Elysium VR: Another Cryptocurrency-Based Virtual World

Early this morning I heard about yet another cryptocurrency-based social VR space/virtual world. This one is called Elysium VR, and the emphasis appears to be on roleplaying:

We are RAV3 team, we are working on Project Elysium. Elysium is a multiplayer Roleplaying game designed for virtual reality. The player falls into a sandbox world (Saint-Graice islands), in which he or she will live, work and have fun. The everyday life is detailed, starting from the need for water and food, finishing with decoration of their apartment / house. You just have to comfortably settle in this world and go in search of adventure with your friends. Each player can have different jobs, ranging from a dangerous bandit from the hood, ending with the president of the island state of Saint-Graice islands. You are guaranteed to experience maximum immersion in the gameplay! After all, all this will happen in VR ( and PC )!

Here’s a YouTube promotional video for the project:

The graElysium Avatars 16 Mar 2018phics remind me of the VR game Job Simulator. There’s a rather disturbing reliance upon handguns and other weaponry in the promotional video, and the avatars look pretty blocky and unappealing, according to this picture taken from their website (left). We’re obviously not aiming for realism here!

And it looks like they are going to have a smartphone app (below), allowing you to “be able to control all important game processes even if you are not in game!”:

Elysium App 16 Mar 2018.png

Their cryptocurrency is called MINERAL:

Mineral 16 Mar 2018.png

It would appear that they are currently in the fund-raising part of this venture. They are asking for donations from interested users:

Elysium DOnations 16 Mar 2018.png

So, if you’re interested in becoming among the first to set foot in Elysium, you can shell out US$10 or more to get a game license.

Like the three other blockchain-based virtual worlds I’ve blogged about previously—Decentraland, Mark Space, and VIBEHub—I’ll be watching from the sidelines. I refuse to invest in any of these new virtual-world-based cryptocurrencies because I am skeptical of the current massive hype around anything with the word “blockchain” attached, and I don’t have faith that I’m not going to lose my money when these novice virtual worlds shut their doors, as some of them surely will. The marketplace is getting overcrowded and frankly, many of these startups are not going to survive.

I buy Linden dollars and Sansar dollars and other virtual world currencies when I have confidence that the virtual worlds where I can use my currency are going to be around for the long term. High Fidelity and its HFC coin beta test is an evolving situation which I am continuing to monitor, but I haven’t yet actually purchased any HFC. All the HFC I currently own was donated to me by HiFi.

And so I’m not touching any blockchain-based virtual world currency with a ten-foot pole until I see evidence of a truly three-dimensional virtual world which I can actually visit! Decentraland, VIBEHub and Elysium VR do not yet meet that requirement, and Mark Space is NOT a three-dimensional virtual space at all!


Mark Space Apartment Decoration Contest Winners

Well, I still don’t get the attraction of Mark Space, but for what it’s worth, here are the contest winners of their recent Apartment Decoration contest (this is a YouTube video made by one of the contest judges):

Best Design

Check them out and decide for yourself whether Mark Space is worth the millions of dollars that cryptocurrency investors have poured into it (all the apartment links above should open in your web browser). As I said, I just don’t get the appeal here. Maybe I’m missing something… but this is NOT “virtual reality”, as they keep calling it!


VIBEHub: Yet Another Blockchain-Based Virtual World

VIBEHub Picture 2 March 2018
Picture From the VIBEHub White Paper

Someone posted a link to the VIBEHub website on the Occupy White Walls Discord server, and so I thought I’d check it out. (I did look at VIBEHub for the first time late last year, but nothing seemed to be ready to visit yet, so I left it.)

VIBEHub bills itself as, “The World’s First Crypto Based Virtual/Augmented Reality Marketplace & Hub”. So we’re looking at yet another blockchain-currency based virtual world, along with Decentraland and Mark Space. (I’ll let the three companies argue it out as to who was actually “first”.)

VIBEHub’s currency is called the VIBE. According to the website’s FAQ:

In order to watch concerts, partake in education seminars and workshops, attend meet and greets and go on Virtual Dates, You must pay in the VIBE currency to attend these events and social activities. VIBE can also be used to purchase digital assets, and vote on the platform as well.

The focus of the VIBEHub platform appears to be to present volumetrically-captured concert and education footage. They call this “Volumetric Video (Holoportation Technology)”:

What makes VIBEHub truly unique is that we are capturing performances and streams using Volumetric videos. This technology allows us to capture a hologram image of a performer or teacher in a live setting and place that performance or lesson in our own custom VIBEHub VR environments. This will create a one of a kind immersive VR experience that the world has yet to see.

Here’s an eight-minute video to show you what the VIBEHub platform looks like. Three avatars are taking a virtual tour of a museum collection. Note that the avatars consist only of disembodied heads, shoulders and hands—no bodies. They remind me of the Oculus Home avatars, or perhaps the Facebook Spaces avatars. (Not a good look.)

Here’s another four-minute video showing an avatar purchasing some music from another avatar:

VIBEHub is currently in beta for the Oculus Rift, with plans to support HTC Vive and PSVR in future. I’ve registered by email to receive an invitation to try out the Oculus VR beta. I haven’t heard anything back yet.

They also have a beta web browser-based app (billed as a “Beta web browser-based platform with all the social functionality linked to the VR platform”), but I couldn’t get it to work. Even more disconcerting, when I look at my user profile, all the fields appear to have been filled out by a different person called “ryanschultz”! This kind of security lapse does not fill me with a sense of confidence in using VIBEHub, especially since they expect me to purchase VIBE currency to be able to attend events like lectures and concerts.

Along with Decentraland and Mark Space, it’s definitely another platform to monitor over the coming year, as it continues to evolve. If I ever get a chance to try it out in my Oculus Rift headset, then I will let you know how it goes.


Philip Rosedale Schools a Decentraland Promoter

The level of hype over blockchain-based virtual worlds in general, and Decentraland in particular, never fails to amaze and amuse me. Sansar user Theanine alerted me to this gem of a tweet by Barry Silbert, who appears to be a cryptocurrency cheerleader, and the absolutely perfect response from High Fidelity’s Philip Rosedale:

Decentraland Hype vs Reality 23 Feb 2018

Damn! Barry got told. And Philip is right; High Fidelity is well ahead of Decentraland.

It would appear that Barry is quoting directly from this rather strange article from WT VOX, titled Fashion For Digital Self – VR Environments For Self Identity Congruence. Here’s the quote in full:

Decentraland comes closest to the ‘Ready Player One’ virtual reality. Its advanced VR platform is powered by Ethereum’s blockchain and lets users create raw materials, construct buildings, objects, enjoy experiences, exchange goods and communicate. Even more, in Decentraland’s virtual reality world users can monetize content, such as goods, experiences, services and more complex applications.

What? WHAT?!?? Right now investors in Decentraland can’t do ANY of those things! You can’t even set foot in Decentraland right now!


A Weird Promotional Video for Mark Space

Mark Space is lauded in a very strange video by a YouTube user channel called BuzzStyle, promoting the company’s apartment decoration contest. Jaguar and Land Rover are among the many companies name-dropped in this video as having “cooperation agreements” with Mark Space (whatever that means).

In this promotional video, read from what appears to be a press release by a creepy computerized British male voice, Mark Space is referred to as “VR startup”. As I already noted in a previous blogpost, arranging flat images of furniture within 360-degree photographs is NOT virtual reality! Visit my apartment in Mark Space and see for yourself. That’s all there is to see right now, just 360-degree photographs. No actual 3D spaces.

Why people are investing in this virtual world start-up is a mystery to me. Again, as with Decentraland, it seems to come down to people jumping aboard when they hear the magic word “blockchain”. They’ve already raised a fair bit of cryptocurrency, according to this screen capture from their website:

Mark Space 20 Feb 2018.png

According to this page from their website, Mark Space has already raised over 8 million dollars (US):

Total Raised Mark Space 20 Feb 2018.png

And, unlike Decentraland, Mark Space actually has places you can visit now. But what they are currently offering is not terribly appealing. I don’t get it. I really don’t see what the attraction is here, why people are investing millions of dollars. Compared to what virtual worlds like Sansar, High Fidelity and even 14-year-old Second Life has to offer, this is a product of questionable utility. How are the trendy boutiques in the Mark Space demo any better than a fully-featured website using Shopify?

Mark Space is another blockchain-based virtual world to watch, from the sidelines, as it evolves over time. I wish them well, but like Decentraland, I predict a bumpy road ahead.


Decorating Your Mark.Space Apartment

Mark.Space is a Russian company which bills itself, according to its white paper, “an open source platform for the creation of 3D- and VR- compatible online spaces (sites) and objects, powered by Blockchain”. Like Decentraland, another blockchain-based virtual world, they are issuing a cryptocurrency in an initial coin offering (ICO) called the MRK.

You can actually go and visit a browser-based demo of Mark.Space at this address:  https://demo.mark.space/, where you can point and click your way through a simulated shopping mall, among other places. There’s not much to see or do, yet. You use your arrow keys or click the mouse to move around, left-clicking and dragging the mouse to rotate your view. You do get an annoying white screen as the scene redraws every time you click your mouse to move around. It’s all 360-degree photographs.

On their Telegram chat, which I recently joined, they announced that they were having a Best Apartment contest, where they were giving out prizes to the people who had done the best job of decorating their free apartments, and sharing the resulting pictures on social media. So I thought I would give it a try.

Here’s what “decorating your apartment” actually consists of:

  1. Choosing a 360-degree photo which represents your empty apartment (walls, windows, floor and ceiling). Not a real three-dimensional space.
  2. Dropping and dragging flat images of furniture around your apartment. Yes, that’s right, there are no actual three-dimensional objects, just pictures. The menu does let you “rotate” them, which essentially means flipping the image from left to right.

Here, I shot a one-minute video of me decorating my Mark.Space apartment, so you can see for yourself:

Rather an underwhelming experience. I think I’ll check back in six months to see if anything has progressed since then. If you’re interested, you can visit my apartment in your web browser.


Decentraland: Why I Remain a Skeptic

Decentraland 14 Feb 2018

When I first heard about Decentraland, I didn’t know quite what to think of it. A decentralized-authority, open source virtual world using the blockchain for transactions? At first, it sounded like an even more libertarian version of High Fidelity. I was curious.

In late December, I joined the Decentraland chat server, and I lurked there a couple of months, following the discussions of people who had invested significant sums of money in buying Decentraland’s blockchain-based currency, whimsically named MANA, and who had then used that MANA in a bidding frenzy on 10-metre-by-10-metre plots of virtual real estate, called (of course) LAND. And I must admit that I am still somewhat mystified by all the feverish speculation. But then, I’ve been mystified by the whole idea of the blockchain and the market bubble Bitcoin and its fellow cryptocurrencies have created in the past couple of years.

You see, last August Decentraland raised 24 million dollars in an initial coin offering (ICO) for their cryptocurrency MANA, selling out in less than one minute according to published reports. Then on December 15th, they launched their first LAND auction, which concluded a couple of weeks later. Apparently, over 28 million dollars (U.S.) was spent on LAND in total, making it what Decentraland calls “the largest ever virtual land sale”. On January 10th, I made the following comments on the #offtopic Sansar Discord channel about Decentraland:

According to comments on the Decentraland chat server, some 10m by 10m parcels of land actually sold for over US$120,000…

When someone questioned the validity of this assertion, I did some quick calculations, and discovered that this was indeed true:

Well, they do have it all listed someplace…. hold on let me find it…

Here’s the stats on the land auction: https://auction.decentraland.org/stats According to this, the highest bid on a plot of land was 600,000 MANA, which works out to:

Using the value from here: https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/decentraland/


Whoever it was who paid that much, I’m pretty sure it is a speculator who hopes to flip it for profit. Or someone who actually hopes to earn back that astronomical amount through advertising or sales. Although how somebody expects to make a profit after paying over US$120,000 on a 10 m-by-10 m parcel of virtual land is a mystery to me.

And compare Decentraland’s land model with other virtual worlds like Sansar, which offers you up to three parcels of virtual space, which can be up to 4 km by 4 km in size, FOR FREE. Note this direct quote taken from the Decentraland website:

Why is land scarce?

Without scarcity, most LAND would be left abandoned, which would hurt content discoverability and the user experience overall.

Now, artificial scarcity of a digital resource is not a new concept. I remember people bidding up the price of virtual land to unheard-of prices when Bay City was launched in Second Life, for example. But hurting content discoverability? It’s called SEARCH, people. Every virtual world has a search function. (Although they do have a point about abandoned land, as anyone who wanders through Second Life’s mainland lately can attest.)

The two young Argentinian co-founders of Decentraland, Esteban Ordano and Ari Meilich, give an overview of their virtual world in this recent 40-minute YouTube video from HashedLounge, a crypto meetup in Seoul, Korea:

There’s lots of talk in this video about something called cryptocollectibles. As this article from Salon explains, cryptocollectibles are a new fad: one-of-a-kind digital collectibles like Beanie Babies, each purchase verified by the blockchain (some recent examples: CryptoKitties, CryptoPunks). Frankly, I’m pretty skeptical about the whole idea of cryptocollectibles as a way to make money, but then again, breedables are still a thing in Second Life, so what do I know? Maybe they’re on to something new here.

Here’s a map of Decentraland, called Genesis City. All the black lines are roads. The green areas are land parcels that were bought by individuals (almost all of these were sold in the recent auction). The blue areas are called districts, and those are places where a group of people got together to pool their LAND and build an area based on a particular theme or for a particular purpose. For example, the Aetherian Project in the upper right-hand corner of the map is meant to be a cyberpunk-themed area (here’s their website). Note that they also have plans for a university and a conference centre (located together in a rectangular area near the top of the map).


The lands near the white square right in the middle of Genesis City were the ones that went for the most money. The idea appears to be that avatars will spawn in the centre of this map and actually have to walk to get to wherever they want to go, thus making lands around the central plaza more valuable. Excuse me? Have the people behind Decentraland ever heard of teleporting? I can’t imagine a virtual world without teleporting, which makes the idea of one location being more valuable than another somewhat of a moot point. Have people learned nothing from Second Life?!??

Here’s the original proposal for Vegas City, the proposed gambling district. They even took a picture from a Second Life blog to illustrate their proposal!

Picture from Vegas City Proposal 14 Feb 2018

Note that Decentraland is absolutely nowhere near the level of development to have avatars bobbing around in inner tubes in fancy swimming pools! In fact, as far as I can tell, they haven’t really talked much about avatars at all. Yes, that’s right, a virtual world where people have invested millions of dollars, and there’s been next-to-no discussion of what their avatars are going to look like.

That’s the thing that drives me crazy about all this. Look at this slick promotional video they put out. EVERYTHING in this video is an artist-created simulation of what Decentraland is supposed to look like; NONE of it is actual in-world footage, because there’s nothing to see yet!

In the HashedLounge video above, in response to a question from the audience, the founders stated that a Web browser client or a VR client for Decentraland will not be publicly available until much later this year. So people have spent up to US$120,000 on 10 m-by-10 m parcels of land that they can’t visit yet! All they have right now is a recently-announced CLI (command-line interface) for developers.

The company behind Decentraland is still very small—one of the founders said in the video that they had quadrupled in size from 5 to 20 staff in just a couple of months—and I get the impression that they still have a tremendous amount of work to do to build a functional virtual world. I’m still not sure they completely understand the magnitude of the challenge they have taken on.

Oh, and another thing. I posted a comment to the busy Decentraland Reddit channel, reminding them that the FBI investigated gambling in Second Life, which had led to them shutting down online gambling a decade ago, and asking if anyone had stopped to think about whether the U.S. federal government would step in to stop Americans from gambling using cryptocurrency in Decentraland’s Vegas City district. That Reddit post was taken down by the moderators less than an hour after I posted it. I can only assume I was censored because they didn’t want to spook investors in their platform. I’m not impressed.

So, despite all the energy and enthusiasm I see all around me on the Decentraland chat forums, I predict some troubles ahead. I do want them to succeed, but I see lots of people with stars in their eyes who leapt on board this project when they heard the magic word “blockchain”, without doing proper checking beforehand.

Profit and the economy are squarely front and centre in Decentraland, and product development (the actual building of a virtual world) seems to be taking place afterward. That’s putting the cart before the horse. Compare this with Sansar, where Linden Lab invested years of work to build an actual, visitable virtual world before the expectation of earning any profit, both for the company and for its users. The same goes with High Fidelity, Sinespace, and almost every other viable virtual world. Nobody’s tried to sell a virtual world up-front, on speculation, the way that Decentraland has.

But I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe Decentraland (the virtual world) will take off the way their ICO did. I wish them luck. All in all, it’s going to be fascinating to watch the platform evolve.