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.

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A Fresh Look at Decentraland: Larger Parcels and a Drag-and-Drop Scene Editor Are Coming

On this blog, I have often been highly critical (even downright sarcastic) about the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland. I still think that their real estate is vastly overpriced, but I do have to say, of all the blockchain-based virtual world products out there, Decentraland seems to be the closest to actual fruition—and, on top of that, they’re doing some interesting things!

First, they’ve completely redesigned their website and it looks really good! They definitely are aiming for a certain blocky, cartoony aesthetic, not hyper-realistic, but certainly still attractive to many people:

Also, Decentraland is actively surveying its userbase on a number of issues through their community polling tool Agora, including increasing the size of LAND parcels from 10 m by 10 m (100 square metres) to 16 m by 16 m (256 square metres). It looks like this change will be approved by an overwhelming margin. It’s refreshing to see a virtual world which is so willing to consider making adjustments to benefit its users (especially before the actual product launch).

Finally, Decentraland has announced that a drag-and-drop scene building tool will be available this spring. In order to promote it, they are holding a contest:

In the last Project Update, we shared that we’re working on the new and easy-to-use Builder. Our vision for Builder is to provide a way for all users, regardless of their technical backgrounds, to create immersive content to host on their LAND. In anticipation of the new scene builder (and to celebrate its upcoming launch), we are excited to introduce Decentraland’s Creator Contest! Our goal is to encourage and reward creative scenes put together by community members using the scene builder.

After the Builder is launched, the Creator Contest will officially begin – giving you two weeks to put your imagination to use in putting together your most immersive and beautiful (or bizarre) scenes.

Every single scene that is submitted through the Creator Contest will be rewarded with 100 MANA, even if it isn’t selected by the judge panel as one of the finalists. The most creative scenes will be hand-picked by a panel of five expert judges. A total of 50 scenes will be deployed, and featured within Genesis City. From those 50 scenes, five will be selected as finalists and their creators will receive some premium LAND and a purse of MANA. The remaining 45 featured parcels will also be rewarded with LAND and additional MANA!

At the current exchange rates, 100 MANA works out to about US$3.50, so while it’s not a lot of money, many people may enter this contest just to get a starter purse of in-game currency. It’s great marketing!

As time goes on, and I see just how dedicated the Decentraland team is to their vision of a decentralized, blockchain-based virtual world, my initial cynicism is starting to wane. Not completely, mind you. But it is fascinating to watch as the project evolves over time. Hopefully, sometime this year, I will get an opportunity to walk around in-world!

A Decentraland Update: Designs for the Plazas Are Looking Promising

The DCLPlazas blog reports:

In recent months we have learnt that each plaza throughout Decentraland (shown in green on the Decentraland map) will take on a theme of its own. We have already had the pleasure of seeing the impressive Medieval Plaza and the Vegas Plaza designs, and today we get to view the next completed plaza design to add to that list, by unearthing the Decentraland Forest Plaza.

Once again, the design has been intricately crafted by Fabian Orrego (who has created the previous 2 scenes) who seems to have mastered the art of getting the best results from low-poly scenes and models.

Plazas are the green 200m-by-200m squares on this map of Decentraland. Their purpose is to act as central gathering areas and avatar spawning zones, and they are public property which is not for sale, unlike the rest of Decentraland’s virtual real estate:

dcl-map-with-unsold-parcels

Here’s a link which allows you to look at a 3D model of the Forest plaza on Sketchfab (or you can just use the embedded image below):


Now. I have to admit that I do rather like the low-poly design aesthetic of this. The creator, Fabio Orrego, is a Colombian engineer and videogame artist with Xunulu Studios.

Here’s a look at an earlier plaza design, the Medieval Plaza, which is in much the same vein:


I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the news coming out of Decentraland lately. I still think that their land is wildly overpriced, but all that investment seems to have lit a fire under the company and its user community. I can’t wait to see what Decentraland will look like when it finally does launch (they have an invitation-only alpha at the moment).

For the lastest in Decentraland news, you can check out the DCLPlazas blog and the project’s Twitter, GitHub, Reddit, and Facebook. You can also join the official Decentraland Discord server and, of course, there is also the Decentraland blog and their official documentation website.

Editorial: My Social VR/Virtual World Predictions for 2019

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? Come join 170 avid users of various metaverse platforms, and discuss social VR and virtual world predictions for 2019! More details here


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Time to peer into that crystal ball and make some predictions!

First: Second Life is going to continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity. It will continue to be a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab as they put a portion of that profit into building Sansar. And I also predict that the ability to change your first and last names in SL will prove very popular—and also very lucrative for Linden Lab! Remember, they’ve got seven years of pent-up demand for this feature. (I have a couple of avatars myself that I’d like to rename.)

Second: An unexpected but potentially ground-breaking development in OpenSim was the announcement of the release of a virtual reality OpenSim viewer to the open source community at the 2018 OpenSim Community Conference. There’s still lots of technical work left to do, but if they can successfully pull this off, it could mean a new era for OpenSim.

Third: I confidently predict that one or more blockchain-based virtual worlds are going to fold. Not Decentraland; there’s too much money tied up in that one to fail. But several cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds are starting to look like trainwrecks of epic proportions (and I’m looking at you, Staramaba Spaces/Materia.One). Somebody still needs to explain to me why people will want to pay to hang out with 3D-scanned replicas of Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan. The business model makes absolutely no sense to me. Another one that I think is going to struggle in 2019 is Mark Space.

Fourth: I also predict that one or more adult/sex-oriented virtual worlds are going to fail (yes, I’m looking at you, Oasis). I’ve already gone into the reasons why even the best of them are going to find it hard to compete against the entrenched front-runner, Second Life.

Fifth: High Fidelity and Sansar will continue their friendly rivalry as both social VR platforms hold splashy events in the new year. (I’m really sorry I missed the recent preview of Queen Nefertari’s tomb in HiFi, but it looks as though there will be many other such opportunities in 2019.) And High Fidelity will continue to boast of new records in avatar capacity at well-attended events (it certainly helps that they’ve got those venture-capital dollars to spend, to offer monetary enticements for users to pile on for stress testing).

Sixth: the Oculus Quest VR headset will ignite the long-awaited boom in virtual reality that the analysts have been predicting for years. There; I’ve said it! And those social VR platforms which support Oculus Quest users will benefit.

Seventh: Linden Lab’s launch of Sansar on Steam will likely have only a modest impact on overall usage of the platform. I’m truly sorry to have to write this prediction, because I love Sansar, but we’ve got statistics we can check, and they are not looking terribly encouraging at the moment. And where is the “significant ad spend” that was promised at one of the in-world product meetups back in November? Now that they’ve pulled the trigger and launched on Steam, it’s time to promote the hell out of Sansar, using every means at Linden Lab’s disposal. Paying bounties to Twitch livestreamers is not enough.

And Facebook? If they thought 2018 was a bad year, I predict that we’re going to see even more scandals uncovered in 2019 by news organizations such as the New York Times. And more people (like me) will decide that they’ve had enough of being sold to other corporations and data-mined to within an inch of their lives, and jump ship. The public relations people at Facebook are going to face a lot of sleepless nights…

And, still on the same topic, we might yet see the launch of a new social VR platform backed by Facebook, after they decide to ditch the lamentable Facebook Spaces once and for all. Maybe it will be based on Oculus Rooms; maybe it will be something completely different. But despite my negative feelings about the social networking side of Facebook, they still have the hardware (Oculus), the money, and the reach to be a game-changer in social VR. (Just not with Facebook Spaces. At this point, they should just kill the project and start over. Any improvements will be like putting lipstick on a pig.)

Finally, I predict that the RyanSchultz.com blog will head off into new and rather unexpected directions (that is, if the past 12 months’ activity is any indication!). I never expected to cover blockchain-based virtual worlds, or Second Life freebies; they just kind of happened.  Expect more of the same in 2019, as various new topics catch my interest.