Decentraland Scam Warning

Many people who have accounts on the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (DCL) have received the following direct message from Discord this afternoon. It claims to be an official bot called Decentraland Announcement, informing users that there is a brand new version of the DCL client which can be downloaded. THIS IS A SCAM! DO NOT VISIT THE ASSOCIATED WEBSITE, OR INSTALL ANY SOFTWARE. Decentraland remains a web browser-based app; there is no separate client for you to download.

Here is what the scam notice looks like, so you will recognize it:

This is a prime example of how scammers use social engineering tricks to try to separate you from the cryptocurrency in your wallet. Be warned and stay safe! It took me about half a minute of reading to realize that this was a scam (the website URL, which I have blurred out in the image above, was a major red flag to me).

I leave you with the final, authoritative word on the matter from DCL employee Sam Hamilton, a.k.a. toonpunk, who posted to the official Decentraland Discord server:

Decentraland News is a scam, they have been banned but if you have a message from them do not click any links.

Here is a website from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission with tips on how to spot and avoid cryptocurrency scams, which unfortunately are proliferating.

UPDATED WITH AN APOLOGY— Futurist Conference Taking Place November 11-12 in Decentraland

Please note: I have updated this blogpost with an apology (see the second update at the end).


Writing about Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, and Decentraland on this blog over the past couple of years, I have found that the blockchain and cryptocurrency marketplace tends to be a bit of an echo chamber, a reality-distortion bubble, where the crypto enthusiasts are all excitedly talking to each other, but not really speaking to the average, non-crypto people outside the hype bubble that they need to reach in order to grow the space, and mature the market.

(And yes, just for the record, I still feel that blockchain is a solution that is looking for a problem to solve. I remain a cryptoskeptic, and I refuse to invest a penny in any cryptocurrency. I just blog about and am interested in blockchain-based virtual worlds from a virtual worlds standpoint.)

A good example of this is the Futurist Conference, which apparently is currently taking place today and Thursday “in” the blockchain-based virtual world, Decentraland. (You’ll see why I put “in” in quotes in a moment.)

The Futurist Conference is described as follows in the Decentraland Events Calendar (here’s a link to the actual event listing itself):

Futurist Virtual Conference November 11-12, 2020 | Toronto, Canada Canada’s Largest Blockchain & Emerging Technologies Conference

Untraceable’s third annual Futurist Conference is the largest blockchain and emerging technologies event in Canada. It will bring together thousands of people online to discuss emerging industries that are going to disrupt our future.​This year the conference will be held from the comfort of your home. We will be bringing you an immersive experience to gamify the virtual event leading up to and including the conference days. Listen and interact with the world’s leading experts that are changing the technology landscape.

So I decided to pop into Decentraland, and pay a visit to the Crypto Valley Conference Center, where the Futurist Conference takes place today and tomorrow:

Only to find the conference centre essentially deserted, with only a handful of avatars present, and a YouTube livestream of Futurist Conference sessions playing on a large screen:

One of the conference sessions playing on a large screen in the essentially empty Crypto Valley Conference Center in Decentraland: Why bother?

And my first thought is? Why bother?

Listen and interact with the world’s leading experts that are changing the technology landscape.” Listen, perhaps, but interact? No.

This whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as the PornHub Games event which “took place” in the adult virtual platform Oasis, which turned out to be nothing but watching the six episodes of the PornHub Games on a screen within Oasis (this link is safe for work):

Basically, you’re sitting in a movie theatre, watching the individual weekly episodes of the “Pornhub Games” on a screen. It’s boring as hell, and why you would need or want to be in Oasis just to watch a video is beyond me. Why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology to do something that can easily be done on the desktop?

And so I ask the same pertinent question: Why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology to do something that can easily be done on the desktop? As far as I can see, Decentraland is not adding anything extra to the Futurist Conference, other than bragging rights that they are “associated” with the event, in much the same way as the PornHub Games were “associated” with Oasis.

Why bother advertising a blockchain conference as taking place in Decentraland when it’s not really happening in Decentraland? What’s the advantage of holding this in a virtual world when you can watch the whole thing on YouTube, and the primary means of interaction appears to be a web-based app that is not associated with Decentraland at all (other than it mentions DCL and tells you where to teleport to get to the Crypto Valley Convention Center)?

I mean, I am pretty sure that many of the speakers participating in the YouTube livestream didn’t even know or care about Decentraland; DCL was just piggybacking on the conference, for bragging rights. (Okay, so there was also some sort of crypto game taking place in DCL before the conference event itself.)

After half an hour, bored, and surrounded by only four or five other avatars in the Crypto Valley Convention Center who were watching the same livestream broadcast, I signed out of Decentraland and just watched the damn thing on YouTube, without the slightly delayed, slightly degraded audio and video quality due to the livestream being passed through Decentraland, without having to set up a DCL account and create an avatar, and without having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet. If you are going to make people jump through all these extra hoops, just to watch a YouTube video, where is the added value that the virtual world is supposed to provide?

If you are interested in the Futurist Conference, which runs all day today and tomorrow, here is their website and their web app (which requires you to set up an account separate from your Decentraland account, if you already have one).

UPDATE 10:12 p.m.: Artur Sychov, the founder of rival blockchain-based platform Somnium Space and a speaker at the conference, confirmed that the Futurist Conference was NOT actually taking place in Decentraland, other than the livestream at the Crypto Valley Convention Center. Artur tells me that a livestream of the conference is also happening in Somnium Space (which, of course, would be easy enough to do, since it’s a public YouTube livestream; all you would need is a proper video display panel). I couldn’t find any mention of it in their events calendar, though. And, once again, I ask myself: why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology when all you have to do is open YouTube on your desktop or mobile device? Where’s the added value to this?

UPDATE: Nov. 12th, 2020: Well, I did get some feedback on this blogpost from the community on the official DCL Discord server, and a possible explanation as to why I found the Conference Center so empty.

Matty of DCLBlogger told me:

You got kicked to a different realm that had 3 people because the main one was full with 100. I was approached by Tracy from Futurist and we’ve been organizing it to be in DCL, it’s not exclusive but it definitely was not piggy backing. Right now, yes, mostly the appeal is the crypto crowed but as this space moves out I’m sure there will be better onboarding to the non crypto crowed. Getting there.

So, yes, Decentraland supports instancing to handle larger crowds of avatars, and yes, Decentraland worked with the Futurist Conference.

So I am going to apologize: first, to the staff and users of Decentraland for being so negative, and second to Artur Sychov (for quoting/paraphrasing what he told me on this blog without his prior consent, as I had previously promised him).

I fucked up and wrote a blogpost when I was feeling cranky yesterday, I admit it, and I’m sorry.

Sensorium Galaxy: A Brief Introduction

Sensorium Galaxy is a yet-to-be-launched social VR platform with its own cryptocurrency (called the SENSO Token), which has recently signed deals with major DJs such as David Guetta and Carl Cox:

Earlier this year, Sensorium Galaxy announced their partnership with French DJ and global superstar, David Guetta, who will also produce a series of music events in the VR platform. 

Through the new collaborative partnership, Cox will call upon his experience working with festivals and events such as Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, and Glastonbury to design his virtual shows. The globe-trotting DJ has previous experience performing for a virtual crowd, including AltSpaceVR’s Burning Man 2020 as well as Glastonbury’s virtual Shangri-La festival on Sansar.

Here’s a teaser video for the music venue, which is called Prism:

The virtual world of Prism is the epicenter of music within Sensorium Galaxy. In this virtual setup, you can attend multiple grand shows by the world’s top electronic music artists. The brutalism of the Prism environment is balanced by the musical harmony and the performance of a digitized DJ. The production and scenography are prepared in partnership with renowned performers, producers, and organizers of the world’s top concerts and electronic music festivals.

There’s also a spaceship simulation called Starship Sensorium:

The first group of virtual space travelers embarked on a year-long journey to Sensorium Galaxy. And today, you can also jump aboard the starship. During the flight, guests are entertained with live performances of DJs and unimaginable galactic views. For a comfortable trip, each passenger is offered personal cabins, various activities in the lounge area, and walks in the open space. Virtual bartenders also offer heavenly drinks, while our flying camera captures the brightest moments of the adventure.

In addition, there is something called Motion World, which describes itself as “an underwater world of perpetual motion and dance”, with creatures called Omojas:

Illustration for Motion World

There’s really nothing to see here yet, except for a Windows tech demo you can download here. It looks like you will need to shell out at least $8 in SENSO Tokens (which apparently are not rolling out until the first quarter of 2021) to get an avatar from their store (the credit card and PayPal payment options don’t work). So there’s already a store with cabins, avatars, and avatar clothing for sale, but as yet no way to buy anything.

VR Scout reports:

One investor who is really excited about the future of music in VR is Mikhail Prokhorov, former owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal, who has helped attract more than $100 million in investment money for Sensorium Galaxy.

And—this was bound to happen sooner or later—Somnium Galaxy is the first social VR platform that I have encountered where my desktop gaming computer does not meet the minimum specifications: a i5-7500 or Ryzen 5 1600 CPU, and a GeForce GTX 1080 or RX Vega 64 GPU (I have the GeForce GTX 1080, but my CPU is only an i5-6600).

They are aiming squarely for the high-end PCVR crowd here, users with an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift S (and Facebook has already announced that they will be suspending sales of the Rift this coming spring). This is not a platform you will be able to visit on your wireless Quest headset! And, as the teams building the old High Fidelity platform and Sansar have each discovered to their detriment, aiming for high-end PCVR might just be a tactical error.

As always, I issue the following warning: Do every single shred of your homework before investing a penny in ANY blockchain or cryptocurrency-based project! Do not be swayed by the names of famous deejays attached to this project; as we have already seen before with Staramba Spaces/MATERIA.ONE, celebrity endorsements alone are not a guarantee of a viable platform.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sensorium Galaxy, you can visit their website, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and LinkedIn.

Updated! XANA: A Brief Introduction

XANA is a new social VR platform/virtual world which is (at least, according to its website) “coming very soon!”. It describes itself breathlessly as the “World’s Leading Virtual Social Experience Platform”:

XANA is the next generation virtual social experience platform which allows anyone to access or create open worlds to do anything from virtual events for fun to profitable virtual business, available for universal devices from VR , PC to mobile.

(By the way, none of the links to any of their “supported platforms” works.)

Here’s the three-minute promo video I was able to find on YouTube, which features the Chineses entrepreneur spearheading the project, and a whole ton of stock footage (a homeless man doing a fist pump in front of a notebook computer? Whatever, bro):

This video reminds me of some of the unintentionally hilarious promotional videos shot for other blockchain projects. Dig through all the blather, and note that there are precious few glimpses of what XANA actually looks like, and what little we do see, appears to be footage stitched together from a number of completely disparate virtual worlds and games. (Perhaps my readers could help me identify where some of this footage comes from? Thanks in advance for your help here.)

And yes, apparently XANA will incorporate virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and—wait for it!—blockchain/cryptocurrency. Sigh. All the requisite buzzwords are present and accounted for.

Haven’t I already promised myself that I wouldn’t bother covering any new blockchain-cased virtual worlds unless they were actually shipping product?

Yep, I did:

For example, aside from the three projects that have actually successfully launched (that is, Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, each fascinating in their own way), I will no longer be covering any more blockchain-based virtual worlds—unless they actually ship productIt was fun for a while, but more than half the time lately, I find myself writing about projects that are pretty much nothing but a white paper (and an .io website, and a Telegram channel) full of hypotheticals, handwaving, and hot air. Come talk to me when you actually have something concrete.

This is yet another example of a social VR platform/virtual world which appears to be more hype than substance. Like so many other half-baked blockchain projects I have witnessed before it, I’ll be extremely surprised if the project comes to fruition at all.

The XANA website is notably (and predictably) sparse on any actual technical details, including a link to a “Help Center” devoid of any help. If you’re still interested despite all this, you can follow XANA on various social media: Facebook, Twiiter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. As always I caution: do every single scrap of your homework before investing in any blockchain/cryptocurrency project or platform!

UPDATE 3:43 p.m.: Well, that didn’t take long! Sharp-eyed reader Rainwolf tells me that he has spotted various pre-made game assets from the Unity Asset Store: Cyberpunk, Medieval Kingdom, and The Lost Lands. Look familiar?

Rainwolf tells me that what tipped him off was the avatars looked like they were created using the Unity SDK for avatars, so he just started searching on the Unity Asset Store for keywords like “cyberpunk”, and it didn’t take him long to find it. Thanks, Rainwolf!

At this point, it’s pretty clear that there is no XANA—at least, no original content. It’s vapourware, folks. Nothing to see here, move along now…