An Auction is Coming, Interview With Decentraland

2018-11-15 02:08:48 · 7151 views · 5 min read

Decentraland has made headlines all over the world; we have seen news stories and podcasts done by respectable news organizations like the BBC hailing it as an advancement in virtual reality and blockchain capabilities. Meanwhile, the blockchain community is ecstatic about its future applications that can come from the creation of a living virtual city where its favorite collectibles can come alive, like in the case of Etheremon.

We were very fortunate to have the chance to interview Decentraland's Team. You can imagine how exciting it was for us to finally have the chance to talk to team members from such a well-known dapp. Without further ado here is the interview—enjoy!

Tell us about your team and the projects you have worked on before Decentraland?

At the moment, the entire Decentraland team includes about 40 members distributed globally! The Marketing team is comprised of 8 people, including a data scientist, technical writer, content writers, and marketing analysts. We also have specific members of the team dedicated to our Korean and Chinese communities. Some of us have worked in B2C companies in Latin America, and some have worked in the B2B industry, but now we’re all focused on Decentraland. The ultimate goal of our entire team is not more than just set the stage for LAND owners and users to execute and drive their fate and projects in the virtual world. It’s their path.

 

Why create Genesis city? Where did the name come from?

Motivations came from the perception that most existing virtual worlds, games, and platforms are basically owned by the company that created them. For example, if you win an item in CS:GO or you buy a skin in another game, you don't really own them. The skins are owned by the developer, and they can print as many as they want. The supply of the skins are not known, thus the value of those items is dictated by the company that created them. They can decide to ban you or close your account at any time, causing you to lose everything you bought or won. Having said this, the virtual item market is very appealing, currently sitting at $80 billion in transaction volume. Being centralized does not seem to deter anyone from selling items in secondary markets.  

We thought those platforms could be more democratic, so we helped bootstrap a decentralized blockchain-enabled virtual world where users can create, experience, and monetize 3D content and applications on their own terms.

As for the name, Genesis City is a reference to the genesis block, or the first block in a blockchain, which is a very common theme in the blockchain space. The first city represents this first block -- it was fitting.

Is everything sold out? If not how much does a parcel of LAND cost?

There was an initial LAND auction where most of the LAND in Genesis City was distributed to people who bid on different parcels, with the final price varying depending on the location. Everyone spent MANA, which is our ERC20 token, to get their LAND. As it was envisioned, burning MANA to create LAND is one of the two main uses for MANA; the other is to pay for goods or services within Decentraland, services to be provided by other Decentraland inhabitants. All of the MANA spent in this LAND auction was burned. What does burning mean? Burning an ERC20 token simply means removing it from circulation so that no one can access.

Despite this first public LAND auction, there is still some unclaimed LAND.

So, this quarter a second LAND auction will take place where the roughly 9,300 remaining parcels are made available by the smart contracts.

Decentraland does not control LAND price. As for the price of current LAND posted on the Marketplace, in the past 24hr the average price for a piece of LAND was $1.3K, totaling $41K worth of LAND posted for sale.. $32.4K worth of LAND was sold in just 24 hrs. Land is there for now.

 

What are the reasons why people buy a virtual piece of LAND?

The web and mobile clients allowing users to view the world is not released yet, but the community will be able to host their own experience and games while being able to monetize them as well. No fees will apply to host or view content, because the virtual-world rationale is for people to be incentivized to create and share whatever they want. People want to take part of this novel project, which closes the gap between blockchain technology and the gaming industry. It is expected that more and more people, organizations, and companies set up their virtual shop on Decentraland.
 

Did you ever expect LAND to be so expensive?

LAND prices are none of our business, these market fluctuations just happen naturally, Decentraland just cannot intervene. We were obviously surprised, yes, but if you look at what has been going on in Decentraland it seems natural. The priority will always be to provide a good experience for developers and, ultimately full governance decentralization. Building tools like Agora, the community voting platform, is one example of how the community is empowered to shape the future of the platform.

What decisions are you deciding on?

Starting last a couple of weeks ago, the community has voted and decided on different decisions through Agora, the voting app. We just closed to polls The first decision was about when should the next auction take place, either in Q1 2019 or Q4 2018. The other decision was as to whether the Pause() function should be removed from the MANA toke smart contract. The Pause() function essentially allows stopping the trading of MANA if someone were to find an exploit in the system. We are very happy with how Agora the community adopted Agora, because it fosters the community self-regulation.

 

Sounds like you're becoming a DAO.

We are a total DAO in spirit, towards a fully decentralized and autonomous organization. A DAO demands the building of a lot of building blocks at first. Foundations need to be built and infrastructure provided for the DAO to grow and flourish.

 

Is Decentraland currently 100% decentralized? If not what are you not able to decentralize?

The foundations for a DAO are being set. For example, the SDK is under construction for developers, this would be a very hard task to do without a small, dedicated team.

Our Marketplace (where people can buy and sell LAND) is completely decentralized and is run using Ethereum smart contracts. Decentraland takes zero fees from the Marketplace, and anyone can fork the code to host it on their own if they want.

The decision making process at Decentraland is also decentralizing. More and more questions are being put up for a vote using Agora. I believe the team at 0x have some voting system as well which I think is a very cool project. Overall, this is a big, positive step forward for a better, more fair, and truly democratic future.

 

How do you curate your community? How have you dealt with harmful individuals in the community?

If you’re referring to the individuals building within Decentraland, a certain filter will be provided and curation methods at least in the Clients supported by Decentraland. People will be able to remove the client and change it, but people using the official Decentraland Client will have filters allowing them to avoid offensive or malicious content. What do we mean by malicious? A big social sandbox is being built: what people build on their parcel cannot be removed, and we understand that some people might be offended or angered by different content.

From the social media and community point of view, the community counts on very good social media managers supporting our entire global community. The community that has grown up around Decentraland is awesome, So far, the ecosystem has not had any major problems. I think this is because every and all questions are usually answered, as quickly as possible, with complete honesty. If someone becomes toxic, detracting from the bigger conversation, there are processes to curb that situation, but the community has not had any serious issues with members misbehaving.

One of the biggest issues for dapps is onboarding. What solutions have you found to try to resolve this problem?

The most popular feature that is being run at the moment is the Marketplace dapp. To get people on board, a lot of tutorials were made explaining how to use it, support via Intercom provided, and Telegram and Discord conversations being engaged. For the bigger dApp, which will be the client for the virtual world itself, it will be very different because we an entirely new user experience is being built. It will be an onboarding tutorial, like what you experience when you play games: you learn by doing the actions and experimentation.

 

What other dapp projects are you collaborating with at the moment?

Well, you have already covered Ethermon; we are very happy with the joint-efforts. Also working with Crypto Visits, which is a trading card platform, CryptoCarz which is a racing game, Battle Racers, and many more.

 

With cool vehicle assets like the ones in War Riders do you see users possibly bringing 3D vehicles into Decentraland?

Everything that happens outside the parcels is what we call first party content that is being generated. This is the content is that you will see in the Plazas, or social gathering points, and the roads. However, it does not mean that people cannot fork the client and add cars to it, we won't prohibit that from happening.

Now, if you like making assets, you will be able to make them for landowners, or creators, to include them in the game. We think this is a great way for people with talent to share their ideas and earn for their work. For now, the SDK is limited to deploying content to individual parcels or estates, but in the future, it will be expanded to other assets as well.

Will the users have to have a VR headset?

No, they will be able to explore the world using almost any device they have, whether it be their mobile phones, desktops, or laptops.

 

Mythbusting - Is it true that you can build as high as you want?

No, unfortunately, there are performance constraints limiting how you can build. There is a formula that calculates the height limit according to how many parcels you have. Some healthy limits apply to how high you can build to ensure that everyone has a positive user-experience; that is actually community standards. Another reason why there is a limit relates to scarcity. If the content is scattered along an infinite line it would not have value. Remember, Decentraland is built around the idea of scarcity, and physical building height contributes to the scarcity of space within the world.

 

What Challenges do you see in the future for Decentraland?

The number one challenge is adoption by mainstream users: getting people to build ever bigger, pushing the capabilities of Decentraland, and getting people interested in those new experiences. One of the biggest concerns is to achieve a platform that provides a positive and truly memorable user experience. At the moment, there are a lot of dapps out there that fail to offer great UX. Breaching that gap is the biggest challenge, butitss one that we are confident can be overcome.

Are SDK's out?

Yes, the in-world developer SDK was launched in April of 2018, and people are already using it to build and test interactive 3D content The best part is that people don't have to own a parcel to start playing with their creations, they can just download the SDK and start building. Once you have created something you can play it locally on your own machine, or push it to our site to share with friends or to enable multiple players to interact with it at once.
 

Decentraland is not an average dapp, it seems closer to something out of science fiction like Ready Player One. Do you think you will expand and make more worlds?

Haha! It may be up to the community. The platform for this first virtual world is being used. Decentraland is a platform not a game itself, which makes it more than a game, and more challenging.

Let's assume you could go into Decentraland today, what could people do?

People will be able to gather in the public Plazas where they can chat and play minigames together, trade NFT's, or do some peer-to-peer trading. They’d be able to visit any parcel, and jump into any experience that’s hosted there. These experiences can range from anything like watching a movie, visiting a museum, playing a game, to any other experience that landowners want to gift to Decentraland users. In fact, people may profit out of their efforts, like in the real world.

 

How does the Decentraland team benefit from developing a platform for others to someday control?

They can use their MANA as any other current MANA token holder.

 

Any last comments that you want to share with the Dapp.com's Community?

We are very excited about the upcoming second LAND auction because it will provide another opportunity for new people to join in. It is sure to be a very exciting event and is a big milestone for our community.

We thank the Decentraland team for sharing their time with us, and we wish them well with their new auction. We hope that you enjoyed this interview. In the comments below, do let us know what you think about Decentraland and whether you are planning to join in their auction.

 

By Alessio Casablanca
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