Early Friday evening (after some helpful technical troubleshooting from Sam Hamilton, a.k.a. toonpunk) I was among the first wave of visitors to finally—finally—set foot in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland! I spent a good couple of hours exploring, and I wanted to share my first impressions, as well as some pictures and videos, since I know so many of you have been eagerly awaiting your own invitations!
Decentraland (DCL for short) is slowly letting in successive waves of beta testers in a closed beta test period that will last for several weeks, until most of the initial bugs are identified and fixed. After that, there will be an open beta (probably around the time of, or shortly after, the Decentraland SDK Hackathon running September 16th to the 30th).
One bug which I encountered right away was that my initial spawn point was in a river, and no matter what I did, I could not climb the riverbanks onto dry land! However, my official welcome email from toonpunk contained a helpful list of suggested starting places for exploration. (In addition to walking from place to place, DCL has thankfully implemented a teleport feature to take you anywhere within Genesis City, which is the name of their grid.) So I just teleported out of where I was stuck.
The first spot I visited, the Archery Casino, is an in-world game where you you are automatically equipped with a bow (which you can see in the lower part of the image below), and you can purchase arrows for MANA (DCL’s in-world cryptocurrency). Ten arrows cost 10 MANA (approx. US$0.40).
Immediately adjacent to the vending machine where you buy your arrows is a fenced-off area with rabbits and boars leaping around, presumably for you to hunt! Here’s a short video to give you an idea:
One of the boars seems to be just sliding along the ground rather than leaping like the other animals, but that’s a pretty minor animation bug.
When you teleport from place to place, there is a 10-to-20 second loading screen while you wait for the scene to load. You move your avatar around using the WASD or arrow keys, and you can move your camera around using the mouse. For now, you are stuck in a first-person viewpoint, so you cannot see your own avatar (although you can see other avatars in the same space as you). Here’s an example of what a group of avatars looks like in-world (this shot was taken by toonpunk):
Another suggested starting point, called Dapperland, appears to be a collection of monolithic articles of clothing. I’m not sure if these are meant to be display models for gear you can purchase, or perhaps some sort of art installation?
As you can see from the following video, there are already animated characters in some parcels, like this creature patrolling a dark castle interior (when you get too close, he stops and raises his sword):
Even with the low-poly restrictions placed upon content, people have already created some engaging scenes, like this shark swimming along the seafloor:
But there’s also some higher-poly mesh items here and there, too:
And there are rudimentary particle effects, like the rain from this cloud and the smoke from this fire:
As is to be expected for a brand-new virtual world, there is still a lot of empty space that needs to be filled in between the parcels with content:
There’s a definite sense of charm and whimsy about many of the parcels. For example, it’s obvious that someone put a lot of design and coding effort into this game, called Chipassic Park (another suggested starting point):
There’s already some wonderfully landscaped and decorated plazas, such as this one, which blew me away with its oriental aesthetic:
Some clever people are choosing to create gigantic works of art, using various pieces from the drag-and-drop Decentraland Builder app:
So, what do I think overall? Well, I will say this: Decentraland does have potential. There’s a certain charming, Minecraftesque visual appeal to the low-poly construction I see happening all over Genesis City. I suspect that DCL will prove somewhat popular with tourists who want to wander around and look at the sights.
But I do wonder if some of the early crypto investors who piled on during the MANA ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and the two LAND auctions are going to feel bitterly disappointed. What we’ve got at launch is not quite what was presented as possible during this two-year-old promotional video, which inflated expectations among investors:
Many people had such high expectations going into this project that it was inevitable that some would now feel that they’re not getting what was originally promised. For example, some investors had expected Decentraland to support users in virtual reality headsets, as depicted at the start of this video. That’s clearly not going to happen anytime soon. Others had expected much higher-resolution and more realistic-looking environments. I could go on and on.
But I would caution that it’s still early days—extremely early days. People need to understand that Decentraland has had to create some sort of foundation, off of which they can build new features in the future. They have to start somewhere, and they chose to start here.
Decentraland might not be not the first blockchain-based virtual world to launch (Cryptovoxels beat them to it), but they are certainly the biggest and the most ambitious blockchain virtual world project so far. Personally, I feel DCL is actually off to a somewhat promising start. They’re doing much better than I, originally the skeptic, predicted they would do back in February of 2018. And I will certainly be paying very close attention to how this virtual world develops from here on in.
I leave you with some more pictures taken in-world: