Hanging at Lemmy's virtual castle in ROCKTropia: Watch out for the demon spawn
Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister may cut a daunting figure in real life, with his black Fu Manchu mustache and biker duds, but he's larger than life in the virtual world. He's a king, with his own domain, aptly named Lemmy's Castle, guarded by hulking, horned monster security guards and demon spawn inspired by dozens of his own sketches.
His digital dwelling is all part of the newly launched virtual music world ROCKtropia, a virtual planet in the online 3D Entropia Universe, a massive multi-player game in which people interact using avatars. "In my world, you go to jail telling your kids bedtime stories," the 64-year-old says during a break recording Motörhead's newest album, a dirty sparkle in his eye. "I want big stinking bats with horrible noses, or flying anteaters. In my world, most people would die."
For a guy who claims he hates computers, and recently got his first laptop, he's passionate about this brooding online landscape.
"It's goes to show I do know what's going on in the 21st century," he says. "I want to take over the whole world, in the end. Look at the size of my security guards. Clone them, send them out. What's the point of having a castle if it isn't scary?"
Developed by Swedish company MindArk, Entropia has been on the rise since its launch in 2003. Unlike fellow virtual world Second Life, which has experienced declining currency values, Entropia uses an in-game currency with a fixed exchange rate. Project Entropia Dollars (PED) exchange at 10 PED to $1. Gamers can buy virtual jeans for $30, converting real-world dollars into PED, or snag limited-edition virtual merchandise, from albums to T-shirts. In ROCKtropia, collecting the virtual sweat of bikini-clad video vixens can even earn PED. Gamers spend PED when they use bullets to kill monsters in Lemmy's virtual realm.
According to MindArk, billions of virtual dollars have been made within the universe, with users in more than 200 countries.
"I think about the speed that innovation is happening online. It's plausible this can explode rather quickly," notes Nelson Gayton, executive director of the Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. "You can make money in the real world by marketing in the virtual world. The experience of a musician, an artist, to find audiences in virtual worlds is very appealing."
ROCKtropia creator Jon Jacobs knows this firsthand. The British cyber entrepreneur has launched an empire based on his avatar, which he calls NEVERDIE, propelling him from gamer to owner of virtual asteroid and nightclub Club NEVERDIE to owner of real-life NEVERDIE Studios. Jacobs moved from Miami to Hollywood in 2008 after MindArk, in 2007, said it would open up its universe.
He was already earning money in the virtual world with his own music. It took almost two years, with backing from private investors, for Jacobs and his team to create ROCKtropia, with Lemmy's Castle and the huge virtual Motörhead Stadium within it.
Jacobs, who collaborates musically with Lemmy's son Paul Inder, persuaded the vet rocker to jump on board. "There's longevity in this platform," says Jacobs. "I think what's going to happen is that every artist is going to have a virtual destination. Everybody in the music business can play a role in a virtual industry. Selling music is not the most important thing in the world when you can make money with a destination."
Indeed, ROCKtropia does glisten with a hyper realistic shine. Spikes in the walls of Lemmy's castle appear so sharp they could knock an eye out. Monsters with reddish, textured skin have detailed tattoos of Lemmy's face on their chests. Steely-eyed archbishops sport smooth syringes for arms.
"It's so far beyond Second Life," says Jordan Halsey, ROCKtropia's senior art director, while showing off complex renderings of Victorian-esque buildings surrounded by floating billboards, a la "Blade Runner."
Kevin Rudolf, whose Billboard hit "Let It Rock," featuring Lil Wayne, catapulted his status in 2008, helped design ROCKtropia's ZOMhattan, an area overrun with virus-infected zombies. Inside sits B.A.M.F. Headquarters, where fans can hear his new music. City of Dreams promotes aspiring artists, letting them gain exposure on Internet radio.
"I hope everybody and their mother does get in on this," Rudolf, 28, says over the phone. "There's really less money to be made because of lack of album sales. In the virtual world, we can generate the interest, and connect people to where they can buy music. This is also something where you can use your imagination to create whatever you want. It's anything you want to make it, which is why it will be around."
Imagine Lady Gaga with a virtual world full of stiletto-wearing demons (she does call her fans "little monsters") or an arena, such as Motörhead Stadium, selling virtual fashion before virtual concerts.
Gayton, though, points out that it still isn't clear whether real-life musical talent will translate, or not, in the virtual world. "If you're a musical artist, you better be a darn good artist," he says. "At the same time, you may suck in reality to a particular audience. But you may appeal to an audience in the virtual world in a different way."
-- Solvej Schou
Top photo: Jon Jacobs (left) and Lemmy Kilmister. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: A screen shot of Lemmy's Castle in ROCKtropia. Credit: MindArk