Ownership in Entropia Universe

This is going to be mostly a boring dry post looking at the stuff from the Owners and Holders post, only in the context of Entropia Universe. (I haven’t tried EU yet myself, but I had a long conversation with a long-time player about this stuff and more.)

But before I write down that stuff, mostly for my own record keeping and cogitating purposes, I want to just sort of generally bring Entropia Universe to your attention. I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to it, assuming it was just sort of yet another Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game thing, like WoW only with space stations instead of castles or whatever. But after talking to my EU contact (who is, he says, one of the leading miners in the game), it seems like it has some bizarrely different aspects.

In particular, it seems to be tied into real-world money considerably more tightly than even Second Life. The unit of currency (the unfortunately named PED, for “Project Entropia Dollar”) is officially pegged to the US dollar, at 10 PED to the US$. Just playing the game is free. But (according to my source) what you can do for free is actually pretty boring, and you’re going to get envious of all the people going around doing the interesting things, and rather than patiently gathering zebra sweat or whatever for months to get cool things that way, you’re going to buy some PED with RL money and continue from there. Which isn’t really all that different from SL (although these days there’s an awful lot of non-boring stuff that you can do in SL without buying any Lindens with RL money).

But since EU is an RPG rather than an open-ended world, there are lots of funny implications of this. My source says that for instance there are only about 30 or 40 of the most powerful healing device in EU, everyone knows who currently owns them, and on the rare occasion that one becomes available it will sell for like ten or fifteen thousand US dollars.

Ten or fifteen thousand US dollars.

For a really good virtual first aid kit.

This boggled me, and although I believe my source is honest, another part of my brain thinks there must be something else going on here. I asked why anyone would spend thousands of real dollars for a virtual first aid kit, and he said that it’s actually a good investment, because having one of those can make the difference between losing and winning when battling one of the huger monsters in the game, and defeating one of those huger monsters can get you some really good stuff, which you can then sell to other people for lots of real-world money, more than recouping your investment in the healing kit. Of course then we have to wonder why those people are willing to spend all that money for those things. Where exactly is the value-add that makes this not be a case of people taking in each other’s virtual washing? (And paying money to the owners of EU when their laundry baskets need maintenance.)

Why, for instance, did someone reportedly pay 100,000 US dollars for rights to the asteroid orbiting Entropia? How is the value of that so much more than the value of any of (say) the asteroid or space-themed or dragon-themed locations in Second Life, which would (I think!) have cost to much less to control? (The Wikipedia article linked there has good information relevant to this and other questions, and is worth a read.)

But anyway! Mostly I want to write down what my source said about the ownership model, before I forget.

Items are type-based, as in WoW; every vial of zebra sweat is like every other one. There isn’t much in the way of user-created content, except in the sense that one can attach items to other items in order to make them more powerful. (I may have forgotten to mention that WoW has this also; some of the higher-level items have “sockets” into which various other items can be inserted to boost their powers.) Every item is owned by a particular person at any time (he says that people often wish that items could be owned / controlled / shared by groups, but they can’t). Any object can be traded to another player using a trade dialog that I imagine is similar to WoW’s (and Everquest’s and…). Objects can also be sold to vendor terminals or whatever they’re called, for a standard price, as in WoW.

There is no concept of loaning an item in the game mechanics; if you give something to someone else, they own it. Unlike SL or WoW, there’s a limited mechanism for theft: if say you’re in a specially-designated PvP combat area, and you do some mining there and find some “stackable items” (things like bits of copper ore I expect), and then someone attacks and defeats you, they can loot those stackable items from you (but not the rest of your stuff).

So, in SL terms, everything is nocopy nomod transfer, except for the ability to attach things to each other for enhancement purposes, and there’s the interesting addition of very limited player-looting.

I have no doubt got some of the details wrong here, or failed to ask some important questions, so anyone who knows more about this aspect of Entropia Universe (or the aspects that I started out this post with, or anything else) is more than welcome to comment and correct or expand on this.