Project Entropia
Author: ~Lockup~
Date:    01/21/2000
Maximum PC Network!

It is the far future of mankind, on a new planet conquered by humans after Earth becomes overpopulated. Humans have settled in peaceful colonies on this new world, but they are still not safe from hostile native creatures and mutated humans. The biggest danger to humans, however, is one of their own making - the robots created to terra-form the new planet have revolted against their creators in an attempt to take over.

This is the world of Project Entropia, a new massively multi-user 3D online game being developed by the Swedish startup, Mindark AB. Like other online games such as Ultima Online and EverQuest, Project Entropia includes traditional elements of a role playing game, or RPG - fast-moving combat and individual character skill development.

A Brave New World

Set 1,000 years in the future, Project Entropia is a science-fiction game influenced by Syndicate, Blade Runner and other science-fiction story lines. Since it is based on mankind's possible future, players will recognize environments and objects found on our own planet and in our own society. But today's world is only a small part of Project Entropia, according to Patric Sundström, marketing manager for Mindark.

Players are not forced into combat or gameplay in Project Entropia. They can simply choose to live in a community, meet other characters and develop relationships with them - almost like a virtual reality party with viewable characters. "Project Entropia is not just another shoot-em-up online game," says Sundström. "We have put a lot of hard work and energy into creating a functional society where every individual takes control over his or her future, which means it's very important to make and keep your social contacts as well as developing your other skills."

Players are free to explore drastically different environments - from secured, heavily populated cities to the perilous and vastly unexplored wilderness. While those venturing into wilderness areas learn combat skills, the city dwellers must learn how to survive in the advanced hi-tech infrastructure of their new planet cities, which blend future, past and present in an interesting - and not always safe - mix of cafes, shops, sports clubs, discotheques and bars.

Growing Up in Project Entropia


The first step for Project Entropia players is to create their characters. Character appearance is customized, enabling players to construct characters as beautiful, ugly or just strange. After customizing its appearance, the character is "born" in a special area on the planet designated only for new players. This transitional zone helps new players, known as "newbies," test their characters' abilities and gradually become familiar with the environment and controls. The newbies are also protected from attacks from more experienced players. When a character is comfortable with his or her new life, it's on to the "real world" in Project Entropia.

"We believe that every character should have exactly the same position in the beginning," explains Sundström. "As we only have the option for players to play humans, the skill inventory initially available to everyone will be the same." Each character will have more than 50 skills to choose from, with the development of an individual character depending on four or five different status scales used in the game. All characters have the challenge of learning the planet's new technologies, which could affect their skills and actions, and they receive visible signs of play progress, Sundström says.

 

Players will not always "go it alone" in this new world. They can seek advice and information from Non-Player Characters, or NPCs, who offer the players hints, tips and guidance while they learn how to make use of their skills in the planet's different environments. Compared to fantasy games, which depend heavily on magic, the magic in Project Entropia is within each character - a fascinating aspect of the game is that people in the future have developed strong mental abilities. While characters can develop these mental abilities, their survival on the new planet will not depend on it.

Life on the Wild Side

Survival, however, will depend on skills, warring tactics and teamwork if players choose to do combat in the "wild zones." "We are developing a system where character attributes and the standard of the weapons have a significant impact on how players can prove themselves in combat," Sundström says. "At the same time, a player's own abilities, like reaction time and tactical thinking, play a great importance for success in fighting."


As with everything else within Project Entropia, enemies and allies are not always clearly delineated and can shift within the course of the game. Humans must keep a constant vigil for the renegade robots that continuously raid human colonies in their quest to take over. These robots have superior technology, and it is necessary for humans to cooperate in combat against them. But humans might have an unexpected ally in some odd, yet strangely familiar-looking native creatures. The challenge is learning who you can - and cannot - trust in Project Entropia.

Playing by Their Own Rules

Mindark's programmers and designers - a group of self-confessed game addicts - began working on Project Entropia a little over two years ago. Mindark used the lessons learned from other online games' successes and failures to make Project Entropia's game rules "good from the beginning," says Sundström. "Gamers tend to collect good ideas, and blacklist bad ones. We wanted to make sure the basic game rules were not updated in such a way that players would experience big changes when they are already used to a certain rule system," he explains.

Players also will have significant input in the evolution of Project Entropia, Sundström says. "We wanted the freedom for players to construct their own communities with their own rules in the game environment," he says. "We will let players bring their ideas to the game. I mean, why not ask the real experts about their ideas regarding their ultimate game?"

Gameplay on a Large Scale

Coordinating development of all the environments, characters, game play options, rich graphics and real-time scene management needed for a massively multi-player game add up to a huge challenge for Mindark. With all the work required to develop the game itself, Mindark did not want the added burden of creating a custom 3D game engine. Mindark selected NetImmerse, an independent 3D game engine from Numerical Design Ltd. (NDL), because it was able to handle Project Entropia's huge and dynamic game world, says Sundström.

"The greatest benefit of NetImmerse was being able to get rid of the uncertainty that would come with developing our own game engine," says Sundström. "With it, we immediately knew our performance and feature specifications. This enabled our graphic designers to know which limits they have to work within and which features they can count on, saving a lot of time."

Availability of source code and multi-platform support were also important to Mindark. "For the programmers, NetImmerse has a simple, clear and mature programming interface," says Sundström. "This, together with the excellent documentation and example code, makes the process of adding new features to our games very easy and quick. In fact, we have even added features to our game specifications because NetImmerse provides them practically free."

 

For a game such as Project Entropia, the 3D game engine not only plays a major development role, but a critical one once the game is made available online for thousands to play simultaneously. Mindark is using its own system for building and maintaining environment information, and 3D game engine to handle dynamic information changes. When the game is active, character information is fed into NetImmerse to manage real-time interaction.

About the Beta Test

Mindark will hold an open beta test. No date has been disclosed. For those interested in participating in the public beta test watch the Project Entropia's web site or sign-up for the Project Entropia Newsletter.


 

Developer: Mindark AB
Publisher: N/A
Download: N/A