Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.
What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)
In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!
Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)
Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)
So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:
Name of Platform (Layout)
Distance Teleport? **
Create Portals? †
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)
Sinespace (separate worlds)
Sansar (separate worlds)
NO (but you can create teleport hubs)
VRChat (separate worlds)
Rec Room (separate worlds)
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)
NeosVR (separate worlds)
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands)
NO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass)
YES (/goto X,Y)
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)
NO (but there are teleport hubs)
NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting. ** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location? † – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?
Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.
It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.
You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).
So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!
I don’t know what lucky star I was born under, but as of very early this morning, Thursday, March 4th, 2021, I am now part of not one but two beta tests of competing drop-in audio chat apps: Clubhouse (which I have been on for a little over a week), and the newer Twitter Spaces, which I was invited to join today, after participating in my first-ever Twitter Spaces group chat that lasted into the wee hours of this morning!
This morning, I tried out my new abilities, setting up Twitter Spaces chatrooms to talk with various people one-on-one, like Michael Zhang, Kent Bye, Will Burns and Andy Fidel. With those chats, and last night’s group chat, under my belt, I now feel confident enough to compile a comparison chart between the two platforms.
Please note that the situation is evolving rapidly (for example, the press have reported that Twitter Spaces works for Android, but in trying to connect with an Android user, she reported that she received a message that it’s not available yet for Android). So this chart will age rapidly, and I will NOT be keeping it up to date; consider it just a current snapshot of the race between the two social audio companies! (And yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that Facebook is feverishly working on a competing drop-in audio chat app to dominate the nascent marketplace*.)
(I apologize for the somewhat messy dimensions of this table; I was unable to find an easy way to make the columns all the same size! I need to brush up on my HTML/CSS.)
Alpha Exploration Company, founded in April 2020 by Rohan Seth and Paul Davison, funded by venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz
Twitter, founded by by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006
Current Number of Users
10 million users (and growing quickly!)
Unknown number of users since its private beta launch in late December 2020, mostly iOS (Twitter itself has 330 million users)
Invite only (You have to have someone text you an invitation)
Invite only (Twitter seems to be selecting the longest-standing accounts first)
Number of Rooms You Can Create
As many as you like (three kinds: open, public/followers only, or closed/invite only)
It appears to be just one, reusable room linked to your Twitter profile (you can retitle the room every time you spin it up, though)
Number of Clubs (Recurring Rooms) You Can Create
You need to ask Clubhouse to set up a club for you, but soon they plan to launch the ability for you to create your own clubs
There does not appear to be a regularly-scheduled room or club feature yet (but it’s early days!)
Number of People You Can Invite into a Room
Seems to have no upper limit (the Elon Musk interview room had over 6,000 people)
UPDATE: It would appear you can invite as many Twitter users and lists of users as you like (thanks, Navah!). You can also send out a general invitation tweet to your Twitter feed, or generate a special link to post to places like Discord (I tested both and they do indeed work).
Encouraged in user profiles and searchable, but when you are in a room, and not speaking, you are limited to clicking your microphone button repeatedly (similar to clapping), or changing your user icon and PTR (Pull To Refresh) the screen.
Yes (but the selection is limited to only 5 emojis). Of course, you can also use emojis in your Twitter profiles and tweets!
No (you must use Instagram or Twitter to send direct messages, although you could create a private room for just the two of you to chat)
Yes, built-in from the start
The platform is free to all users and doesn’t yet offer any kind of premium plan or method of charging users, nor is it ad-supported. They plan to monetize by adding ways for users to pay other users, which will provide an opportunity for Clubhouse to take a cut for its services.
Free (Twitter makes its money through advertising and data licensing)
And if you want to ping me on either Clubhouse or Twitter, my handle on both is the same: @quiplash. Quiplash is short for “quipster whiplash”, because I am very well known for my snappy comebacks 😉 (and no, I am not named after the Quiplash game). Hit me up if you want to experience Twitter Spaces and perhaps we can schedule a group discussion, and I’d like to extend the same invitation for Clubhouse (if you can get an invite; I might be able to you out there, too, if you join my Patreon).
UPDATE 4:13 p.m.: Well, I have been testing out Twitter Spaces with small groups of three to five people; thanks to Navah Berg and my European social VR blogger counterpart Niclas Johansson, and to Thomas for helping me test! (I’m sorry but given the problems I report below, I was unable to add Thomas as a friend, and I didn’t catch his last name.)
Unfortunately, this afternoon, the Twitter Spaces app performed horribly, muting my microphone at one point and forcing me to use the very limited set of 5 emojis to express myself (like some sad mime!), and at another point, slowing down to the point that it took me several painful minutes to search for a username, waiting 5-10 seconds for each and every key press to register, and then, not once but twice in a row, actually crashing me out of the app and causing my iPhone to lock up completely! I haven’t had that happen in a while… So, after four tries, I gave up.
So I would very strongly recommend that you wait a day or two before trying Twitter Spaces, even if you have been invited to participate as a host today. It seems to be buckling under the load, and in my opinion, it’s just not ready for prime time. Very buggy, very beta. (Sorry, Twitter!)
Navah, who says she had been on Spaces for a couple of weeks now and that she prefers Twitter Spaces to Clubhouse, told us that her pervious days’ performance was much better, and she suggested that all these serious problems are happening to us today because Twitter launched Spaces for Android users today, and they are getting hammered with Android device traffic (which makes sense to me).
UPDATE 8:31 p.m.: Well, things are looking up! Navah is hosting a Twitter Space this evening with approximately 55 people present, with only occasional audio issues. One of the features I do quite like about Twitter Spaces is the ability for someone either (host or speaker) to share a tweet with everybody in the room. Somebody posted a copy of my tweet of this blogpost to tonight’s meeting!
UPDATE 8:43 p.m.:Aaaand the room crashed again! Back to the drawing board, Twitter…
*UPDATE March 6th, 2021: Well, surprise, surprise… word has leaked out that Facebook is working on adding audio chat rooms to Instagram:
I have been following the progress of the Kalhene Bento, Bakes on Mesh bodies (the Anya female body and the Alexa transgender body) for some time now, and I am mightily impressed with how often the creator issues updates. We are now at version 4.0 of the Anya body, which I have found to be nearly 100% compatible with apparel and footwear designed for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies!
Pay a visit to the Kalhene store (located opposite the N-Core shoe store), and for only L$1,795, you get not only a Maitreya-Lara-compatible Bento mesh body, with a top-notch HUD, but you also get a Bento mesh head, plus pretty much everything else you need to get started—skins, eyes, hair, a starter wardrobe, even an AO to control the eyes, head, and hands! All you need to add is a body AO and you’re all set!
Let’s draw up a side-by-side comparison chart, showing you what you get for your money: column A is the Kalhene Anya version 4.0 head and body, and Column B is the Maitreya Lara version 5.3 mesh body with a Catwa brand of Bento mesh head (the most popular combination):
Kalhene Anya 4.0
Maitreya Lara 5.3
Base Cost of Mesh Body
Petite Breast Option
Included (all clothing in the package works with it)
Flat Chest Option
Included (all clothing in the package works with it)
Implant (Large) Breast Option
Included (all clothing in the package works with it)
Not included (not sure what the extra cost would be!)
Bento Handsand Nails
Included; Fingernails come in 36 colours and patterns, and 5 styles
Included; Fingernails come in 19 colours and 5 styles
3 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, medium, and high)
5 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, kitten, medium, high, and point)
Bento Mesh Head
Not Included (Catwa heads cost L$5,000)
Included (5 skin tones in regular and flat-chested versions)
Included (22 skin tones)
Bikini (12 colours), dress (8 colours), shirt (4 colours), leggings (4 colours), flat shoes (5 colours, 2 styles), high-heeled shoes (5 colours, 3 styles), plus black and white pantyhose/stockings and finger rings. All apparel fits flat. petite, regular, and implant breast versions of the Anya body.
Bra and Panties by Erratic (9 colours) and Zaara (black)
L$8,848 (not including the cost of a starter wardrobe)
Comparison Chart: Kalhene Anya versus Maitreya Lara with a Catwa head
Also, because the included skin tones that come the Maitreya Lara body and your choice of Catwa head will not match, you will also have to shell out for skin appliers from your favourite skin store (or a Bakes on Mesh skin, since both Maitreya and Catwa now support BoM). You could easily spend well over L$10,000 before you’re done with the Maitreya/Catwa combination, whereas you could take that extra money and put it towards apparel, footwear, hairstyles, and Bakes on Mesh skins, cosmetics and tattoos if you opt for the Kalhene Anya mesh body.
Here’s a look at the HUD that comes with version 3.0 of the Anya body. Note that unlike earlier versions, there are now three feet heights, controllable by the HUD (instead of separate mesh bodies): flat feet, mid-height feet, and high heel feet.
There’s a pretty complete set of alpha selections on the HUD, which compares quite favourably with those of the major mesh body brands, and of course you can also use the alphas that come with the clothing you buy. If you do need a set of alphas to use with clothing that does not come with them, you can pick up a free set from Little Black Dress at this SLURL (just click on the bag on the floor).
The separate clothing HUD allows you to change the colour and style of the included hairstyle (bangs/no bangs), as well as all of the included starter wardrobe items, including the metals and gemstones on the included set of rings, the ability to show or hide the rings on each finger, and the colour and style of two kinds of shoes, flat and high (including the flats shown here; other options include sandals and pumps). Black and white pantyhose and tights (in all three feet heights and four different transparency levels) are included in the package, too.
Here’s a look at a completely styled version of the Anya mesh avatar, showing you where on the body and clothing HUDs I made selections:
As you can see, you can create and style a complete avatar look using only the elements in the Anya package! However, I also wanted to show you how this body would look with a different head and skin (the Anya head and body are separate attachments, and of course you can mix and match them with other BoM-compatible heads and bodies as you wish).
Mesh Body: Anya version 3.0 from Kalhene (L$1,695; Kalhene has a a small store located opposite the N-Core Design footwear store (here’s the SLURL)
Skin: Brielle by Amara Beauty (a former free group gift; group is free to join)
Hair: Beyoncé hair by enVOGUE (a L$1 gift from a previous year’s Hair Fair)
Gown: Azahara ballgown in red by Scandalize (which I picked up using the recent group gift of L$400 store credit; the Scandalize group costs L$100 to join, but if you hurry, you can join for free and pick up a second L$400 store credit offer! I believe today is the final day you can join the Scandalize group for free.)
Jewelry: I pulled this old set from my inventory; they came from a store that has long since left the grid!
TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR LOOK: L$1,696 (L$1,695 for the Kalhene Anya mesh body when I purchased it, and L$1 for the hair; the rest was free!)
UPDATE March 31st, 2021: I wanted to report that Kalhene has now released version 4.0 of the Anya mesh body! If you bought an earlier version of the Anya body, you can get a redelivery at their in-world store here; just click the large REDELIVERY sign on the wall as shown here:
Among the new features in this latest release are:
a new mesh head (version 2), with a stronger jawline, more arched eyebrows and some soft changes on the nose and lips;
three new different breast positions via deformer animations in the HUD (which works for all breast sizes: petite, regular, and implants), to give a more natural look to the breasts;
a neck fix for LeLutka mesh heads; and
new body oil materials (for the mesh body Bakes on Mesh only).
I have now been using the Anya mesh body with dozens and dozens of outfits that were designed for the Maitreya Lara body, without any issues, except for two minor ones:
sometimes, on only a few very long-sleeved shirts, there is a problem with the wrist and hand area, where the hand pokes through the sleeve; and
with a few pairs of jeans or pants, the waist of the pants is a bit wider than the waist of the body (see image, right), a problem which does not occur on the Maitrey Lara mesh body.
However, these problems are so uncommon (I have encountered them only 4 or 5 times in well over a year of testing!), that I can recommend the Anya 3.0 mesh body without hesitation if you want a Maitreya Lara-compatible mesh body at a bargain price!
Note that the alpha sections HUD seen in the version 3.0 pictures earlier in this blogpost is still available; it’s in the box marked “BOXED -Kalhene- ANYA Mesh Body V4.0 (BoM + Alpha HUD)” in the version 4.0 package, which must be unpacked separately (the alpha sections HUD looks identical to the one pictured above). Please also note that you must use the bodies in that particular unpacked folder with the alpha sections HUD! For some strange reason, the alpha HUD didn’t work with the bodies from the main folder.
Where information differs between these two reports, I have chosen the more recently updated version, the Crypto Cities report.
Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are two virtual worlds that currently exist on the Ethereum blockchain. Both of these virtual worlds are divided into square pieces often referred to as parcels, aligned on a grid to form a city. In both virtual worlds, land parcels are a non-fungible asset maintained in Ethereum ERC-721 smart contracts.
Unlike many other social VR projects such as Sansar and High Fidelity, where the company has built the virtual world over time in anticipation of earning future income from users, Decentraland started with a well-timed, highly successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of their cryptocurrency token, MANA, in August 2017, raising US$24 million in less than a minute! This was followed by two successive auctions of virtual land parcels (called LAND), which were also very successful. Today, MANA has a market capitalization of approximately US$50 million. Decentraland is based in Argentina, and currently employs an estimated 45 people full time.
Contrast this with Cryptovoxels, which started in 2018 as a part-time project by a single New Zealand software developer, Ben Nolan. Cryptovoxels has been funded to a total of approximately US$140,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH) over the course of one year of virtual land parcel sales. This profit has recently enabled Ben to be able to work on the project full-time.
Project Size and Maps
In terms of overall size of the projects, Decentraland is approximately 23 times bigger than Cryptovoxels:
Decentraland itself is about half the size of Manhattan in New York City:
Jin reports on the differences between maps:
Decentraland’s atlas hasn’t changed much since the auction. The content that’s currently deployed into the world is not displayed on the marketplace map. Some wonder if this may have been a factor leading to several anomalies of parcels having sold for enormous sums of money.
We’ve analyzed the blockchain a few times since September 2018 to see how much content was deployed to Genesis City. – In September 2018 there was ~63 parcels with content deployed – In January 2019 there was ~100 parcels with content deployed – In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed*
(*see UPDATE at the end of this blogpost)
The Cryptovoxels map shows content that’s currently deployed to the city as well as analytics and other useful features. Anyone can jump into the world right now and try before they buy.
Content Creation Pipelines
In Decentraland, the content creation pipeline is asynchronous and somewhat difficult to master: publishing custom content requires users to know command-line and editing JSON files. For any custom models you will have to rely on using the SDK and setting positions of objects manually through code. Earlier this year, a simple drag-and-drop editor for novice users was created, called the Builder.
The editor for Cryptovoxels appears in-world when you press the Tab key. You can edit and publish to the content server seamlessly and in real-time, similar to games like Minecraft. You can add or remove different types of blocks to build any shape you want. You can even further decorate it with images, audio, art, texts, hyperlinks, ERC-721s, GIFs, etc. Changes to the parcel are saved automatically so that if you log out and log back in you see the changes persist.
There was no massive auction for Cryptovoxels land parcels; the project started off as a very small community that has grown bigger over time in an organic fashion, as parcels are minted slowly outwards from The Center. CV has grown by leaps and bounds within the past few months, as can be seen from this comparative illustration:
Average land sales from Cryptovoxels are beginning to catch up to the Decentraland market. However, it is worth noting that the entire market for DCL post-auction is now second hand. Cryptovoxels did not have a massive auction and instead mints new lands with procedural generation scripts for the size of each parcel and road.
Average Cost of Land Parcels
Land in Decentraland is significantly more expensive than Cryptovoxels. Currently, the lowest price for parcels in Cryptovoxels is about 20-25% that of the lowest price of parcels in Decentraland.
One significant difference between Cryptovoxels and Decentraland is that Cryptovoxels supports users in VR headsets, while Decentraland does not, and it is unlikely that the platform will do so anytime in the near future.
Some Final Figures
Current/Accessible Supply of Land
Total Supply of Land
This blogpost would have been impossible without the tireless work of CL and Jin, from whose reports I drew most of this information. Thank you!
*UPDATE 4:16 p.m.: Apparently, Decentraland (the company) is very unhappy with this blogpost, and I have been approached by a representative of the company who tells me that “your latest article contains lots of discrepancies and out of date data”.
The company feels in particular that Jin’s portrayal of Decentraland is unfairly negatively biased, but when I asked the representative for a list of concrete examples of errors made in this report, all he could give me was one figure, “In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed“, to replace one of Jin’s statements, which I have now inserted above.
I appear to have gotten myself caught in between two sides of a dispute, with Decentraland (with whom I felt I had a very good working relationship) on one side of the argument, and Jin (with whom I have worked before without incident) on the other side. I hate being caught in the middle like this, and I don’t appreciate being caught in the cross-fire.
From my perspective, the blogpost I wrote today seems to be very even, not painting either company in a bad light in any way whatsoever. I pride myself on being as accurate as possible in my reporting, especially where facts are concerned, and if a company has a serious problem with something I have written, then I will certainly address the issue, BUT I NEED A LIST OF WHAT THE FACTUAL ERRORS ARE AND WHAT THE CORRECT FACTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And so far, I have only had one factual error pointed out to me, and not “lots of discrepancies and out of date data”, which is what I was originally told by the Decentraland representative. The company seems to be very upset about how this blogpost makes them look, when I think it makes them look pretty good. I’m very confused. What did I do wrong here? This episode has just left a bad taste in my mouth.
SECOND UPDATE Sept. 13th: I have since received an apology from the DCL representative, which I have accepted. He had been at the end of a very, very long workday, and was not at his most diplomatic in asking for corrections, and I took what he said the wrong way. We are both moving on from this unfortunate episode. This is just a bump on the road forward.
There is still much left to write about Decentraland, and (as my regular blog readers already well know) I will not shy away from reporting both the good things and the bad things as they happen, at all the companies working on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate just how far we’ve come in the development of all these projects. Both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland have come a long way in a very short time, and both are truly pioneers. I look forward to seeing how both develop and evolve over time and I wish both teams the best in their future endeavours.