In this holiday report I would like to tell you everything about my first experience in Decentraland and the events and challenges I participated in. Decentraland is a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Players own land, and can build their own games, houses and puzzles. In addition everybody is allowed to monetize their land. Let’s see how much fun this is!
Last week the virtual world of Decentraland was opened to the public. Anybody can login to Decentraland by connecting their Metamask browser-wallet to the game. I decided to quickly buy 100 MANA through Shapeshift, and register my very own user name. “Nederob” just look a lot better than “Guest 34B-25C”. This won’t be an easy process for those who aren’t familiar with crypto. Anyway, after creating my own avatar I was ready to journey into a virtual world full of creativity.
My first steps…
Truth been told. Decentraland felt empty. I’ve participated in launch events from MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online. However, this was nothing like it. I took me at least one hour of walking around before I met someone, who just straight up ignored me.
While walking I also noticed many, many empty spaces. The virtual world isn’t filled at all. This will hopefully change in time. According to reports approximately 4000 people participated in the launch event. Multiple servers hosted these users to avoid any issues. The result is that it felt like a singleplayer game, and not like a social experience.
The Decentraland Treasure Hunt
The launch of Decentraland is celebrated by a treasure hunt across the realm. In total there are fifty treasures hidden across the game. Some of them are relatively easy to obtain, while others require lots of effort. The prize in each treasure chest is randomly assigned, even though it seems like the more difficult puzzles have a bigger chance of getting better loot. But don’t quote me on this.
By typing a command in the chat box, you can go to a certain location determined by its spatial location. Or you could type ‘next’ to be transported to one of the many location where a treasure is hidden.
/goto XX,YY - like for example, /goto -36,25 /goto next
Not every game experience in Decentraland was great, but some of them were actually quite fun. Simple games like catching fruit that’s falling from a tree or clicking rodents on a farm feel like those annoying quests we’ve all played in our favorite MMO (I’m looking at you, Blizzard). It’s not fun, it’s not bad, it’s just… something to do.
That makes the ones that are actually fun, really stand out. Take for example The Infinity Engine, which requires players to mine resources, power a train and bring the gold home, while shooting train robbers. Another one is more horror-themed, and has you find book pages while you should avoid the gaze of a demon. Most of the game are more like puzzles, and can be compared with digital escape rooms.
The biggest issue of Decentraland’s gameplay is that there hardly is any replay value. When you find a chest, there can be a prize inside or it can be empty. When it’s empty, you can come back another day to try your luck again. In basically every case that’s the only reason to replay a game or treasure hunt event again. In most cases the challenge will be gone by that time, as well as the fun.
More than just games
Thankfully Decentraland offers a bit more than just games. There’s a community who’s building and filling up a Museum District. Here artists can showcase their creations. Some of these creations are actual paintings, but than digitized and showcased within Decentraland. Obviously crypto artists are also represented within this virtual world, and there’s are made within the engine of Decentraland.
Across the world their are giant billboards displaying art. In addition a third party called Metazone offers services to add poster-sized billboards to any virtual piece of land. Even though it’s very dystopian and cyberpunk to have a world full of neon light and augmented reality advertisements, I do hope Decentraland won’t get filled with only this type of content.
Another important question that came to my mind, is the one about copyright infringements. While going through the virtual world I found a casino with a slot machine based on The Simpsons, and other content based on Southpark. Are these licensed? Probably not. So how will the Decentraland Foundation respond to issues arising from copyright infringements? No idea. Adult entertainment raises the some question. Currently there’s only one piece of art that feels a bit M-rated, made by Hackatao.
The thing that I’m missing in Decentraland at the moment is an overall sense of the metaverse. These game experiences are fun, but each of these challenges are games on their own. It would be nice to gain experience and unlock cosmetics based on activity within the Decentraland metaverse. Or at least something to create a general purpose.
My biggest problem with Decentraland is not that the world is a bit empty. It’s not even that the available games don’t have replay value. The virtual world has lots of performance issues, and that’s my biggest problem. Loading every asset on a piece of land can take ages, and sometimes you’re just stuck on the loading screen. Keep in mind, I’ve only seen a maximum of two other players at the same time.
Even though I’ve got a pretty decent game PC, the frame rate would sometimes be all over the place. I’m playing the game on medium settings at best. In addition the controls just feel a bit clunky. Some of the puzzles require jumping from platform to platform, and that’s almost impossible at times. Not to mention I got stuck inside an object multiple times.
Decentraland has a long way to go before it’s a go-to experience for a mainstream audience. Performance issues, difficult on-boarding, and vast amounts of empty space aren’t the ingredients for a successful launch. However, despite all the problems, I do like the concept. I love the idea of player-owned land and everybody building and adding to a community governed virtual world. The problem is that an idea behind a product and the actual product can be miles apart.
Thankfully there’s quite a big community that believes in this virtual world. And we’re still in its early days. As the community grows and the technology gets better, the overall experience of Decentraland should improve as well.
Also published on Medium.