I have covered many blockchain-based virtual worlds on this blog, focusing in particular on successful projects like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space. I’ve also covered a few products which looked promising, but failed to launch, like Virtual Universe. And I have blogged about many other blockchain platforms that frankly mystify me as to why they exist at all, like NeoWorld, Mark Space, and MATERIA.ONE, to name just a few.
Well, there’s yet another blockchain-based virtual world to add to the list: MegaCryptoPolis, an Ethereum blockchain-based city-building game:
You access MegaCryptoPolis (MCP for short) using your web browser. If you want to buy virtual land, you’ll need an Ethereum wallet like MetaMask, Trust, or Dapper. Here’s a few looks at the MCP landscape:
Players can acquire blocks of land to construct their own buildings and eventually upgrade them to gain influence points. Each player can choose from a range of structure types to begin with: a residential building, shopping mall, entertainment facility, factory or even a mining site ― it is completely up to the player…
The MegaCryptoPolis game map consists of land blocks that unite into districts. Players are acquiring blocks to construct buildings that generate influence points. Better locations for constructing and higher level buildings will generate more influence points.
Just like in real life, every key action in the game requires tax payments. The taxes budget is then distributed every day between the players. This depends on the amount of influence points that each of them has collected within this period. Influence points define a player position in leader boards and share in taxes that he will receive to his Ethereum wallet.
Proximity plays a role in land prices, according to this diagram from the white paper:
For example, the red arrow in this diagram points to a square plot of land costing 3.19534 ETH (approximately US$570). I have hunted through all the documentation and I cannot find out what the exact size of the land is, though, which is an irritating thing to leave out, and which makes it extremely difficult to compare land prices between platforms!
The white paper contains enough mathematical equations to make my head spin! Somebody has utterly geeked out and calculated every possible detail of this world! Here’s just one example, explaining how taxes are assessed and distributed:
Here’s a couple of MegaCryptoPolis promotional videos to give you an idea of gameplay (I just love how the voiceover stumbles and calls it “CryptoMegaPolis” around the 1:50 minute mark in the first video!):
I see MegaCryptoPolis as a sort of a cross between a game and a virtual world. There are aspects of it that remind me of cellphone-based games like Final Fantasy XV, where you basically mine for resources to build a bigger, better city, in hopes of getting rich off the taxes.
My question is: Why? Why would you incorporate blockchain in a world-building game that is essentially competing against countless competitors which do not impose the extra hurdle of investing in Ethereum and setting up a wallet? The white paper talks about your investment as “100% secure”, but frankly, this is all hosted centrally by the company, and if the servers go down on this, you will have lost your money.
MegaCryptoPolis even states this quite clearly in the fine print at the end of their white paper:
It is possible that, due to any number of reasons, including, but not limited to, an unfavorable fluctuation in the value of cryptographic currencies, or in the case of MegaCryptoPolis, may not be widely adopted and may have limited users, or alternative products may be established that compete with or, are will be more widely used. The developers may no longer be viable to operate and the MegaCryptoPolis platform, with all of its game assets, may dissolve or cease to exist.
Participants may be subject to lose all of their Ether cryptocurrency that is transferred to MegaCryptoPolis smart contracts.
So, as I have said before about cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based virtual worlds, Caveat emptor! Do every single scrap of your homework before you invest a penny in any of these ventures.
Where information differs between these two reports, I have chosen the more recently updated version, the Crypto Cities report.
Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are two virtual worlds that currently exist on the Ethereum blockchain. Both of these virtual worlds are divided into square pieces often referred to as parcels, aligned on a grid to form a city. In both virtual worlds, land parcels are a non-fungible asset maintained in Ethereum ERC-721 smart contracts.
Unlike many other social VR projects such as Sansar and High Fidelity, where the company has built the virtual world over time in anticipation of earning future income from users, Decentraland started with a well-timed, highly successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of their cryptocurrency token, MANA, in August 2017, raising US$24 million in less than a minute! This was followed by two successive auctions of virtual land parcels (called LAND), which were also very successful. Today, MANA has a market capitalization of approximately US$50 million. Decentraland is based in Argentina, and currently employs an estimated 45 people full time.
Contrast this with Cryptovoxels, which started in 2018 as a part-time project by a single New Zealand software developer, Ben Nolan. Cryptovoxels has been funded to a total of approximately US$140,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH) over the course of one year of virtual land parcel sales. This profit has recently enabled Ben to be able to work on the project full-time.
Project Size and Maps
In terms of overall size of the projects, Decentraland is approximately 23 times bigger than Cryptovoxels:
Decentraland itself is about half the size of Manhattan in New York City:
Jin reports on the differences between maps:
Decentraland’s atlas hasn’t changed much since the auction. The content that’s currently deployed into the world is not displayed on the marketplace map. Some wonder if this may have been a factor leading to several anomalies of parcels having sold for enormous sums of money.
We’ve analyzed the blockchain a few times since September 2018 to see how much content was deployed to Genesis City. – In September 2018 there was ~63 parcels with content deployed – In January 2019 there was ~100 parcels with content deployed – In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed*
(*see UPDATE at the end of this blogpost)
The Cryptovoxels map shows content that’s currently deployed to the city as well as analytics and other useful features. Anyone can jump into the world right now and try before they buy.
Content Creation Pipelines
In Decentraland, the content creation pipeline is asynchronous and somewhat difficult to master: publishing custom content requires users to know command-line and editing JSON files. For any custom models you will have to rely on using the SDK and setting positions of objects manually through code. Earlier this year, a simple drag-and-drop editor for novice users was created, called the Builder.
The editor for Cryptovoxels appears in-world when you press the Tab key. You can edit and publish to the content server seamlessly and in real-time, similar to games like Minecraft. You can add or remove different types of blocks to build any shape you want. You can even further decorate it with images, audio, art, texts, hyperlinks, ERC-721s, GIFs, etc. Changes to the parcel are saved automatically so that if you log out and log back in you see the changes persist.
There was no massive auction for Cryptovoxels land parcels; the project started off as a very small community that has grown bigger over time in an organic fashion, as parcels are minted slowly outwards from The Center. CV has grown by leaps and bounds within the past few months, as can be seen from this comparative illustration:
Average land sales from Cryptovoxels are beginning to catch up to the Decentraland market. However, it is worth noting that the entire market for DCL post-auction is now second hand. Cryptovoxels did not have a massive auction and instead mints new lands with procedural generation scripts for the size of each parcel and road.
Average Cost of Land Parcels
Land in Decentraland is significantly more expensive than Cryptovoxels. Currently, the lowest price for parcels in Cryptovoxels is about 20-25% that of the lowest price of parcels in Decentraland.
One significant difference between Cryptovoxels and Decentraland is that Cryptovoxels supports users in VR headsets, while Decentraland does not, and it is unlikely that the platform will do so anytime in the near future.
Some Final Figures
Current/Accessible Supply of Land
Total Supply of Land
This blogpost would have been impossible without the tireless work of CL and Jin, from whose reports I drew most of this information. Thank you!
*UPDATE 4:16 p.m.: Apparently, Decentraland (the company) is very unhappy with this blogpost, and I have been approached by a representative of the company who tells me that “your latest article contains lots of discrepancies and out of date data”.
The company feels in particular that Jin’s portrayal of Decentraland is unfairly negatively biased, but when I asked the representative for a list of concrete examples of errors made in this report, all he could give me was one figure, “In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed“, to replace one of Jin’s statements, which I have now inserted above.
I appear to have gotten myself caught in between two sides of a dispute, with Decentraland (with whom I felt I had a very good working relationship) on one side of the argument, and Jin (with whom I have worked before without incident) on the other side. I hate being caught in the middle like this, and I don’t appreciate being caught in the cross-fire.
From my perspective, the blogpost I wrote today seems to be very even, not painting either company in a bad light in any way whatsoever. I pride myself on being as accurate as possible in my reporting, especially where facts are concerned, and if a company has a serious problem with something I have written, then I will certainly address the issue, BUT I NEED A LIST OF WHAT THE FACTUAL ERRORS ARE AND WHAT THE CORRECT FACTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And so far, I have only had one factual error pointed out to me, and not “lots of discrepancies and out of date data”, which is what I was originally told by the Decentraland representative. The company seems to be very upset about how this blogpost makes them look, when I think it makes them look pretty good. I’m very confused. What did I do wrong here? This episode has just left a bad taste in my mouth.
SECOND UPDATE Sept. 13th: I have since received an apology from the DCL representative, which I have accepted. He had been at the end of a very, very long workday, and was not at his most diplomatic in asking for corrections, and I took what he said the wrong way. We are both moving on from this unfortunate episode. This is just a bump on the road forward.
There is still much left to write about Decentraland, and (as my regular blog readers already well know) I will not shy away from reporting both the good things and the bad things as they happen, at all the companies working on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate just how far we’ve come in the development of all these projects. Both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland have come a long way in a very short time, and both are truly pioneers. I look forward to seeing how both develop and evolve over time and I wish both teams the best in their future endeavours.
Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Decentraland Game Jam, where you have an opportunity to win a share of 2,500,000 MANA cryptocurrency tokens and 200 LAND virtual land parcels, prizes worth an estimated US$275,000 in total value. You don’t need to own any land to take part in the contest, and they’re even offering training sessions all next week (online via Twitch and at various real-world locations) on how to use the Decentraland SDK to create contest entries.
Although the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (DCL for short) is still in closed beta test, with countless users impatiently waiting for their chance to be admitted, the first casino has already opened! So this evening I decided to pay a visit, take some photos, and even play the slots!
The demo is now accessible to core community members and is hosted on our site and viewable in a Chrome browser. We felt this was the best means to gain valuable feedback on gameplay, scene design, on-screen UI, and overall experience. After testing and optimization, we will deploy this casino scene to 19 parcels of LAND at the entrance of Vegas City, Decentraland.
In this closed beta demo, the default gameplay is in fake PLAY currency with no blockchain interaction. It may take a few seconds for the scene to render and the games to be playable. The Free-to-Play version serves as a taste of the Decentral Games experience, without the need to register an account with us. However, in the on-screen UI gameplay box found in the lower right hand corner there’s a toggle that allows the user to switch to the MANA Payout and ETH Payout gameplay.
(For those not familiar with the terminology being used here, LAND is the name of the 16m-by-16m virtual parcels of land in Decentraland, MANA is the cryptocurrency used in DCL, and ETH is, of course, the Ethereum cryptocurrency. Gambling using MANA and ETH are not yet available, but the company says they will be available soon.)
Here’s a few more shots of the casino interior, which is decorated in a luxurious gold-and-white Art Deco style with many grand staircases throughout:
The box in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen pops up automatically when you enter the casino grounds, and it helpfully informs you how many credits you have left, what your current bet is, and how much you have won:
Here’s a look at the slot machines, located at the main entrance of the casino, next to a soaring spiral staircase:
As you can see from this short video clip I recorded, they are actual working slot machines (I won 25 credits on the pull just before this one!):
To comply with online gaming legislation, the MANA and ETH Payout versions will require age and location verification. We will also request authorization to transfer MANA on behalf of the player. Although an early implementation of this process is currently offered on our site, we are still optimizing its ease of use. Please just test our Free-to-Play gameplay for now.
Using the link provided above, I did a quick check and Decentral Games is clearly screening out Americans, although it’s not clear what other countries will be banned from gambling. The company adds:
We’d like to give a big thanks to the Matic Network and Decentraland teams who have been very supportive throughout development. If you don’t yet have access to the closed beta and you’d like to join the community dialogue, join our Discord channel, direct message us on Twitter, or reach out to email@example.com to request access. We’d like to welcome any feedback the community may have regarding improvements to the slots game or suggestions for new games to build in the future.
For more information on Decentral Games, here is their website. It would appear that the company is planning to produce more types of gambling games than just slot machines, including roulette wheels:
I was actually very surprised to see this already up and running in Decentraland! And this is not some cheap-looking low-poly building; it is a very attractively-designed virtual casino, one of the nicest builds I have yet visited in-world. One thing I will say: there are a lot of people who have a lot of incentive to make DCL work, because they invested millions of dollars of their hard earned money into it. And obviously, gambling is going to be one way to monetize the outrageously expensive LAND which some people have bought.
But I do wonder if Decentraland is going to land up looking more like a gaudy, low-poly, crypto-crazed Las Vegas strip, with nothing but gambling sites everywhere you look. Not to mention the impact on people who are susceptible to gambling addictions, who might find it hard to stay away when the casino is as close as their keyboard. I guess we’ll see how this all plays out.
One thing is certain: you can bet on interesting times ahead 😉
Initially, we will allow users to purchase HFC using ETH. We will conduct trades of HFC in fixed amounts equivalent to $25 or $50 (HFC 2,500 or 5,000). Since HFC is a stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar, while Ethereum varies against the Dollar, the exchange rate between HFC and ETH will fluctuate.
We are currently allowing creators and performers that have earned in-world currency to sell their HFC for payment directly for USD. These trades are handled in-person with High Fidelity staff. As we enter the New Year (2019), we will begin offering automated tools to support selling HFC for ETH.
As we’re still learning about trades for ETH, we’ll begin by scheduling in-person (in-world) trades for users buying HFC with ETH. A High Fidelity banker will specify an Ethereum wallet to deposit your ETH to pay for the trade. You’ll receive HFC from the bank on the successful completion of your trade. You can schedule an appointment here.
If you’re new to the world of blockchain trading, you can learn more about one of the more common trading platforms (Coinbase) here. You can learn more about the steps required to set up a wallet for payment here.
Over time, we see this being our primary method for purchasing and selling HFC. It’s convenient, global, well-governed and broadly adopted. In future, we may enable trades to other cryptocurrencies or tokens, either directly or through third-party exchanges. We also hope that HFC will be used by other VR platforms or applications, making the transfer to Ethereum even more useful.
High Fidelity also published a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about this move:
Who can trade HFC and ETH?
All High Fidelity users will be able to buy and sell their HFC for ETH. An ETH wallet will be required.
What is the HFC to ETH exchange rate?
HFC is pegged to the US Dollar. US $1 = HFC 100. Since the value of ETH floats against the Dollar, the value of High Fidelity Coin floats against Ethereum in turn.
Why is HFC a stablecoin?
Speculation in High Fidelity Coin as a cryptocurrency would be counter to our goal of creating a thriving economy in High Fidelity. If the real world value of HFC changed unexpectedly for non-economic reasons, the potential rewards for creators and those working in High Fidelity would become unpredictable, discouraging users to hold and trade with the currency. We want people to know they can cash out their HFC at any time for a fixed real-world value.
Can we still trade directly for US Dollars?
Yes, but this may be discontinued in 2019.
Will you start trading HFC for Bitcoin?
In future, we may enable HFC trading for other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.
Why aren’t you just using ETH in the first place?
High Fidelity has developed its own cryptocurrency, HFC, since traditional blockchain currencies are not suitable for a virtual world environment. Specifically, ETH is more of an asset class than a stable trading currency. Its value varies over time, making it difficult for traders to use the currency in fair exchange for goods. Additionally, HFC trades more quickly and without built-in transaction fees. Currencies that rely on a proof of work method to generate and confirm blocks (e.g. Bitcoin) currently require too much time to be used as a real-time transactional currency.
This is uncharted territory for High Fidelity, and a step not without some risk, despite their assertion that they want HFC to be a “stablecoin”. Many other social VR and virtual world platforms will no doubt be watching closely to see how well HiFi’s economy adapts to this change. High Fidelity is still having a bit of difficulty getting its economy off the ground, and encouraging content creators to make and sell products on its Marketplace, at least compared to the relative success of the Sinespace Shop and Linden Lab’s Sansar (where the Sansar Store now boasts well over 18,000 items on sale). Linden Lab and Sinespace currently have no plans to introduce cryptocurrency on their platforms, as far as I am aware.
Could this move backfire? Given the constraints that High Fidelity has put in place, it seems doubtful that this could fail. However, many Ethereum owners will likely hesitate before exchanging their hard-earned cryptocurrency to HFC. While HFC might prove a safe haven in the current bear market, it may also prove a trap in times when ETH is soaring in value. Frankly, blockchain-based virtual worlds are just too much of a risk for me to even contemplate investing a penny, and I would urge anybody who does to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in any cryptocurrency.