Many people who have accounts on the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (DCL) have received the following direct message from Discord this afternoon. It claims to be an official bot called Decentraland Announcement, informing users that there is a brand new version of the DCL client which can be downloaded. THIS IS A SCAM! DO NOT VISIT THE ASSOCIATED WEBSITE, OR INSTALL ANY SOFTWARE. Decentraland remains a web browser-based app; there is no separate client for you to download.
Here is what the scam notice looks like, so you will recognize it:
This is a prime example of how scammers use social engineering tricks to try to separate you from the cryptocurrency in your wallet. Be warned and stay safe! It took me about half a minute of reading to realize that this was a scam (the website URL, which I have blurred out in the image above, was a major red flag to me).
I leave you with the final, authoritative word on the matter from DCL employee Sam Hamilton, a.k.a. toonpunk, who posted to the official Decentraland Discord server:
Decentraland News is a scam, they have been banned but if you have a message from them do not click any links.
Earlier this year, Sensorium Galaxy announced their partnership with French DJ and global superstar, David Guetta, who will also produce a series of music events in the VR platform.
Through the new collaborative partnership, Cox will call upon his experience working with festivals and events such as Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, and Glastonbury to design his virtual shows. The globe-trotting DJ has previous experience performing for a virtual crowd, including AltSpaceVR’s Burning Man 2020 as well as Glastonbury’s virtual Shangri-La festival on Sansar.
Here’s a teaser video for the music venue, which is called Prism:
The virtual world of Prism is the epicenter of music within Sensorium Galaxy. In this virtual setup, you can attend multiple grand shows by the world’s top electronic music artists. The brutalism of the Prism environment is balanced by the musical harmony and the performance of a digitized DJ. The production and scenography are prepared in partnership with renowned performers, producers, and organizers of the world’s top concerts and electronic music festivals.
There’s also a spaceship simulation called Starship Sensorium:
The first group of virtual space travelers embarked on a year-long journey to Sensorium Galaxy. And today, you can also jump aboard the starship. During the flight, guests are entertained with live performances of DJs and unimaginable galactic views. For a comfortable trip, each passenger is offered personal cabins, various activities in the lounge area, and walks in the open space. Virtual bartenders also offer heavenly drinks, while our flying camera captures the brightest moments of the adventure.
In addition, there is something called Motion World, which describes itself as “an underwater world of perpetual motion and dance”, with creatures called Omojas:
There’s really nothing to see here yet, except for a Windows tech demo you can download here. It looks like you will need to shell out at least $8 in SENSO Tokens (which apparently are not rolling out until the first quarter of 2021) to get an avatar from their store (the credit card and PayPal payment options don’t work). So there’s already a store with cabins, avatars, and avatar clothing for sale, but as yet no way to buy anything.
One investor who is really excited about the future of music in VR is Mikhail Prokhorov, former owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal, who has helped attract more than $100 million in investment money for Sensorium Galaxy.
And—this was bound to happen sooner or later—Somnium Galaxy is the first social VR platform that I have encountered where my desktop gaming computer does not meet the minimum specifications: a i5-7500 or Ryzen 5 1600 CPU, and a GeForce GTX 1080 or RX Vega 64 GPU (I have the GeForce GTX 1080, but my CPU is only an i5-6600).
They are aiming squarely for the high-end PCVR crowd here, users with an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift S (and Facebook has already announced that they will be suspending sales of the Rift this coming spring). This is not a platform you will be able to visit on your wireless Quest headset! And, as the teams building the old High Fidelity platform and Sansar have each discovered to their detriment, aiming for high-end PCVR might just be a tactical error.
As always, I issue the following warning: Do every single shred of your homework before investing a penny in ANY blockchain or cryptocurrency-based project! Do not be swayed by the names of famous deejays attached to this project; as we have already seen before with Staramba Spaces/MATERIA.ONE, celebrity endorsements alone are not a guarantee of a viable platform.
XANA is a new social VR platform/virtual world which is (at least, according to its website) “coming very soon!”. It describes itself breathlessly as the “World’s Leading Virtual Social Experience Platform”:
XANA is the next generation virtual social experience platform which allows anyone to access or create open worlds to do anything from virtual events for fun to profitable virtual business, available for universal devices from VR , PC to mobile.
(By the way, none of the links to any of their “supported platforms” works.)
Here’s the three-minute promo video I was able to find on YouTube, which features the Chineses entrepreneur spearheading the project, and a whole ton of stock footage (a homeless man doing a fist pump in front of a notebook computer? Whatever, bro):
This video reminds me of some of the unintentionally hilarious promotional videos shot for other blockchain projects. Dig through all the blather, and note that there are precious few glimpses of what XANA actually looks like, and what little we do see, appears to be footage stitched together from a number of completely disparate virtual worlds and games. (Perhaps my readers could help me identify where some of this footage comes from? Thanks in advance for your help here.)
And yes, apparently XANA will incorporate virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and—wait for it!—blockchain/cryptocurrency. Sigh. All the requisite buzzwords are present and accounted for.
Haven’t I already promised myself that I wouldn’t bother covering any new blockchain-cased virtual worlds unless they were actually shipping product?
For example, aside from the three projects that have actually successfully launched (that is, Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, each fascinating in their own way), I will no longer be covering any more blockchain-based virtual worlds—unless they actually ship product. It was fun for a while, but more than half the time lately, I find myself writing about projects that are pretty much nothing but a white paper (and an .io website, and a Telegram channel) full of hypotheticals, handwaving, and hot air. Come talk to me when you actually have something concrete.
This is yet another example of a social VR platform/virtual world which appears to be more hype than substance. Like so many other half-baked blockchain projects I have witnessed before it, I’ll be extremely surprised if the project comes to fruition at all.
UPDATE 3:43 p.m.: Well, that didn’t take long! Sharp-eyed reader Rainwolf tells me that he has spotted various pre-made game assets from the Unity Asset Store: Cyberpunk, Medieval Kingdom, and The Lost Lands. Look familiar?
Rainwolf tells me that what tipped him off was the avatars looked like they were created using the Unity SDK for avatars, so he just started searching on the Unity Asset Store for keywords like “cyberpunk”, and it didn’t take him long to find it. Thanks, Rainwolf!
At this point, it’s pretty clear that there is no XANA—at least, no original content. It’s vapourware, folks. Nothing to see here, move along now…
Watching the various blockchain-based virtual worlds evolve, and comparing and contrasting their decisions on how they wish to operate with longer-established, non-blockchain-based virtual worlds such as Second Life, has proven to be quite interesting.
Many of the eager cryptoinvestors who have bought NFTs (non-fungible tokens) such as virtual land, avatar names, and avatar wearables in places like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and Somnium Space like to tout that their possessions cannot be taken away from them, or censored, revoked or restricted by any central authority, even by the companies running the platform.
For example, they point out that if a user runs afoul of Second Life’s Terms of Service, they can have their account suspended and lose all their virtual possessions. In contrast, the adherents of blockchain-based virtual worlds claim that they can evade such restrictions by simply selling their items on the open market (one such example is the popular OpenSea collectibles marketplace).
Limited-edition wearables (i.e., avatar clothing) which are bought and sold on the blockchain are already proving quite popular both in Cryptovoxels and Decentraland, but the two platforms are taking distinctly different approaches in their implementation. While Cryptovoxels is using the open market approach already proven as successful in places like Second Life, Decentraland seems to be opting for a more restrictive licensing approach, which at first glance seems rather at odds with its “open, decentralized” advertising.
The creation of wearables for Decentraland is a complicated process requiring a lot of support. To ensure user-generated wearables look great and function properly in Decentraland we will need to make the tools to support this process.
It will take time to develop the workflow and build the equivalent of an SDK and Builder tool for wearables so during this process we will work with small teams of developers from the community that we are confident can deliver quality products and the feedback and communication we need.
Once the workflow is in place and the quality at the high level you’d expect, we’ll implement Stage 2 of the initiative.
This involves opening up the application to create wearables to the entire community. It will take the form of licenses being granted to teams and individuals by the community, through the DAO.
The DAO (short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is a relatively new mechanism to allow Decentraland’s investors to vote “on the policies created to determine how the world behaves: for example, what kinds of wearable items are allowed (or disallowed) after the launch of the DAO, moderation of content, LAND policy and auctions, among others.” (More information on the DAO can be found here.)
I have seen a lot of virtual worlds come and go in my time, and one thing that I can tell you is this: imposing any kind of licensing on the creative process can lead to a creative bottleneck, and potentially drive away content creators.
One reason that Second Life continues to be the most commercially successful and popular virtual world, is that Linden Lab had, very early on, decided to create a free and open market, where creators could set up stores and sell their content to whoever was willing to buy it, retaining the rights to their creations and earning income.
Linden Lab has never licensed stores or creators in Second Life, and never will. The workload associated with such an enterprise, in a market with many millions of items for sale, would be impossible to scale upwards as the economy grew. Yes, Linden Lab will step in if a DMCA copyright complaint is received from a competitor, and they will also shut down stores which sell illegally-copied content when it is pointed out to them, but otherwise, they very wisely stand aside and let the market decide what people want.
And while stores open and fold with astounding regularity in Second Life, the fact that they have approximately 900,000 regular monthly users means that they must be doing something right (even if it was all a happy accident which to date still has not been replicated by any other platform). Those virtual worlds that look on with envy at SL’s success, and wish to snatch that mantle of success for themselves, need to pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t.
It would appear that, going forward, Decentraland will be focusing on a licensing process for all avatar wearables, letting its investors vote, instead of letting anybody who wants to, simply create and sell avatar clothing and accessories for the DCL marketplace. While some see this as a necessary effort to impose and refine a high-quality workflow, others see it as a means to restrict market access, and reward those who have the deepest pockets and the best connections. (Some commentators have complained about the opaque process by which the initial five wearables creators were chosen.) Time will tell who’s right and who’s wrong here.
As I see it, Decentraland already has some daunting obstacles which stand in the way of attracting and retaining your average, non-crypto virtual world user to their platform: the many steps required to set up a crypto wallet and purchase ETH and convert it to MANA; the need to purchase even things as basic as a username; and the prohibitively expensive virtual land, its price driven up by speculators. Placing licensing restrictions on who can create items such as avatar wearables could become another such obstacle.
Decentraland should study the history of its competitors carefully, to glean a few pertinent lessons on how to run and grow a virtual world. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, folks.