MMORPG: First of all thank you for the opportunity to ask you these questions. Could you introduce yourself to our readers, tell a bit about your (gaming) background, your responsibilities with MindArk and what a typical workday looks like for you on Entropia Universe?
DAVID SIMMONDS: My name is David Simmonds and I am the CEO of MindArk PE AB which develops the MMORPG Entropia Universe. MindArk is a Swedish company, but I originate from England and my background is in sales, marketing and security. My responsibilities are the day to day running of the company, MindArk, and some business development. At the moment, when I have time, I play Battlefield 3 and of course Entropia Universe.
MMORPG: Could you describe what Entropia Universe is, in your own words and what makes it stand out from other MMO's?
DAVID SIMMONDS: Entropia Universe (EU) is a living breathing entity that you don’t just “play”, you become part of! The diversity of EU with its many planets, and more to come, can cater to most tastes in entertainment. It uses a Real Cash Economy (RCE), there are no download fees and no monthly subscriptions, you decide on how much you deposit and withdraw. But, I feel the main thing that keeps me entertained in Entropia Universe is that almost every decision I make in EU has a consequences to my economy and future. Sometimes I feel that playing other games is just wasting time! Whatever I do makes no difference, I still pay 15usd a month, but in EU it is me that determines my own destiny by the actions I take. It now suddenly feels like I’m in something real, that matters, and can affect my future; not only “in game” but in the real world also.
MMORPG: With the introduction of planet partners a great variety of themes became available with a rock-music world on Rocktropia, time travel on next island, a treasure-hunting theme on Arkadia and several more in the making. What are the criteria for planet partners to be allowed a place in Entropia Universe?
DAVID SIMMONDS: A new Planet Partner must first submit a concept for their planet and a full budget for development and marketing, this is reviewed and considered by our development and management teams as a viable addition to the Entropia Universe. Once this part has been approved we can then start the Due Diligence to determine the financial stability of the company to be able to fulfill the Planet Partner Agreement.
MMORPG: With Theryon wars, Cyrene and Planet Toulan already announced can we expect even more planets to be added to that list in the near future, and if so can you share a little about the themes/background?
DAVID SIMMONDS: We do have other companies and associations with whom we are negotiating regarding becoming part of the Entropia Universe. I cannot reveal any names at the moment, mainly due to NDA’s.
MMORPG: With every added planet some of the people from older planets seem to migrate, are you not afraid the populations will become too widely spread out which may impact economies on existing planets?
DAVID SIMMONDS: This is all part of the Entropia Universe, each planet partner must continuously develop their concept and better their own planet, competition is good between the planet partners, and even better for the end user as it means new content and game-play is evolving all the time.
MMORPG: Several great new systems were introduced, like vehicles, missions and space but a few of the older systems haven't been reintroduced yet, like taming and beacons. Can you explain the process of how (new) features get prioritized and who decides what gets implemented and when?
DAVID SIMMONDS: Actually the Beacons have now been implemented. Systems have a natural progression that must be followed. We see no point in developing a system where once the next system is developed it must then be overhauled to “fit” the new system, if you see what I mean. Some of it comes down to what makes the game more fun and playable such as the vehicles.
MMORPG: What are your plans for space, will it be developed further like a separate 'planet' with its own mobs/missions/purpose or will it mainly remain to be used as a means to travel between planets.
DAVID SIMMONDS: Space is a big part of the Entropia Universe and continued development will make it a real kick ass space game that I’m sure some users will never leave even to visit the planets.
MMORPG: One of the more interesting and latest feature introduced is the Calypso Land Deeds where players can buy a deed that allows them a part of the revenue generated on Calypso. Can you explain the idea behind this and why it was introduced?
DAVID SIMMONDS: The “Calypso” planet is, and since its first year has always been, a profitable entity and many of our users have been with us from the start. We decided to introduce the Land Lot Deeds and Citizenship program to actually give back something to the users and make them feel a real part of the virtual life they have chosen, and the ability to receive revenue from the activities on Planet Calypso. Check out our website for further information.
MMORPG: Two more systems were announced with the introduction of the Land Deeds, one of them was a Housing / Pvp land-grab system where players will be able to build an estate on a 3x3 square lot they can claim. What can you tell us about this, what will be the benefits of claiming such an estate?
DAVID SIMMONDS: Part of the program allows you to build your own house if you have enough deeds. Some users use houses as only storage, but others can spend time on making it into a real virtual home where friends and family can relax and chill out. This will be introduced in the near future.
MMORPG: Citizenship / PvP, will there be additional benefit to owning property claimed in PvP battle?
DAVID SIMMONDS: There will be no further benefits to those claiming land lot deeds in PvP battle. However, they will accrue all the standard benefits of claiming the land. Of course, for some people, the knowledge they had what it took to actually fight tooth and nail to claim land from another player may be a personal benefit and honor to them.
MMORPG: Once claimed, will it be your property permanently or do you have to defend them (periodically) against other players?
DAVID SIMMONDS: Once claimed you will never need to defend it from other players again.
MMORPG: Which areas will those houses be placed, in one location or spread all over the planet?
DAVID SIMMONDS: These houses will be spread all over the planet.
MMORPG: Will the houses all be the same layout/size?
DAVID SIMMONDS: There will be a set of different basic layouts. In the long run, the system will allow for more individual designs, as well.
MMORPG: The other system announced linked to the deeds is a political voting system where players can influence design decisions on planet calypso. This system is scheduled to begin development in 2012. What can you tell us about this?
DAVID SIMMONDS: This is part of the Citizenship program which will allow the user to vote on certain aspects of the Calypso development, more information will follow in the near future.
MMORPG: Could you give a few examples on what citizens would be allowed to vote on?
DAVID SIMMONDS: A few possible examples would be things like voting on:
As just a few examples. The more involved in the development of the Planet the participants are, the more it becomes part of them and not just a game made by some developers in Sweden. We are committed to blurring the line between reality and virtual reality in as many ways as possible and we want people to feel strongly that they are a part of Entropia Universe.
MMORPG: How will the voting take place, a few years back voting booths were present, will they be introduced?
DAVID SIMMONDS: The new voting system will be very similar to the original system, but will have many more new features. The new system will take into account how many votes the player has, and the number of votes a player has can also affect how the player can participate in the voting.
MMORPG: Are there any measures in place to protect against one person buying up 51% of all deeds, dictating any voting outcome and rendering the other deeds useless for voting?
DAVID SIMMONDS: The distribution of the land lot deeds is being managed manually and we are continually monitoring the deeds to allow distribution evenly. Deeds in player’s inventories can be traded between participants and it becomes something determined by the interactions of individuals and the entire community, not by MindArk. The depth of the economy and player involvement will make this an exciting thing to watch.
MMORPG: A large part of the income from the sales of these Deeds was said to go to a new marketing campaign, will this be EU wide or focused on Planet Calypso? Can you share a little more what you plan to do to increase exposure?
DAVID SIMMONDS: We will be marketing both Entropia Universe as a whole, including all the planets, and Planet Calypso individually. We now have an experienced Marketing director and are considering all the options to maximise the return of investment on marketing, certain system and graphical changes may have to occur before a full marketing campaign can start. We do have a new Facebook app that should launch in late January from SocialType, we are very excited about, and which we hope our old and new users will appreciate and use to its full potential.
MMORPG: As a final question how do you see the future of EU, can we expect any nice surprises in the near future?
DAVID SIMMONDS: With the continued development of new systems by MindArk, and new content and Planets from our partners, we see the Entropia Universe growing into an enormous World with every type of virtual activity available that is currently on the Internet, from computer gaming to business activities to education. Its all going to be here in the ever expanding Entropia Universe.