Many developers are still searching for the Achilles’ heel that will let them take down World of Warcraft, which still dominates the massively multiplayer online role-playing game market. Next Island, a new MMO created by David Post and developed by Neverdie Studios, offers a unique opportunity: What if the game paid you — in real money — while you played?
That’s the premise behind Next Island’s real cash economy. Every in-game item, from clothes to weapons to vehicles, as well as player skills, are assigned a real cash dollar amount. One dollar is worth 10 PEDs, the in-game currency, and every transaction sees players either gaining or selling PEDs, which translate to real dollars and cents. Players can buy PEDs with a credit card and exchange PEDs for currency when done playing.
Of course, there’s much more to Next Island than just exchanging dollars for PEDs. I got a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-launched game at a recent media gathering in Hollywood, Calif., and the game so far looks enticing. Once players create their avatars, they are dropped into the Bora Bora-inspired utopia of Next Island, where they can do most things you’d expect an MMO to have. You can socialize with other players, browse shops and even build a customizable house to act as your own personal space.
One of the first things I got to see was an in-game recreation of the famous Caroline’s comedy club. Post explained the club, once fully populated with players, would feature in-game comedy shows and open mic nights, and there would even be a contest to win a trip to the real Caroline’s in New York.
Like a true MMORPG, Next Island features quests, monster-filled arenas and plenty more for the traditional RPG fan. The island is populated with run-of-the-mill animals like monkeys and boars, though I also got a peek at some skeletons, wyvern-like flying creatures and other odd creatures. Players equip armor and do battle with all manner of firearms, swords, clubs and other weapons.
The real highlight of Next Island, however, is definitely its cash economy. As I mentioned earlier, everything in the game has a price tag attached. In the gameplay demo I saw, the player was able to blast huge creatures out of sky with a gun that had a market value of 130,000 PEDs, or $13,000. With a couple clicks of the mouse, he showed us a graph displaying how the gun’s value had raised and lowered over the past weeks. The loot he gathered during his hunting trip likewise had values attached, with similar timelines available for you to look at.
Perhaps the most exciting part of Next Island, however, is that players can come up with their own ways of making money instead of the run-of-the-mill farming and looting. For example, there are parts of the world that are only accessible by flying vehicles. In order to build a flying vehicle, like a helicopter, a player would have to spend tremendous effort to develop the necessary engineering skills, not to mention hunting down the correct blueprints. If you have a helicopter, you could use it to get yourself to those special areas, but why not charge other players a few PEDs for a ride? With about 200 different skills in the game, the potential to use your avatar’s skills for monetary gain are practically endless.
Although the Next Island area was the only one I got to see as part of the demo, I was informed that several new areas are being planned. The game’s time-travel mechanic will enable players to reach ancient Greece, the Ice Age, ancient China and several more to come. Each area would have its own unique quests, creatures and goods to buy and sell. Though the reps from Next Island were purposefully vague on the details, I learned time travel is something players would have to work together to unlock for these new areas to become available.
Next Island is free to download and play, but of course, you will need a credit card to buy and sell goods. Creator David Post stressed that the game was meant to appeal equally to die-hard World of Warcraft players and those who just love to play Farmville. Based on what I saw, I’d say there’s plenty to appeal to just about anyone.
For more information, check out www.NextIsland.com.