Blockchain-Based Virtual World Decentraland Will Finally Launch Its Public Beta in June, But It Won’t Be Very Decentralized (Yet) and It Won’t Support VR

A Decentraland Scene Taken from Their Website

Many investors (and non-invested observers) are still waiting for Decentraland (DCL for short) to announce the public beta of its much-hyped, much-anticipated blockchain-based virtual world. There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the official Decentraland Discord server about the project, some of which I wanted to summarize here.

If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you already know that Decentraland has had two successful virtual land parcel auctions, and (to my knowledge), all those parcels (which are actually called LAND) have been sold, and there is an active Marketplace for the buying and selling of LAND. In response to a recent user question about whether or not Decentraland will have another land auction, toonpunk (one of the DCL developers) stated:

We will not be creating more LAND for an auction, the focus in on launching the public beta by the end of next month…The public beta will be the first public release of the platform, where you can interact with the world.

So it looks like the general public will finally get its first look at Decentraland by the end of June, 2019. However, it would appear that this first iteration of DCL is not going to be as decentralized as first hoped, nor will it support virtual reality. In response to user questions on the official DCL Discord server, Nico Earnshaw (one of the developers) said:

For our launch, we’re putting our efforts on the desktop client that runs on the browser. To be honest, I’m not sure how well that first browser open beta will run on mobile, we haven’t been testing it, but there’s still a lot of room for optimizations. It probably will run O.K. on Android, but not on iOS. We’re planning to have a native app for iOS further down the line, we’ve been already hiring developers specifically for that, but that won’t be ready to release at the same time as our first open beta.

Our desktop client will be accessed as a web page, as a user you don’t need to download anything. The rendering will be all client side. The data for what’s stored on each parcel will be on what’s today a single centralized server for now, where all the files have unique hash codes that can be verified. We plan to decentralize that single server in the future. The same goes for the sharing of data between users: position, chat, and changes to scenes… that’s also handled by a single centralized server for now, but our plan is to decentralize it too in the future. Also, any scene developer can choose to rely on using their own server to keep scene data in sync between players that are on that scene. VR support is still not on our immediate road map. At this stage, we don’t have plans to support it in the near future, and we haven’t started any development towards that goal yet. Of course it would be a great thing to have, but we need to focus on one thing at a time.

In a discussion thread on the Discord server, one observer made the following argument:

DCL hype was built on it being the first (1) decentralized (2) VIRTUAL REALITY world. Without having both, it’s just another virtual world, of which we already have plenty.

Carl Fravel, who has always been a strong supporter of the Decentraland project from the very beginning, responded:

Land ownership and content uploading decisions are decentralized. I have visited my scenes in Oculus Go. Decentraland is on the path to fulfilling the vision…Another issue with HMDs is that there isn’t something like MetaMask in them yet, for identity or commerce.

Well, it’s fine to say that land ownership is decentralized. However, until such time as a truly decentralized server system is deployed, there’s absolutely no guarantee that Decentraland won’t just fold and shut down the whole project, with zero recourse for the many people who invested thousands of dollars on plots of virtual real estate.

I’m not surprised that Decentraland will not support users in VR headsets, although some customers do seem disappointed. Frankly, they’re going to have their hands full supporting what they are offering to start: a low-poly virtual world that you can only visit via desktop browser, and perhaps an Android app.

And this is what drives me crazy about the Decentraland project. I have no doubt that the founders are sincere people who genuinely want to build a working blockchain-based virtual world. But the hyperbole surrounding this project from the very beginning (inflated by some frankly misleading early advertising and a greed-driven buying frenzy that drove LAND prices to insanely high levels), has led to impossible-to-meet expectations by DCL’s userbase. No matter what happens now, some people are going to feel bitterly disappointed.

And there’s still no market research out there which shows that a blockchain-based virtual world is something that people actually will want and use. This is a venture built entirely on up-front speculation, which has driven the whole endeavour. As I have said before, building and selling a platform based on virtual land scarcity simply doesn’t work when your company is competing against much better-developed, much more fully-featured platforms which are based on models of virtual land abundance, such as Sansar and Sinespace.

Who is Decentraland’s target audience? How will they advertise their product? How do entrepreneurs expect to make money off the platform? How will they entice people to visit and invest in an untested platform, one of countless others in this increasingly crowded marketplace?

I will continue to follow Decentraland’s developments with great interest. But I still have this nagging feeling that we’re going to see the company go through some pretty massive growing pains. And I still worry that many investors who bought when the market was at its fever pitch will be waiting a very long time to see any profit from their ventures in virtual real estate.

If you’re curious and you want to monitor the company’s progress as they near their public beta launch, you can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blog. You can also join their official Discord server.


I Finally Explore The Sims 4: What I Don’t Like About It

I must confess that I have never really understood the attraction of the Sims, but when Electronic Arts/Origin decided to make The Sims 4 available for free for a limited time, I decided to finally take the plunge and give it a try. All I had to lose was some hard drive space and some spare time, right?

Now, my only previous exposure to The Sims has been watching funny YouTube videos like Kelsey Impicciche’s 100 baby challenge (which apparently is a thing to do in The Sims 4). And while I certainly have no desire to have 100 babies, I did want to get my feet wet, and see what the fuss was all about. So I downloaded and installed the software.

You start off in the character editor, where you set various attributes of your avatar, such as your avatar proportions and the way you walk:

I did notice that you can actually click and drag your mouse on the avatar to adjust various aspects of your avatar’s shape, which I thought was pretty cool. You’re also supposed to select your avatar’s “aspiration”, from a disappointingly small list of options:

So I decided to select Trend-Setter. Then I started playing and clicking around, and it’s certainly a very different way of adjusting your avatar shape compared to Second Life! Here I am trying on different kinds of noses:

After a lot of futzing around I finally picked a hairstyle I could live with, and Vanity Fair (Sims edition) was born!

But, as soon as I got in-world, my heart sank when I saw this menu pop up in the bottom right hand corner:

Hunger? Hygeine? BLADDER?!?? Hey, I didn’t sign up for this! This reminds me of all those add-ons in Second Life which try to make SL more like real life by making you feel hunger, thirst, etc. Sorry, but I’m not interested in running for the toilet whenever I need to pee in a virtual world! I prefer to spend my time in a fantasy, not someplace that reminds me of all the things I need to do in my real life, like laundry, dishes, cleaning toilets and taking out the garbage! But then, what should I have expected of a “life simulation” game?

So, what do I think of The Sims overall? Coming from Second Life and other virtual worlds, I miss the very thing that makes them special: your interaction with other avatars, who have real people behind them. People who can surprise, delight, confound, and even upset you. No matter how polished the computer algorithms controlling the other characters you encounter are, they can’t replace the brain of a real live human being behind the keyboard of another avatar. You can’t have real conversations (in fact, the avatars in The Sims 4 speak a made-up language called Simlish).

I’m quite sure that The Sims can be great fun, and you can certainly do a lot in it (like design and build the gorgeous mansion of your dreams). But the fact that this is, at heart, a single-player game, just kind of takes the fun and excitement out of it for me. So while I’m glad I had a chance to try The Sims out for free, I doubt that I will be playing it that often. But I’ll keep it on my hard drive for now; who knows, maybe I’ll come back for another kick at the can.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Shoes for Female Avatars

It can be tricky to find free or inexpensive footwear for female avatars, so in this blogpost I will be pulling together all the information I have about finding free or cheap shoes and boots for women.

One wardrobe staple I turn to time and again is this free set of women’s classic pumps by Marquesse, available from the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil on the third floor (here’s the SLURL):

They come in white, black, red, and nude, and fit Slink mesh feet:

Wander around the women’s section of the freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil (on both the first and third floors) and you will find many other pairs of free footwear for female avatars, everything from sneakers to thigh-high boots! Here’s just a sample of shoes from Nala Design:

If you join the Rowne group for free, you can pick up this lovely pair of Jai women’s pumps at the Gift Wall in their store (here’s the SLURL), which comes with a 15-colour HUD:

The Jai pumps come in sizes to fit Maitreya, Belleza and Slink mesh feet.

Another wardrobe staple I use quite often are a free sample pack of Slink-compatible shoes from Garbaggio, available on the SL Marketplace:

The set consists of flats, mid-height heels, and high heels in four colours: white, red, black, and nude. Here’s a close-up look at the mid heel along with the colour HUD:

Baby Monkey has some nice freebies at a couple of locations. At the Free*Style store you can pick three different sets of footwear—pumps, hiking shoes, and boots—in grey, green, and blue (here’s the SLURL):

Here’s what the Leana pumps look like, along with the colour HUD:

If you go to the Free Dove freebie store, there’s an updated “basics” set of Baby Monkey Leana pumps available in sizes for Maitreya, Belleza, and Slink mesh feet as well as classic avatar feet, along with a 10-colour HUD (here’s the SLURL):

There are many other high-quality freebies in the shoe section at the Free Dove, so be sure to pay them a visit and check out what’s available:

And finally, there are dozens and dozens of pairs of stylish footwear available for only L$10 each in the Baby Monkey sale section, located in a skybox high above the main store on the Keraxic sim (please note: this is an adult-rated Second Life sim, so you need to set your viewer settings to include Adult content if you want to be able to visit the Baby Monkey store). Here’s the SLURL to take you directly there.

Each set comes with a 32-to-35 colour HUD, which should allow you to match just about any outfit you are wearing! This is an incredible deal, so you should visit and flip through the vendors just to see what’s for sale. Depending on the style, there are sizes for Maitreya, Belleza, and Slink mesh feet, as well as classic avatar feet.

Another place to pick up many pairs of free shoes for female avatars is Hilly Haalan. Simply join their group for free and click the panels at the landing point, or the nearby freebie store! Here are just a few examples:

The suede Sonnet pumps (upper right in the bottom picture) come with a 20-colour HUD, and are available in versions for Maitreya, Belleza, and Slink mesh feet. I find myself using them quite a bit.

If you join the Legendaire V.I.P. group for only L$49, you can pick up quite a few pairs of trendy shoes and boots from their group gift wall:

If you join the S@bbia group for free, you can pick up a nice pair of brown penny loafers for free at their store (here’s the SLURL):

If you join the Versov group for free, you can pick up a pair of Jumpov sneakers as a free group gift from their store (here’s the SLURL):

The Jumpov sneakers come in sizes to fit Maitreya, Belleza, and Slink mesh feet, as well as an unrigged pair which you can adjust to fit just about any foot (it also comes in men’s sizes). The included HUD allows you to customize every aspect of these sneakers as you wish!

If you join the Petite Mort & Oubliette VIP group for free, you can pick a couple of neat pairs of sneakers as free group gifts. Oubliette has a pair of floral skull chucks at this SLURL:

And Petite Mort has a nice pair of black floral chucks at this SLURL:

And, if you like flowers on your sneakers, there’s another free pair available at the entrance of the Baby Monkey store at this SLURL:

So, as you can see, it’s not hard to find some fabulous footwear for nothing, or next to nothing, in Second Life! Happy shopping!

UPDATED! Pictures from the Gala De La Lune Event in Sansar

Almost fifty avatars showed up in their finest formalwear for this Friday evening event! The following pictures of the Gala De La Lune event were taken by me, Torley Linden, and Andrew William:

UPDATE May 20th: Olympus Mons posted the following hour-long video to YouTube of the gala. Enjoy!