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EntropiaPlanets presents: Exclusive interview with Deathifier ~ Virtual Legend

Discussion in 'Entropia News' started by Lykke TheNun, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. Lykke TheNun

    Lykke TheNun Lootius bless you all!

    [​IMG]


    It is roughly 5 years ago that Project Entropia (as Entropia Universe was named back then) made headlines around the world due to the sale of Treasure Island; a piece of virtual property that sold for 26,500 USD - a record amount at the time. Deathifier, as the buyer was known in-game (his real name is David Storey), showed up in news articles all over the globe. Today, EntropiaPlanets interviews him about the last 5 years, and his vision for the future of Entropia, with the release of new planets around the corner.

    David, thank you for taking the time to have this Q&A session with us. First off, we (Lykke and Peter) would like to thank you. If it had not been for you, we would never have met. It was the Treasure Island article that brought both of us to Calypso, where we subsequently fell in love. Now, we've been married for just over a year, so once again, thank you.

    Your story about buying Treasure Island most likely is well known already, but could you briefly recapture it for us, for the sake of the readers who might not be too familiar with it?

    In 2004 MindArk put Treasure Island on the public auction and after an incredible bidding war against NEVERDIE (including crashing the auction system a few times!) I won it at 265k PED.

    For me it all started when I was roaming around checking out the island and stood on the steps of the mansion, thinking to myself "I could own this...". From there I went and sought some external funding which involved preparing and refining a business plan, for which I drew on both my experience in Entropia and what little historical data was publically available at the time. It was a new and interesting experience however nothing prepared me for what would happen once I purchased the island! It is also wonderful that I was able to contribute to your own happy story :-)

    When TI was first announced, MindArk listed it would have the following capabilities:
    - A unique castle (furniture not included)
    - Hunting (including native forms of wildlife)
    - Mining (both minerals and enmatters)
    - Taxation rights on hunting and mining activities on the island.
    - Income from the sale of land lots.
    - Five lots per month will be available for sale under the duration of one year. These 60 lots alone have an estimated market value of 300 000 PED.
    - Massive revenue potential

    (source: http://web.archive.org/web/200503081...nt.ajp?id=1346)

    Looking back, did you see potential in all of this from the very start, or were you sceptical about certain parts?

    I could certainly see potential - the specifications mentioned things that were not present and the estate development timeline stretched over a year, suggesting to me that those other things may be delivered in that timeframe too.

    Interestingly I didn't value the "land lots" the way they did, however it turned out their definition of land lot is an estate and not just "a house" so I think in the end they were actually fairly close.

    It has taken a very long time and an immense amount of effort to actually get the island close to matching its specifications, and there are still a few minor vague points that are not yet resolved, along with a handful of estates still yet to be placed.[IMGALIGNLEFT]http://www.entropiaplanets.com/gallery/pics/3/2.jpg[/IMGALIGNLEFT]

    The land lots referenced, were those the hangars, or was the idea revised somewhere down the road and did it end up being something else?

    Houses initially, followed by more houses, a few hangars, the shops in TI Silver (MindArk sold the Platinum ones themselves), and a few more houses. Basically "Land Lot" means estate, and an estate can take many forms.

    Did you suggest additional functionality to MindArk that was later on implemented? What about suggestions that did not make the cut? What wild ideas did you come up with?

    Hehehe I've had some pretty crazy ideas, and MindArk has had fun tossing them all out :) One of the more amusing ones that never made it was the "Globster Gun" - essentially a grenade launcher that spawned Globsters instead of blowing stuff up.

    This was back when grenade launchers didn't exist and TI could not hold events other than in the stables. The idea was that I could setup events manually by creating my own temporary Globster spawns, however I'm sure MA saw great potential for mischief in it too :-)

    Those that actually made it in are few in number and are:
    - Moving the Robot spawn around and adjustments to its density (although this often had totally unpredictable results, such as the army of SEG being replaced by an army of Drones for a while).
    - Placement of the signposts around the island, which host news, maps, and associated information.
    - Rezoning of the island, which improved my ability to administer it,
    made better use of the terrain, and enabled events to be run.

    Before a year after the purchase had passed, new headlines appeared stating you made back your money. Could you give us a minor breakdown of how the revenue was made?

    It was spilt roughly 50/50 between taxes and estate sales.

    If our memory serves us well, MindArk released a second batch of hangars during the year. Would you say that without this, the period to earn back the initial investment would still have happened within the year, or was this a major contributing factor in making headlines again?

    The second batch arrived in December 2005 and the island went past break-even in November 2005, so the second group had no impact from a promotional point of view.

    I suspect they may have released them to help get people up to CND and some of the new owners did put in an incredible amount of effort flying people around over the months that followed. To be honest at the time the break-even announcement was more of a footnote to the CND sale, it's only in the years since that the "within one year" has been useful from a promotional point of view.

    We all know the second big 'property' bought in game was the asteroid "Club Neverdie". That was the first big virtual auction with an endbid, and we know you were also one of the main bidding parties on it. Could you give us your breakdown of the last moments before the auction ended, and your initial feelings after the auction ended?

    CND was placed on auction with a buyout value and from my perspective it became more of a race to get the cash in-world than any sort of bidding competition. I and my backers moved as quickly as I could - I had never seen $100k appear and vanish overseas so fast - however even at maximum speed the time zone difference meant Neverdie had a day extra on us (auction started early morning Friday his time, midnight Friday mine, and the bank didn't handle international transfers on the weekend).

    When the dust settled I officially missed out by a couple of hours, and I was still grumbling about losing when the funds turned up in my account. I was obviously disappointed that I was unable to win the auction and I imagine if there was no buyout we would have seen a very interesting bidding war for it.[IMGALIGNRIGHT]http://www.entropiaplanets.com/gallery/pics/3/3.jpg[/IMGALIGNRIGHT]

    As we speak, Crystal Palace is being made ready to be auctioned off. What are your thoughts about this and are you playing with the thought of possibly also being a Palace owner in the near future?

    There is so much to be considered that it is hard to do it justice without writing an essay on it :-)

    In short it is a nice property with some cool creatures, however its future development potential is limited. The impact that new creature releases and the upcoming planets will have is also a big question mark.

    A host of other minor positives and negatives also need to be considered and I'm sure the potential bidders are analysing it in minute detail. As for my own plans we'll see what happens as the auction draws to a close.

    In the description of the Crystal Palace sale, MindArk states they will not offer any documents in order to help potential investors to secure a bank loan. Was that different when Treasure Island was put up for auction? In other words, you stated before that you did some numbercrunching in advance. Did you ever run these numbers by MindArk in order to see whether they were realistic, or did you go ahead by yourself and gambled you were pretty bang on with them?

    You should always do your own research and estimates when investing in Entropia - be it a shop, land area, or something larger. For TI the numbers were a bit hard to estimate, as TI was the first privately owned LA and the only historical data was a little bit from the Land grab areas that had recently been claimed.

    All the TI estimates were done by myself and were not checked with MindArk, plus I doubt MA would have answered even if I did query them on the topic. For CP there is a considerable amount of information out there in public view.

    I'm not sure if MindArk is supplying additional info in private and I have been encouraging them to answer any questions publically, which they have done via the CP Press release news post.

    Regarding getting documents for securing a bank loan it's not something I've bothered with, primarily because traditional lending institutions don't want much, if anything, to do with virtual assets - they can't see it, touch it, or get hold of it if something goes wrong. Perhaps MindBank and the in-world Banks will change this situation in the future though.[IMGALIGNLEFT]http://www.entropiaplanets.com/gallery/pics/3/6.jpg[/IMGALIGNLEFT]

    Looking back at the last 5 years, do you believe things have been worth it (not only money wise but also work-wise) and would you do it again or is there anything you would have done differently?

    There's always a few things you'd do differently, however for me they are all minor things and many of them I've been able to sort out later on anyway, though usually at somewhat higher cost :-)

    It has definitely been worth it - I have learnt a massive amount from my experience in Entropia and I don't think much of the effort (or cash) I've spent has been wasted.

    Right at the start, TI was a PVP area. This was turned off after people were being sniped out of apartments. Do you have any plans of turning PVP back on on TI, either partially or fully, or maybe temporarily for events?

    The only time you are likely to see PvP turned back on is if a structure like the pre-VU10 stables returns and is a small event area like it was previously.

    PvP events would be held inside such a structure. The rest of the island will remain PvP free as I have no desire to return to the days where people waged a war around the revival terminal and TP :-)

    Did you experiment much with the tax rates on TI in order to find the setting that optimizes your revenue, or did you set a certain number, and never looked back?

    At purchase time I had a plan to reduce them from a starting 6% to a final 4% as the island generated revenue. This happened over the first year and since then the island and every other area I've owned has been set at 4%.

    These days it seems to be the benchmark tax rate to either match or undercut, and I feel it is a good balance between the cost to visitors and the level of income which can then be used for improvements. Previously those improvements were limited to DNA of new creatures however now there's quite a few estate development options available.

    I don't have any plans to change the rate unless there are specific circumstances that require it. [IMGALIGNRIGHT]http://www.entropiaplanets.com/gallery/pics/3/4.jpg[/IMGALIGNRIGHT]
    TI typically is not an area where new colonists would go, as the mobs are all rather tough. Are there any plans for the near future that will allow you to cater to that generation of players as well?

    No, a new player area needs to be done very well to have a positive effect. I feel that FPC is best positioned to create and fine tune the new user experience and that the best continent to do so is on Eudoria, building on what is (or was) present.

    FPC have all the tools to properly setup and improve the area, the area is not taxed, and they can avoid surrounding new arrivals with creatures that will happily eat, zap, or crush them.

    I do maintain some lower level creature areas (Bristlehog, Foul, Cornundacauda) for when newer players get some skills, gear and experience, and are ready to tackle Amethera.

    With the upcoming opening of new planets, you'll be in for quite a bit of competition. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve in order to persuade eager colonists from heading over to other worlds to instead stay a bit more on TI?

    Besides doing what I can to help promote Calypso to new customers and continuing to improve the island I don't think there is much I can do which will keep players from moving to other planets.

    No event with a minor prize can compete with a whole new planet to explore and things to discover, although if travel between planets is fairly easy I may be able to try a few things to encourage people to return at least briefly :-)

    Your island was recently split up into several seperate land areas. Which possibilities did this give you? You also got a new Island with the new VU and worked hard to fix terrain and mobs etc. How would you say your overall satisfaction was both at VU10 release, and at the current moment, after bug fixes and improvements?

    In February it was subdivided to make better use of the terrain, to improve administration, and to enable events to be run around the island. With VU10 that got disrupted somewhat as the terrain changed and the Land Management System changed behind the scenes, resulting in what were subdivisions of areas now turning into their own areas.

    I do like the effort that was put into many parts of the island - the Lake and Volcano in particular. However the changes to the Land Management System meant that for about 3 months most of my creatures spawned all mixed together, and for much of that time I didn't even have control over them.

    This led to a predictable drop in income and the timing also disrupted some of my expo preparations, as I had to focus on fixing the islands major post-VU10 problems.

    Things are slowly getting better though - some of the terrain issues have been fixed, others are being worked on, the spawns are almost entirely back to normal and whilst there's still a fairly large amount of work still to do on the terrain I feel that the biggest issues are now behind us.

    [IMGALIGNLEFT]http://www.entropiaplanets.com/gallery/pics/3/1.jpg[/IMGALIGNLEFT] Would you say that the the general implementation of VU10 had any effects on the revenue TI brings in?

    It went down, a lot, with very little that I could do about it directly given the type of damage done.

    In 2009, You got a whole new set of unique MOBs, went to do promotion work for MindArk and Treasure Island on the Australian Expo, bought some more in-game land, and witnessed the implementation of a brand new game engine.

    Overall, how would you rate 2009 in your personal PE/EU history? Would it rank as a succesfull or disasterous year?

    Successful!

    No doubt about it - up to VU10 things were going quite well and I was able to focus on promoting Calypso rather than fixing problems. Things have been rough since VU10 however they are steadily improving and I still see great potential in the CE2, in Calypso, and in Entropia in general.


    2009 has definitely been one of my more active years and I look forward to what 2010 brings us!

    In the correspondence we had prior to this interview, you refered to trying to "do something with Treasure Island City". Seeing we're suckers for cliffhangers, would you be willing to lift a tip of that particular veil?

    For years my vision for TI City has been a commerce hub - a place you go for shops and services and such. Prior to VU10 I had the trade center moved closer to a teleport, which encouraged people to adopt it as their home town, and I had some signposts added to promote TI City shops and services, and provide a map so people could find their way around.

    More recently I have been lending out some of my Silver building shops to people that I trust to run a store that will contribute to this vision. As you might expect VU10 disrupted these plans, with the shops acquiring a variety of problems and the graphics load of the city increasing enormously.

    One benefit has been that the city has physically been compressed a bit, making it quicker to move around.

    In general, looking not just at EU, but at gaming as a whole, how would you say investment opportunities in virtual worlds seem to match their real-life counterparts? Would you ever consider investing in another game, or will you stick to EU until the very end?

    It's always wise to keep your eyes open for other potential places to get involved. For me Entropia matches my skill set nicely and I still have plenty to do, so I doubt I'll be leaving Entropia anytime soon or popping up in another virtual universe.

    Do you have any tips for people who might walk around with similar thoughts as you had, but who are worried their ideas will not work out, or who are afraid investors will not take them seriously?

    Experience in the virtual world is highly important, as is having a solid vision and a good plan both financially and for your future. Make sure you spend the time and effort learning how things work and where the opportunities are that match what you are good at.

    Convincing investors to give you lots of money for virtual activities is not easy, so consider self-funding it in the beginning. Start small, see how your estimates match reality, and keep good records!

    All the best out there on Calypso, and Merry Christmas!
    Bye :)
    David Storey (Deathifier)

    After this I went out to see the great lands of Treasure Island! I like the mobs, they are big, dangerous and exciting .. unfortunately they did not like me much ...

    [​IMG]


    A MERRY X-MAS BACK TO DEATHIFIER WITH ALL THE BEST WISHES WITH HIS ISLAND AND BUSINESS IN 2010
     
  2. Lykke TheNun

    Lykke TheNun Lootius bless you all!

    Exclusive interview with Deathifier ~ Virtual Legend

    Reserved space ....
     
  3. RAZER

    RAZER Custom title ... uh ...

    nice interview as always again guys
     
  4. well written and an awesome interview :) Must have been a shitload of work :)
     
  5. xentric

    xentric noob

    Great interview :)
     
  6. Classy and proffesional, i love your style Lykke.:clap:
     
  7. Great interview!!

    :biggrin:

    Great guy, great place :beerchug:
     
  8. great interview, ty :)
     
  9. GeorgeSkywalker

    GeorgeSkywalker Explorer

    Fantastic interview
     
  10. Always cool to be interviewed by such awesome people :)

    - Deathifier
     
  11. Xaph

    Xaph Xaph

    Good onya Deathifier's realistic and substantiated by a proven track record.
    Future plans look good however after a big effort with LA comparmenting your LA the hiccups seem a drag.
    Forge on mate and thanks Lykke for a great insight:clap:

    Should read this but bugged save and wont allow edit
     
  12. Lykke TheNun

    Lykke TheNun Lootius bless you all!

    I deleted the first post made ;)

    And thanks for the nice words, Deathifier! And also thanks for taking your time for this interview (and for not kicking me for all the times I bugged you :D)

    :tiphat:
     
  13. Great interview, and great to be in the same soc with the person I read about in a games mag almost 5 years ago now :)
     
  14. Very interesting interview, thank you!
     
  15. Einstein

    Einstein King of Atrax Beach

    Very nice interview :D

    And good to hear the income of other LA owners also went down drasticly :wink:
     
  16. CycoKick

    CycoKick Notorius cK

    Wow, that is a great and very informative article!
     

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