Money in the Newer Virtual Worlds

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Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Money, the Flying Lizards


In-world currency systems are an integral part of many social VR/virtual world platforms. Second Life can be seen as the perfect example of a virtual world whose popularity exploded once people realized that they could make money on the platform, inspired by a 2006 Businessweek cover story on Second Life entrepreneur Anshe Chung:

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This blogpost is an attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of how the newer virtual world platforms have implemented in-world currencies and set up systems for commerce.

Sansar

Linden Lab has, of course, 15 years of experience working with Second Life‘s economy and in-game currency, and they have applied that expertise in the setup and operation of the economy for their new virtual world, Sansar. You can buy Sansar dollars in two ways, directly in bundles or via the Sansar Dollar Exchange (SandeX), a currency exchange. There are more details on the SandeX in this document:

 The SandeX is the official virtual exchange of Sansar, run by Linden Lab, where you can:

  • Buy Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit buy offers at a requested exchange rate.
  • Sell Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit sell offers at a requested exchange rate.

All SandeX transactions are subject to transaction fees.

Market buy and sell

Market buys and market sells are the quickest ways to purchase or sell Sansar dollars on the SandeX. The SandeX automatically matches your order with the best exchange rate. The quoted exchange rate includes transaction fees associated with buying and selling on the exchange.

Limit buy and sell

Limit buys and sells allow you to specify the amount of Sansar dollars and the exchange rate you are willing to accept. The SandeX automatically matches up buy and sell offers as they come in. If you are buying, you must have sufficient funds in your US$ wallet to pay for the buy order.

Creators can sell their creations on the Sansar Store, and can also receive statistics on how well their items are selling. There is as yet no in-world commerce like they have in Second Life.

Sinespace

Sinespace has two in-world currencies, called silver and gold. According to their wiki:

Gold

Gold credits can only be purchased for real money by spending users and can be converted back to real money by Sine Wave virtual goods partners.

Gold credits trade at 100 / 1 fixed ratio with USD$

Silver

Silver credits are free promotional credits given to users as rewards for participating in the community.

Silver credits cannot be converted to real money but can be used by creators to promote their content to new platform users who have not yet purchased gold.

Sinespace has a Marketplace built into its client software, and a few vendors like BlakOpal have also set up in-world stores.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity has attracted a lot of recent media attention due to the fact that they have decided to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC):

  • Blockchain Technology: Our new currency, High Fidelity Coins (HFC), will be a public blockchain with a consensus group of multiple parties. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions. We are using blockchain technology to track and record transactions made using HFC. All information on a blockchain exists as a shared database, which means the records are public and verifiable. It is not centralized. We are also using the blockchain to store information about digital asset ownership in High Fidelity. This enables us to protect intellectual property by embedding certification in items in the blockchain. HFC will eventually be convertible to local currencies or other cryptocurrencies at popular exchanges.
  • Cryptographically-secured Wallet: Users will be able to participate in transactions using their Wallet, which will be an app on their tablet in High Fidelity. Your Wallet is secured using a security picture and a passphrase which includes ECDSA public-private keys pairs. These key pairs are used to sign each transaction.
  • Proof of Provenance (PoP) certificate: This certificate is generated for every transaction between a user’s Wallet and the Markeplace. This certificate’s ID is stored on the blockchain. The certificate contains static properties that can help in identifying the item and the owner. These properties cannot be altered, except by transfer of the PoP Certificate. Currently, we only support objects that contain a file type .JSON. Support for avatars and other file types will be coming soon.

Currently, the only way to get some HFC (a free one-time grant) is to go to the Bank of High Fidelity domain at their open times and meet with the banker. Here’s some more information of HFC from the High Fidelity website:

We are currently giving out the currency for anyone interested in participating in the closed beta for High Fidelity Commerce. If you want to get your inital HFC grant, you first need to set up your Wallet.

These coins are to be used as currency for any commerce transactions in the Marketplace. Since we are using blockchain technology, all transactions with HFCs will be publically recorded and stored.

Your Wallet will be secured using ECDSA public-private key pairs, security picture and passphrase. Learn more about your Wallet here.

HFC is not intended for speculators to hold and should be used in transactions in High Fidelity. HFC is intended to be a stable currency and used to support a healthy and vibrant virtual economy for digital goods and assets.\

High Fidelity has an online Marketplace where vendors can sell their products (users can also access the Marketplace listings using their tablets in-world). Avatar Island is the first domain set up in HiFi where you can try on and purchase items for your avatar in-world.

VRChat

VRChat currently does not have any sort of commerce or in-game currency, although there is a thriving real-world business for people designing and rigging custom avatars for VRChat users. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the company decides to implement an in-world economy on the most popular of the social VR platforms.

AltspaceVR

As I recently reported, AltspaceVR seems to be gearing up for commerce, but at the moment, there is no commerce or in-game currency system in place.

OpenSim

Different OpenSim grids have different solutions to the problem of an in-world currency. Every grid has in-world stores which offer merchandise for sale. Some grids issue their own currencies; others use the Gloebit system, which has the advantage of being one standard currency which is transferable and usable across a large number of participating OpenSim grids. The Kitely Marketplace is a popular shopping mall for the many OpenSim virtual worlds:

Kitely Market can deliver items to all Kitely avatars, as well as to avatars on all other OpenSim grids that support the Hypergrid. Our marketplace also delivers items to avatars on several non-Hypergrid grids that have been set up to receive deliveries from our system.

Kitely Market has been used to deliver items to thousands of OpenSim users on more than 100 different OpenSim grids.

Virtual Universe, Decentraland and the Other Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Virtual Universe, Decentraland, Mark Space, Staramba Spaces, VIBEHub, Ceek, and Terra Virtua (among many other products in this increasingly crowded marketplace) are issuing their own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or tokens for future use on their platforms. all of which are still in development. The product closest to a launch date appears to be Virtual Universe, which plans to start a closed beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

I’ve already strongly warned potential investors to do every. single. scrap. of their homework before investing a penny in any of these blockchain/cryptocurrency ventures (link). Caveat Emptor!

Other Social VR/Virtual World Platforms

I can’t think of any other metaverse products which have in-world currencies at the moment, besides the adult virtual worlds like Oasis and Utherverse/The Red Light Center (these links are safe for work). If I’ve missed one, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

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Linden Lab Built a Wanna One Fan Experience in Sansar for 2018 KCON

Linden Lab was at 2018 KCON in Los Angeles (the annual Korean pop music convention), showing off a new Sansar experience! The experience is a game for fans of the popular South Korean boy band, Wanna One. Here’s a YouTube video of KCON attendees taking part in the interactive Wanna One experience:

Winners of the Custom Avatar Contest in Sansar

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Avatars Dancing on Stage at the Custom Avatar Contest

Today was the Custom Avatar Contest in Sansar, held at Loz Hyde’s The Grand Hall and Gardens experience. Forty-five avatars showed up, possibly making this the largest single crowd in Sansar in quite some time!

There were a number of wonderfully creative custom avatars on display, but some of them decided not to enter the contest for whatever reason. This meant that there were very few contestants in some categories! Chaos reigned for a little while.

The winners of the five categories were:

  • Best Looking Avatar: C3rb3rus, who created a wonderful Egyptian Anubis avatar
  • Funniest Avatar: Missy, who showed up in a huge, square, somewhat warped animal avatar she created using Marvelous Designer
  • Most Surreal Avatar: Silas Merlin’s Sunflower Man, called Memento Mori
  • Most Innovative Avatar: Snow’s Robot Eating Pizza avatar
  • Best Original Design: KandyBrainz’ Yolandastein avatar (which comes in either aqua or pink)

Each winner received 5,000 Sansar dollars (worth about US$50). Congratulations to all the winners, and all the contestants!

Does Sansar Need an Independently-Run Discussion Forum?

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Discussion and debate are the lifeblood of any community (photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

It seems ludicrously early to be even talking about the possibility, but given the sometimes heavy-handed moderation happening lately on the official Sansar Discord server, perhaps this is an idea that merits some discussion now.

I have noticed that usage of the Sansar Discord server has dropped a fair bit over the past year, especially when compared to the early days, when there were many free-wheeling discussions on a variety of topics, of interest to many people. At times, it was a bit of a free-for-all, but it was always entertaining to watch (and participate in). It was fun!

But lately, it feels like you can’t go more than a few sentences into a conversation on Discord without Harley or Eliot stepping in to ask the participants to take it to another channel, or to direct messaging. Frankly, it’s dampening the spirit of the place, and I do not like it one bit.

The long-running (and still popular) SLUniverse.com is an example of an independently-run discussion forum where people can safely vent on any number of topics related to Second Life, OpenSim, and other virtual worlds, without fear of official reprisal from Linden Lab. Is it time to set something like SLUniverse up for Sansar? Maybe it is.

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SLUniverse Discussion Forums

Or maybe we should all move wholesale over to SLUniverse, they do already have a Sansar forum (although it’s not heavily used).

What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

UPDATED: What Are the Most Popular Destinations in the Metaverse?

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Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

When you’re feeling like you want some company in a virtual world, where do you go? Sometimes people choose to go to popular places, where they can be fairly certain to meet other avatars who are also in-world at the same time. What are the metaverse equivalents of the Cheers bar, where you can just drop in anytime?


Second Life

For example, sometimes when I’m bored I go visit the London City sims, which are always busy. Clubs such as Muddy’s, Big Daddy’s, Fogbound Blues, and Frank’s Place are always a popular choice when you want to be around other avatars in a social setting.

Second Life does have a Popular Places listing, but the truth is, most of the places listed are actually pretty deserted. Clubs, in particular, seem to come and go with surprising frequency. Sometimes you have to go by word of mouth to hear about popular spots.

Here’s an interesting canned search that pulls up a list of Second Life sims, sorted in descending order by “traffic”. However, you should know that Second Life is notorious for having sims that may look busy, but are actually populated by armies of bots hidden away somewhere in a platform in the sky, in an effort to game SL’s traffic measurement system, and therefore appear higher in the Search function under Places. So be skeptical when looking at traffic statistics; they often don’t tell the whole story.

But what about the newer virtual worlds and social VR spaces? Where are their Cheers?

Sansar

Every so often Gindipple posts his statistics of the most popular Sansar experiences. Two that seem to be perennially popular are 114 Harvest (the starting place for the weekly Atlas Hopping event and the home of several notable Sansarians) and Alfy’s Arena Live Music Stage. Another popular place is Zen Garden. But really, you can just check the Sansar Events listing or the Sansar Atlas under the All tab, which automatically sorts Sansar experiences in reverse order by the number of avatars present (just check the green number in the upper left corner of the picture of each experience):

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High Fidelity

Finding popular places in High Fidelity (aside from scheduled meetups and events) can be a bit of a head-scratcher. The social VR platform does have an upcoming events page in pinboardagenda, or calendar month views. Unfortunately, there’s no events listing within their client (on their tablet), so you’ll have to rely on the website to get your information before you go in-world. If you search under Places in the tablet user interface, it will tell you how many other avatars are in other domains, though.

Sinespace

The most popular place in Sinespace (aside from special events such as speakers at the Delphi Talks) is invariably the Welcome Centre, where there is usually a small crowd of avatars sitting around and chatting.

VRChat

VRChat hosts many popular events such as the ENDGAME and Gunter’s Universe talk shows. The best way to find out when these are happening is to check out the handy VRChat Events calendar or join the VRChat Events Discord server. Again, sometimes the best thing to do when you’re simply looking for some company, is to open the Places menu and just pick a spot at random where there are a lot of other avatars gathered. You’re pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody to chat with.


What are your favourite places to go in the metaverse when you want to meet other avatars? Have you found a spot you like to go visit? Please leave a comment with your suggested places and strategies, thanks!

UPDATE Aug. 9th:

OpenSim

Alan Tupper of the Opensim Virtual community on Google+ has given me a great tip on finding popular destinations on OpenSim, by clicking this link to the OpenSimWorld directory, which gives a list of sims sorted in descending order by number of avatars present! This is very useful, thank you, Alan!

UPDATED: What Can You Do When Sansar Experiences Take a Long Time to Load?

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Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

One of the most common complaints I hear about Sansar is that the experiences sometimes take too long to load. I cross-posted my recent blogpost about the new Star Trek exhibit to Reddit, and I got the following comments back (which I anonymized):

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Unfortunately, some Sansar experiences do take significant time to load, especially the first time you visit. Some popular experiences that have a lot of content, like 114 Harvest and the above-mentioned Ready Player One experience, seem to take forever to load. And right now, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

The single biggest factor affecting experience load times is internet bandwidth, which you can check using Speedtest or numerous similar websites. According to the Recommended System Specs page for Sansar, a 10 Mbps connection is recommended, with 5 Mbps a minimum. Ping time is also important (but see the update, below).

(The CPU, GPU and amount of RAM on your computer are lesser factors in Sansar experience load times. If you have a high-end gaming machine, but a lousy internet connection, you’ll still be waiting a long time.)

The good news is that once an experience has loaded, the Sansar client caches it so it loads much more quickly on second and subsequent visits.

Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, said on the official Sansar Discord server:

There is a lot we can and will do to improve scene loading times/experience. Progressive texture loading, CDN, load in background, stream, LoD, magic, better tools for creators to diagnose and optimize their content. Some of these are sooner and others are much later. I’m hoping for one of them to make noticeable improvement very soon.

Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer, Landon, added:

Scene load time at least the first time a scene is loaded is almost entirely a function [of] bandwidth.

Not really anything in settings to improve them. (I want to make the experience great for everyone out of the box!)

The settings that Landon refers to are a relatively recent addition to the Sansar client, and they are intended more to adjust the graphics display settings to accommodate lower-end computers.  If you are running Sansar on a lower-end computer such as a laptop, you could turn off Shadowed Atmospherics and Ambient Occlusion and lower the Render Quality from High to Medium or Low to get better performance (however, with the setting on Low metal textures will turn black).

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But unfortunately, none of these settings affect experience load times. We’re all going to have to wait (some more) for Linden Lab to figure out ways to optimize experience loading. Ebbe sums up what content creators and experience builders can do in the meantime:

Textures. Textures. Textures. Smaller. Re-use. Re-use in clever ways still gets you variety. Smaller. Re-use. Fewer. Smaller. More re-use. Sounds. Smaller. Fewer. Always. Keep pushing. We will do stuff to make it easier to do it better over time. We will do stuff to make it faster over time. But a megabyte is megabyte, can’t change that. There’s always a line for you to cross. And careful with the triangles. Decimate. Cheers!

UPDATE Aug. 13th: In response to a discussion on the official Sansar Discord server about the impact of longer ping times (the reaction time of your connection, i.e. how fast you get a response after you’ve sent out a request), Ebbe Altgerg said:

Those [longer] ping times are not a problem. We will soon use a CDN where you will all download content from a place near to you. We’re also fixing our implementation of how we download assets to be more efficient. These changes will come soon. Hang in there and don’t worry about ping times.

Sansar User Concurrency Statistics: A Second Set of Data, with a Look at Maximum User Concurrency Figures

Not too long ago, I shared recent Sansar user concurrency statistics from Gindipple. Gindipple’s figures have sparked a bit of controversy and debate, about what they actually portray. Some have taken away the “fact” that there are never more than 20 people in Sansar at any one time, which is an incorrect interpretation of the data.

Today, I want to share with you another set of user statistics, this one compiled by Galen, who scraped data automatically from the Sansar Atlas in much the same way as Gindipple does. (Galen may be sampling the data more or less often than Gindipple; I didn’t ask either of them how often they sampled the data in the Atlas.)

Galen’s first chart shows minimum (blue line), average (red line) and maximum (yellow line) user concurrency over the past three months (please click on this image to see it in its full size):

Galen says:

…Average concurrency is not what most people care about. They typically care about peak concurrency. And average peak concurrency.

The maximum concurrency values from day to day are more like 20 – 30, even if my calculation of average concurrency hovers around 10. That number is useful but confusing.

And then from week to week, here’s what we see:

Once again, please click on the image below to see it in full size:

Galen adds:

See how the peaks are averaging 30 – 40? That literally means that during each week, there are 30 – 50 people in all experiences at one time for at least one snapshot of time I took during that week. The averages are very interesting, but harder for most people to make sense of.

It actually makes more sense (to me at least) to discuss maximum (or peak) user concurrency figures, rather than average user concurrency figures. Thanks for sharing your statistics, Galen!