UPDATED! Decentraland Avatar Creation: How to Get a Custom Avatar Name for Free

Early this morning, I received an invitation in my email inbox to create my own custom avatar to use in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland when it launches. Today marked the official launch of the avatar creation program.

Note that Decentraland (DCL for short) was originally supposed to launch in open beta at the end of June, but that has been pushed back. Instead, DCL is going to invite groups of users in successive waves over the next month in a closed beta test, before opening the doors to the general public. Creating your avatar is the first step to setting foot in-world (once you are invited into the closed beta).

Here’s a brief new promotional video from Decentraland, showing off the different ways you can style and animate your avatars:

You can start the avatar creation process at this page. The avatar creation module is pretty straight-forward, and in no time at all you can customize an avatar to your desire. You have a choice of a male or a female avatar (sorry, no non-human avatars yet):

But there’s a catch. You can style your avatar as you like, but if you want to pick a name for your avatar (other than “Guest”), well, that’s going to cost you:

The fee is 100 MANA, which is the name of Decentraland’s in-world cryptocurrency. According to this cryptocurrency exchange calculator, that works out to US$5.10 at the moment. Not to mention the hassle of actually having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet and buying MANA, which I really don’t want to deal with right now.

However, according to the official blogpost of the announcement:

It usually costs 100 MANA to claim a name, but for the first 1,000 people claiming a name with cryptocurrency wallet, Trust Wallet, it’s completely free. What’s more, Trust Wallet and exchange partner Binance will stump up the gas fee.

Hey, free works for me! So, I downloaded the free Trust Wallet app onto my iPhone and set it up. Only to get hopelessly lost about how to actually connect the mobile-based Trust Wallet to use with the Decentraland avatar creation website on my desktop computer. It turns out that’s not possible (D’oh!).

Finally, I tried using the built-in web browser in the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone, but I only got as far as being able to select a name. The CLAIM NAME button at the bottom of my screen was still greyed out and unresponsive:

So, for a while confusion reigned on the official Decentraland Discord server as various people tried to troubleshoot my problem (thank you to everyone who offered suggestions!). Nobody seemed to know exactly how this promotion with the Trust Wallet works. Shouldn’t DCL have all this figured out before making the official announcement? Just sayin’.

Eventually, however, I was connected with someone from Decentraland who walked me through the process, step-by-step, through claiming my 100 MANA (a step they neglected to tell anyone about!), and then claiming my custom avatar name, all done using the web browser built in to the Trust Wallet app on my iPhone.

And finally, I got an email confirmation:

And checking my account, I now see:

Yay! Success! But it should not be this complicated. If a geek like me is having trouble with something as simple as setting up a username, you can imagine how confused the average Joe consumer is going to be. Hopefully, the team at Decentraland are rewriting their communications on the Trust Wallet offer, and providing STEP-BY-STEP instructions for other clueless cryptocurrency newbies.

Frankly, I think charging cryptocurrency for a custom avatar name is a significant stumbling block for many potential Decentraland users. I can understand needing to charge for land and goods and services, but something like a user name should be free to set up. DCL is setting itself apart from most of the competition in charging for a custom avatar name. I can only think of a few virtual worlds (IMVU, Twinity) that use this model. None of the major social VR platforms and virtual worlds charge you a fee to choose an avatar name. Decentraland might want to carefully re-think this policy.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: The following message was posted to the official Decentraland Discord server by toonpunk:

Anybody having issues with Trust wallet not being free please visit this link and it will work – https://claim.decentraland.org/ thanks.

You will need to visit this website in the built-in browser in the Trust Wallet app on your mobile device, then visit the avatar creation page.

UPDATE July 9th, 2019: Wow, that was fast! Toonpunk announced this morning on the official Decentraland Discord server that all 1,000 offers to create a custom avatar name for free are now completely used up. So it will now cost you 100 MANA to create a DCL username. Here’s a list of markets where you can buy MANA.

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VIBEHub: Riding Madly Off in All Directions

This picture was an illustration from the original VIBEHub white paper, which has since been taken down from their website. Stupid pictures promoting virtual reality, anyone?

Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.

—Stephen Leacock, “Gertrude the Governess”, Nonsense Novels (1911)

It’s been interesting to watch as the blockchain-based virtual world platform VIBEHub takes it first steps. Back in September, they launched their virtual world, and I wrote about it then. Since then, they have launched two other, completely different projects:

  • VIBE or DIE, a first-person shooter game where you earn or lose VIBE, Ethereum or Binance Coin cryptocurrency every time they make a kill or are killed by another user.
  • Feel the VIBE, a brand-new “hologram singing competition” with a US$10,000 grand prize, where you can watch musical performers as three-dimensional hologram videos on your mobile device.

Here’s a 50-second overview video showing both projects:

And here’s a brief promo video showing you how you can watch the Feel the VIBE contestants in “AR” via your iOS or Android mobile device:

The video description states:

Each round will consist of singers who will perform an original or cover song. During each round users like yourself will vote for your favorite performers, the performers with the most votes will advance to the next round. The champion will win a grand prize and be given their own PPV (pay-per-view) performance on the VIBEHub platform.

You must have a minimum VIBE token balance on the VIBEHub platform and will only be permitted to vote the allotted times per match. The community will determine who advances in the competition by voting for their favorite performance and will ultimately crown the winner of “Feel the VIBE.”

Now, I look at the three projects that VIBEHub has launched to date (the virtual world, the first-person shooter, and the singing competition) and I think to myself: whoa. The only thing that these three initiatives have in common is that they are all by the same company. I will say one thing, the company behind VIBEHub certainly isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket! Perhaps this is a wise strategy. But perhaps they are spreading themselves a little too thin? You can’t do everything well.

If you are interested in VIBEHub and how it develops, you can follow them on Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, or join their Discord server.

CBC Radio Covers Decentraland

Decentraland is still getting the kind of mainstream press coverage that most other virtual worlds would kill for. The latest news organization to cover the blockchain-based virtual world, which is expected to launch later this year, is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the CBC.

CBC Radio’s Day 6 program reported on the Decentraland project in a report titled Welcome to Decentraland, where investors spend real-world dollars flipping virtual real estate. (In addition to the article text, there is audio of the ten-minute news report available at the above link.)

The report, which includes a warning that investors could lose their entire investment, profiles one virtual land speculator who estimates his holdings are currently worth US$150,000.

Exploring NeosVR: An Overlooked Gem in Social VR

It’s unusual for me to write as much as I have about a social VR platform such as NeosVR without actually visiting it (I can’t remember if I visited it when it first launched or not. I think I did. An occupational hazard of doing this sort of work is that, after a while, all the virtual worlds I covered tend to blend together and I have to stop and ask myself: did I see or do that in Sansar or in Sinespace, or somewhere else?)

Regardless, I decided it was time for me to strap on my Oculus Rift headset and pay a visit to NeosVR.

My first visit was late yesterday evening, only for about 20 minutes. NeosVR starts you off (very sensibly) with a set of five tutorial videos which explain how to use the menus and controls, among other things. The first thing that you need to know about NeosVR is that it is not designed so that you can just pick it up and use it without training. There is a learning curve associated with NeosVR, and it is a fairly steep one, especially if you want to take full advantage of all the commands at your fingertips (and most of them are incorporated in your hand controllers.).

Fortunately, when I arrived at the main hub, there were a couple of experienced avatars present who helped me learn the basic movements, how to select and visit an experience from a display, and how to choose an avatar from the many default selections. One of them pulled out a camera and took a picture of me, which you can see below:

Another thing you need to know about NeosVR is that it is essentially a single-person development team, Tomas Mariancik (Frooxius), as opposed to a whole company of developers. One-person development teams have the distinct advantage of being nimble in adding new features and fixing problems, but that very flexibility can sometimes make for a confusing user experience. For example, my two guides last night were debating which of two different ways to teach me how to save this photo to my hard drive—the “old way” and the “new way”. I understand that the client software is updated daily. This means that something that once was true can change from one version to the next. Documenting the quickly-changing world of NeosVR must be a nightmare of a challenge!

So, after last night’s excursion, I decided to go back in this morning and delve a little deeper into NeosVR. I went back to the futuristic main hub, designed to look like a staellite of Earth, where there was an atlas of experiences to visit:

The first one I picked was sort of a demonstration of the graphics abilities of NeosVR, and it was quite impressive (a mere photo hardly does it justice):

Then I visited a Van Gogh art exhibit, with a 3-dimensional recreation of one of his paintings. Again, the level of graphics was impressive:

I would strongly encourage you to come visit and explore NeosVR. Tomas Mariancik has created a wonderful and innovative space for developers to build VR experiences, and all the other social VR platforms should be taking notes. This project compares very favourably in terms of features with better-known platforms such as Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace and VRChat (with the latter probably being the one product to which NeosVR will be most often compared). NeosVR is an overlooked gem, and I plan to visit it much more often in future to see how it evolves.

(Note: I have confirmed from chatting with the developer on Reddit that you do not need to purchase Neos Credits, their in-world cryptocurrency, to use and enjoy NeosVR.)