Getting paid to play

For those dungeon-crawling college students spending all of their free time on World of Warcraft, a bit of good news: There is a massively multi-player online roleplaying game (MMORPG, or MMO for short) that pays to play.

Entropia — created in 2003 by first-time developer MindArk — has a fully functional online economy funded by the game’s users.

“It’s like Second Life meets World of Warcraft,” said John K. Bates, Mindark’s business development spokesman.

“What we have on the surface is an entertaining video game, but at its core Entropia is a fully immersive role playing universe that can potentially pay the more you play.”

According to MindArk, as of 2007, Entropia had 800,000 registered users and almost $40 million worth of currency flowing within its self-made economy. Part of its success may be attributed to the minimal hassle involved in starting play.

Entropia is free to register, and unlike games such as Warhammer and Warcraft, there is no monthly fee. Rather, the amount of money a player puts into the game is up to his or her discretion.

“Everybody that comes in starts out in an orange jumpsuit with no money and no possessions,” Bates said. “Some of our wealthier players that don’t want to spend so much time playing the game can choose to spend money on the more expensive weapons and armor so they can tackle the big monsters right off the bat. Everyone who plays can get to that point without spending any of their own money, but you have the option of getting there faster.”

Entropia’s economy functions through players’ desire to enhance their characters. Most elements of the game have no cash value, but are traded among players for real currency. For example, if one were to start out penniless, one way to advance monetarily would be to collect virtual dung found on the side of a road to sell to in-game farmers as fertilizer.

Ten PED (the game’s currency) equals $1. According to Computer World, one player sold a rare gun in an in-game auction for 170,000 PED ($17,000).

Overall, Entropia is a project focused on making videogames practical, profitable and entertaining. With electronic gaming gaining an ever-increasing prominence, Bates explained that he expects Entropia to be there when videogames take center stage in live entertainment.

“It’s like the music industry. Nobody buys albums anymore. They either download them off of some file sharing program or buy only one or two songs off the album for 99 cents apiece,” he said. “So, now you find that the price of a CD is going down and the price of a concert is going up. People are now making all of their money in live (programming). In time, that phenomenon is going to hit Hollywood. Pretty soon we could be seeing movies used to introduce MMO’s, so gamers could go see the movie and then play it live online.”

It’s because of this vision of the next frontier of gaming that MindArk decided to change its graphics engine to something more lifelike, Bates said.

The engine Bates is referring to is the latest edition of CryTek’s pioneering graphics simulator, the CryENGINE2. Best known for its role in Crysis — which many gamers consider to be the most graphically impressive videogame of all time — CryTek recently unveiled a next-generation version of the CryENGINE2 that will be able to run on high-range as well as mid-level performance computers.

This news came as a relief to students such as freshman business major Robert Slipkovich.

“Crysis was just too graphically demanding,” he said. “I had to spend $150 on a new graphics card for my computer to run a game I wanted to play, and I still can’t run Crysis.”

With home consoles such as the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 surpassing many of the graphical milestones of computer gaming, Bates said he is glad to be host to a game that will utilize CryTek’s photorealistic graphics in a way that is as affordable to gamers as such platforms.

“We are very consciously trying to make the Entropia universe work with mid-level computers.” Bates said. “That’s one of the great things about the new engine from CryTek. It’s scalable, so you can make it run on almost any computer out now.”

Though CryTek has not specifically expressed which other games will take advantage of CryENGINE2, more information on the engine is expected to be available in upcoming months. More information on MindArk and Entropia can be found on and, respectively.