Ben Nolan of Cryptovoxels Did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit

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Ben Nolan, the creator of the blockchain-based virtual world Cryptovoxels (CV for short), recently did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit:

Hi all, I’m Ben Nolan, the author of Cryptovoxels. I’ve never done an AMA for CV so for the next 48 hours, ask me anything about CV and I’ll answer as accurately as possible.

If you are not familiar with the concept of Reddit AMAs, here is a good concise description of them from Lifewire:

AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything,” which is basically just a trendy internet slang term or acronym used to describe an interview that occurs between one user who hosts it and all the other users who want to ask questions.

What makes AMAs so interesting is types of people who are willing to host them. From high-profile celebrities to regular people who’ve had extraordinary life experiences, there’s never any shortage of great AMAs to look up and even participate in yourself.

You can find most of these interview-style threads in the /r/IAmA/ subreddit, which currently has over 18 million subscribers. There’s also the slightly less popular but still extremely active /r/AMA subreddit that has just over 300,000 subscribers. Here, you’ll find a number of posts from people stating who they are and asking users to ask them anything.

Cryptovoxels has the distinction of being the first blockchain-based virtual world to launch (the second is Decentraland, which is still in closed beta with a long waiting list of users who want to get in). I first blogged about Cryptovoxels back in July 2018, where I was extremely skeptical (even sarcastic) about the project and its chances for success. Four months later, I was proven completely and utterly wrong by the ongoing success of the project, and I publicly apologized to Ben Nolan:

So I now take back my earlier harsh, sarcastic assessment of Cryptovoxels. It’s taken off quite nicely, and it appears to be thriving! Just goes to show you how wrong I can sometimes be. Please accept my apologies, Ben.

Since then, Cryptovoxels has only grown by leaps and bounds, as evidenced by the statistics in this Sept. 3rd, 2019 blogpost:

At this moment…

– There are more than 1,000 people following the Cryptovoxels twitter
– There are more than 1,320 parcels minted in the city, with more than 280 distinct owners
– Over 1000 parcels have been developed and had signs, text, images, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and .vox models added to them.
– There are more than 74,000 edits on the parcels in the city, this includes voxels being placed, features being added and buildings being raised and torn down
– There have been more than 134,000 visits to parcels in-world, people that have physically entered the world and explored into parcels
– Over 890 of the 1512 streets in Origin City have been revealed through the minting process

An aerial map of Origin City in Cryptovoxels

So the timing was right for Ben Nolan to do his Reddit AMA. Here are just a few of the things we learned from that Ask Me Anything.

When several people asked Ben to explain what Cryptovoxels is, he replied:

Haha, I wish there was an easy way to explain what Cryptovoxels is, but you really have to red pill it and explore to begin to understand. I would say that in one sentence it’s a “virtual city that is owned by it’s users”. I think this gallery is a good example of what you can build in Cryptovoxels.

Yup a city building game is a good description of what it is. Cryptovoxels is free to play, but if you want to build a gallery, you have to buy the land which costs $30-$300 dollars depending on what and where and how much land you want. You are then the owner of that land, and if you don’t want it in the future you can sell it to someone else. A bit like owning a domain, but you don’t have to pay for renewals.

Ben also explained some of the technical details of the project:

It’s written in Babylon.js (version 3.3) for the frontend, and node.js for the backend. All the data is stored in Postgres and the land ownership is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain.

Ben is already generating profit from his enterprise, enough to make working on Cryptovoxels his full-time job:

Parcels sell for 0.2 to 1.0 ether (ETH), so about $36 to $180 USD at current prices. I’ve made enough to work full time on it since June, and at the moment it’s going well enough for me to hire someone else to work with me… I work full time probably 50 hours a week on CV.

He’s even fielded several offers of venture capital for his project!

I’ve been contacted by 3 or 4 VC firms, and they were really cool to talk to and seemed to believe in the vision for CV – but even though it’s a bit stressful trying to scale the company just from sales, I think keeping CV privately owned means that I have a greater chance of building the vision of a distributed, user owned metaverse. I am a bit sad though, that I won’t get to get bought out by Hooli and wait out my vesting period sitting on the roof with big head drinking beers.

He also shared his thoughts about other virtual worlds, such as Second Life:

Heya, I’ve been playing Second Life for years and years. If it didn’t have such a wonky scripting language (I find Lindenscript pretty weird), I’d probably be a developer in Second Life – but there were a few things that SL didn’t do that I wanted to implement when I made Cryptovoxels:
– Web based
– Blockchain land ownership records
– Javascript scripting
– Voxel based building
– VR support
Second Life is totally the grand daddy for all social VR projects and we owe it a huge debt of gratitude. I hope one day to be able to step through a portal from Cryptovoxels into Second Life and back again. 😊

And (of course!) I asked Ben what he thought about Decentraland (DCL for short), the other blockchain-based virtual world project that is now so close to a public launch:

I really like Decentraland, I wish them lots of luck with their private beta and I’m keen to try it out once the public beta arrives. Their Unity client looks really nice and the nice lighting and shadows was a big inspiration for the Babylon 4 upgraded I was trying (and failed) to do. My hope is that once they are in public beta, we can find a way for users to teleport from CV to DCL and back again.

I also asked him two other questions:

  1. What one thing do you think is Cryptovoxel’s biggest success to date?
  2. What’s your biggest regret with the project? What do you wish you could do over?

Ben replied:

  1. The biggest success so far is all the awesome builds by community members. One of my fears was that CV would get bought up by investors who had no desire to build in the world and were just waiting for gains on their tokens. That still happens of course, but over 70% of the sold parcels have been built on, and the art galleries, museums and exhibitions are what make exploring Origin City so addictive and an easy way to consume time.
  2. I wish I had double checked my maths when I first created the voxel-positioning code. It looks fine in the Cryptovoxels client, but now that we have 3 or 4 (Unity, Janus, Substrata) clients consuming Origin City [the name of CV’s main city], the little hacks I made to make things look good on the web, those hacks make creating a conforming client really painful for third parties.

I would encourage you to go over to Reddit and read through the AMA in full. Here’s a link. Thank you to Ben for hosting this and answering so many questions! More virtual world CEOs need to host AMAs like this.

If you want more information on this project, you can follow Cryptovoxels on TwitterDiscord, and Reddit, or just visit their website.


Also, at some point in the near future, I do plan to write up a more detailed blogpost comparing and contrasting the two biggest blockchain-based virtual world projects to date, Cryptovoxels and Decentraland. This will be largely based on an excellent article that Jin from the RyanSchultz.com Discord server has recently put together. Thanks, Jin!

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My Favourite subReddits

WARNING! Do not blame me if this blogpost takes you down the Reddit rabbit hole and you find yourself five hours later, wondering what the hell happened to your day! You have been warned 😉

Since quitting Facebook, Reddit (a.k.a. “the front page of the internet”) has become one of my favourite places to visit. No matter how obscure the interest, there is a subReddit (i.e. a Reddit community) for you! I thought I would share some of my favourite subReddits with you.


First up are the virtual reality subReddits I read and post to:

r/SocialVR: Devoted to all aspects of social VR, this is a tiny subReddit with only 200 members that could really use a little more love (I seem to be only one posting there lately!).

r/virtualreality: A place to discuss anything and everything related to virtual reality.

r/Virtual_Reality: A place to share your videos about virtual reality.

r/Oculus: A subReddit for Oculus VR hardware users. Palmer Luckey himself is one of the moderators!

r/vive_vr: A subReddit for HTC Vive users. (This community was created in response to a power-tripping moderator on the original r/Vive community.)

r/bigscreen: A community devoted to the Bigscreen social VR platform.

r/High Fidelity: This subReddit about HiFi is pretty deserted, unfortunately. (The last post made was 3 months ago.)

r/sansar: A subReddit about Linden Lab’s social VR platform Sansar.

r/TheWaveVr: About TheWaveVR social VR platform.


Next are some more computer-related subReddits:

r/AntiFacebook: “A community for posting articles about the problems of Facebook: its disrespect for privacy, widespread censorship, manipulation of users, and overall threat it poses to the freedom of the web and social relationships.”

r/apple: A million-member community talking about all things Apple.

r/iphone: A subReddit for iPhone lovers.

r/ipad: A subReddit for iPad users.


Reddit is also a great source for pictures of all kinds:

/r/AccidentalRenaissance: “The subReddit that showcases photographs that inadvertently resemble well-composed, Renaissance style art.” Here’s an example:

r/EarthPorn: “EarthPorn is your community of natural landscape photographers and those who appreciate the natural beauty of our home planet.” Here’s an example shot:

/r/NatureIsFuckingLit: “We are here to appreciate the awesome majesty and incredibly cool aspects of nature.”

Basalt Canyon, Iceland

Looking for something funny? Reddit has you covered:

r/ContagiousLaughter: “Something to put you in a good mood: videos and audio of people laughing infectiously.”

r/disneyvacation: “Weird, terrible, terrifying illustrations from WikiHow – captioned for your amusement.”

r/engrish: Butchered English from around the world!

r/facepalm: “A subreddit for you to share the stupidity of people online and IRL. Post screenshots from forums, social media sites, or just real life.”

r/funny: “Reddit’s largest humour depository.”

r/humor: “Humor is the place for things that bring a wry smile to your face.”

r/Instagramreality: This one is both funny and sad: pictures of people caught out using filters. “Social media is a breeding ground for Facetune and Photoshop, It’s unbelievable how some people get away with it while others don’t!”

Captioned “the power of makeup and filters”

r/memes: Almost 6 million people sharing memes. “Memes! A way of describing cultural information being shared. An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”

r/onejob: You had one job, and you screwed it up…

r/peoplelaughingatsalad: What it says on the tin. Proof that there is no niche too small for Reddit!

r/photoshopbattles: This one is hilarious! “Photoshop contests on Reddit. A place to battle using image manipulation software, play Photoshop tennis, create new images from old photos…”

r/Whatcouldgowrong: “What Could Possibly Go Wrong? The best place to learn what NOT to do.”

r/youdontsurf: Making fun of stock photos and videos. Here’s just a sample:

Does Facebook/Oculus Need to Get Its Act Together On Social VR? A Thread on Reddit

As most of you already know, I quit Facebook as my New Year’s resolution, and I am still quite happy with my decision.

One of the places where I have spent more time since leaving Facebook has been Reddit, which is home to many thriving communities such as the Oculus subReddit, with over 140,000 subscribers who discuss and debate various issues related to Oculus VR hardware and software. (Sometimes I cross-post one of my blogposts there.)

Mark Zuckerberg presents the Oculus lineup (image taken from The Ghost Howls blog)

Yesterday, someone posted a lengthy item titled Opinion: Oculus needs to get its sh*t together in social, which I have only quoted in part (so please go over there and read the whole thing):

First, it’s ridiculous that cross-communication between the Go and Rift communities is so difficult, especially with Quest coming. VR social presence should be an underlying infrastructure that the whole Oculus ecosystem can plug into… Oculus: don’t split the VR community simply because of which of your own platforms they buy. Make communication easy, automatic, and built in.

Second, where the hell is the metaverse/Oasis/shared world? I know, VR Chat, AltspaceVR, Rec Room, High Fidelity, etc. …but why has Oculus–let alone Facebook!–abdicated this whole sector to third parties?

Now, this poster has raised a valid point. Why is social VR across all the Oculus hardware such a disorganized mess? Currently, Facebook offers Oculus Rooms for the Oculus Go users and Facebook Spaces for Oculus Rift users. Is Facebook going to use the release of the Oculus Quest (which I predict will be popular) to try and clean up this situation?

Some of the comments to this poster are worth quoting (again, I am going to take it easy with the quoting, taking into account the feedback I have recently received). I did go in and write a lengthy response, outlining the situation as I see it, and pointing out that there were already many social VR platforms which have been in development for several years (Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, etc.).

When I said that High Fidelity and VRChat were planning to support the upcoming standalone Oculus Quest VR headset, one person responded:

Sadly, I don’t think VRChat’s gonna support Quest. It’s just not compatible with mobile CPUs. Hell, it brings modern up-to-date PC’s to a standstill with too many people. I very much doubt the Snapdragon 835 can handle all the custom shaders, avatars, IK, etc. The team would basically need to do a full rewrite. And that’s unlikely unless the team was way bigger.

Someone else said:

Do you really WANT Facebook also own the social VR “metaverse”? That seems like a really terrible idea in general to have a monopoly control so many things. Especially one that has proven dozens of times that they could care less about our privacy in respect to their profits…

I for one HOPE Oculus fails WILDLY on social VR. The alternative would be the worst-case dystopian future for VR and likely disasterous for humanity as a whole in the long-term.

To which I say, Amen and Hallelujah. However, Facebook has the deep pockets (lots of money) and the hardware (Oculus) to totally up-end the current, nascent social VR market, if they finally get their act together and choose to do so.

And finally, one person said:

To me it comes down to this—people want Second Life in VR format. It’s true. A metaverse where you can build or be anything you want…but in VR. We know that SL’s infrastructure cannot be upgraded to do that. High Fidelity, even with the founder of SL, isn’t cutting it. And neither is Sansar, Linden Lab’s actual VR offering.

I believe there are two main issues impeding them. 1. Instances – every platform nowadays does instance based “world” creation. Worlds are not permanent, player join numbers are limited, and the worlds are not visually connected to each other. People want permanence! To be able to wander from one place to the next aimlessly. This isn’t just an issue limited to VR of course (hello WoW). The reasoning behind this is that it’s much easier on the server hardware. Personally, I’d deal with some lag to be able to participate in a true open world environment. And

2. Adult content – All of the platforms are scared as f*** here. They don’t want their brand to be ‘marked’ by that, they don’t want to have to figure out how to police it, etc etc. That stuff is not going away. Whether they admit it or not, adult content has kept Second Life alive and thriving for 15 years (they still have ~50k concurrent users). Bottom line—deal with it. Embrace it. It’s going to happen with or without you.

This wide-ranging and fascinating discussion is the kind of thing that Reddit has become well-known for, and I would encourage you to go over there and read all or most of it for yourself, and perhaps add your own comments.