Yesterday, Decentraland announced the winners of their recent Game Jam contest. While there are still approximately 14,000 people waiting for their opportunity to enter the current closed beta of the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland, the company has thoughtfully included links in their blogpost that will allow any readers to visit the winning scenes without having an account or an avatar set up!
There were a couple of bugs I did encounter yesterday, however. For some reason, the link to the first prize winning entry, The Farm, did not work for me, no matter how many times I tried to reload it. Eventually, someone gave me the in-world coordinates of the entry, so I just signed into Decentraland with my own avatar (which already has access to the closed beta), and I teleported to The Farm to be able to take a few pictures of it to show you here. (The coordinates are -3,-33 if you are interested and want to visit it yourself.)
The first place winner is The Farm (all links were taken from the original blogpost, so this one might not work for you, either):
Another bug that kept coming up is the pop-up message that you see at the top of my screenshot above: a message telling me “You received an exclusive wearable NFT (non-fungible token) mask! Check it out in the avatar editor.” I was told that this is a bug that DCL is aware of and is working to fix as soon as possible.
The Farm appears to be some sort of gathering and manufacturing game around food. If you click on a book in the farmhouse, a series of recipes pops up:
Second prize went to Enchanted Wood, which reminded me of a brain teaser from the venerable puzzle game Myst:
Third place winner Koko Jones had an Indiana Jones adventure theme:
Here’s a list of the remaining Game Jam winners, along with links to visit each one:
SuperWorld is a social AR platform company which allows users to build community in Augmented Reality. Users and brands can personalize the real world by adding anything anywhere in augmented reality with photos, videos, texts, and 3D objects, and share the AR experience with friends and followers. We are currently launched on iPhone.
As I have stated before on this blog, I do not consider cellphone-based apps to be true “augmented reality”. I prefer to reserve the term for actual AR headsets such as the Microsoft Hololens or the Magic Leap One, which are still considered highly experimental technology.
Basically, the premise of SuperWorld is that you purchase regions (called polygons) that correspond to real-world locations, such as the Empire State Building in New York or the Eiffel Tower in Paris:
Holding a SuperWorld AR Real Estate Token allows buyers to have ownership of the longitude / latitude dimensions purchased and where future AR posts and advertising will be placed. It’s like the game of Monopoly in Augmented Reality. The goal is to collect the best places of real estate in the world or places that you love and to be able to buy and sell that real estate over time, as you like. The purpose of the AR Real Estate Token is to serve as an incentive to lock-in users to our ecosystem.
Now, this is not the first such product; I have written in the past about similar blockchain-based platforms which are superimposed upon the real world, such as Mossland and Worldopoly (which has relaunched as Worldopo). The big problem will all of these projects is that they are being set up well before any kind of wearable augmented reality headgear becomes popular among consumers. According to the SuperWorld white paper:
Social media usage is very popular worldwide but does not align user interests with company interests. Ads are how social media apps stay alive but users do not always see the benefits of ads. Concurrently, content creators and influencers face a fragmented market when trying to start off their endeavors. Few platforms allow content creators to monetize and share in the revenue other than YouTube. We want to create an economic paradigm in which passive content viewers, content creators and marketers’ interests are all aligned…
We believe that in the future AR glasses will be widespread and the lens through which people see the world will be through their favorite AR apps. Currently, smartphones are more commonplace and accessible so we will be focusing on the SuperWorld smartphone app until the future of AR glasses arrives.
So, let me get this straight. You’re expecting people to download the SuperWorld app to their mobile devices, and point them at real-world locations, in order to see more advertising? Why would anybody bother to do this? Aren’t we inundated with enough advertising as it is?
Here’s an eight-minute promotional video for SuperWorld:
The first half of this video is taken up with an explanation of how to set up your MetaMask wallet and purchase Ethereum to use in SuperWorld, so you might just want to jump straight to the second half, just to see how underwhelming this product is. Even worse, when I tried it myself last night, I couldn’t get the map to load, despite several attempts.
Here’s another video, a year-old three-minute promotional video showing you how the mobile app works:
But when I downloaded the app to my iPhone SE to test it out, it was so buggy that it was simply unusable. In my opinion, this product is simply not yet ready for prime time. There seem to be all kinds of bugs and glitches in the implementation.
I do think that attempting to build a global augmented-reality overlay when we don’t have any kind of affordable, consumer-grade AR headset technology is a bit of a folly. There’s absolutely no guarantee that SuperWorld’s way of slicing up the real world is going to be accepted or adhered to by any other company.
(You know me and virtual worlds! For me, hunting down and reporting on all these social VR platforms and virtual worlds is like Pokémon: “gotta catch ’em all!” I take a great deal of pleasure in tracking these sometime-elusive creatures down!!)
So, I loaded up the Stan World website to take a look, and yep, all the standard buzzwords are present and accounted for:
There’s plenty of self-affirming text throughout the website, about building and enhancing community using virtual reality:
But there’s very little technical details on the implementation of Stan World, other than this very vague diagram explaining how all this is supposed to work:
And check out the promotional video for Stan World, which was just posted a couple of weeks ago on YouTube:
Now, I have no idea from where the company cobbled together this veritable mishmash of avatars and scenes from various virtual worlds, but nowhere in this video do I see evidence of an actual deliverable product! (In fact, I would appreciate it of my readers could help me identify where all these avatars and scenes were taken from.)
This is another one of those blockchain-based projects which seems to be selling the sizzle instead of the steak, and pinning all its hopes on earning money up-front via an initial coin offering (ICO) like Decentraland did, as can be seen in the following eight-second video taken from the Stan World website:
(Sorry, I was listening to Stairway to Heaven when I captured this footage! This is not the soundtrack to the website 😉 …)
Now, your guess is as good as mine as to what the woman in the bottom right-hand corner is supposed to be doing, wearing what looks like a very basic, cellphone-based VR headset! (Maybe hand tracking has come earlier than expected?) This all looks like third-party stock images to me.
But what really set off my alarm bells was this part of the website:
You would think that clicking on the iOS App Store button would take you to the App Store, right? Wrong.In fact, it doesn’t matter which of the three buttons you click on; all three do exactly the same thing, downloading exactly the same APK file to your hard drive. A little deft Googling revealed that APK is the package file format used by the Android operating system for distribution and installation of mobile apps and middleware. But the fact that…
It downloads the APK without warning you; and
It makes the download look like actual links to the iOS App Store, the Oculus Store, and the Google Play store;
…makes me seriously, seriously pause.
So, once again, I issue my standard warning, as I do for every blockchain/cryptocurrency product and platform out there. Please do every. single. shred. of your homework before investing in any blockchain-based virtual world. Read the white paper carefully and read through everything on the website, including the Terms of Service. Carefully and thoroughly evaluate what is being offered here in return for the investment of your hard-earned money.
I have covered many blockchain-based virtual worlds on this blog, focusing in particular on successful projects like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space. I’ve also covered a few products which looked promising, but failed to launch, like Virtual Universe. And I have blogged about many other blockchain platforms that frankly mystify me as to why they exist at all, like NeoWorld, Mark Space, and MATERIA.ONE, to name just a few.
Well, there’s yet another blockchain-based virtual world to add to the list: MegaCryptoPolis, an Ethereum blockchain-based city-building game:
You access MegaCryptoPolis (MCP for short) using your web browser. If you want to buy virtual land, you’ll need an Ethereum wallet like MetaMask, Trust, or Dapper. Here’s a few looks at the MCP landscape:
Players can acquire blocks of land to construct their own buildings and eventually upgrade them to gain influence points. Each player can choose from a range of structure types to begin with: a residential building, shopping mall, entertainment facility, factory or even a mining site ― it is completely up to the player…
The MegaCryptoPolis game map consists of land blocks that unite into districts. Players are acquiring blocks to construct buildings that generate influence points. Better locations for constructing and higher level buildings will generate more influence points.
Just like in real life, every key action in the game requires tax payments. The taxes budget is then distributed every day between the players. This depends on the amount of influence points that each of them has collected within this period. Influence points define a player position in leader boards and share in taxes that he will receive to his Ethereum wallet.
Proximity plays a role in land prices, according to this diagram from the white paper:
For example, the red arrow in this diagram points to a square plot of land costing 3.19534 ETH (approximately US$570). I have hunted through all the documentation and I cannot find out what the exact size of the land is, though, which is an irritating thing to leave out, and which makes it extremely difficult to compare land prices between platforms!
The white paper contains enough mathematical equations to make my head spin! Somebody has utterly geeked out and calculated every possible detail of this world! Here’s just one example, explaining how taxes are assessed and distributed:
Here’s a couple of MegaCryptoPolis promotional videos to give you an idea of gameplay (I just love how the voiceover stumbles and calls it “CryptoMegaPolis” around the 1:50 minute mark in the first video!):
I see MegaCryptoPolis as a sort of a cross between a game and a virtual world. There are aspects of it that remind me of cellphone-based games like Final Fantasy XV, where you basically mine for resources to build a bigger, better city, in hopes of getting rich off the taxes.
My question is: Why? Why would you incorporate blockchain in a world-building game that is essentially competing against countless competitors which do not impose the extra hurdle of investing in Ethereum and setting up a wallet? The white paper talks about your investment as “100% secure”, but frankly, this is all hosted centrally by the company, and if the servers go down on this, you will have lost your money.
MegaCryptoPolis even states this quite clearly in the fine print at the end of their white paper:
It is possible that, due to any number of reasons, including, but not limited to, an unfavorable fluctuation in the value of cryptographic currencies, or in the case of MegaCryptoPolis, may not be widely adopted and may have limited users, or alternative products may be established that compete with or, are will be more widely used. The developers may no longer be viable to operate and the MegaCryptoPolis platform, with all of its game assets, may dissolve or cease to exist.
Participants may be subject to lose all of their Ether cryptocurrency that is transferred to MegaCryptoPolis smart contracts.
So, as I have said before about cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based virtual worlds, Caveat emptor! Do every single scrap of your homework before you invest a penny in any of these ventures.
Australian YouTuber Brad Laurie (a.k.a BlockchainBrad) has just published another in-depth interview with Somnium Space CEO and virtual world entrepreneur Artur Sychov, who has decided to embrace blockchain technology for his social VR platform. Brad’s YouTube channel focuses on various blockchain projects, and the 80-minute conversation is obviously mostly about blockchain, but it’s still quite understandable by crypto newbies like me!
The interview is quite wide-ranging, and Brad asks Artur about comparisons between Somnium Space and Second Life (still the most popular and economically successful virtual world) and Decentraland (another blockchain-based virtual world which is still in closed beta). Artur says that Linden Lab’s founding CEO, Philip Rosedale, has helped advise him on Somnium Space.
Also, unlike Decentraland, Somnium Space will be the second VR-capable blockchain-based virtual world to launch (after Cryptovoxels). Decentraland does not support virtual reality, and is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future. And the graphics in Somnium Space will definitely be a step up from the voxel-based graphics of Cryptovoxels! I am quite looking forward to seeing what Somnium Space 2.0 looks like when it launches in October or November of this year.
Brad asks Artur about Somnium Space’s “Live Forever” feature, of which I have been skeptical in the past on this blog. Artur explains that Somnium Space will offer to record everything you do and say in VR on your parcel of virtual land, and then apply AI to it. Artur says that if you die, you can then have this second version of you that your children and grandchildren can visit. He states that AI is progressing so quickly that within 10 to 15 years, it will be difficult to determine what is really you and what is AI. Upon questioning from Brad, he admits that nobody else has tried to do this before. (And I am still skeptical that this will work. The amount of data storage to save everything your avatar says and does over days, weeks, months and years will be quite substantial, and will likely become overwhelming to work with.)
Somnium Space is holding an Initial Land Offering (ILO) starting October 6th and running until October 13th, where 4,500 parcels of virtual land will be auctioned off in partnership with OpenSea. (Bidders will have to have a Ethereum cryptocurrency wallet like MetaMask.)
In every other social VR platform and virtual world to date, you are not allowed to transfer your avatar and purchases to other people as part of the platform’s terms of service (although Second Life does allow you to leave your avatar and its inventory to another person via your will). Artur talks about how the use of blockchain in Somnium Space will allow users who are banned from Somnium Space to resell everything they own to other people who can use it, at whatever prices the market will bear. This is quite a novel idea for a virtual world!
Brad also asks about the cryptocurrency to be used in Somnium Space, and Artur replies that they are working on finalizing the details on it. He states that they will comply with any current and future governmental rules and regulations on cryptocurrencies, trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Artur says that Somnium Space currently has a dozen software developers at work on the platform, with extensive in-house expertise on virtual reality and blockchain. And Somnium Space will soon release a version of the client for Oculus Quest wireless VR headset users.
You can follow Somnium Space on Discord, Twitter, Telegram or Instagram. Artur Sychov also hosts an Open Mic event every Saturday at 22:00 CEST (Central European Standard Time) in the Somnium Space amphitheater, for users to learn more about latest development news and to have their questions answered by the CEO himself.