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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Decentraland Moves to Unity, Releases More Pictures of Its Avatars

Decentraland (DCL for short) is launching its public beta at the end of this month, and more details are coming out about the platform and how it will work. Carl Fravel reports:

DCL just released SDK v6.1.1. By default it now uses the Unity rendering engine, performance is better. I see FPS of 120 to 160 on my GTX 1070 laptop. There are now shadows, [and] HUD UI elements.

When asked why they decided to move the project to the Unity game engine, which is not open source, Carl replied:

They were seeing such poor performance and severe scene limits with both WebVR and BJS [BabylonJS, an open source webGL engine] that they opted for a higher performance rendering engine. The rest of the stack above that remains open source, and they will be catching the open source BJS client up to the SDK 6 version, which means that if some wizard is able to come up with an open source rendering engine that performs well enough then they can work it into that environment in the future. Nobody seems to have an open source rendering engine that is fast enough to make scene devs and users happy yet. One can clone their open source reference client that uses BJS and deploy it on one own servers. That sounds pretty open source to me.

And on their Instagram channel, they have released some more pictures of what their avatars are going to look like. They’re looking pretty good!

I’m looking forward to actually getting in-world at the end of June!

Blockchain-Based Virtual World Decentraland Will Finally Launch Its Public Beta in June, But It Won’t Be Very Decentralized (Yet) and It Won’t Support VR

A Decentraland Scene Taken from Their Website

Many investors (and non-invested observers) are still waiting for Decentraland (DCL for short) to announce the public beta of its much-hyped, much-anticipated blockchain-based virtual world. There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the official Decentraland Discord server about the project, some of which I wanted to summarize here.

If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you already know that Decentraland has had two successful virtual land parcel auctions, and (to my knowledge), all those parcels (which are actually called LAND) have been sold, and there is an active Marketplace for the buying and selling of LAND. In response to a recent user question about whether or not Decentraland will have another land auction, toonpunk (one of the DCL developers) stated:

We will not be creating more LAND for an auction, the focus in on launching the public beta by the end of next month…The public beta will be the first public release of the platform, where you can interact with the world.

So it looks like the general public will finally get its first look at Decentraland by the end of June, 2019. However, it would appear that this first iteration of DCL is not going to be as decentralized as first hoped, nor will it support virtual reality. In response to user questions on the official DCL Discord server, Nico Earnshaw (one of the developers) said:

For our launch, we’re putting our efforts on the desktop client that runs on the browser. To be honest, I’m not sure how well that first browser open beta will run on mobile, we haven’t been testing it, but there’s still a lot of room for optimizations. It probably will run O.K. on Android, but not on iOS. We’re planning to have a native app for iOS further down the line, we’ve been already hiring developers specifically for that, but that won’t be ready to release at the same time as our first open beta.

Our desktop client will be accessed as a web page, as a user you don’t need to download anything. The rendering will be all client side. The data for what’s stored on each parcel will be on what’s today a single centralized server for now, where all the files have unique hash codes that can be verified. We plan to decentralize that single server in the future. The same goes for the sharing of data between users: position, chat, and changes to scenes… that’s also handled by a single centralized server for now, but our plan is to decentralize it too in the future. Also, any scene developer can choose to rely on using their own server to keep scene data in sync between players that are on that scene. VR support is still not on our immediate road map. At this stage, we don’t have plans to support it in the near future, and we haven’t started any development towards that goal yet. Of course it would be a great thing to have, but we need to focus on one thing at a time.

In a discussion thread on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, one observer made the following argument:

DCL hype was built on it being the first (1) decentralized (2) VIRTUAL REALITY world. Without having both, it’s just another virtual world, of which we already have plenty.

Carl Fravel, who has always been a strong supporter of the Decentraland project from the very beginning, responded:

Land ownership and content uploading decisions are decentralized. I have visited my scenes in Oculus Go. Decentraland is on the path to fulfilling the vision…Another issue with HMDs is that there isn’t something like MetaMask in them yet, for identity or commerce.

Well, it’s fine to say that land ownership is decentralized. However, until such time as a truly decentralized server system is deployed, there’s absolutely no guarantee that Decentraland won’t just fold and shut down the whole project, with zero recourse for the many people who invested thousands of dollars on plots of virtual real estate.

I’m not surprised that Decentraland will not support users in VR headsets, although some customers do seem disappointed. Frankly, they’re going to have their hands full supporting what they are offering to start: a low-poly virtual world that you can only visit via desktop browser, and perhaps an Android app.

And this is what drives me crazy about the Decentraland project. I have no doubt that the founders are sincere people who genuinely want to build a working blockchain-based virtual world. But the hyperbole surrounding this project from the very beginning (inflated by some frankly misleading early advertising and a greed-driven buying frenzy that drove LAND prices to insanely high levels), has led to impossible-to-meet expectations by DCL’s userbase. No matter what happens now, some people are going to feel bitterly disappointed.

And there’s still no market research out there which shows that a blockchain-based virtual world is something that people actually will want and use. This is a venture built entirely on up-front speculation, which has driven the whole endeavour. As I have said before, building and selling a platform based on virtual land scarcity simply doesn’t work when your company is competing against much better-developed, much more fully-featured platforms which are based on models of virtual land abundance, such as Sansar and Sinespace.

Who is Decentraland’s target audience? How will they advertise their product? How do entrepreneurs expect to make money off the platform? How will they entice people to visit and invest in an untested platform, one of countless others in this increasingly crowded marketplace?

I will continue to follow Decentraland’s developments with great interest. But I still have this nagging feeling that we’re going to see the company go through some pretty massive growing pains. And I still worry that many investors who bought when the market was at its fever pitch will be waiting a very long time to see any profit from their ventures in virtual real estate.

If you’re curious and you want to monitor the company’s progress as they near their public beta launch, you can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blog. You can also join their official Discord server.

Decentraland Finally Gives Us a Sneak Peek at Their Avatars

Decentraland has finally provided an answer to one of the most burning questions I have had about the project so far: what will the avatars look like? You can now get a sneak peek at them on this page:

Now, I don’t know anything else about their avatars others than this one picture, like exactly how customizable they are. But at least we have something to go on! Frankly, they look much better than I expected.

You can, if you wish, enter your email address into this page to be kept in the loop on future Decentraland news and announcements.