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).

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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!

UPDATED: Staramba Spaces—Another Blockchain-Based Virtual World, Built Around Celebrities

Hey, have you ever wanted to be next-door neighbours with Paris Hilton?

Yeah, me neither. But a new blockchain-based virtual world called Staramba Spaces plans to give you that opportunity, according to this article from the CoinTelegraph website titled Company Creates Decentralized VR World Where Public Can Meet Celebrities:

An established company that is listed on the stock exchange in Frankfurt is creating a decentralized, social virtual reality world which gives users the chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest celebrities.

Staramba has already created what it claims is the world’s largest database of 3D avatars, which features 7,000 stars. They specialize in creating lifelike avatars for Hollywood studios, as well as companies like Konami, the brand behind the ProEvolutionSoccer video game – with its scan of David Beckham featuring prominently in the title’s 2019 edition.

Its upcoming venture, Staramba.spaces, allows users to immerse themselves in a virtual world and engage with their idols in a whole new way. Training sessions with an internationally renowned football star would become possible – as well as enjoying a singalong with a famous musician.

The platform also offers users the opportunity to buy virtual plots of land. Examples highlighted by Staramba’s white paper include the prospect of becoming a neighbor to Cristiano Ronaldo or Paris Hilton, or gaining a prime property with a balcony that overlooks the grounds of a major football club.

These investments could prove lucrative, as it will be possible to rent out these plots to other users – or sell a desirable space at a premium. The company envisages that demand will be high because properties in the most fascinating locations with the highest footfall are going to be finite.

Aaah yes…playing the land scarcity card again. Buy now, because there are only so many coveted spots next to Paris Hilton! Decentraland and its many investors are another social VR space trying to pump up the prices of its virtual land using that angle as well, and it seems to be working…or is it just creating a financial bubble?

Here’s the Staramba website:

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(Which reminds me, I need to post an update to my popular blogpost about stupid pictures promoting virtual reality. This one definitely belongs in that category!)

Of course, there is the requisite, slicky-produced promotional video, with “pre-alpha in-game footage”, whatever that means:

Staramba will use a cryptocurrency called the Staramba token as an in-game currency. They plan an initial token offering (ITO) this summer. The actual platform, to be called Staramba Spaces, is not expected to launch before the fourth quarter of 2018.

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Staramba has signed agreements with various celebrities and sports clubs:

Staramba has already forged a series of partnerships – including with top-flight football clubs such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, the world’s number one table tennis player Timo Boll, and wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.

Other official licensing partners include the English Football Association, Paris Hilton, SLASH and KISS. It expects further A-listers from the worlds of entertainment, music and sport to join in the future.

I wonder how much Staramba is paying Paris Hilton for the use of her likeness…I mean, who is actually going to get excited about hanging out with a 3D-scanned replica of a celebrity like Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo?Staramba 3 29 May 2018

Again, this is yet another blockchain-based social VR space that I plan to watch (from the sidelines) as it develops. Mark my words, all of these companies in this increasingly-crowded marketplace are not going to survive.

I’ll leave you with yet another promotional video for Staramba Spaces, featuring Paris Hilton herself. Turns out she’s an investor in the project. “That’s hot.”


UPDATE June 20th: A recently published due diligence report on the Staramba ITO by the self-described “open, collaborative ICO due diligence” service called ConcourseQ has plainly stated one rather obvious problem with Staramba’s planned platform:

Drawing 3D models of the celebrities does not mean that those celebrities have accepted to interact with their fans on the Staramba platform.

Now, I don’t know anything about the bona fides of the people who run ConcourseQ, so you can accept or reject their recommendation as you see fit. But they have touched on the one thing that has been bothering me the most about Staramba Spaces: How much interaction with real celebrities will you actually get, with all this talk of “lifelike scans” of celebrities and soccer stars? Why would you want to hang out with a 3D scan of a famous person in the first place? And, for the love of God, why would you want to be neighbours with Paris Hilton?

I guess we won’t find out answers to those questions until Staramba Spaces launches later this year. I can’t wait to see what they have to offer.

Two More Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds: Terra Virtua and The Deep

The following comparison chart from the Virtual Universe white paper caught my eye:

Virtual Universe Key Differentiators Chart 17 Apr 2018

I had already heard of (and was very familiar with) Decentraland, Rec Room, Sansar and VRChat, but what were Terra Virtua and The Deep? So, I went and did a little investigating…

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Terra Virtua bills itself, “the first fully immersive, blockchain-driven VR entertainment platform.” According to their vision statement:

Terra Virtua is a unique virtual platform, focusing entirely on immersive VR entertainment, built around a strong community and social connection.

Supported by developers, run by industry leaders and secured by blockchain, Terra Virtua is the platform for the next generation and dimension in entertainment and engagement.

Terra Virtua will have its own robust, secure blockchain based economy. Zones, in-game items, skins, upgrades and unique experiences can be bought and sold within Terra Virtua, driven by our token, the Terra Virtua TERRA (TVT). TVT owners will be a vital part of the ecosystem, kickstarting the Terra Virtua economy.

There’s the requisite slick promotional video, full of all the appropriate buzzwords:

Here’s their white paper. At first glance, the project reminds me a little bit of VIBE Hub. They’re looking at a Netflix-type subscription model.

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And The Deep (whose tagline is, “Build your unique eternal crypto town”—?!??) sure sounds a heck of a lot like Decentraland. According to their white paper:

The ​Deep ​(DEEP) ​– ​is ​an ​eternal ​virtual ​world ​based ​on ​DPoS ​tokens ​to ​create ​a ​decentralized, immersive ​world ​that ​is ​part ​game ​and ​part ​social ​platform. ​An ​immutable ​world ​where ​each experience ​builds ​on ​previous ​experiences.

And there’s this little nugget from their website FAQ:

Why is The Deep eternal?

The Deep will last forever thanks to decentralization based on DPOS technology and specially designed Deep five-level protocol. We do not depend on anyone or anything else for our world. Ruled by the democratic use of consensus, The Deep can grow and change according to the will of its users.

The Deep is planning an alpha launch sometime in the summer of this year.

The blockchain-based virtual worlds marketplace is now officially overcrowded! They are multiplying like rabbits!