Decentraland: A Project Update

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Decentraland (DCL for short) is making progress!

The company is slowly letting more and more users onto the closed beta test platform (around 50 to 75 new people per week since July, last week they raised it to 150, and this week they raised it again to 400). DCL is also running weekly stress tests to see how well Decentraland performs under maximum avatar load. I have been participating in the stress tests when I can.

A quaint little lowpoly cottage I visited during today’s Decentraland stress test
Another picture taken during today’s stress testing
A closer look at the variety of avatar customization options

There are several new features in their web-based Decentraland Explorer client: a mini map in the upper-left corner so you can see where you are (a much-needed feature!), and a small user profile icon in the upper-right corner which, when clicked, displays information about your avatar. Also, they have finally integrated the avatar customization system on their website, so that your avatar now looks the way you designed and clothed him, and has the name you selected for him.

Prior to this, your avatar just had a randomly-generated appearance, and had a name of the form Guest ####, even if you had paid 100 MANA to register a custom avatar name. At current exchange rates, 100 MANA works out to about US$3.00. I still believe that charging for a custom username is a tactical mistake, and a potential roadblock to the average, non-crypto consumer that DCL will need to market to. On the other hand, it might cut down on the number of alts, which tend to be abused by the griefers who plague other virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Overall, I do get the strong impression that Decentraland is going to be the epitome of free-market capitalism in virtual worlds, charging people left and right for things that other virtual worlds offer for free. Want to play boar hunt? You gotta pay for them arrows, bud. Ten arrows cost 10 MANA (approx. US$0.40). Living and playing in Decentraland could get rather expensive! Decentraland developers and investors may want to take a close look at the 16-year history of Second Life to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in a virtual world economy.

Many people are busy building wonderful scenes on their virtual parcels of LAND, and there is already much to see. There’s even a spreadsheet making the rounds, listing all the places the DCL sightseer can visit!

Life on the Blockchain (a tower with scenes of everyday life),
a Decentraland scene built by Interweaver

Don’t forget to join the Decentraland SDK Hackathon (which seems to have been renamed as the SDK Game Jam), running from Sept. 16th to 30th, 2019, where you can win a share of 2,500,000 MANA and/or 200 LANDs (with a total cash value of over US$250,000)! Just click the link above for more details on the contest, and how to apply. Good luck to all the contestants!


However, one of the things that I do find a little troubling about this virtual world project is that there seem to be a lot of people who have piled onto the cryptocurrency bandwagon, and rather blindly invested in MANA (Decentraland’s cryptocurrency) or LAND (Decentraland’s virtual land) without doing a lot of proper research into the project. Some people still think (wrongly) that DCL supports virtual reality, for example. I find that people are asking the same newbie questions over and over again. It’s not hard to scroll through and find comments like the following over on the official Decentraland Discord channels:

A: Can I explore without an invitation? I set up an avatar etc.

B: Does anyone know how to get early access to DCL?

C: So can we build things & bring them into Genesis city, for example?

D: hi all. i am new. i dont know how this works. what is the first step i should take here?

E: Hello I have one parcel. Can I rent it ?

I almost get the feeling of the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush, where everybody and their dog headed north, eagerly in search of gold, fueled by greed and tales of the few people who became millionaires. It will be fascinating to watch Decentraland’s economy evolve over time.

Image of one of Decentraland’s plazas
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