Mark Space Announces the Visualization 2 Stage of Their Residential Development

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Remember Mark Space? I wrote in the past about how underwhelmed I was by their nascent virtual world platform, with its 360-degree photos of rooms where you rearranged 2-dimensional pictures of furniture. Not terribly impressive, and I’m not the only person who thought so, either.

Well, here’s the latest Mark Space promotional video:

The Russian company behind Mark Space has proudly announced an incremental upgrade to their platform, called Visualization 2. The big news is that you can now insert, rotate, and tint 3-dimensional objects such as furniture. In fact, what you build is now an awkward mix of 2D and 3D content, as can be seen in the following six-minute video that walks you through the whole process of decorating the 64-square-metre blank box you purchased for your residence using the MRK cryptocurrency:

You purchase the virtual land for your home using a marketplace called the UNITEX, which could badly use some well-written help pages to allow you to decipher the listings:

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The cheapest price for a 64 m² plot of land is 1,000 MRK (which works out to about US$6.00 at current exchange rates). So land is still relatively cheap, at least.

Mark Space plans to launch in March of 2019. If you’re interested, you can follow the project’s development via their Telegram, their BitcoinTalk forum, their Facebook page, plus LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Medium, YouTube, and of course, their website.

So, what do I think about all this now? I think that there are virtual worlds out there that are way, WAY ahead of Mark Space in development, and which do not rely on the blockchain or cryptocurrencies (which I still feel is a solution looking for a problem to solve). And what you can actually do on the platform (even if they did finally integrate 3-dimensional objects) is not really that impressive overall.

There’s some talk of user avatars and AI-controlled pets, but no mention of how they will work, or how you can customize them. The entire project is big on fancy graphics and lofty promises, but still very short on the technical implementation details. Take, for example, this image used to promote their new residential creation tool:

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There is absolutely no way you can actually build a house that looks like this, using the limited toolset Mark Space is going to make available in Visualization 2! You are restricted to 64-square-metre boxes, which you can connect with doors (if you own more than one connected box). Compared to what you can already achieve in any of the newer virtual world platforms—Sansar, High Fidelity. Sinespace, VRChat—this is laughable. Even 15-year-old Second Life has far better in-world prim-building tools than what Mark Space offers you.

Again, I will be watching safely from the sidelines as this project unfolds. I wish them luck; they are certainly going to need it to succeed in this severely depressed cryptocurrency market. The only blockchain-based virtual world that I would even have considered investing in before (Virtual Universe) has gone as silent as the tomb after suspending their token sale. The crypto market is hammering a lot of start-ups.

Mark my words: there will be casualties among the many blockchain-based virtual world platforms within the next two years. Caveat emptor! As crypto journalist Ian DeMartino has written:

VR is cool, Blockchains are interesting. That doesn’t mean investors should throw their money at anyone who says those industry buzzwords. The MARK.SPACE demo is really bad VR and the MARK.SPACE token is a really [bad] crypto.

Stay away at all costs, or at least until they come out with a product that actually has some potential.

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Editorial: Lessons Decentraland Can Learn from the 15-Year History of Second Life

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Carl Fravel (whom I first met in Sansar, but who has since moved on to become a sort of unofficial ambassador for Decentraland), responded to me when I commented on the Cryptovoxels Discord this week that the creators behind Decentraland have not really paid attention to the history of Second Life, and the problems and scandals that SL has encountered in its 15-year history.

He asked me to give him some more details, which he has promised to pass on to the founders of Decentraland. Instead of a direct message to Carl, I decided to make this blogpost, in case other people were interested in my opinions. As you know, I have written extensively, and with a critical eye, about the Decentraland project in the past.

So, what can the folks building Decentraland learn from Second Life?

First, casinos. Linden Lab shut down the casinos in Second Life in 2007 after an FBI investigation into gambling in SL. I have already written about this on my blog:

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.

Now, Decentraland may be able to skirt around this by setting up in a jurisdiction where online gambling is allowed. However, you can bet that the FBI will get involved again if it is found that American citizens are gambling in Decentraland. They’re probably going to have to set up some sort of system to block users from certain countries; have the developers (and the people who contributed virtual land to the Vegas City district) stopped to consider this?

Second, “banks” and get-rich-quick schemes. Linden Lab was forced to ban “banks” in Second Life after reports of scammers making off with people’s investments (for more details, see number 10 on this list). Originally, Linden Lab’s excuse was: hey, we just host the software, and residents should avoid deals that sound too good to be true. But then, they were essentially forced to implement a ban after a story appeared in the MIT Technology Review. And, if Decentraland does not take steps to ban financial get-rich-quick schemes on its platform, it is likely that scammers with lofty promises will also descend upon it and set up shop. The world of blockchain/cryptocurrency is full of stories of people taking advantage of other people’s greed and ignorance. Remember what happened with BitConnect?

Third, ageplay. Linden Lab was forced to confront a public relations disaster when the news media reported that pedophiles were using the platform to engage in sexual roleplay with child avatars (see number 4 on this list for more details). The resulting scandal led Linden Lab to enact and enforce a strict ageplay ban.

To this day, when “Second Life” is mentioned, sexual roleplay tends to be the first thing that the general public thinks of; Second Life’s reputation has been pretty much tainted by that association ever since. Decentraland needs to think about this before a scandal hits, and set up similar bans, and a means of enforcing them.

Fourth, intellectual property and copyright issues. I have already written about this at length here and here. Go read those blogposts. I suggest that Decentraland put a report mechanism in place, as well as a procedure for dealing with DMCA filings. It will happen.

This is just a start. I suggest that the Decentraland founders and investors read through my list of the top 20 controversies in Second Life, and see what else they can learn from it.

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1

Cryptovoxels: Taking a Second Look

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Cryptovoxels Logo

I’ll admit it. I was harsh. And sarcastic.

When I first took a look at Cryptovoxels, I thought that the idea would never fly:

It’s an interesting project, and I’m sure that it’s been fun to work on. But honestly, compared to what most of the other metaverse platforms are offering, Cryptovoxels doesn’t stand a chance.

But, this week, after aggressively cross-promoting my new Discord on various other Discord servers of which I was a member, the developer, Ben Nolan, contacted me and invited me to come back and join the chat in the Cryptovoxels Discord. I was expecting to be crucified for what I had written earlier, but everybody was very friendly, and we had a great, wide-ranging discussion.

You can now visit Cryptovoxels within your WebVR-compatible web browser. Cryptovoxels also supports the Oculus Go, Gear VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headsets.

One thing I noticed right way is that Cryptovoxels is no longer a monochrome-only world: you can now have colour!

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It would appear that Cryptovoxels already has a small but very committed community of builders, people who are enjoying the creative aspects of the platform and who are working with Ben to expand it further. There are already six distinct neighbourhoods, as well as a map which allows you to teleport from location to another.

Cryptovoxels is also working on experimental portals to other social VR/virtual worlds! I visited an in-world portal that teleported me into JanusVR, for example.

Some of Cryptovoxel’s users are frustrated Decentraland investors and developers who are still waiting to receive invitations to join their closed alpha (I signed up too, and I’m still waiting.) One thing that Cryptovoxels definitely has going for it, is that it is among the very few blockchain-based virtual worlds where you can actually build something right now, publish it, and receive visitors! When this will happen in Decentraland is open to speculation.

Set-up instructions are pretty easy: it’s essentially prim-building, just like the old days in Second Life!

Building parcels is done completely in the browser, you don’t have to use your coding skills, just click to play blocks and build your parcel.

  1. Purchase a parcel from opensea
  2. Make sure you have metamask unlocked and then click sign in above
  3. Go to your parcel from the parcel list and click the refresh ↻ button
  4. Make sure the owner is your wallet address
  5. Click visit
  6. Press tab to bring up the menu, go to the blocks tab, and select a block
  7. You should now be able to click and shift click to start building

You can follow Cryptovoxels on TwitterDiscord, and Reddit, or just visit their website.

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.

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Staramba Spaces Is Now MATERIA.ONE—But There’s One Small Problem

The ongoing story of Staramba Spaces has taken another strange twist (and if you haven’t been following the saga, here is a link to all my previous blogposts about this social VR space).

Yesterday, Staramba (the company behind the as-yet-unreleased social VR platform) proudly announced that they were changing the name of the service to MATERIA.ONE:

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There’s just one small problem. The website domain name MATERIA.ONE is already in use by a Romanian leather fashion site!

In other words, Staramaba evidently did not do a rather basic business check on whether or not the domain name of their newly-renamed metaverse was available! Seriously, WTF?!??

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