Decentraland Launches Their Drag-and-Drop Scene Editor with a Contest

Up until recently, the only way to build an experience in the much-hyped, blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland was to use their rather non-user-friendly command-line SDK. Note that Decentraland is still in closed alpha; numerous developers have been impatiently waiting for an opportunity to get in and try Decentraland out. (Me among them.)

Well, Decentraland has now announced a new, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop editor to create scenes, called the Builder, and to promote it, they are having a contest. Prizes include MANA (their in-game cryptocurrency) and LAND (parcels of virtual land on which you can publish your creations for other avatars to visit).

There’s obviously been a lot of thought and effort put into this new scene builder. You start off by selecting what size of LAND parcel you want to work with, anywhere from 1 to 32 parcels. You can select and change the default ground texture, and place items on the ground from a side menu of objects: trees, ponds, fences and paving stones, fire pits and furniture, even an extensive array of Chinese Year of the Pig themed items such as gates and statues. You simply save your created scene under your email address to automatically enter it in the contest. Simple!

But there are some puzzling and creativity-limiting choices made with the builder, too. Let’s compare it to the basic prim-building tools used in Second Life. In SL, you use the basic building blocks (cubes, spheres, pyramids, cylinders, etc.) to craft an item and texture it from scratch, which is something you can’t do with Decentraland’s builder. If none of the provided premade trees meets your fancy, you’re out of luck; you cannot modify any of the objects in any way, other than to move them around on your LAND or rotate them. (You also cannot resize objects.) I find this lack of basic building blocks to work from puzzling.

Another example: there are no wall, roof, door and window pieces with which to build a house for yourself. All you’ve got to choose from are a few small booths and sheds. It seems strange to me that they would provide all these building blocks, but omit what I would consider a basic kind of building block for people who are interested in making their first homestead. To put it another way, it’s a rather weird assortment of LEGO pieces you have to build from! Another drawback of the builder is that there is no way to import a mesh object to a scene you are building. If it doesn’t already exist in the included inventory, sorry, but you’re out of luck. You’re better off sticking with the SDK.

My overall impression is that the new Decentraland builder tool has gone so far in the opposite direction from their difficult-to-use SDK, to make it so easy to use, that it has exactly the opposite problem, too: it’s overly simplistic and limited in use, and therefore unlikely to satisfy those people who have already spent their hard-earned MANA on expensive parcels of LAND. I find myself still wanting something in between the two provided solutions, the Builder and the SDK.

Anyway, if you’re interested in entering the contest, here are the details:

Decentraland is giving away a total of 900K MANA and 50 different parcels of LAND to people who create truly inspiring scenes with the Builder. That’s over $50,000 USD worth of prizes!

We’ve broken down the grand prizes as follows:

  • 1st place: 200000 MANA
  • 2nd place: 150000 MANA
  • 3rd place: 100000 MANA
  • 4th place: 50000 MANA
  • 5th place: 25000 MANA

Each of the top five finalists will also be given some premium LAND in locations yet to be announced!

The rest of the forty five creators will be awarded 7500 MANA and parcels of LAND.

Good luck! You might win a serious cash prize and some land to boot!

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Reader Survey: What Sort of Content Do You Want to See on the RyanSchultz.com Blog?

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

I seen to have hit a dry spell for the RyanSchultz.com blog. (Hey, after 1,128 blogposts, it was bound to happen eventually!)

So, I have decided to post a brand-new reader survey, which will run for one week—until midnight Central Time, March 30th, 2019. As before, repeat voters will be blocked by website cookie and IP address. So please take a minute and fill out the poll, letting me know what you would like to see more (and less) of on this blog. There’s a space at the end to add your own comments.

I will make the results available on March 31st, 2019, along with some commentary. Thanks for your input!

PokerStars VR: A Social VR Platform Based on Poker

PokerStars VR is a social VR poker game which was released late last year in Early Access on both Steam and the Oculus Store:

Based on the trailer alone, it sounds as if the closet thing to PokerStars VR which I’ve already reviewed on this blog is VR Trivia Battle (formerly known as Kiss or Kill). PokerStars VR would appear to have the same kind of simplified, head-and-shoulders avatars with disembodied hands.

PokerStars VR is a free-to-play game, so I decided to download it and give it a spin, just to check out the social aspects of the game. (I should add that I am not a card player at all, so don’t expect any sort of reviews as to the level or authenticity of poker gameplay.) You start off in an opulent casino lounge, where you can spin a large prize wheel to win in-game currency to gamble with, once every eight hours:

After that, you have the choice of joining an existing poker game, or hosting your own (in one of several different settings such as Macau 2050 or The Monte Carlo Yacht). Each game can have up to 8 players. I did notice that some games required you to know a passcode in order to join.

Like I said, I know zero about card games in general, and I’m particularly clueless about poker in particular. So I can’t really comment on the gameplay in PokerStars VR. I’ve had people tell me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server that they’ve found the game very social and that they’ve made new friends. I have added PokerStars VR to my ever-growing list of social VR/virtual worlds. Note that you do need to have a VR headset (Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) in order to play. 

PokerStars VR is a good example of a niche social VR platform, which is limited to one thing only (poker), and which it seems to do well (at least, according to all the positive reviews on Steam and the Oculus Store). Since I don’t plan on learning how to play poker, I am going to leave it at that.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Twisted Spring Hunt

The Twisted series of hunts in Second Life are renowned for being the hardest hunts on the grid, and giving you absolutely no clues to work from, unlike other SL hunts. You’d think a spinning golden cube would be easy to find, right? Wrong. And every time around, I always land up tearing my hair out, searching for those goddamn little cubes anyways! This round has a gold-and-white divine god/goddess theme, so I diligently went hunting in a few stores, and I got lucky this time! Here are Twisted main hunt and side hunt items from three stores:

  • Appliqué Chic (a main hunt and 6 items in a side hunt)
  • Dreaming Thicket (a main hunt and 7 items in a side hunt)
  • Roped Passions (a main hunt and 5 items in a side hunt)

Our first look is the Divine gown (the Twisted Hunt gift for women by Appliqué Chic), paired with the Celestial Necklace and gold Laurel Crown by Dreaming Thicket (two side hunt gifts):

This stunning gown can be worn both for fantasy and formal outings. This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Giselle Bento head by Altamura (no longer available for free; this was an Altamura gift from Christmas 2017 at the eBENTO event, and you had to join the Altamura group for L$50 to get it).
  • Mesh Body: Jenny Bento body by Altamura (this was a free gift from the 2017 Women Only Hunt, and on this version, you can remove the head and replace it with any other mesh head, as I did here. Note that this free mesh body is now available at the Freebie Megastore at London City (more information here), but you cannot remove the head on the newer free version.
  • Hair: Jessi hair from Sn@tch (free gift at a past event; no longer available)
  • Wings: white Icon angel wings by Blueberry (Bento enabled; I bought these at the Christmas 2017 Shop and Hop event using the free L$500 giftcard, which is no longer available; however, you can pick these up at the Blueberry mainstore)
  • Gown: Divine gown (main Twisted Hunt prize by Appliqué Chic)
  • Necklace: gold Celestial Necklace (side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Laurel: gold Laurel Crown (side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Shoes (not shown): white flats by Garbaggio (part of the free sample pack for Slink feet; available on the SL Marketplace). Altamura mesh avatar bodies have Slink-compatible feet.
  • Halo and hand and body particle effects: Valkyrie silver halo, aura, and hand effects by Cole’s Corner
  • Sword: from the Marcus avatar (one of the Second Life fantasy starter avatars)

Here’s a second look, featuring several more hunt gifts:

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head and Body: Giselle Bento head and Jenny body by Altamura (same as above)
  • Hair: Jessi hair from Sn@tch (same as above)
  • Headdress: Divine Warrior headdress (side hunt gift from Roped Passions)
  • Wings: white Icon angel wings by Blueberry (same as above)
  • Dress: Asphodel Chiton dress (main Twisted Hunt women’s gift at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Necklace: gold Celestial Necklace (side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Boots: Thorn boots (side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Shield: Hoplite shield (comes with a defensive pose; side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)
  • Spear: Hoplite spear (comes with several poses; side hunt prize at Dreaming Thicket)