Somnium Times Covers News and Events on the Blockchain-Based Social VR Platform Somnium Space

The Somnium Times website

I may have been belabouring the point lately, but I still feel, quite strongly, that many of the newer social VR platforms have not been promoting themselves very effectively lately. I have written before about how Second Life’s bloggers, vloggers, and livestreamers promote SL, saying:

Second Life has a vibrant and thriving community of thousands and thousands of bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and machinima makers. Combine that with a flourishing ecosystem of programs and tools, such as the Black Dragon viewer, and you get a creative frenzy of activity which is, as yet, unmatched by any other social VR platform or virtual world (although VRChat comes close!). It’s essentially a self-sustaining marketing machine at this point, selling SL to a wide outside audience…

So my message. to all those companies which are toiling away, hoping to inherit the mantle of Second Life and become the next massive metaverse platform, is this: pay attention to your community, and encourage their creative pursuits! You might be pleasantly surprised at the spin-off benefits of cultivating and leveraging your fanbases.

Well, today I want to spotlight a great example of someone who has done just that, promoting the blockchain-based social VR/virtual world platform Somnium Space. Somnium Times is a website and an associated YouTube channel focused on news and events in Somnium Space, by Marc Demar. Here’s an example video:

Yes, that’s right, in much the same way that I originally started this blog four years ago to focus on Sansar, Marc has started his website and channel to focus on what’s happening in Somnium Space. Every social VR platforms out there should be asking themselves: What do I have to do to find someone like Marc Demar?

And if you can’t find someone to volunteer to do it because they’re such a fan of your platform, perhaps you should consider how to better cultivate those raving fans. You might want to ask yourself if there are ways or tools (like the Black Dragon viewer) to allow those fans to create high-quality, compelling content to spread via social media. Perhaps, you should consider even taking the step to (gasp!) pay someone to create sponsored content to advertise your world. (If you’re interested, here are my rates for advertising and sponsored blogposts. Was that subtle enough for you? 😉 )

The point I am trying to make is this: you can’t just create a platform, then sit back and do nothing to either a) promote it, or b) enable other people to promote it. The platforms are not just going to magically sell themselves (as Sansar has discovered to its detriment over the past four years). As RuPaul says: You have to work!

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk 😉

Decentraland Introduces a Wearables Editor: Creating and Selling Avatar Fashion on the Blockchain

Have you joined the Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 500 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.

If Second Life has taught us nothing else during the 18 years of its existence, it is this: that people are willing to invest considerable amounts of time and money on avatar customization. In some worlds like VRChat, the customization applies to the entire avatar; in others, like Sinespace, Second Life and Sansar, you can have dressable, human(oid) avatars, where you can mix and match clothing you purchase from content creators to make your own signature look. (In fact, at one time I had aspirations to teach myself Marvelous Designer and become an avatar fashion designer in Sansar…you can read through all the blogposts of that particular saga here.)

The blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland has followed the latter path of Sansar and Second Life (i.e. dressable human avatars), and early this month, they have taken another step on that journey by releasing the Decentraland Wearables Editor. Here’s a quick promotional video:

Now, unlike Sansar and Second Life, creating and selling avatar clothing is different in a blockchain-based virtual world like Decentraland. Every single copy of every single article of clothing has to be minted as a unique NFT (non-fungible token). In other words, the designer decides ahead of time how many copies he or she wants to sell. All clothing is limited edition!

The Decentraland Wearables Editor allows you to name items, model wearables on an avatar, assign categories and item rarity, and set a price for each item in your collections. After that, according to the official blogpost:

Once you’re happy with the details, you can publish your item or collection which then goes to the Curation Committee for approval.

The Curation Committee was voted in place by the DAO, and exists to prevent buggy or offensive wearables from appearing in Decentraland.

Read more about the committee and the approvals process in the documentation.

While there is no gas cost for minting wearables on Polygon, there are fees for publishing wearable items in the Editor. These fees are intended to discourage and reduce wearable “spam”, which can have a negative impact on the performance of the Decentraland Platform.

Again, this is another key difference between Second Life and Decentraland: everything you create for the latter has to go through an approvals process. Since this is a new process, it is impossible to say how much of a potential bottleneck this could create. (By the way, the Decentraland DAO is an autonomous body which owns the most important smart contracts and assets that make up Decentraland—the LAND Contract, the Estates Contract, Wearables, Content Servers and the Marketplace—and subsidizes various operations and initiatives throughout Decentraland.)

So, as you can see, blockchain throws an interesting curveball at the world of avatar fashion design! If all this intrigues you, you can learn more from the Decentraland documentation on wearables. You can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blogYou can also join their official Discord server.

Decentraland Has Redesigned Its Genesis Plaza to Provide a Better Experience for Newcomers

If you haven’t paid a visit recently to the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland, you might be surprised by what you see. Here’s a shot of the ConsenSys headquarters shared via Twitter, which at first glance I mistook as a picture taken from Second Life! It’s clear that the first generation of blocky builds has evolved towards more realistic-looking trees and buildings.

And, in a move to become more welcoming to newcomers, Decentraland has completely redesigned its central Genesis Plaza, where new users spawn. According to a blogpost on the official Decentraland blog:

At the heart of Decentraland, Genesis Plaza was always meant to be an experience that welcomed users to the metaverse, providing a stepping off point for the rest of the virtual world.

The Decentraland Foundation development team has been steadily making improvements to the Plaza to ensure that when users arrive in Decentraland they know where they are, where they can go and what they can do.

When you first spawn in-world (or if you type in /goto 0,0), you are deposited in a cloud platform with three large boards and a whirlpool with a diving board:

This platform is the lobby. Here you’re presented with three main information boards showing you classic games to play, upcoming and live events which you can jump straight into, and a list of locations where other users are currently hanging out:

If nothing on the boards appeals to you, you can leap into the whirlpool, and fall through to a comfortable lounge on the ground level:

A multitasking octopus bartender NPC engages you in a conversation to help you get your bearings, answering your questions:

The goal here is clear: to help orient new users, and get them exploring the grid. Here’s a recent YouTube video (7 minutes) showing you how the boards in the new plaza work, plus a better look around the ground level lounge:

To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!