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
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
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
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
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.