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.

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Decentraland Launches Their Drag-and-Drop Scene Editor with a Contest

Up until recently, the only way to build an experience in the much-hyped, blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland was to use their rather non-user-friendly command-line SDK. Note that Decentraland is still in closed alpha; numerous developers have been impatiently waiting for an opportunity to get in and try Decentraland out. (Me among them.)

Well, Decentraland has now announced a new, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop editor to create scenes, called the Builder, and to promote it, they are having a contest. Prizes include MANA (their in-game cryptocurrency) and LAND (parcels of virtual land on which you can publish your creations for other avatars to visit).

There’s obviously been a lot of thought and effort put into this new scene builder. You start off by selecting what size of LAND parcel you want to work with, anywhere from 1 to 32 parcels. You can select and change the default ground texture, and place items on the ground from a side menu of objects: trees, ponds, fences and paving stones, fire pits and furniture, even an extensive array of Chinese Year of the Pig themed items such as gates and statues. You simply save your created scene under your email address to automatically enter it in the contest. Simple!

But there are some puzzling and creativity-limiting choices made with the builder, too. Let’s compare it to the basic prim-building tools used in Second Life. In SL, you use the basic building blocks (cubes, spheres, pyramids, cylinders, etc.) to craft an item and texture it from scratch, which is something you can’t do with Decentraland’s builder. If none of the provided premade trees meets your fancy, you’re out of luck; you cannot modify any of the objects in any way, other than to move them around on your LAND or rotate them. (You also cannot resize objects.) I find this lack of basic building blocks to work from puzzling.

Another example: there are no wall, roof, door and window pieces with which to build a house for yourself. All you’ve got to choose from are a few small booths and sheds. It seems strange to me that they would provide all these building blocks, but omit what I would consider a basic kind of building block for people who are interested in making their first homestead. To put it another way, it’s a rather weird assortment of LEGO pieces you have to build from! Another drawback of the builder is that there is no way to import a mesh object to a scene you are building. If it doesn’t already exist in the included inventory, sorry, but you’re out of luck. You’re better off sticking with the SDK.

My overall impression is that the new Decentraland builder tool has gone so far in the opposite direction from their difficult-to-use SDK, to make it so easy to use, that it has exactly the opposite problem, too: it’s overly simplistic and limited in use, and therefore unlikely to satisfy those people who have already spent their hard-earned MANA on expensive parcels of LAND. I find myself still wanting something in between the two provided solutions, the Builder and the SDK.

Anyway, if you’re interested in entering the contest, here are the details:

Decentraland is giving away a total of 900K MANA and 50 different parcels of LAND to people who create truly inspiring scenes with the Builder. That’s over $50,000 USD worth of prizes!

We’ve broken down the grand prizes as follows:

  • 1st place: 200000 MANA
  • 2nd place: 150000 MANA
  • 3rd place: 100000 MANA
  • 4th place: 50000 MANA
  • 5th place: 25000 MANA

Each of the top five finalists will also be given some premium LAND in locations yet to be announced!

The rest of the forty five creators will be awarded 7500 MANA and parcels of LAND.

Good luck! You might win a serious cash prize and some land to boot!

Drax Takes On Decentraland

Honestly, Draxtor Despres has got to be one of the hardest-working people in the metaverse! He tirelessly churns out videos in both Second Life and Sansar, including The Drax Files: World Makers series of profiles of Second Life creators, the popular Atlas Hopping in Sansar series, and a long-running podcast called The Drax Files Radio Hour (co-hosted with Jo Yardley). His most recent work is the Love Made in Second Life series, profiling real-life couples who originally met in SL (here’s a link to episode one).

In the most recent Drax Files Radio Hour show, titled So What About Decentraland? Drax conducts a telephone interview with Nicolas Earnshaw from the Decentraland product team, and he certainly does not shy away from some tough questions! (You can almost hear Nicolas squirm at times.) It’s a rather refreshing change from some of the recent mainstream press coverage of Decentraland, which has tended to rely on things such as this highly-misleading promotional video:

Among other pointed questions, he asks Nicolas how much money Decentraland has made so far (something Nicolas struggles to answer), and how Decentraland plans to move from hosting and controlling their platform on their own servers to a distributed, self-governing structure in the future. (I personally have my doubts that this will happen as seamlessly as predicted. To date, no virtual world has attempted to transfer operating control in this fashion.)

Here’s a link to the 50-minute podcast if you are interested. (Because this is a telephone interview, the sound quality is a bit poor at times.)

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.