Editorial: Crypto/Blockchain is Becoming a Cesspool

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Image by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay
Ever since I encountered my first blockchain-based virtual world, Decentraland, back in February, I have been watching the marketplace closely. Many companies have announced social VR platforms based on the blockchain; either they are selling a cryptocurrency for use in their virtual worlds, or are using blockchain technology in some another way, such as registering ownership of virtual land. I have joined the Discord and Telegram channels for the various metaverse-building companies and avidly followed the discussions and arguments taking place. I have scanned their websites. I have read through all their white papers.

The hype surrounding blockchain technology has now reached unprecedented levels. Some of the claims made by companies (or their cheerleaders) for blockchain-based virtual worlds have been misguided at best and deluded at worst (here’s just one example). Bold promises are being made for virtual places which you cannot even visit yet, or which only exist in skeleton form.

In some cases, the use of blockchain is a solution where there wasn’t a problem in the first place, as someone else recently pointed out when commenting on one product. In other cases, companies may be feeding the impression that their blockchain-based coin/token/land will only gain in value, without making the risk clear. Investors who have not done their proper due diligence have jumped on board many recent ICOs and ITOs, hoping to score huge profits similar to those who were early investors in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Frankly, one of the few companies I have encountered in this area that actually has some substance behind all the hype is Virtual Universe, and I have given video proof as to why I am looking forward to their product launch. But the often-misleading and sometimes-shady statements of some blockchain-based virtual world companies are tainting the entire marketplace, including VU. If I were an investor, I wouldn’t touch any of them with a ten-foot pole.

As I have stated before, I am part of the Virtual Universe (VU) Initial Coin Offering Partner Program (I’m currently number two on their VU Token Leaderboard). The main reason I am participating in that program is that it’s the only legal way I can earn VU tokens before the social VR space launches later this summer (as a Canadian I cannot buy tokens). But I refuse to put one cent of my own money into any cryptocurrency at this point, and I advise anybody who wishes to do so, to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in any product or service. It’s simply too risky.

For example, I am currently a member of the Staramba Spaces Telegram community, and I has been watching with increasing dismay over the past week as numerous people report that scammers are trying to steal their money by impersonating Staramba staff and direct-messaging potential customers, posing as agents for the Staramba initial token offering. The entire Staramba ITO has been a shambles, with the company having to hurriedly suspend the buying of tokens by credit card until a later date. (And why would you choose to go deeper into debt to buy a blockchain token in the first place? It’s insanity.)

The actions of a few bad apples (both individuals and companies) are threatening to spoil the entire barrel. Also, greed is driving investors into ill-informed and risky speculation, and currently, there is a crypto feeding frenzy that is starting to remind me of Shark Week. I fear that this is a financial bubble that will hurt many investors when it implodes. Caveat emptor!

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A Crypto Journalist Critiques Mark Space

Cryptocurrency journalist and author Ian DeMartino has written an (unfortunately undated) detailed critique of the blockchain-based virtual world Mark Space on the AllCrypto.com website.

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Ian decided to do some investigation of Mark Space, and he answers a question I had had about the company’s previously-announced links to Land Rover and Jaguar:

I decided to investigate them with a critical eye, this is what I found.

I first noticed a Jaguar/Land Rover logo on their main page, claiming them as a partner. They also announced the partnership in a press release posted on Medium. I found this claim to be somewhat dubious because I couldn’t find a corresponding press release from Jaguar/Land Rover or its Russian division.

I contacted Jaguar/Land Rover’s corporate office and they told me they were not aware of any partnership with MARK.SPACE but got me into contact with their Russian division. The Russian department did say that they talked to MARK.SPACE but also confirmed that they have no such partnership.

The next day, the Jaguar/Land Rover logo was removed from MARK.SPACE’s site, though the Press Release remains unedited on Medium. I asked MARK.SPACE’s Editor and Community Manager Boris Baranov about this and he told me that they had discussions with Jaguar/Land Rover Russia and had a signed document. I am currently waiting for proof of that document to be emailed to me and will update this space if I receive it.

The second thing I wanted to look at was the concept of the project itself. MARK.SPACE foresees a future where people buy real estate in virtual reality, real estate that can only be purchased with their token.

In their vision, there will be different districts, like residential and business, and users and businesses would customize their spaces to entice virtual shoppers to their virtual stores. Customers will walk around mall-like virtual environments and purchase goods using the MARK.SPACE token, all inside the virtual space.

I have quite a few issues with this plan. First, virtual space, by its definition, should be limited only by the cost of storage. Artificially limiting it through a blockchain seems like a solution with no problem.

Ian goes on, as I had blogged about back in February, about what Mark Space calls “VR”:

In the creation section of the demo, you can pick from a few preset apartments and add flat pictures and add various objects. The problem is that there is no 3D space represented at all. You just place flat images on other flat images. If it doesn’t look natural, that’s fine. In fact, it rarely looks natural. They give you the option to “rotate” an object, but currently that just flips the image. Likewise, pulling the object closer to you simply makes the image larger, with no scaling or definition.

The entire article is well worth a read. Ian wraps up his critique by saying:

Having some dubious connection to the blockchain doesn’t change anything. I’m obviously a big believer in blockchain technology, but it isn’t just something you can slap onto any emergent technology and expect it to make everything better. There must be a use for it that other services can’t provide. Adding another layer of payment by artificially limiting virtual real estate isn’t fixing a problem, it’s creating one.

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.

Why I Am Excited About Virtual Universe

Yeah, can you tell I am excited about the upcoming beta launch of Virtual Universe?

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(Image courtesy of the Distracted Boyfriend Meme Generator)

And yes, I am part of the Virtual Universe (VU) Initial Coin Offering Partner Program (I’m currently number two on their VU Token Leaderboard). The main reason I am participating in that program is because it’s the only legal way I can earn VU tokens before the social VR space launches later this summer. Here’s a 10-minute video which explains the partner program in a lot more detail:


I think that Linden Lab should consider such a program to pay people in Sansar dollars for promoting Sansar on their various social media.

But people have been asking me, why am I excited about VU as opposed to other blockchain-based virtual world platforms?

Well, if you haven’t seen my recent half-hour guided tour of VU, I suggest you set aside some time to watch the whole video. I have been blistering in my criticism of other blockchain-based virtual world projects which are more hype than substance (Decentraland is a classic example) because they don’t have anything that you can actually visit yet. But in Virtual Universe, they not only have a place you can visit (currently, only by appointment), but they also have a very easy in-world content creation tool that is actually fun to use! And I was impressed by the many little added touches such as AI-controlled animals like lizards, rabbits, and bluebirds, even individual insects!

Now, Virtual Universe still has a lot of work left to do. Any virtual world project is a mammoth undertaking, and they still have to polish the user avatars (the current ones are merely placeholders, from what I understand) and other features. But it’s a very promising, and very impressive, start.

So yes, I am eagerly awaiting the launch of the beta version of Virtual Universe, even though Sansar is still my first love (and the reason I created this blog in the first place).

Worldopoly: Yet Another Blockchain-Based Virtual World

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(Image taken from the cover of the Worldopoly White Paper)
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(Screen capture of an artist’s representation of Worldopoly)

Worldopoly was mentioned today on the official Virtual Universe Discord server (here’s the original tweet), so I thought I’d check it out.

All the major buzzwords are present and accounted for…

  • Augmented reality? Check.
  • Artificial intelligence? Check.
  • Blockchain? Check.
  • DAG? DAG?!?? Why, Directed Acyclic Graph, of course! Check!

This hits all the buzzword buttons! I swear, the venture capitalists must have been lining up to fund this project!

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Here’s their promo video:

Worldopoly appears to be a geolocation-based game similar to Ingress or Pokémon Go. It’s based on real maps in real cities where you buy property, kind of like what Twinity used to have in the early days. In this “Meet the Team” video, the ideas behind Worldopoly are explained in more detail:

In this next video, Worldopoly is described by YouTuber and cryptocurrency promoter ActionChris as Pokémon Go, Clash of Clans, Fishbank, Cryptokitties, and SimCity all rolled into one:

Of course, there is an appeal to potential players’ greed, shilling virtual land as an investment and a money-making opportunity (just like Decentraland). One twist is that your enemies can fire-bomb the properties you own with a virtual Molotov cocktail! Of course, you can pay extra for “protection”. (rolls eyes)

I swear, the collision of so many buzzwords and so much hyperbole has the potential to create a black hole! According to this article, their initial coin offering (ICO) will end in July 2018, and Worldopoly will be available to download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play store in November 2018.

Finally, here’s a demo of how you play the game on your mobile device (cellphone or tablet):

Frankly, the appeal of this game mystifies me. According to this last video, the developers are assuming that players are going to want to build virtual properties (and pay protection money!) in order to generate revenue from visitors…but why? Why bother? What’s the appeal? I just don’t get the concept. Maybe I’m missing something here, but to me, it just looks boring. Sorry, but I remain rather skeptical about this.

There’s already a Worldopoly app called the AirMiner that you can download for iPhone or Android, where you can collect Worldopoly tokens for later use in the game when it launches.

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When I loaded it onto my iPhone, it told me that two tokens were right nearby—in the local river! Sorry, but I’m not going swimming to retrieve them!