Early this morning, I received an invitation in my email inbox to create my own custom avatar to use in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland when it launches. Today marked the official launch of the avatar creation program.
Note that Decentraland (DCL for short) was originally supposed to launch in open beta at the end of June, but that has been pushed back. Instead, DCL is going to invite groups of users in successive waves over the next month in a closed beta test, before opening the doors to the general public. Creating your avatar is the first step to setting foot in-world (once you are invited into the closed beta).
Here’s a brief new promotional video from Decentraland, showing off the different ways you can style and animate your avatars:
You can start the avatar creation process at this page. The avatar creation module is pretty straight-forward, and in no time at all you can customize an avatar to your desire. You have a choice of a male or a female avatar (sorry, no non-human avatars yet):
But there’s a catch. You can style your avatar as you like, but if you want to pick a name for your avatar (other than “Guest”), well, that’s going to cost you:
The fee is 100 MANA, which is the name of Decentraland’s in-world cryptocurrency. According to this cryptocurrency exchange calculator, that works out to US$5.10 at the moment. Not to mention the hassle of actually having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet and buying MANA, which I really don’t want to deal with right now.
However, according to the official blogpost of the announcement:
It usually costs 100 MANA to claim a name, but for the first 1,000 people claiming a name with cryptocurrency wallet, Trust Wallet, it’s completely free. What’s more, Trust Wallet and exchange partner Binance will stump up the gas fee.
Hey, free works for me! So, I downloaded the free Trust Wallet app onto my iPhone and set it up. Only to get hopelessly lost about how to actually connect the mobile-based Trust Wallet to use with the Decentraland avatar creation website on my desktop computer. It turns out that’s not possible (D’oh!).
Finally, I tried using the built-in web browser in the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone, but I only got as far as being able to select a name. The CLAIM NAME button at the bottom of my screen was still greyed out and unresponsive:
So, for a while confusion reigned on the official Decentraland Discord server as various people tried to troubleshoot my problem (thank you to everyone who offered suggestions!). Nobody seemed to know exactly how this promotion with the Trust Wallet works. Shouldn’t DCL have all this figured out before making the official announcement? Just sayin’.
Eventually, however, I was connected with someone from Decentraland who walked me through the process, step-by-step, through claiming my 100 MANA (a step they neglected to tell anyone about!), and then claiming my custom avatar name, all done using the web browser built in to the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone.
And finally, I got an email confirmation:
And checking my account, I now see:
Yay! Success! But it should not be this complicated. If a geek like me is having trouble with something as simple as setting up a username, you can imagine how confused the average Joe consumer is going to be. Hopefully, the team at Decentraland are rewriting their communications on the Trust Wallet offer, and providing STEP-BY-STEP instructions for other clueless cryptocurrency newbies.
Frankly, I think charging cryptocurrency for a custom avatar name is a significant stumbling block for many potential Decentraland users. I can understand needing to charge for land and goods and services, but something like a user name should be free to set up. DCL is setting itself apart from most of the competition in charging for a custom avatar name. I can only think of a few virtual worlds (IMVU, Twinity) that use this model. None of the major social VR platforms and virtual worlds charge you a fee to choose an avatar name. Decentraland might want to carefully re-think this policy.
UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: The following message was posted to the official Decentraland Discord server by toonpunk:
Anybody having issues with Trust wallet not being free please visit this link and it will work – https://claim.decentraland.org/ thanks.
You will need to visit this website in the built-in browser in the Trust Wallet app on your mobile device, then visit the avatar creation page.
UPDATE July 9th, 2019: Wow, that was fast! Toonpunk announced this morning on the official Decentraland Discord server that all 1,000 offers to create a custom avatar name for free are now completely used up. So it will now cost you 100 MANA to create a DCL username. Here’s a list of markets where you can buy MANA.