By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"Jon Jacobs is not and never has been an employee of our company," CEO Timkrans explains. "Many participants/members from our community represent us at various venues around the world because they believe in the potential and impact of Entropia Universe."
Hunter has made other complaints in his blog about MindArk's ability to generate publicity. MindArk has fired back, sending an e-mail to University of Pennsylvania administrators alleging that Hunter was "spreading slander" about Entropia.
Contacted at his office, Hunter declined to comment about the row. "I don't want to fan the flames," he says.
Those who study virtual economies seem to find Entropia distasteful. Edward Castranova, the Indiana University who analyzed EverQuest's economy, has been widely quoted in news media about his research. But he refused to participate in an article about Entropia and Jacobs, telling New Timesthrough a university spokesman: "The claims made by MindArk and Jon Jacobs are wildly exaggerated."
Says Jacobs: "It's very frustrating when these claims are made by people who are trying to make the masses understand what's going on."
On a recent afternoon, a few days after the wedding, Jacobs is content. More parcels of land have recently sold in Entropia, fetching as much as $15,000 for a plot of land comparable to just one of Jacobs' 20 biodomes. His movie Hey DJ has been released and has made the rounds to select theaters in the United States and Europe. Junior Jack just delivered a guest performance in Entropia on June 25, streaming into Club NeverDie as if he were spinning at a local club. More and more people are paying 40 PED the cost to be transported from Calypso to Jacobs' asteroid to visit Club NeverDie.
He's walking his avatar, NeverDie, through the club. In Entropia, avatars are designed by the players and can be thin or fat, pale- and/or dark-skinned, bald or hairy. NeverDie is a tall, white-skinned avatar with short brown hair who wears a purple hat and a purple and black coat that hangs to his ankles. Inside the club, Jacobs has decorated the walls with real-world pictures of the two women of his life, Leiu and London. There's also some truth to that New York Times film review that criticized Jacobs for being "a little too much in love with himself."
Jacobs directs his avatar in front of a large screen inside Club NeverDie. On the screen is a picture of Jacobs from Hey DJ sporting Elvis-like sideburns. The avatar stands in front of the man, like the puppet before the puppeteer.
"This is one of my favorite images the avatar standing in front of the video screen," Jacobs says. "This is the future."
Suddenly, three people send messages to Jacobs at once. Someone has been inside Club NeverDie killing other players. In Entropia, avatars can die and are re-created without losing any items. The person isn't doing any lasting damage. He's just being annoying or, as Jacobs puts it, "a fucking idiot."
Jacobs brushes the incident off. But 30 minutes later, it spirals out of control. A player who was killed in Club NeverDie paid to place an advertisement in the game-wide bulletin system: "Ubers [high-level players] kill people in biodomes. Don't waste 40 PED."
Jacobs throws his hands in the air and slams them down on the desk, frustrated.
"You get idiots doing this: He comes up here. Somebody kills him, so he uses the advertising system to try to damage the business," Jacobs says. "You can't allow that dynamic. But this is a good example of the kinds of things that can happen in this business. But the same thing happens in real life. I could be running a club, somebody gets stabbed, and then the papers are saying: 'Don't go to Club Space.' I've got the same problem. At least here, no one really got hurt."
Jacobs spends the rest of the afternoon talking to the players and posting messages on the forums. It's work.
This isn't a game. It's a business.
Most Entropia Universe players earn a virtual living through hunting, mining, and manufacturing. But it's possible to hit huge jackpots in any of these industries. Here are Entropia's top-five bonanzas as of July 26:
On May 6, 2006, avatar Leeloo Leeloo Mountain unearths a massive deposit of copper stone. Value: $15,800.
On October 29, 2005, avatar Patrik Stormer Deluxe discovers a rich mine of lysterium stone. Value: $9,307.
On January 12, 2006, avatar Divine Vixen Incarnate hunts down a Daspletor Young, which leaves behind $9,036.
On July 18, 2006, avatar Petreat Agnus Dei Post Festum manufactures an item known as "Aber Laser Sight." Value: $8,494.
On June 26, 2006, avatar Naithen Noce Clan of Sirus brings down an Araneatrex Stalker, which drops $8,188.
The Incredible, Not-So-Edible, Virtual Egg
In Entropia, Jon "NeverDie" Jacobs has invested in more than just real estate. On July 20, 2006, he paid 100,000 PED, or $10,000, at auction for a rare item known as the Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg. It's a large egg with a thick, vibrating shell. Jacobs has placed it on display at Club NeverDie. It's the virtual equivalent of a casino's buying the Virgin Mary grilled-cheese sandwich to drum up publicity. Jacobs isn't sure whether the egg will produce a never-before-seen exotic animal or add something entirely new to the game. "Maybe it won't do anything at all," Jacobs admits. "It's a gamble." But the egg has, of course, generated buzz for Jacobs' virtual club. On an online forum, Entropia gamers are speculating about the egg's contents. Joked one Entropia player: "Why don't we just make a nice, big omelette?"