Entropia Universe: Update and Crafting
Entropia Universe is a pretty interesting game. With a very unique revenue system, the game captured my interest as soon as I found out about it. I’ve also really been impressed with the way crafting works in the game since I started looking into it a bit more. When the developers reached out to ask if I’d be interested in talking with them about their impending update, it was an easy affirmative for me.
The updates are interesting and should improve the quality of life for players in EU, but I was particularly excited to sit down with someone who understood the workings of the game and who could give me a chance to try it out a little more than I’d been able to on my free character. It was also a great chance to get a feel for at least one member of the team and better understand the culture the developers operate in.
There are three main points called out in the new update. The first is a revamped aiming system. The initial weapon I had as a newb was a little pistol that would only expend ammunition on a hit. I selected a target and pressed the “use” key to fire off a round. What I didn’t realize is that better weapons that I’d get access to later would use something more like an FPS style of aiming.
I wasted a lot of developer ammunition shooting my rifle into the ground, before someone pointed out that I wasn’t aiming at anything. Once I mouse-wheeled in to first-person, the targeting reticule popped up and I was able to start shooting the critters in front of me. Scrolling again transitioned me into something like sniper mode, and which seemed pretty intuitive once I knew it was there.
The new aiming system will be more like the first system, where players lock on to a target and use their weapon to fire at it. I get the sense that this is really how the game has worked for a while, if not since the beginning. I didn’t get confirmation, but I suspect that the aiming reticule was just selecting the target under it and the same calculations to hit, miss, and damage are still rolled under the hood.
That means the net benefit of the targeting change will probably be fewer misses, unless the team changes hit percentages based on the post-update data they see. The change will also help players to maintain lock on a specific enemy in a crowd, which has a number of obvious benefits. The one down side that I’m a little curious about will be PvP. If dodging, dipping, ducking, diving, and dodging no longer matter, then that seems likely to change how players engage in PvP pretty dramatically.
Supporting the new system will be changes to camera transitions. Transitions will be done with a toggle to get the view from first to third-person and back. I’m not sure how much total impact that’ll have with combat with the aiming changes, but it’s also reflective of the third main change in the new update.
Players will no longer have to right-click and walk through menus when interacting with objects, NPCs, and other players. Context menus are replaced with hotkeys. I might have found this a bit of a step backwards because I’m not really a fan of simplifying existing systems in most cases. I did find out while talking with the devs that Entropia Universe does have a really slick key-mapping system. Whether that’s enough to ensure the game still feels complex and interesting is something we’ll have to wait to see.
The best part about getting a dev to hand-hold me a bit through the game was getting better acquainted with the crafting system. There are a number of aspects of this system that I really like a lot and hope eventually carries forward into new games. For one, I really liked the way blueprints work.
You can buy any blueprint on the market you like, but they can also be researched. Blueprints also have associated quality to them, which influences how successful you are on with each use. Each use of the blueprint includes a chance to increase the quality of the blueprint or to unlock an additional blueprint as a discovery.
I like this system very much because it feeds into the complex calculation used to determine the quality of a produced item. In that sense, it echoes a lot of what I liked about Star Wars Galaxies in that it allows a player to master the manufacturing of an item and develop a reputation for producing the best of that specific item. With a huge list of craftable equipment and augmentations, there’s room for players to establish their own niche in that sort of economy, which I find very appealing in a game.
I also liked that perfecting the manufacturing of something wasn’t just about quality, but also efficiency. Efficiency increases the profitability of an item, and that opens all sorts of doors in a player-based economy. Producing copper screws doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as producing the end-tier Red Rider repeating laser rifle but make good deals with a couple good ore producers to ensure adequate flow of material, nail down your production efficiency, and those simple screws could be the foundation that anchors an industrial empire.
That sort of gameplay is boring to a lot of folks and it doesn’t typically make for the most interesting streamed content, so it tends to get overlooked by most games. That’s the sort of gameplay that I love, though. All my favorite MMOs place player-crafting in a vital niche that supports PvP and high-end PvE content.
It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t able to play this game on release. I’m pretty confident that I would have lost my rear playing it. I still loved the idea of player-driven economies back then, but I had neither the financial foundation nor the self-control that I’ve managed to find since.
Unfortunately, I also don’t really have the luxury of investing myself into a game like I once could. Besides having to play a different game nearly every week in order to have something to write about, I just don’t really have much in the way of free time. If I did, Entropia Universe is the sort of game that would get very serious attention from me, though.
If you’re someone with a little more time and are interested in a game that allows you to stretch your economic chops, you might look into EU. I’d set yourself a budget and take a step back after some time to evaluate what your real cost has been and compare that against how much you’ve enjoyed the game. There is a bit of a chance there to get pulled in and fool yourself on how much the game is actually costing you, I think. You should be careful of that.
On the other hand, once you’ve gotten your skills up to a certain point and developed some efficiencies in your manufacturing, the system seems primed to reward players who are willing to fill those economic gaps that support the rest of the player-base. I don’t have the time to be good at it and it would never come close to competing with my current work to replace my income (not that any game should), but I’ll probably be dropping a few bucks on the game myself. At the end of the day, I find some of the ideas interesting and I place a fair amount of value on interesting things these days.