This category is for all the new cryptocurrency- and blockchain-based social VR spaces and virtual worlds (Decentraland, The Deep, Ethernia, Mark Space, Somnium Space, Staramba Spaces, Terra Virtua, VIBEHub, Virtual Universe, etc.)
After much anticipation, video tutorial series, guest blog posts and a global SDK bootcamp, the 2019 Decentraland Game Jam has finally kicked off. Over 2000 digital creators are currently flooding into the Metaverse for two weeks (Sept 16–30) of intense creative development and collaboration, competing for over $250k USD in prizes. Their efforts will form a lasting contribution to the evolution of Decentraland.
Where information differs between these two reports, I have chosen the more recently updated version, the Crypto Cities report.
Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are two virtual worlds that currently exist on the Ethereum blockchain. Both of these virtual worlds are divided into square pieces often referred to as parcels, aligned on a grid to form a city. In both virtual worlds, land parcels are a non-fungible asset maintained in Ethereum ERC-721 smart contracts.
Unlike many other social VR projects such as Sansar and High Fidelity, where the company has built the virtual world over time in anticipation of earning future income from users, Decentraland started with a well-timed, highly successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of their cryptocurrency token, MANA, in August 2017, raising US$24 million in less than a minute! This was followed by two successive auctions of virtual land parcels (called LAND), which were also very successful. Today, MANA has a market capitalization of approximately US$50 million. Decentraland is based in Argentina, and currently employs an estimated 45 people full time.
Contrast this with Cryptovoxels, which started in 2018 as a part-time project by a single New Zealand software developer, Ben Nolan. Cryptovoxels has been funded to a total of approximately US$140,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH) over the course of one year of virtual land parcel sales. This profit has recently enabled Ben to be able to work on the project full-time.
Project Size and Maps
In terms of overall size of the projects, Decentraland is approximately 23 times bigger than Cryptovoxels:
Decentraland itself is about half the size of Manhattan in New York City:
Jin reports on the differences between maps:
Decentraland’s atlas hasn’t changed much since the auction. The content that’s currently deployed into the world is not displayed on the marketplace map. Some wonder if this may have been a factor leading to several anomalies of parcels having sold for enormous sums of money.
We’ve analyzed the blockchain a few times since September 2018 to see how much content was deployed to Genesis City. – In September 2018 there was ~63 parcels with content deployed – In January 2019 there was ~100 parcels with content deployed – In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed*
(*see UPDATE at the end of this blogpost)
The Cryptovoxels map shows content that’s currently deployed to the city as well as analytics and other useful features. Anyone can jump into the world right now and try before they buy.
Content Creation Pipelines
In Decentraland, the content creation pipeline is asynchronous and somewhat difficult to master: publishing custom content requires users to know command-line and editing JSON files. For any custom models you will have to rely on using the SDK and setting positions of objects manually through code. Earlier this year, a simple drag-and-drop editor for novice users was created, called the Builder.
The editor for Cryptovoxels appears in-world when you press the Tab key. You can edit and publish to the content server seamlessly and in real-time, similar to games like Minecraft. You can add or remove different types of blocks to build any shape you want. You can even further decorate it with images, audio, art, texts, hyperlinks, ERC-721s, GIFs, etc. Changes to the parcel are saved automatically so that if you log out and log back in you see the changes persist.
There was no massive auction for Cryptovoxels land parcels; the project started off as a very small community that has grown bigger over time in an organic fashion, as parcels are minted slowly outwards from The Center. CV has grown by leaps and bounds within the past few months, as can be seen from this comparative illustration:
Average land sales from Cryptovoxels are beginning to catch up to the Decentraland market. However, it is worth noting that the entire market for DCL post-auction is now second hand. Cryptovoxels did not have a massive auction and instead mints new lands with procedural generation scripts for the size of each parcel and road.
Average Cost of Land Parcels
Land in Decentraland is significantly more expensive than Cryptovoxels. Currently, the lowest price for parcels in Cryptovoxels is about 20-25% that of the lowest price of parcels in Decentraland.
One significant difference between Cryptovoxels and Decentraland is that Cryptovoxels supports users in VR headsets, while Decentraland does not, and it is unlikely that the platform will do so anytime in the near future.
Some Final Figures
Current/Accessible Supply of Land
Total Supply of Land
This blogpost would have been impossible without the tireless work of CL and Jin, from whose reports I drew most of this information. Thank you!
*UPDATE 4:16 p.m.: Apparently, Decentraland (the company) is very unhappy with this blogpost, and I have been approached by a representative of the company who tells me that “your latest article contains lots of discrepancies and out of date data”.
The company feels in particular that Jin’s portrayal of Decentraland is unfairly negatively biased, but when I asked the representative for a list of concrete examples of errors made in this report, all he could give me was one figure, “In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed“, to replace one of Jin’s statements, which I have now inserted above.
I appear to have gotten myself caught in between two sides of a dispute, with Decentraland (with whom I felt I had a very good working relationship) on one side of the argument, and Jin (with whom I have worked before without incident) on the other side. I fucking hate being caught in the middle like this, and I don’t appreciate being caught in the cross-fire.
From my perspective, the blogpost I wrote today seems to be very even, not painting either company in a bad light in any way whatsoever. I pride myself on being as accurate as possible in my reporting, especially where facts are concerned, and if a company has a serious problem with something I have written, then I will certainly address the issue, BUT I NEED A LIST OF WHAT THE FACTUAL ERRORS ARE AND WHAT THE CORRECT FACTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And so far, I have only had one factual error pointed out to me, and not “lots of discrepancies and out of date data”, which is what I was originally told by the Decentraland representative. The company seems to be very upset about how this blogpost makes them look, when I think it makes them look pretty good. I’m very confused. What did I do wrong here? This episode has just left a bad taste in my mouth.
SECOND UPDATE Sept. 13th: I have since received an apology from the DCL representative, which I have accepted. He had been at the end of a very, very long workday, and was not at his most diplomatic in asking for corrections, and I took what he said the wrong way. We are both moving on from this unfortunate episode. This is just a bump on the road forward.
There is still much left to write about Decentraland, and (as my regular blog readers already well know) I will not shy away from reporting both the good things and the bad things as they happen, at all the companies working on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate just how far we’ve come in the development of all these projects. Both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland have come a long way in a very short time, and both are truly pioneers. I look forward to seeing how both develop and evolve over time and I wish both teams the best in their future endeavours.
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!
The Decentraland beta testing is now in full flow. New builds, games and projects are popping up all over the metaverse on a weekly basis. However, it’s still early days and there remains vast, empty areas on the map, with very little to view and experience right now.
If you have time to wander around Decentraland looking for cool new builds, great. If you don’t, then wouldn’t it be nice to have a map which can guide you around some of the best experiences which have already been deployed?
Introducing the new Decentraland interactive map, located at the top of our new, freshly designed homepage HERE. Click the [ ] symbol to view the map full-screen.
This interactive map currently highlights a range of areas where you can click, zoom in, view a snapshot, then click to teleport directly into the exact location in metaverse (currently beta testers only) and explore.
Click on the  button in the upper left-hand corner of the map, and it expands to a full-screen view:
You can scroll and zoom the map. In this example, I scrolled down to the bottom left-hand corner of the map, zoomed in, and clicked on the little blue dot of Celestialand, a virtual planetarium. A pop-up window gives a small picture and a link to teleport directly to that location (red arrow):
One click, et voilà! You’re there! (Please note that you do have to already be accepted into the closed beta program for this to work.)