Blockchain-Based Metaverse Platforms: A New List

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: The blog will be on an indefinite hiatus, as I am working on a brand new project: writing up a proposal for a VR lab for my university library system! More details here. I’ll be back as soon as I can, folks!

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

As a first step in reorganizing and recategorizing my perennially popular list of social VR, virtual worlds, and metaverse platforms, I have separated out a sub-list of those platforms which incorporate blockchain in some way: cryptocurrencies and/or Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).

You can check it out here (I put it at the tail end of my original listing).

I did this in response to reader comments and feedback, and I hope you will forgive me if I have forgetten to move a particular metaverse from one list to the other! As I said before, I do plan to continue to write about blockchain-based metaverse projects on the blog, so expect this list to expand significantly this year!

Also, a small housekeeping note: from now on, I also will no longer be writing about any of the “buy a virtual piece of Earth” blockchain projects (e.g. SuperWorld)—here’s what I think about all of those projects. I don’t find these sorts of projects interesting in the slightest, and I believe that all such projects are, at best, ill-advised investments, and at worst, outright scams to part people from their hard-earned cryptocurrency.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: Be Careful What You Wish For…Because You Just Might Get it!

Be careful what you wish for
‘Cause you just might get it
You just might get it
You just might get it

—When I Grow Up, by The Pussycat Dolls

Last week, I met with the head of my university library system, and I was asked to draw up a proposal for a virtual reality lab, which will be set up in one of the libraries on our university campus. Within the next month, I have to spec out hardware and software, plus any other supporting equipment, as well as work out staffing and training implications, etc. I’ve also been tasked with building a initial collection of platforms, programs, and apps for use by faculty, staff, and students using those VR headsets for teaching, learning, and research purposes.

*Ryan does the happy librarian dance*

I am reminded of the familiar saying: Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. I am simultaneously flabbergasted, elated, and panic-stricken (the latter is due to the rather tight deadline to submit a proposal with a budget to my boss!).

What this means is that the blog and the Metaverse Newscast show are going to have to be put on hold, at least temporarily, while I beaver away at my brand new project! I hope to be back within the next month, folks, but right now, I have to put my head down and WORK.

Wish me luck! I am about to get a crash course in dealing with the corporate sales departments of virtual reality hardware and software vendors, as an educational institution! This is going to be a very interesting, and certainly very different, perspective on the business of virtual reality.

Victoria VR: A Brief Introduction

Looking back over the past five years of writing this increasingly popular blog about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, one decision stands out as among the smartest I have ever made: creating the Discord server.

My Discord now boasts over 650 people; they are fans representing every possible metaverse platform, who endlessly discuss, debate, and argue about all the virtual worlds out there, and the companies building them! Pound per pound, they form the best army of metaverse bullshit detectors on the planet.

And, let me tell you, my crowdsourced metaverse bullshit detectors are having an absolute field day picking apart a new NFT metaverse platform, called Victoria VR, by a Czech company of the same name, located in Prague.

Victoria VR describes itself as “a world of entertainment, discovery, and learning”, which will be based on the Unreal game engine, and expects to first launch on the Meta Quest 2 headset (although they say they have plans to support other headsets in the future). According to their white paper:

Welcome to Victoria VR, the World’s first realistic Metaverse in VR built on the Blockchain, welcome to a world without limitations. Free for everyone to visit and explore, Victoria VR will replace our current experiences of TV, cinema, business communications, education, entertainment, shopping, commerce services, even search and much more.

Most of the white paper speaks in very general, glowing terms about the profitable potential of a blockchain-based metaverse platform, and what an opportunity Victoria VR is, which is, of course. their prerogative, but the white paper is suspiciously skimpy on the actual technical details of the Victoria VR platform itself. This is a red flag.

The “avatars” for Victoria VR pictured appear to be taken from the Unreal MetaHuman system, which is a very clear red flag to me; there is absolutely no way that such data-heavy, ultra-realistic avatars ever would work to scale in any currently-available social VR platform! Using MetaHuman avatars in promotional images and videos is one thing; using them on an actual metaverse platform is quite another. Even a small crowd of them at a virtual concert (for example) would quickly bog down any platform that attempted to implement its avatars using this technology. In the mid-to-distant future, once the tech improves? Sure. Now, or in the near future? No way. As I said, this is another red flag.

(taken from the Victoria VR white paper)

The Victoria VR website and white paper also feature what has got to be one of the sloppiest-put-together comparison charts of social VR platforms which I have ever encountered:

Among the specious categories listed along the left-hand side of this comparison chart is “Algorithmization”, which is defined as the process of converting an informal description of a process or a procedure into a computer algorithm. I’m sorry, but this is hardly a unique feature of Victoria VR! Every metaverse platform (and frankly, every computer program) has algorithmization of processes! It’s just one example of how poor a job whoever was tasked with slapping this table together did.

It’s also riddled with factual errors. For example, VRChat has a blockchain? News to me. When one of the members of the Discord, Enverex, asked about this glaringly obvious mistake on the official Victoria VR Discord server, he was told that he was wrong, and referred to the following Wikipedia article about VRChat:

Enverex points out that, while it looks like VRChat supports blockchain, this is a case where, if you actually open and read the page the Google snippet is referring to, it is very clearly is talking about the old High Fidelity social VR platform in the See Also section of the Wikipedia article, which appears at the very bottom of the entry:

High Fidelity—virtual reality platform featuring low latency, spatialized 3D audio, high-end environments, realistic avatars, and a working economy on the blockchain.

Frankly, this is inexcusably sloppy research by whoever threw this table together, obviously without even bothering to read his source materials!

Enverex also points out:

On other words, Victoria VR just lazily slapped their logo all over a stolen image (I doubt they even bothered to purchase this asset kit!). Here’s a close-up look at both pictures, so you can see the evidence for yourself:

Image used to illustrate the Victoria VR platform (taken from their website)
Art used to illustrate the Neo Shanghai world kit the Kitbash website

The Victoria VR website, white paper, and the Discord server are focused heavily on (pre)selling NFTs for virtual land, etc., and on something which they refer to as Virtual Revolution Staking:

According to the VR Staking FAQ:

Virtual Revolution Staking is our way to generously reward our committed Victoria VR Supporters who want to be part of the Virtual Revolution!

VR Stakers will be rewarded in multiple ways:

• Monthly Rewards
• Dynamic APY
• VR Land whitelisting (VR Lands Tickets)
• Mystery Airdrops
• DAO participation
• Virtual Revolution Staking will fairly redistribute rewards to those users who trust and support our project.

So you’re staking your hard-earned crypto up front, to win an opportunity to be whitelisted for some NFT-based virtual land. Hmmm….nope, sorry, this is insane.

Here’s a video which was recently shown by the company at the Virtuality Paris VR event. which clearly uses pre-rendered footage:

This was confirmed on Twitter and in the official Discord server:

Victoria VR confirms the video is pre-rendered footage (link to the tweet)
(taken from the official Victoria VR Discord server; link)

Enverex: Do you have a video of actual gameplay at all?

oxezoVR [Victoria VR]: I don’t.

Not too long ago, on this blog, I wrote about the battle of the various MetaWorld projects, talking about what appears to be the standard five-step process for so many of these NFT metaverse projects lately:

At this point, based on all three MetaWorlds, plus innumerable other NFT/crypto metaverse projects to which I’ve been giving some serious side-eye, the modus operandi for these sorts of projects seems to be:

Step 1: Buy a bunch of pre-made Unity (or Unreal) assets, the more realistic-looking the better.

Step 2: Create a slick promo video using those assets (or even better, reuse existing video and images used to promote these assets!).

Step 3: Mint a cryptocurrency and some NFTs for assets like virtual land, virtual vehicles, avatar wearables, etc.—whatever you think you can sell to people who don’t know much about the metaverse. (Sneakers, even though you don’t have avatars or even a platform yet where you can wear them? No problem!)

Step 4: Create a slick website with a lot of jargon, and lots of images and videos of the assets you bought in Step 1, to promote your new platform and sell your associated cryptocurrency and NFTs. Appeal to users’ FOMO and use lots of buzzwords like “blockchain” and as many “meta” terms as you can coin!

Step 5: PROFIT! (It doesn’t matter if you can actually deliver a product; you already collected your money in Step 4.)

And based on what I have seen—and what my army of metaverse bullshit detectors has told me—this is exactly the strategy the company building Victoria VR is following.

I’m going to give Enverex the last word here, as he’s the one who has spent the most time looking at this project:

The project seems to be powered entirely by FOMO at this point, as, unlike Decentraland and Somnium, they have no actual product that users can try out. If anyone asked them for any form of demo, they’d point users to an old product they released on the Oculus store which was just a prefab of a tiny gallery room as proof of concept, but it wasn’t proof of anything they claimed. The oddest part though is how no-one really seems to question any of this, users (mostly non-native English speakers oddly enough) are just throwing huge amounts of money at their very long winded whitelisting and lottery system for purchasing land. Land for a platform that literally doesn’t exist yet…

It’s entirely possible that it’s not a rug pull and will actually turn out to be a real project, but the majority of their claims cannot be true so even if they do eventually make something, it can’t be what their site has claimed. It’s funny because if you bring up that it can’t visually be what they keep claiming, their random users keep saying that “they’ll upgrade to UE5” as though that will make their hardware target (the Quest 2) suddenly able to run more detailed VR environments than even a current top-end PC, which obviously makes no sense. But again they appear to be selling to the ignorant masses that aren’t technically literate, so none of them question it. You can’t even take part in their land “presale” if you’re in the US as what they’re trying to do is illegal, so they don’t allow US users to take part.

If, after reading all of this, you are still somehow interested in this NFT metaverse project, you can peruse their website, join their Discord server or Telegram community, or follow them on Twitter. I have duly added Victoria VR to my ever-expanding list of social VR, virtual worlds, and metaverse platforms.

I leave you with my standard warning: do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your own research before investing a penny in any blockchain, crypto, or NFT project! Caveat emptor!

A big thank you to Enverex and the other members of the Discord!

Metaverse Fashion Week in Decentraland, March 23rd to 27th, 2022

I’ve already written about the Metaverse Fashion Week virtual catwalk shows previously held in Second Life here, but I also wanted to mention that the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland is hosting several days of virtual fashion events as part of its own Metaverse Fashion Week.

The Fashion Bible Vogue reports:

MVFW, which starts this Thursday 24 March on virtual real estate platform Decentraland, is the largest digital fashion event to date. It is open to anyone, and a full schedule will appear online. Ongoing events throughout a four-day period include a handful of shows, alongside showrooms, stores, panels, virtual parties and NFT drops. It’s also become a major crossover event for mainstream fashion, with brands including Paco Rabanne, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Tommy Hilfiger, Dundas and Cavalli set to join digital firms such as Auroboros and DressX.

Here’s the full schedule of events, plus my step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Decentraland account if you need them. See you there!