Creating Virtual Worlds in the Metaverse
So what is a virtual world? It can be almost anything and everything we imagine and are capable of designing into reality. Here we explore some of the recognisable components and features that are starting to emerge in virtuality.
“Any real virtual reality enthusiast can look back at VR science fiction. It’s not about playing games… ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Snow Crash,’ all this fiction was not about sitting in a room playing video games. It’s about being in a parallel digital world that exists alongside our own, communicating with other people, playing with other people.” — Palmer Luckey
Virtual worlds are immersive platforms where users have autonomy within the virtual world and may have ownership and control over parts or all of the world.
Where computer games create a unique and increasingly customisable experience in a particular context, virtual worlds provide the meta-environment in which these can exist.
Creating an online experience has been a significant and expensive undertaking, with limited personalisation opportunities.
Virtual worlds address both these challenges by removing the need to provide the environment required to implement a concept and providing the tools to build and customise new experiences — especially where there is interoperability and interchange between experiences and different digital spaces.
The precedent for this was set with computer games, which established an environment that supported a particular standard for the development of games and opened the field for a broader set of games provided by multiple parties. This approach recognises the enormity and endless possibility of creating a compelling virtual environment and harnesses a much larger talent pool to generate a critical mass of context and content quickly.
A virtual world with a highly customisable experience, where end-users, aka ‘players’, are in control and can share participation, becomes highly attractive, catering to human needs to create, own, share and communicate.
These are some of the ambitious projects building organic worlds which we are starting to inhabit, where we can meet, do business, learn, play, collect, and earn:
Axie Infinity — A NFT online game known for its in-game economy which uses Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies. Players collect and mint NFTs which represent axolotl-inspired digital pets known as Axies. Axie Infinity is not an easy game to play. Nor is it simple to cash out in-game earnings, yet this ‘play-to-earn’ game went viral in the Philippines.
Cryptovoxels — Known as the ‘blockchain Minecraft’ since users build with blocks, Cryptovoxels was the first blockchain-based virtual world to launch. Initially most popular with crypto artists and art collectors, this world is now inhabited by a spectrum of people and teams building excellent content.
Decentraland — Decentraland is a virtual social platform built and governed by its users, where they can meet up, play games, attend live events, trade in the marketplace, engage with brands, visit galleries and much more. It was the first blockchain-based virtual world to raise capital ($26 million) and build a great team using an ICO. Decentraland’s MANA token is now capitalised at $4.3 billion (as of March 2022).
Miime — Miime is a marketplace for buying and selling NFTs such as characters and items from blockchain games with crypto assets. It represents a critical stage in opening up proprietary virtual worlds.
Somnium Space — Somnium Space is an Ethereum and Solana-based VR platform where users help construct a new planet, ‘Somnium’, where they can live, work, play, trade, acquire land and produce content. Somnium is also a digital exploratory environment where users can meet each other and try new things.
The Sandbox — A virtual world where players can build, own, and monetise their gaming experiences in the Ethereum blockchain.
Market developments and aspirations in gaming naturally lead to a much broader prospect, the virtual property sector.
As interest and participation in virtual reality continue to grow, a new, speculative market for virtual real estate is attracting interest. Virtual land, digital buildings, homes, and other assets are being developed and sold for significant sums.
To address an instinctive response that virtual real estate is a fiction, one must understand its nature. What makes virtual real estate useful is its context and functionality to support the development of concepts and themes. What makes it valuable is the concept and status of ownership. This is attractive to companies, such as games providers, and individuals, such as players or participants in specific communities.
NFTs are a critical building block, enabling the registration and certification of virtual land-specific instances within managed environments.
Virtual real estate has been explored in projects like Decentraland, The Sandbox, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space and Axie Infinity all allow users to own virtual land as NFTs.
In each case, ownership of the land provides build access, the ability and freedom to create whatever the user wants within the constraints of the context, making it possible for an individual or group to create their own unique and original world.
From art galleries to shopping centers, space centers, and zoos, anything can be built. The possibilities for designing and building in a virtual world are limited only by the context and tools created by the land provider and the imagination of users.
As with all things, some creations are inherently more attractive than others. Tokenised ownership enables users to buy and sell land. It also creates the potential for owners to sell the land around them (through the subdivision) as their virtual ‘land’ appreciates.
Enter the ‘virtual property developer’, programmers who develop bespoke virtual properties for resale. A crossover area between virtual and physical real estate is designing and developing landscaped plots, buildings, and even furniture and fittings.
Decentraland has been hugely successful, with many plots sold. They are proving the concept and expanding the reality of virtual real estate.
An example is Decentraland’s ‘Genesis City’, a ‘plot’ of virtual land scaled to approximately the size of Washington DC.
Decentraland has embraced NFTs completely, tokenising an ever more comprehensive range of virtual features. Not only has it sold plots in its digital landscape, but properties themselves also contain NFTs, such as the Vegas Arts Village, which includes works from artists from the Famous Token platform.
Virtual properties are already becoming valuable, with some valued at eight or nine-figure sums, in June 2021, when a patch of virtual land in Decentraland sold for more than $900,000.
The opportunities are infinite, limited only by human imagination.
This article forms part of a series by FreedomX, the newest virtual AR meta-city marketplace, titled “Get to know more about the Metaverse now”. Stay tuned.
This article is extracted from the book “Metaverse NFTs Uprising: The Ultimate Guide” by Dinis Guarda, in collaboration with a Ztudium team of writers. This “Guide to the Metaverse” Series is specifically created for FreedomX: the innovative, utopian Metaverse-based marketplace.