activity"?) for the 731,605kr that $100,000 is currently worth.

38.

Nah, if Hunter was wrong then MindArk is in a win-win spin-doctor situation if the press picks up on this. If Hunter was right then they still get publicity... To claim that MindArk is after him is going too far, apparently the CEO did a cutnpaste job from a comment he made on some other blog and sent that tho his school, a 10 seconds job. What seems odd is that his school didn't reply with a dismissal?

39.

"(I’m not quite sure what that means, but, like, whatever. Welcome to the internets, where everyone gets to call you odd names)."
I'm late, but then again, is it ever _really_ too late to taunt people who toss legal threats and/or subpoenas?
Welcome to the internets indeed: "LOL @ Jan Welter Timkrans, j00 r teh PWN'D!"

40.

ShitArk.

41.

I am curious what exactly Mr. Jan was eager to accomplish with his reply, I find it bad PR.

About the original blog-entry which started the debate, I am still puzzled about some passages there, but I think that having an opinion contraire to Dan Hunter's would automatically qualify me as MindArk sockpuppet.

I will still state it: the "big deal" about that card is that one is able to withdraw funds from Entropia Universe from ATM. Which is a big deal. Having a hobby which eventually get you some financial earnings, in a medium where MindArk are still pioneers, is a big deal. Where is the joke, what is so funny about it? Is similar to any advertising made by all and every company which sustains THEIR tooth-paste is better. So what? Did anybody readed that press release as MindArk would have invented some kind of card? I simply saw that: participants will have this rapid means of withdrawing. Period.

Kerham,
an Entropia Universe player,
who doesn't like neither of the parts in this story

42.

Dan, I'm going to sue you for willfully and with malice aforethought causing me to spray myself with my morning coffee, causing damage to assorted paper products and burning my lap! Ahem.

This is the best example of corporate stupidity I've seen in a while. I enjoy playing the actual game, but geez... make it hard for me, MindArk, why don't ya? I agree with Jack: "Dan R teh Pwn4Saur, Jan Welter Timkrans R teh PWND."

43.

I agree with much of Andy haven's post but:

> 4. With a regular bank card, you can't go into
> a bank, scrub the floors or paint a wall and
> ask for more money out than you put in.

Ah, but the rules of the game must be rigged (or else they cannot make a profit*). So the actual process is:

I give my bank 20 quid. They let me come in and clean two patches of floor that they sometimes throw pennies onto, for thirty hours a week. Occasionally I sprint to the teller and bank the cash. At the end of a month of this I see that I have made £6.20 back. They wait a few weeks then let me have my money.

That floor had better be fun to clean.

Endie

-------

*They won't make a profit anyway.

44.

Hello Sir;

I must say I play said game by MA, and like i tto a degree. I also must say that the reaction of the CEO was a huge waste of 1's and 0's . I am at a loss for words. Why would a CEO of a company even worry about a comment that doesn't damage the "game" in anyway? And the press wont give two cents about this. I'm sure they have better things to report like Iran having enriched urainium, random murders, or even a congressman going into rehab.

45.

I do hope Terra Nova isn't going the way of the Second Life forum. Surely we get enough drama there without it spreading. I couldn't care less what you think of Mindark or what they think of you. Take it elsewhere.

46.

"I couldn't care less what you think of Mindark or what they think of you. Take it elsewhere."

No.

47.

I could never take a threat seriously from a man named Jan. I think (s)he has Marcia envy.

48.

Yes, the card is just a debit card. Yes, MindArk's CEO is a fool, he could have easily turned this into something putting MindArk and it's game into a positive light instead of creating all this vitriol. Yes, Dan is correct and the media is less likely to do any background digging on a story that is already sensational as they are on something more humdrum, as they might find something to make it less sensational.

I think we've lost sight of something basic here. When you cut through the spin-doctoring, and the overreaction of MA's CEO, and the idea that NEVERDIE is somehow unique for making money playing a game (he ain't), and all the other foolishness... Let's put all that aside for a moment.

Being able to withdraw cash from a virtual world economy is a small evolutionary step forward in VW's, the sort of thing I enjoy reading about on Terra Nova as an academic discussion, one with some really pioneering names putting forward their viewpoints. With all due respect to Dan and everyone else posting in this thread, that is the sort of thing I come to TN to read about.

49.

'3) that its recent announcement about its groundbreaking “Entropia banking card” was not very groundbreaking, coz it was basically a debit card."'

ROFL, only recently i hear about this story, and still haven't checked your other posts, but may you point anyother MMORPG that has enabled the player to withdraw, "ingame funds" directly from an ATM??

I don't think so... and there aren't many with an Real cash econommy.

"(2) at least one of the much-vaunted sales of assets in the world was to someone who has a direct connection to the company"

Jon "NEVERDIE" Jacobs, is a passionate man, he found in Entropia Universe a game he loved, and he believes in the concept behind it. So he got so much involved with the game that he invested 100k$ into the game because he wanted to help increase the potential of Entropia Universe by bringing a bit of his world into the "game", a "Virtual nught club".
All the rumors around him working for MindArk are unfounded, pure speculation.

NEVERDIE promotes entropia universe because he is a business man inside this virtual world and loves it, not because he is a MindArk employee.

And all the people here bashing on Entropia Universe, saying it is not that revolutionary, can you point a "game" that can compete with it?

I recognise that Second Life is doing a great job competing with Entropia Universe, but still EU keeps it's uniqueness.

Also there are many people that make money playing MMOG's but most of them are doing it against the developer's will and against the EULA (what means "illegaly"), risking being banned.

Many say MindArk wasn't revolutionary, but remember.. THEY WERE THE FIRST.

The only thing here that isn't a "great deal" is Dan Hunter's opinions.

50.

Thanks, Dan. I really appreciate you going to the mat. There is an increasing trend for companies to use litigation or the threat of litigation to silence constructive criticism.

Interestingly, several states have their own legal regimes in place to stop this: California, I believe, has a law permitting private suit against companies that use litigation to silence criticism. They're called Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits).

SLAPP suits have been primarily a tool in the securities context. It works like this: a company that silences all criticism about its products or services by threat of litigation is treated similarly to a company that pumps and dumps. Silencing criticism has the same market effect as making false positive statements.

I wonder if SLAPP suits, or some analog might become a tool in virtual worlds, where the whole "you have no first amendment rights, this is our world" meme seems to have gotten far out of control.

51.

Cougar>Many say MindArk wasn't revolutionary, but remember.. THEY WERE THE FIRST.

They were perhaps the first to allow people to take money out of the virtual world, but not the first to sell in-game money for real cash as their central business model. Iron Realms has been doing that for years with Achaea.

Richard

52.
The issue is that everything that is talked about here has links to news articles here and there and not a single direct link to the OFFICIAL press release that is right there on the OFFICIAL site of Entropia.

Sure, just like every American watches the President's OFFICAL press conferences to get to the truth. Just for the sake of fun I did go there and read their offical release.

I notice they felt it critical to the information about the card to dredge up all their previous "achivements" and append them.

I notice that they don't seem to know the difference between $165,000,000 million and $165 million.

I notice that NEVERDIE categorize the PED as being pretty much being instantly liquid as USD, which probably isn't true, and can be cleverly categorized as coming from someone "outside" Entropia..

And interstingly I notice that they claim the sale of Treasure Island as a certified world record.. But, not the sale of the Space Resort.. Which would seem to imply that they weren't able to get it certified for some reason.. Maybe because it wasn't a real sale?


NEVERDIE promotes entropia universe because he is a business man inside this virtual world and loves it, not because he is a MindArk employee.

Technically that is a disclaimer of motive, not an actual disclaimer that he works for Mindark.

They may be the first commercial grade MMO to use a non-subscription business model. Thats about all I will give them credit for. Their representations about their product may often be correct in letter, but they certainly don't seem to be in spirit. That alone is enough to taint them with a shady aspect that percludes me from ever playing their game.

53.

Wouldn't you say that NEVERDIE is a franchise operator within the Mindark universe, and as such, technically IS the functional equivalent of a Mindark employee?

54.

Considering all I've read about the profit potential of players of PE, I think you consider everyone who plays an employee (in a 3rd world communist country).

55.

As an embarassed Swede, please allow me to apologize on behalf of us all.

I have to say, though, the card is cool, if only in a symbolic way.

56.

...I think you consider everyone who plays an employee...

This would be like saying everyone who plays poker in a casino could be considered an employee. Except I think there is less luck involved in poker than in PE.

57.

I'm glady you and your school stood up to these bullies, Dan. I see it not so much about insecure game companies and cocksure academics, however, as I see it about the difference between how Europeans and Americans understand libel, and what is acceptable in discourse related to business.

You're critique is just and grounded in rights and Supreme Court decisions like Times v. Sullivan.

Yet I agree with the other posters that say now the seesaw is going down in the other direction -- there is a pile-on here now to dis Project Entropia and put it in the Ludologists' Dog House. Project Entropia is interesting. It deserves a fair play. If the game devs invented a card that debits right out of the game, from the game currency right into US dollars, hey, that's more than a debit card, that's very impressive. SL hasn't done anything like that (and I'm not sure they can, legally, the way they have their TOS set up now).

I'm not saying that's what Entropia has, but it sounds like they do.

BTW, "Entropy" seems like not such a great idea for a word to inspire the name of a game.

I think you're right to push back on this as a test case, because it is hugely typical of the way people with the virtual-world bends behave on the Internet.

I've got one wacko who put their husband up to sending me theatening letters vowing to report me to the FBI and the IRS (!) because I...triple neg-rated them using the ratings feature inworld in Second Life (!). People get VERY serious about their games, let me tell you.

58.

It will be a sorry time indeed when people have to apologize for expressing a reasonably held opinion. It is rather pathetic for them to try an silence a detractor using bully tactics. Particularly for a company who's well being is rooted in communication between people.

"Please answer. At this stage I will be content with an official apology."

ROFLMAO... I suspect you'll have to settle for being insignificant and largely ignored.

That and being the laughing stock of a community of scholars.

59.

That and being the laughing stock of a community of scholars.

Hey, us MMO worker bees are laughing too!

60.

The story at CNET:

'Project Entropia' publisher goes after law professor

"Over at Terra Nova, we discover that one of the virtual-worlds experts has had to spend a fair amount of time the last couple weeks fending off threatening e-mails from MindArk, the publisher of the virtual world "Project Entropia.""

Link

61.

from Jon Jacobs' own bio: "Jon Jacobs, is a famous and high-profile Entropia US Spokesperson"

details here

(I don't think this has been linked above but to be honest I haven't read every single post here.)

go Dan!

62.

I "played" PE in its open beta (or whatever they called it back then) stage. It appeared to consist almost entirely of running through a huge, empty environment. Of all the MMO betas I have played it was the least interesting and I believe I lasted about three 1-2 hour sessions before I deleted it from my hard drive.

I got emails from Mindark, if that's what they are called, for a very long time after that. I sent them cease and desist requests which they ignored, and finally they stopped bugging me when I changed email address. They are the only MMO I have ever beta'ed or subscribed to that kept on emailing me after I had formally asked them to stop.

I am amazed that they ever made a go of their game. I have played with many Scandinavian players in DAOC and EQ over the years and I used to ask them if they had played PE, but I never even met one who had heard of it, let alone played it.

I wouldn't bother getting into a head-to-head with them. You are just fueling the flame of their marketing effort. In a world where WoW is about as widely known by the average person in the street as a fairly obscure indie band, PE has the real world profile of a busker playing Al Stewart covers in a small out of season seaside town - don't encourage them.

63.

Prokofy Neva: I see it about the difference between how Europeans and Americans understand libel, and what is acceptable in discourse related to business.

Uhm, and what would that be? This is effectively marketing, not a clash between cultures. Any hardly noticable product that people find it worth ranting about will generate curiosity, and it is apparently free to try... so some more will, even if the CEO is a fox. *points at 30.000.000 SEK emission*

64.

Slow down, don't be paranoid. Mindark is not trying to make anyone shut up. The CEO just got pissed off and wanted Dan to explain himself. Why he constantly ignores facts in his writing. But Dan has now made it perfectly clear that he does not wish to explain himself or discuss any types of facts in this matter. He just wants to make...emotional analysis on his blog (which should not be misstaken for slander). Which is of course perfectly ok, as long as you take it for what it is....

65.

> "Mindark is not trying to make anyone shut up."

That's not entirely true. I'm not sure if it still reads this way, but at one point their Terms of Service included the following:

“You cannot spread any rumors about MindArk, Project Entropia, and MindArk Staff or Partners, that can be considered potentially damaging, using Project Entropia, IRC or any other public forums, for example a web space…. The reason for this addition is to avoid malicious individuals to spread unfounded rumors with the intent to fuel discontent and trying to stir up negativity and bad will against Project Entropia and MindArk.”

In other words, if you wanted to play the game, you couldn't criticize it in any venue, anywhere. How is that "not trying to make anyone shut up"?

more details here

66.


Hold your horses,
"..spread rumors that can be considered potentially damaging" is not same thing as not being allowed to criticize. The Terms also say
"Show respect. Speak up for your opinions, but don't assault other people".

It may be badly written, but there is no need to deliberately misinterpret it. But I agree, it's not very well written and can be missunderstood.

I'm not sure if anyone on this blog remember (or even cares about) what was the orgin to this discussion? I think Dan Hunter is a good writer, but I'm disapointed that he, instead of explaining himself and face the facts, choosed to hide behind his "...they try to shut me down".

I don't care if Dan is the smartest guy on the planet, that kind of polemic is totally uninteresting and I'm not going to join the chorus of "fuck the facts-no explaination needed" opinions that seems to rule this blog. I have nothing more to say about this.

67.

Prokofy Neva>If the game devs invented a card that debits right out of the game, from the game currency right into US dollars, hey, that's more than a debit card, that's very impressive.

It would indeed, but does the card do that?

If I had zero money in my bank account and a zero overdraft facility, then were I to go to an ATM and attempt to withdraw $100 on an ordinary debit card it would refuse to do so. Now if the situation were exactly the same except that I had a PE debit card and $1,000 worth of PEDs on my PE account, would it still refuse to give me the cash? Or would it give me the cash and I'd have only $900 in PEDs the next time I logged in?

If it would give me the cash, then this is indeed an interesting development. If it wouldn't, what's all the fuss about?

Richard

68.

I'm not sure if anyone on this blog remember (or even cares about) what was the orgin to this discussion?

I went back and re-read the original thread after I saw the content of this post; I don't remember exactly when, but I did.

And I'll say it again: if someone "slanders" you, the appropriate response is to publicize a refutation, not try to get them fired.

If the CEO merely wanted an explanation, the first email should have gone to Dan, not to his boss. He asked for an apology as a second-best response; what he wanted was for those who paid Dan to feel embarrassed.

he, instead of explaining himself and face the facts

I'm curious... what needs explanation on Dan's part? And I'm looking for a response in the form of a series of questions that would normally be directed in Dan's direction, but clearly haven't been...

If the main question is, "Why did you slander MindArk?", then that question should have been asked on the original thread. I didn't see it there.

69.

i play MA's game since 1 year ago.IMHO, MA is looking for free publicity here at TN.
The game IS a shady business , is enough to read theyr EULA and the Entropiaforum.com for to figure this.
I support Mr.Hunter's opinions and i totally disagree the way MA act in this matter.

70.

i need to add this : be very carefull when read on Entropiaforum, is a censored and comtrolled forum; example : they host offensive and rude comments about Mr.Hunter, but banned a guy who said that the forum is censored.
MA use that forum for manipulate and missinform the players ;
MA's EULA means nothing, MA use to act different toward the players , depending on how profittable your activity might be for MA.
Actually,the players are cashing-out , so, MA and the players themselves uses any method for to attract some " new fresh blood" in a dead body .

71.

@Richard Bartle

"Or would it give me the cash and I'd have only $900 in PEDs the next time I logged in?"

That is how it is supposed to work. The example used elsewhere is something like "You make a virtual chair and sell it for 200 PED (20 USD), then you logoff to eat in the real world. You go to the ATM around the corner, use the Entropia card and get $20 out from the system and pay for the real life pizza."

That is what Entropia is about, to meld the boundries between virtual and real. They are pioneers. My guess is that Mindark would be much more in the spotlight if they were an US company, than just a Swedish one.

72.

This resonse from CEO Timkrans is bizarre and NOT acceptable behavior in a corporate CEO. Real CEOs just don't do this - ever. When corporations do want to be bullies, the legal department handles it. Apple legal may send a nasty letter or file a suit, but Steve Jobs doesn't spend a week personally harassing some lone guy with an opinion.

I thought this Entropia news was interesting, but seeing this reaction, I'm wondering now if there ever will in fact be an ATM card, and if the thing's not somehow a scam. Timkrans's response is precisely what you see from con men and fraudsters when they feel threatened, not what you see from professional CEOs.

If MindArk is a real company with real governance and they want publicity, it's clearly time for them to fire this Timkrans child and hire an adult.

73.

I think that Richard Bartle is highlighting the important issue here: what is the point in having a debit card to withdraw virtual money if you can't use it at any ATM or debit machine you wish.

I looked at the press release for the debit cards and it mentions that they work on Versatel ATMs. I personally have never seen a Versatel ATM and a quick google search brings up discussions of the debit card, not the pages of participating banks. If I have to wander the city to find one of the two or three Versatel ATMs in order to withdraw my money, I'm not really gaining anything, am I? If, on the other hand, I can swipe my debit card right at the counter of a store to spend some of my money, that's a compelling advancement.

Dan Hunter's comments speak to this ambiguity in all of MindArk's press releases that I've seen thus far. While it's fascinating to blur the lines between the virtual world and the real world, it doesn't mean much if the advances are only made through company fascilitate means. Ultimately, there's no difference between the 'advance' of using a special debit card at a special ATM and the advance Nintendo made when my brother could bring his Pokemon Snap game to Blockbuster and print off some stickers of the photos he took.

74.

@ Matt Schneider

Read my above comment, please. The ATM card is a Maestro (Cash-only version of Mastercard) card and can be used in any ATM anywhere in the world that allows for Mastercard. This info is available if one search for it, instead of guessing and speculating. Two places I know of the top of my head is the Entropia universe forum and the Chicago Tribune (they also have the name of the bank involved, which unfortunatley slips my mind at this point).

75.

@Fitzgerald

If the card is indeed a Maestro card, then we have a different story. The press release on the EU website (http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release_html_b1?release_id=126317), on the other hand, reads as follows:

"The card is associated with the participants' Entropia Universe account (similar to a bank account), allowing one to efficiently and securely access funds to make a withdrawal of virtual money (Project Entropia Dollars) in real life currency using any Versatel machine around the world. All of the features of transferring, withdrawing, depositing, viewing account balances and more are available with this virtual ATM system."

Following from the press release, it seems that the only way to withdraw one's money is through a Versatel machine.

My question, if the card is a Maestro card that would work at any MasterCard enabled debit, is whether one would be expected to pay a transaction fee to withdraw one's money? Although I've not used my MasterCard to withdraw money, I understand that I have to pay a transaction fee to use it. Would such transaction fees exist in EU, and if so, how much would they be? Also, if it truly is a Maestro MasterCard, then EU did not release a debit card. Instead, so far as I understand it, they would be offering a branded MasterCard, albeit one that does not go into the red.

76.

Matt,

Maestro != MasterCard per se. It's more like a debit card payment system that is processed by MasterCard's clearinghouse. I believe PayPal uses it, in fact. The idea is that it acts like a debit card in terms of how it relates to your bank account, but is handled like a credit card by the merchant, through their normal credit card terminal, etc. Generally, the transaction fee is covered by the merchant, the same as with a real credit card sale.

77.

Thanks for the clarification, Wanderer. I guess my only question would be which card are they actually using? The press release seems to say one thing while Fitzgerald suggests something very different appears in the message boards. Has MindArk issued a correction on their main page that I've missed?

78.

Ha. I want to get into that game and pants Jan's avatar. And tell him Dan sent me.

79.

Fitzgerald>You make a virtual chair and sell it for 200 PED (20 USD), then you logoff to eat in the real world. You go to the ATM around the corner, use the Entropia card and get $20 out from the system and pay for the real life pizza.

This is quite sophisticated. There seem to be three ways it could be working:

1) When you log off, MindArk automatically credits your bank account with all the PEDs you have. When you log back in, MindArk automatically debits your bank account with your PED total (or by as much as it can, if you've since spent them all).

2) When you use your ATM card, the bank contacts MindArk electronically and MindArk instantly transfers the money you've requested (assuming you have it in PEDs) to your account and OK the withdrawal. Simultaneously, they reduce your PED count by the same amount.

3) The debit card isn't linked to your real world bank account at all, it's linked to MindArk's. When you withdraw money, you're actually taking it from MindArk's account, and there will be a low limit on what you can withdraw. When MindArk receives a record of the transaction, it automatically debits your PED account by the amount you withdrew, or, if you don't actually have that amount in PEDs, it debits your credit card instead.

Which of these is it? Or does it use some other mechanism I haven't thought of?

Richard

80.

The ATM card is, in one sense, at least unique. It seems, in principle, to be very similar to PayPal - i.e it's a deposit account held by a non-banking institution, which essentially holds your money in order to provide 3rd parties access to it.

The thing I don't understand, tho, is how anyone perceives there as being anything "virtual" about the money. SoE have vaguely similar access to my Wells Fargo bank account, but they only draw from it once a month to keep my account active. The currency in their game is truly virtual.

The money in PE is real money. The fact that I view my statement inside a VW doesn't make the money any less real than seeing the inside of their world makes me a virtual person.

If that were the case, then the existence of online banking means virtual money has already existed for nearly 9 years.


- Oliver

81.

Someone should have told Welter his god-mode is limited to PE alone, I think.

82.

Man these Mindark fanboi's have could work for Fox News the way they stick to their talking points. Scroll back up and count how many posters accuse Dan of ignoring the facts in almost the same way.

On a side note the whole tenure system is pretty f'd up IMHO. But great work if you can get it.

83.

Holding all things aside and just focusing on MA's development of the card:

It is innovative in that it is the first (that I can think of) company to streamline the virtual-bank to RL-bank connection.

The old transaction processes for extracting RL currency off of a VW are very discrete. MA was able to develop the processes for a single passthrough. I guess an equivalent is for bank of one country using one currency to set up a continuously linked settlement with another bank of another country using another currency.

My view is that the platform developed could be as valuable as paypal for the VW market if MA play their cards right.

The functionality is like a private label debit card, or from another perspective a loyalty card. The interesting aspect is that the loyalty program is linked to a VW.

Unfortunately, all the effort spend so far generated bad press and annoys people.

Frank

84.

@Richard Bartle

This is from the Entropiaforum site, where a Mindark rep today talked about the ATM:

"If you have the Entropia ATM card, you can make withdrawals from PED to RL Money using the Transaction Center. The first time this is done, there is a delay for verification purposes (I guess around 48h - give or take). If no red flags come the transfer is accepted and your Entropia ATM card has the amount stored (like an account). You can then use the ATM card in any ATM machine allowing for the Maestro system (in some places in the world, depending on each country, you may even use the card in shops and stores - it depends on the infrastructre Mastercard has in each country concerning real-time verification etc - I believe the Mastercard web site can supply additional info about this) to get RL money. After the first transaction is made, each followup transaction should not take more than a few minutes until the funds can be used RL."

85.

From the Conditions of Use:

5. Termination
MindArk may terminate this Agreement upon notice to Participant. Such termination may be made without reason, and may be for one or more or all Participants.

...

In the event that your account is terminated or cancelled, no refund will be granted.


I know that there are innocent explanations for these clauses, and all online games have them. But, you expect to put money into MMO's for entertainment value and never get it out again. Having them looming over an account with large amounts of money that I expect to have access to concerns me. Also, remember that the TOS is only ever an issue once there's bad blood between the player and the online game company. So, when the TOS becomes and issue, expect everything in it to be used against the player. I expect those clauses will be used to block:

6. Ownership and Transactions
The participant deposits funds in advance and have the right to withdraw funds on the avatar that are not spent.


The ATM card, the sales of virtual items, PE being a VW and not a game, the working to make money in the game, the spending money to play the game are all tangential. The issue is that MindArk makes the claim that people will be able to get their money out and they appear to be talking about large amounts of money (thousands of dollars) and then the TOS gives them a huge escape clause they can use to get out of that promise and no banking laws (afaik) or such to prevent the loss of player accounts.

Could someone with a better legal background than myself please look at the TOS (Conditions of Service) in the PE download and tell me if I am wrong and if so what legal structures are in place (short of winning an expensive lawsuit vs MindArk) to guarantee the player accounts beyond the goodwill of the company?

John

86.

Well, I guess you have to ask a swedish lawyer about that, but your "investment" is lost if Mindark goes bancrupt anyway. Technically, PE is a lottery not a bank. The more pressing issue is: how are they evading lottery laws (lotterilagen). Norwegian and Swedish lottery laws are currently being contested due to some EU issues, I believe. Maybe this is part of it. I wouldn't know, but then I wouldn't "invest" in a lottery either...

87.

Just out of curiosity, why is it that the only time I ever hear about Project Entropia is when TN discusses the fallout from their latest cockamamie PR scam?

I've seen real testimonials -- offered by people who aren't on the take -- about Second Life, World of Warcraft, EverQuest II, Puzzle Pirates, City of Heroes/City of Villains, A Tale In The Desert, you name it. Heck, I've even seen people talking up Tibia, Runescape, Kingdom of Loathing and Neopets. When people find an online game they like, they turn into evangelists. Annoying, annoying evangelists who just won't shut up about it. (EVE Online, I'm looking at you, just stay the hell away from me.)

And yet, when it comes to PE, the only time I hear actual players talking about it is when they come by TN to show off their astounding skill at imitating sock puppets.

Why is that, do you think?

(A hint to fanboys: statements that I should talk to MindArk and play the game before I am allowed to have an opinion on the contents of Terra Nova's posts and comment threads will make me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.)

88.

Fitzgerald (quoting MindArk)>If you have the Entropia ATM card, you can make withdrawals from PED to RL Money using the Transaction Center.

Ah. So if I have no money in my bank account but I do have money in PEDs, I have to transfer the PEDs to my bank account before I can withdraw them?

This isn't quite how the pizza example worked. That said:

"You make a virtual chair and sell it for 200 PED (20 USD), then you logoff to eat in the real world."

What it should have said was:

"You make a virtual chair and sell it for 200 PED (20 USD), which you then request to be transferred to your RL account. Then you logoff to eat in the real world."

This isn't a lot different from what Second Life does with its LindeX, is it? Except that the L$ floats whereas the PED is fixed-rate?

Richard

89.

In response to Anticorium, its actually an interesting question and one that has been debated by veterans of PE. One that I also think about as I play PE.

Heavy handed tactics from MA also discourages players like myself who are experimenting with business in PE. These things generate controversy and speculation that makes it harder to run a stable venture in the game.

Partly I think its because there is a lack of community, MA does not provide community features on the website that many plays have like Forums etc... So a lot of the community resides on a number of forums belonging to societies and the such like. It creates a very fragmented community.

From my personal viewpoint, there is a great deal of Apathy. People come and go in PE, play for a few months and then take a break, before coming back.

I play PE, but I don't get passionate about it, I'm not an evangelist perhaps because I view it as a business and its about taking cool calculated risks and decisions to make profit.

And when people ask me, should they download PE to give them a go, I tend to give what is probably a lukewarm reponse, IE Download it, wander about and talk to people, but don't deposit until you are sure this is the game for you.

90.

Richard Bartle>This isn't a lot different from what Second Life does with its LindeX, is it? Except that the L$ floats whereas the PED is fixed-rate?

LindeX is very different than what PE does. Linden Labs doesn't have a standing offer to pay you RL money for L$, but MindArk does for PED->$. Linden Labs only hosts an exchange that makes it easy for players to buy and sell to each other, but the L$ that goes into the game stays in the game.

John

91.

"Linden Labs doesn't have a standing offer to pay you RL money for L$, but MindArk does for PED->$." - John Arras

I wonder if this is why MindArk reserves the right to cancel a player's account and not redeem their money? It seems to me that if they're agreeing to pay out in real money things could get really tricky and potentially financially disasterous if (when?) someone were to gain PED through illegitimate means (hacking, duping, etc...). Whereas SL's LindeX can theoretically compensate for such behaviour through a fluctuating dollar value, MA will have a lot on the line if things go south.

92.

I'm getting a little tired of the "sockpuppet" line. I play and like PE/Entropia Universe. I said so. Does that make me a sockpuppet for MindArk? Criticism from people who played a little of the beta version years ago is not relevant now and the gamebashing in these comments is irritating.Criticism of PE/EU has been ongoing amongst players, especially on sites like Entropia Pioneers. MA seems to listen and respond. There are avatars who work for MA and will ask you in-game about likes and dislikes. No one gets thrown out for voicing their opinion and quoting Terms of Service boilerplate to pretend otherwise is an example of gamebashing.
The letter from CEO Timkrans was silly. Dan is right to ignore it. On the other hand, his response was belligerent. Timeout, both of you!
The important issue here is that MA is trying something new. This is not their first experiment -- at one time you could buy PEDs at certain retail outlets in Sweden and other places, including one in California -- and probably not their last. Some real examination of these experiments would be of interest.
Finally, on a different topic, Entropia PEDs are pegged to the US $. I'm Canadian and the value of my PEDs in hand fall with the dollar, but the price of playing gets cheaper. I doubt anyone could use the game for successful currency speculation, since there is a transaction fee to withdraw or deposit money (and before anyone yells "fraud", I also have to pay such a fee whenever I exchange US for Cdn currency at a bank). Still, I think there are some areas of interest here for gaming economists. The relation of the Icelandic kronor to WoW might also be a topic of interest.

93.

MA does not provide community features on the website that many plays have like Forums etc...

To be fair, after spendinglosing an hour reading the World of Warcraft forums today, I almost have to stand up and applaud at that fact.

94.

John Arras>Linden Labs doesn't have a standing offer to pay you RL money for L$, but MindArk does for PED->$.

Yes, I see your point: the only way to get L$ out of SL is to find someone willing to pay you for them. That said, it does seem to be fairly easy to do, as there are people making a real-life living from their SL earnings.

I wonder how protected MA is against a run on the PED? If people felt the company were shaky (even for completely false reasons), they might withdraw PEDs as $s. So long as MA had the $s to cover the PEDs, that would be fine, but if word got around that they didn't have enough cash in reserve, that would be it for them.

RL banks have strict laws on the minimum amount of money they must hold in reserve to cover withdrawals. I wonder how much MA has to back up its promise to pay 1$ for every 10 PEDs? I suppose it would depend on how many PEDs were in circulation.

Richard

95.

Wow. Project Entropia must be a really crappy game (virtual world? MUD? realm?) if Mindark's CEO has nothing better to do than whine about someone's less-than-favorable opinion of his company's product and overblown press releases. I mean seriously, grow a spine. That means you too, sockpuppets demanding an apology. What are you, 15?

96.

Hmm... Project Entropia has som serious spikes on google trend analysis feature (applied to some free worlds). So their PR strategy obviously works to some extent...

97.

Wow what a mess eh. I am an avid 'player' of PE or EU or whatever you want to call and weather or not it is rubbish or not is of course a matter of personal preference. I would agree that Jans emails have been a little odd of want of a better word, however i can see why he made them: because he is the founder and has grew this virtual world from its infancy he will be very passionate and possive it about it, the same with any buisness. In his mind he is only trying to defend it however illogical it may prove in the future. Hopefully we can see an amicable resolution to this predicement.

98.

Is that the crowning achievement of our medium to date? A *debit card*?

Such a wonderful, powerful, immersive, beautiful, empowering, transformational technology, and we get all sweaty about bank-porn.

99.

MindArk have nothing. Project Entropia as a game is about as bad as they come and the only reason there are people playing it is that there's no upfront or ongoing fees. The only thing they have going for them is the occasional press release that through bribes, lies or whatever makes it into the mainstream press. Too bad that freemdom of speech allows people to say how bullshit their marketing strategy is. You certainly have nothing to apologise for, if anything MindArk should reveal how they actually manage to get their press releases published in major media.

100.

I've never had any nice thoughts of those Entropia guys, and your experience doesn't exactly change my views on them.

Had I been you, I would've been more fierce. If they want to play dirty, so can you ;)

I don't think you should apologize at all!

//Mattias, Sweden

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