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Apr 01, 2010



One area of growth that is interesting but not being talked about is how Mindark - developers of Entropia Universe - has started to license their game as a platform for others to develop their own MMO.

Planet Calypso - the old Project Entropia and then Entropia Universe - was the first virtual world to be licensed and use the Mindark plantform.

Just this week Rocktropia launched as the second planet partner using the Mindark platform.

All planets in the Entropia Universe will be linked with regards to economy. The PED (Project Entropia Dollar) can be spent on any planet. Also, the trade terminals (think NPC brokers) accept your vendor trash regardless of where you looted them.

However, each planet will have its own storage system (so you must carry what you want to take) and each planet will have its own auction system.

I'm not aware of another MMO developer who has licensed their platform so others can develop a game to exist within the same universe. One of the potential benefits is that since players can travel to different planets each planet partner must compete in the free market. Hopefully, this competition will lead to a better product within the universe.


I have to admit I'm curious: what's struck me here is the deafening silence about what seems to me to be a foundational change in the nature of MMOs and virtual worlds -- both completely malleable commercial categories no less immune to rapid evolution than any other. I think people are reading here (a few have come to my blog) -- so is everyone busy, on vacation, or too bored to respond? Or are people either a) done with MMOs or b) not interested in anything that isn't a traditional MMO?

We've been through a tough winter for MMOs and VWs. We are coming into Spring... but not with solid prospects for the same kinds of worlds we had before. Is that a yawner?

(@thoreau: FWIW, MindArk and PE have a checkered history of self-promotion, and while this development is great for them, I don't think it really qualifies as a significant change in the evolution of MMOs and VWs. If nothing else, Second Life has had a strong commercial angle going for years.)


I know I'm not terribly interested in 'non-traditional' MMOs, but that may be for lack of creativity more than anything else. Still there's something about embodying oneself in an avatar, about that avatar's performance being subject to constraints that ignore RL circumstances, and about the simultaneous interaction of thousands of individuals who are similarly situated, which make 'traditional' MMOs vastly more interesting to me than what we are calling social (whatever that means) games (Farmville, etc).

I still feel like the true potential of traditional MMOs as research tools has not been realized, and that there is a danger that it never will be.

Do you think the boat has been missed, that it is in danger of being missed, or that there was never a boat in the first place?


It's a new season, Isaac: you can't judge what's coming next by Farmville any more than you could judge the potential impact of WoW by an early dikuMUD.

MMOs and VWs are increasingly difficult to make, having all but priced themselves out of existence. This as much as WoW's pre-eminent success (and perhaps SL's overblown PR) has led to the recent "winter" and the decline of most (maybe all?) MMOs since WoW.

As interesting as MMOs might be as research tools, they are no more free from commercial constraints on their continuing as a culturally relevant form than were circus sideshows, player pianos, model railroads, sock hops or (striking a bit closer to home) hex-based paper wargames that were huge with the gaming crowd in the 1970s and '80s.

Further, at least 10x more people are interested in the new "social" games (which admittedly aren't all that social yet) -- and these games have much better metrics already. So why aren't these valid platforms for research?

Or might they be, once a new generation of researchers comes along in Kuhnian fashion to supplant the current crop of MMO player-researchers?

I don't know, and I don't mean to predict the End of All MMOs. Clearly many are still being made... but their success (and thus continuation) is more in peril than ever before. We can't go back, only forward. And looking ahead, things look very different for online worlds, communities, and games than they did even one or two years ago.


For me, what was most interesting about virtual worlds was their roleplaying aspects. That has mostly been ripped out, torn to shreds, stepped on for good measure, and tossed into a firepit. The new stuff coming along doesn't represent a New World--a Terra Nova--to me, in any sense of the word. It represents a new sector of gaming, that's all, not virtual worlds.


Michael, seemingly a lot of hard-core MMO/VW players value the role-playing aspects of these worlds... and yet few seem to really do this. See Koster's Law, circa 1997: The quality of roleplaying is inversely proportional to the number of people playing. There's vanishingly little role-playing on even the RP servers in WoW, much less in EVE or other games (maybe a little more in LOTRO or DDO).

So I don't see role-playing as a salient difference here. What may well be a difference though is that the tens of millions of people flooding into these new games don't consider themselves to be gamers: they aren't geeks, don't get gamer culture, have never stayed up late to finish a raid, and couldn't tell you what WASD or PWND was to save their lives.

And even if we decry the lack of role-playing or (current) worldiness in these new games, that's like raging against the tide. There are now probably more than 100 million people playing social games every day. In all our chewing on whether WoW or SL would "win," in all the musings about the always just-around-the-corner 3D Web, this scenario never seems to have been seriously considered, and yet here it is. Online games and virtual worlds are and will be "for the rest of us," only from the POV of anyone who's been doing this for awhile, that easily looks a lot more like "the rest of them."

IMO, we can either accept this and see where it takes us -- predict the future by creating it, as the saying goes -- or we can join the groups of those who have preceded us with complaints that the newcomers don't know how to count hexes, stack their counters, use a command line, navigate in 3D, manage dots, or set up a paladin build properly (depending on the past era of gaming you want to visit).


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