"Welcome to Fahn-tah-sy Island!" I could hear Ricardo Montalban's gracious, welcoming voice in my head as I watched the visuals of Next Island, the latest "planet" in Entropia Universe's system.
"We hope to attract women and casual gamers into the world of MMOs with Next Island," said founder David Post, "Players who've never played MMOs will be eased into the genre, while veteran players can relax in a virtual paradise."
New players register, download the game, create an avatar and off they go, with the game gently encouraging them to explore, then to learn a profession, to try a few jobs; perhaps hunting? Mining? Farming? Players can switch professions at will, never tied to just one.
Created by David Post and developed by Neverdie Studios, Next Island will offer a combination of online entertainment, social networking and ecommerce. Next Island's appeal to the mass market will not only be through avatar-based gameplay, social interaction but high profile entertainment brand integrations like Caroline's Comedy Club, virtualized in Next Island as Caroline's Virtual Comedy Club where players will be entertained by some of the hottest up-and-coming comics. Club Neverdie, Jon "Neverdie" Jacob's first nightclub on Calypso will be open for players to party in as well.
Another game feature is time travel to ancient civilizations. Players who discover time travel crystals will be able to travel to ancient civilizations via magical portals. (I could almost hear the bell ringing and Tattoo calling "Da Plane! Da Plane!") The first will be ancient Greece, a time and period that's a blend of myth and history full of in-game events, quests, competitions and challenges. Players may not bring modern technology back through the time portal, but may bring all they earn there, forward to the modern era. If players wish to, they can make a virtual life for themselves there and never leave, or perhaps only leaving to trade the treasures they gain there. What a concept. A world within a world. Where shall we live this week? Ancient Greece? Egypt? China?
Being in the Entropia Universe, current players on Calypso and Rocktropia will be able to move their avatars from planet to planet, however, as each planet has their own rules, some items just might not get through interplanetary customs. Players of Next Island will have the same ability to earn real money through in-game crafting and selling of virtual property and items. The virtual exchange rate is set at ten Ped to a dollar, allowing players to buy and trade currency and items with the security of Mindark.
Next Island is a tropical world with pristine beaches, clear skies and blue waters. "A better place," David calls it, "the Elysian Fields, a fantasy world. Calypso players could come for a holiday and never leave, and Farmville players will find themselves in a far more immersive world which provides them farming mechanics just as, if not more fun."
This Shangri-La officially launches in February and additional time-travel locations are planned every four months with a planned ice age world and ancient China realm expected to be added in 2011.