VICE interviewed Syrmor (a.k.a. Canadian VRChat video maker and livestreamer Sherazee Syrmor) in a recent episode of VICE News Tonight:
If you’ve never heard of Syrmor before or viewed his work, this video is an excellent introduction to who he is and how he got into the habit of interviewing various people he encounters on the social VR platform VRChat.
The interviewer and he share a joke in this VICE News video that he has become “the Beyoncé of Virtual Reality”, because he is now so well known for his video interviews that he can’t venture out in public without getting accosted by his fans! Syrmor tells the interviewer that he receives thousands of emails from people who want to be interviewed for the videos in his series.
Syrmor notes the most memorable experiences he’s ever had in VRChat and the subject of one of his most recent videos. The subject explained that he was a kid suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, or “the butterfly condition,” a lifelong genetic disorder that makes your skin as “fragile as a butterfly’s wings.” (In some cases, it can even lead to amputations.) Everything, from crawling on your hands and knees to taking a bath, can be very, very painful. He told Syrmor a story about daily battles with the disorder through the guise of a sprightly Piglet avatar.
“What really got me is that he talked about his dad very highly, because his dad is his caretaker. I said something like, ‘Your dad sounds like a cool guy,’ and he actually got his dad on the microphone,” says Syrmor. “Having this very burly, 40-year-old male voice coming through Piglet in virtual reality, talking about his son’s disease, and what life was like for him, was just not something I ever expected to encounter in video games.”
AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything,” which is basically just a trendy internet slang term or acronym used to describe an interview that occurs between one user who hosts it and all the other users who want to ask questions.
What makes AMAs so interesting is types of people who are willing to host them. From high-profile celebrities to regular people who’ve had extraordinary life experiences, there’s never any shortage of great AMAs to look up and even participate in yourself.
You can find most of these interview-style threads in the /r/IAmA/ subreddit, which currently has over 18 million subscribers. There’s also the slightly less popular but still extremely active /r/AMA subreddit that has just over 300,000 subscribers. Here, you’ll find a number of posts from people stating who they are and asking users to ask them anything.
So I now take back my earlier harsh, sarcastic assessment of Cryptovoxels. It’s taken off quite nicely, and it appears to be thriving! Just goes to show you how wrong I can sometimes be. Please accept my apologies, Ben.
– There are more than 1,000 people following the Cryptovoxels twitter – There are more than 1,320 parcels minted in the city, with more than 280 distinct owners – Over 1000 parcels have been developed and had signs, text, images, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and .vox models added to them. – There are more than 74,000 edits on the parcels in the city, this includes voxels being placed, features being added and buildings being raised and torn down – There have been more than 134,000 visits to parcels in-world, people that have physically entered the world and explored into parcels – Over 890 of the 1512 streets in Origin City have been revealed through the minting process
So the timing was right for Ben Nolan to do his Reddit AMA. Here are just a few of the things we learned from that Ask Me Anything.
When several people asked Ben to explain what Cryptovoxels is, he replied:
Haha, I wish there was an easy way to explain what Cryptovoxels is, but you really have to red pill it and explore to begin to understand. I would say that in one sentence it’s a “virtual city that is owned by it’s users”. I think this gallery is a good example of what you can build in Cryptovoxels.
Yup a city building game is a good description of what it is. Cryptovoxels is free to play, but if you want to build a gallery, you have to buy the land which costs $30-$300 dollars depending on what and where and how much land you want. You are then the owner of that land, and if you don’t want it in the future you can sell it to someone else. A bit like owning a domain, but you don’t have to pay for renewals.
Ben also explained some of the technical details of the project:
It’s written in Babylon.js (version 3.3) for the frontend, and node.js for the backend. All the data is stored in Postgres and the land ownership is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ben is already generating profit from his enterprise, enough to make working on Cryptovoxels his full-time job:
Parcels sell for 0.2 to 1.0 ether (ETH), so about $36 to $180 USD at current prices. I’ve made enough to work full time on it since June, and at the moment it’s going well enough for me to hire someone else to work with me… I work full time probably 50 hours a week on CV.
He’s even fielded several offers of venture capital for his project!
I’ve been contacted by 3 or 4 VC firms, and they were really cool to talk to and seemed to believe in the vision for CV – but even though it’s a bit stressful trying to scale the company just from sales, I think keeping CV privately owned means that I have a greater chance of building the vision of a distributed, user owned metaverse. I am a bit sad though, that I won’t get to get bought out by Hooli and wait out my vesting period sitting on the roof with big head drinking beers.
He also shared his thoughts about other virtual worlds, such as Second Life:
And (of course!) I asked Ben what he thought about Decentraland (DCL for short), the other blockchain-based virtual world project that is now so close to a public launch:
I really like Decentraland, I wish them lots of luck with their private beta and I’m keen to try it out once the public beta arrives. Their Unity client looks really nice and the nice lighting and shadows was a big inspiration for the Babylon 4 upgraded I was trying (and failed) to do. My hope is that once they are in public beta, we can find a way for users to teleport from CV to DCL and back again.
I also asked him two other questions:
What one thing do you think is Cryptovoxel’s biggest success to date?
What’s your biggest regret with the project? What do you wish you could do over?
The biggest success so far is all the awesome builds by community members. One of my fears was that CV would get bought up by investors who had no desire to build in the world and were just waiting for gains on their tokens. That still happens of course, but over 70% of the sold parcels have been built on, and the art galleries, museums and exhibitions are what make exploring Origin City so addictive and an easy way to consume time.
I wish I had double checked my maths when I first created the voxel-positioning code. It looks fine in the Cryptovoxels client, but now that we have 3 or 4 (Unity, Janus, Substrata) clients consuming Origin City [the name of CV’s main city], the little hacks I made to make things look good on the web, those hacks make creating a conforming client really painful for third parties.
I would encourage you to go over to Reddit and read through the AMA in full. Here’s a link. Thank you to Ben for hosting this and answering so many questions! More virtual world CEOs need to host AMAs like this.
Also, at some point in the near future, I do plan to write up a more detailed blogpost comparing and contrasting the two biggest blockchain-based virtual world projects to date, Cryptovoxels and Decentraland. This will be largely based on an excellent article that Jin from the RyanSchultz.com Discord server has recently put together. Thanks, Jin!