Editorial: Why It’s Time to Change How I Cover Social VR and Virtual Worlds On This Blog

My blogposts about Second Life are far more popular than those about Sansar

I am only a couple of blogposts away from my next milestone on this blog: 1,500 blogposts. And it’s probably as good a time as any to calculate some quick statistics on what topics have proven to be the most popular in the two and a half years I have been blogging about (as I state in my blog’s tagline) “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds and the metaverse”.

My coverage of the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds has been quite uneven, with most of my blogging focused on three metaverse platforms to date:

  • Sansar (the reason I started this blog in the first place)
  • High Fidelity
  • Second Life (with a focus on freebies)

Of my Top 100 most viewed blogposts since I started this blog on July 31, 2017, you might be interested to learn:

  • 36 were about Second Life
  • 10 were about virtual reality in general
  • 9 were about Sansar
  • 7 were about VRChat
  • 5 were about High Fidelity
  • 4 were about Decentraland

What I find interesting is that there is absolutely no correlation between how often I cover a social VR/virtual world on my blog, and how popular those blogposts are. For example, I write about VRChat much less often than I do about Sansar, yet the VRChat posts are more popular overall. I have written less frequently about Decentraland than High Fidelity over the years, yet more people tend to visit my blogposts about Decentraland.

All this has led me to do some thinking about making changes to what I write about on this blog. In particular, I want to put more effort into covering those platforms which:

  • show consistently higher levels of usage according to publicly published statistics such as Steam, or
  • show higher levels of reader interest based on my own WordPress statistics, or
  • show reader interest based on how often they are discussed on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server.

What this means is, going forward, I will be starting to pull back on my formerly heavy coverage of both High Fidelity and Sansar. Both the concurrent usage statistics from places like Steam, and my WordPress stats, tell me that people don’t seem to be as interested in those platforms, so why am I continually writing about them? I do not kid myself that I am going to be able to convince people into visiting platforms like Sansar and High Fidelity via my blog, and frankly, it’s not my job to do their promotion for them. I should be writing more about the state of the metaverse as it currently exists, and spend less time trying to encourage people onto less popular platforms. Therefore, I think it’s time to reign in my coverage of Sansar and High Fidelity.

(As a side note, one of the first changes I see in Sansar, since last week’s announcement of a new focus on live events, is that the number of Product Meetups has been cut in half, to biweekly from weekly. Of course, if you don’t expect to have as many new features coming out in future client updates, it makes perfect sense to have fewer Product Meetups, where those features tend to be discussed. Daily Community Meetups have also been cut to Mondays and Wednesdays.)


Also, I will start paying more attention to those platforms which meet at least one of the three criteria I have mentioned earlier:

  • Second Life (which is clearly still the most popular part of my blog)
  • VRChat
  • Rec Room
  • AltspaceVR
  • Decentraland

My coverage of Second Life will now expand a little bit from the initial focus on Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies, in that I will be commenting more on a variety of topics relating to SL, particularly more announcements of changes to the platform by Linden Lab, and more editorials.

I will also start to write more often about other platforms which I have visited too infrequently, in an effort to even out my coverage of social VR/virtual worlds and provide a better overall picture of the evolving metaverse to my readers:

  • Sinespace
  • Somnium Space
  • Cryptovoxels
  • NeosVR
  • Mozilla Hubs

And, whether or not I am invited to participate in the closed beta early next year, I will of course be writing extensively about Facebook Horizon!

I realize that this decision might be a disappointment to both Linden Lab and High Fidelity (or, perhaps, a relief, given how I have criticized both Sansar and HiFi in the past). But I think it’s time to adjust my blog to the current market realities, much the same as the companies themselves have seen fit to make significant changes this year.

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I Am This Week’s Guest on The Drax Files Radio Hour, Talking About Douglas Rushkoff’s Article and Social VR

On Saturday I was a guest of Bernhard Drax (a.k.a. Draxtor Despres in Second Life and Sansar) on his long-running weekly podcast, The Drax Files Radio Hour.

We talk about Douglas Rushkoff’s provocative article, Most VR is Total Bullshit. But Drax and I also discussed many other topics in social VR, including mentions of Sansar, High Fidelity, AltspaceVR, VRChat, Rec Room, Decentraland, and the forthcoming Facebook Horizon. We also talk a fair bit about Facebook in general—and Drax takes me to task for rejoining the Facebook social network!

Here’s a link to the podcast. It’s about an hour long. Enjoy!

The Winners of the Decentraland Game Jam Have Been Announced

Did you know that you can help support my blog (as well as the Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return? Here’s how.


Carnival (the ninth-place winner of the Decentraland Game Jam)

Yesterday, Decentraland announced the winners of their recent Game Jam contest. While there are still approximately 14,000 people waiting for their opportunity to enter the current closed beta of the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland, the company has thoughtfully included links in their blogpost that will allow any readers to visit the winning scenes without having an account or an avatar set up!

There were a couple of bugs I did encounter yesterday, however. For some reason, the link to the first prize winning entry, The Farm, did not work for me, no matter how many times I tried to reload it. Eventually, someone gave me the in-world coordinates of the entry, so I just signed into Decentraland with my own avatar (which already has access to the closed beta), and I teleported to The Farm to be able to take a few pictures of it to show you here. (The coordinates are -3,-33 if you are interested and want to visit it yourself.)

The first place winner is The Farm (all links were taken from the original blogpost, so this one might not work for you, either):

Another bug that kept coming up is the pop-up message that you see at the top of my screenshot above: a message telling me “You received an exclusive wearable NFT (non-fungible token) mask! Check it out in the avatar editor.” I was told that this is a bug that DCL is aware of and is working to fix as soon as possible.

The Farm appears to be some sort of gathering and manufacturing game around food. If you click on a book in the farmhouse, a series of recipes pops up:

Second prize went to Enchanted Wood, which reminded me of a brain teaser from the venerable puzzle game Myst:

Third place winner Koko Jones had an Indiana Jones adventure theme:

Here’s a list of the remaining Game Jam winners, along with links to visit each one:

Congratulations to all the winners! Have fun exploring! I haven’t even had an opportunity yet to visit all these locations myself.

Also, I have decided to finally create a new, separate category for blogposts about Decentraland on this blog. I may or may not have time to go back and assign that new category to every blogpost I have written about DCL in the past, though. (The old category is Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds.)

UPDATED! Decentraland and Somnium Space: A Tale of Two Auctions

Today is officially the last day of the week-long land auctions for the blockchain-based virtual world Somnium Space. You can check out the status of the auctions using their up-to-date land auction map (which might take a minute or two to load on slower computers).

Red parcels were those which were claimed before the auction as an incentive for investors in their previous crowdfunding initiatives (approximately 500 parcels in total). There are 4,500 parcels up for grabs this week to the highest bidder. Yellow parcels are those which have bids in the auction. Green parcels are those which have not been bid on.

Here’s what the map looks like (in two sections, top half and bottom half), as of today around 2:00 p.m. Central Standard Time:

As you can see, there’s a veritable sea of green parcels on the Somnium Space map, and not a lot of yellow ones. Compare this to the bidding frenzy that occurred in both of Decentraland’s previous land auctions, in which almost every single parcel of land was sold.

The team over at Somnium Space must be feeling a little surprised by the (relative) lack of response from bidders, and I must admit that I am feeling somewhat surprised myself.

The cost of the Somnium Space land parcels currently up for auction varies from 0.3 ETH to 3 ETH (US$54 to US$540), compared to the cheapest parcel of LAND available on the Decentraland LAND Marketplace at 12,900 MANA (US$412). If course, some LAND is much, much more expensive than that!

And let’s compare feature sets between the two products: what you can do in Somnium Space compared to Decentraland. You can actually build using the in-world building tools in Somnium Space, which offer you much more functionality than the somewhat limited Decentraland Builder, which is not really an in-world building tool at all, but rather an external website. (Someone has already built an experimental in-world building tool in DCL, but it is rather primitive.)

You also have better, more realistic graphics in Somnium Space than in Decentraland. Let’s compare two scenes, one of Somnium Space, and one of Decentraland:

Somnium Space
Decentraland

You can see more pictures of the new Somnium Space 2.0 here. Decentraland is hobbled by the significant content constraints placed on its builders, and cannot currently hope to match SS’s scenes.

So, why aren’t people (yet) flocking to Somnium Space as they did to Decentraland? Why aren’t people choosing to spend their money on cheaper virtual land that offers much greater creative possibilities?

One of the issues may be timing. Decentraland started off with an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) at the height of the cryptocurrency mania, which generated a lot of money (millions of dollars) and a lot of interest because it raised so much money. Somnium Space started off with less of a bang, as a non-blockchain project which had blockchain added afterwards. At the time of Somnium Space’s land auction, the bloom has definitely come off the rose for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which might explain the relatively sedate pace of bidding compared to the frenzy over Decentraland in their two previous LAND auctions.

Another reason might be that Somnium Space is still a relatively new and untested platform (particularly the new, contiguous version 2.0 landscape), and potential investors might be cautious, wanting to wait and see what the early pioneers are going to do with the land they bought. As someone said on the RyanSchultz.com Discord channel in talking about thos week’s Somnium Space auction:

Unless the worlds become bustling with life and events and creators and MONEY, nobody will ever want to buy more land (only if they are still sick with blockchain hype). Buying an abstract piece of “land” in some obscure world that might or might not become popular is a gamble, and the only winning party here is the House, aka the creator.

Decentraland may not compare that favourably to Somnium Space in terms of technical features, but it does hum with money—the millions of dollars that MANA and LAND speculators invested ensure that DCL gets the white-hot spotlight of more attention, including mainstream news media coverage from places such as CBC Radio and the BBC. Once a project gets that level of coverage, it almost takes on a life of its own. And Somnium Space will likely need to get that kind of attention, that kind of coverage, in order to succeed. (I mean, I’m covering it, but I’m just a niche blog with 600-6,000 viewers a day! That’s peanuts.)

And, as we have seen with failed blockchain-based virtual world projects such as Virtual Universe, simply having better features alone does not guarantee success. Virtual Universe supported VR, had simply stunning realism in their world, and some truly innovative in-world creation tools, but the company was simply unable to entice the public to invest in their project’s cryptocurrency, and they folded.

It will be interesting to watch as both Somnium Space and Decentraland evolve and adapt to circumstances in future. I wish both companies every success in their endeavours, and good luck! They will both need it. (Remember, Facebook is planning to launch a social VR platform and a cryptocurrency next year. Don’t think for a moment that they haven’t considered combining the two in some fashion.)

UPDATE 7:34 p.m.: I wanted to add a time-lapse video of Somnium Space’s in-world building tools in action, since not a lot of people have had an opportunity to try them out yet:

I find this to be pretty impressive!