Project Entropia Interview
Project Entropia Interview
July 21, 1999
If you've paid much attention at all in the past few months, you know that game fans can't seem to get enough of online worlds. It seems that everyone is addicted to Ultima Online or EverQuest, where thousands of users meet in a virtual world. While swords and sorcery reign supreme, at least one company has set its sights on the future - the far future. MindArk is a startup Swedish company preparing its flagship product, Project Entropia. Our guest writer Zak Arntson had opportnity to conduct an interview with MindArk's Patric Sundström to see what will place Project Entropia apart from the rest.
Zak: First, some real-life background. Where are you located? How large is the company?
Patric Sundström: We are located in Göteborg, Sweden. Last time I counted, we were 13 people in the office, but we are growing rapidly so perhaps it is time to count again. We also have a network of freelance associates. The company was formed very recently, but we have been working on the game for slightly more than two years now. This game is the only product of the company at the moment.
Zak: Who are the core members of your team?
Patric Sundström: With a team of this relatively small size, everybody is a core member. Presently, we are seven game designers/artists and three programmers/technicians. Some of us have a history of game development while some others have a professional artist record. Some are hardcore gamers while others don't have a gaming background at all. We quickly turned one of the latter into an Ultima Online junkie.
Zak: Can you offer a short description of your game?
Patric Sundström: We are building a massively multi-user 3D RPG which takes place in a far, far future of mankind. Men have conquered a new planet as earth once became overexploited and overpopulated. However, in their technical development they went too far in constructing intelligent robots, which revolted. Since the revolt, they persistently try to destroy the human colonies in their urge for power. Mankind has in spite of these facts located peaceful colonies on the new planet.
Zak: On your website, your game is just called Project. Do you have any names under consideration?
Patric Sundström: The name has just been determined: Project Entropia. We have a lot to thank the press for this. Somehow, people got the impression that we called the game Project when in fact it had no name at all, it was just the only project we had. After laughing at this for a little while, we thought that the name was actually quite proper in the context of the game. As you will find out, so is the other part of the name.
Zak: How did you arrive at the decision to create this kind of game?
Patric Sundström: Those of us that started the project were game addicts already back then. Gamers tend to collect good ideas - and a blacklist of bad ones. It began as loose talk about this kind of game. The topic grew more and more serious until it finally turned into a decision: Let's gather a development team and do it.
Zak: What are the major differences between your Project Entropia and other online worlds?
Patric Sundström: For one, we don't force characters to actually play the game. It will be perfectly safe and fun to just live in a community, meet other characters and develop relations to them. This will be possible as we have peaceful game functions to this, and will make sure that many interests will be met in the off-game community.
Zak: What similarities are there?
Patric Sundström: Of course, we have all the traditional elements of the RPG genre. You will find plenty of quests, battle and individual character skill development, all set within a background story.
Zak: What major lessons have you learned from other online worlds?
Patric Sundström: One thing is to make the basic game rules good from the beginning, and not try to update them in such a way that players will experience too big changes when they are used to a certain rule system. Another thing is that we want freedom for player initiatives to construct their own communities with their own rules in the game environment. We have also learned that people are extremely inventive when it comes to finding ways to cheat.
Zak: What influenced your decision to use a science fiction world as your setting?
Patric Sundström: Pretty much like in movies and literature, if your basic idea is good, it doesn't really matter what kind of world you put it in. Since many of us working here are heavily addicted to science fiction, the future of mankind and technology in general, it was a natural choice. It feels great to be completely free to invent new items, technologies and environments without the legacy of traditional fantasy.
Zak: What prior games have influenced the making of your project?
Patric Sundström: I'd rather rephrase that. What prior games have not influenced us? Of course, a lot of influence comes from the multi-player genre where social behavior meets questing and monster- bashing: MUDs, The Realm, Meridian 59, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds and the big ones, Ultima Online and EverQuest. But then I'd guess that almost every game any one of us has ever played affects what we see as good game play. Syndicate and Blade Runner, both the movie and the book, could be said to influence the mood of the game.
Then of course we have the real treasure trove of science fiction: books.
Who doesn't immediately think "Asimov" when they hear the word "robot"?
Zak: What kind of character choices will players have? Will there be different character classes? Different skills? What kind of character development system will you be using?
Patric Sundström: We believe that every character should have exactly the same position in the beginning. As we only have the option for players to play humans, the skill inventory initially available to every character will be the same. A character will have more than 50 skills to choose from, some in classes of course. The skills will in many ways be dependent on other things that I can't reveal here, but we know that our skill system will render new material to the traditional way of using them in games.
The development of the character is shown in many ways according to four or five different status scales we will use. We know that players are interested in having visible signs of play progress and we will reward players in different ways, at least players that show good behavior. But that doesn't mean that we will punish other players.
Zak: What role will technology play in the game? How important will it be?
Patric Sundström: Technology will have effect on different levels of the game. First of all it's an environment that we build with exciting effects and functions. Secondly, the characters have the challenge to learn about new technologies for their skills and actions. However, a character will find many things from our human history and many features that he'll recognize from our present world. That's how societies work today - you will always find traces from past history in any place you come too in the world, so we are just following human tradition.
Zak: Will there be magic, and if so, how important will it be?
Patric Sundström: The people in the future have developed strong mental forces. These mental forces will be much a like the magic you'll find in other games. The importance in developing these mental abilities will be great. You don't need to develop your mental forces to be a survivor in the world, but it will help you.
Zak: How important will combat be? What kind of combat system are you planning?
Patric Sundström: Combat is very important in the wild zones. We are developing a system where skill ability, character attributes and the standard of the weapons have a significant impact on how you prove yourself in combat. However, the combat system is also made to ensure that the player's own abilities like reaction time and tactical thinking plays a great importance for the success in fighting. It won't be static, were you sit and wait for the fight to be over. Instead you'll have to be very observant on your opponent to stand a chance in a fight.
Zak: What kind of opponents will you be fighting?
Patric Sundström: Except for player versus player we have a lot of dangerous monsters and threats in the game. The main threats against humans are the robots. The robots have different missions in their desire for taking over the planet. In their interventions with the human colonies they pose the greatest danger for characters. It is necessary for characters to cooperate against robots in fights. This will be one of different quests for characters to meet and solve on the planet. However there are other kinds of creatures on the planet, which will in some cases be dangerous to meet, and in some cases be peaceful and/or helpful to characters.
Zak: What is your position on player killing? On player versus player combat?
Patric Sundström: Our experience tells us that some of the most exciting moments are when you meet a real person in combat in a game. Strong emotions like revenge and victory adds to the desire to continue your career in a game with player versus player.
We choose to not only tolerate player versus player, but actually embrace it in the game play. While we don't want everybody running around killing each other indiscriminately, two gangs fighting for an attractive clubhouse could be interesting.
I can say that we will prevent newbie murderers in our design. You can play safe from player killers as long as you want to. However, you need a factor of risking something to gain something.
Zak: What will be the experience of a new player?
Patric Sundström: The first thing to do is create a character. The visual appearance of this human character can be customized by many parameters, enabling the player to construct a character as beautiful, ugly or just strange, as she wants.
After that, she is born in a special area on the planet, an area that is designed especially for new players. This transit zone will help players move around in the environment, test their character abilities and gradually make them familiar with the environment and controls. When she is comfortable with her new life, she can move on to the real world.
Zak: How will you draw players to choose your world over other online worlds?
Patric Sundström: Step by step we announce our game substance and release exciting things from the intrigue and the things that are happening inside of it. We will also let players bring their ideas to the game. I mean, why not ask the real experts about their ideas regarding their ultimate game? Then there will be a massive marketing campaign for the game, which will hopefully make people aware of us.
Zak: With the increase of online multi-player worlds, what will make Project Entropia shine above the rest?
Patric Sundström: Other than optimizing things like environments, combat, sophisticated details and NPCs, we'll put much of the emphasis on interactions between players and the freedom for them to form the environment as they wish. We aim for instance to have a plural society where you will find sports clubs, bars, fashion shops and many enjoyments from our real today society. But the best parts I can't reveal here yet, its still very sensitive information.
Zak: How much progress has been made?
Patric Sundström: The system specifications are more or less set in stone and the content design is commencing steadily. The hardest part is to limit the scope of the game and throw away great ideas just because we would never finish if we implemented them all.
Zak: What completion date are you pushing for?
Patric Sundström: We have the beta test planned for spring 2000. I'm afraid we can't reveal our plans after that.
Zak: Thanks very much for the interview. Do you have any last words?
Patric Sundström: Hmm, that was the most difficult question of this interview. Get any of us started talking and you wouldn't be able to stop us. Just keep an eye on our web site for further information and progress report. I hope you people at the Vault Network will have reason to come back to us.
Zak: Project Entropia certainly seems to be an intriguing online world. I'm sure fans of the genre will want to visit their website at http://www.mindark.com for some great background information and tons of concept art.
- Thanks very much to Patric and to guest interviewer Zak Arntson for this informative early look at Project Entropia. - Jonric
21 July 1999; RPG Vault
Links, references, contributors, categories
- Discussion thread: http://www.entropiaplanets.com/posts/54976/