An Auction is Coming, Interview With Decentraland

We spoke with the Decentraland team about their achievements and next steps in platform’s evolution

Image by Decentraland

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 their favorite collectibles can come alive, like in the case for 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 teams members from such a well-known dapp. Without further adieu here is the interview, enjoy!

Tell us about your team and what 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 developing and promoting Decentraland.

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

Our motivations came from our 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 decided to 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 — we thought 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. 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 we are going to hold a second LAND auction where the roughly 9,300 remaining parcels are made available.

As for the price of current LAND posted on the Marketplace, in the past 24hrs, 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 still 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. We won’t be applying fees for hosting or viewing content, because we want people to be incentivized to create and share whatever they want. People want to take part in this novel project, which closes the gap between blockchain technology and the gaming industry. We expect more and more people, organizations, and companies to set up their virtual shop on Decentraland.

Did you ever expect LAND to be so expensive?

We are not focused on the price of LAND, these market fluctuations just happen naturally. We were obviously surprised, yes, but if you look at what has been going on in Decentraland it seems natural. Our priority will always be to provide a good experience for developers and end users while continually working towards further decentralizing Decentraland’s governance. Building tools like Agora, our community voting platform, is one example of how we’re trying to empower the community to shape the future of the platform.

Image by Decentraland

What decisions are you deciding on?

A couple of weeks ago, the community has been able to vote on different decisions through Agora, our voting app. We just closed to polls actually. The first question was when should the next auction take place, either in Q1 2019 or Q4 2018. The other question was should the Pause() function be removed from the MANA token smart contract. The Pause() function essentially allows us to stop the trading of MANA if someone were to find an exploit in the system, but it’s a lot more power than we want as creators of the platform. We are very happy with how Agora is being adopted by the community because our biggest goal is to empower the people who invested in Decentraland to help make the decisions that will dictate how the platform is built and governed.

Sounds like you’re becoming a DAO.

Yes, our ambition is to one day make Decentraland a fully decentralized and autonomous organization, but to build a DAO you need a lot of building blocks at first. You need to build foundations and provide the infrastructure for the DAO to grow and flourish without centralized influence — that’s why we are here. If we were to implement a DAO now it would not work, but our aim is to bootstrap the process.

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

We need to set the foundations for a DAO before Decentraland can be fully decentralized. For example, we need to create the SDK for developers, this would be a very hard task to do without a small, dedicated team.

However, other features like our Marketplace (where people can buy and sell LAND) is completely decentralized and is run using Ethereum smart contracts. We take zero fees from the Marketplace, and anyone can fork the code to host it on their own if they want.

We are also working to decentralize the decision making process at Decentraland. As I mentioned before, we are putting more and more questions up for a vote using Agora. At the moment, the decisions from Agora are not necessarily binding, but as we gain confidence as a community, we can make them binding. 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, we will be providing a certain filter 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? We are building a big social sandbox: 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. We have very good social media managers supporting our entire global community. We are really proud of the community that has grown up around Decentraland. So far, we haven’t had any major problems. I think this is because we always do our best to answer every question, as quickly as we can, with complete honesty. If someone becomes toxic, detracting from the bigger conversation, we’ll talk to them one-on-one, but we haven’t had any serious issues with members of the community misbehaving.

Image by Decentraland

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

Our most popular feature, that we are running at the moment, is the Marketplace dapp. To get people onboard we made a lot of tutorials explaining how to use it, we provide support via Intercom, and we’re actively engaged with our users through conversations in Telegram and Discord. For our bigger dapp, which will be the client for the virtual world itself, it will be very different because we are building an entirely new user experience. 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 Etheremon, we are working with them, and we are both very happy with the project that we are collaborating on. We are 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 we are generating, this is largely a centralized process. This is the content 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 in the future.

Now, if you like making assets, you will be able to make them for landowners, or creators, to include them in Decentraland. We think this is a great way for people with talent to share their ideas and earn something for their work. For now, our SDK is limited to deploying content to individual parcels or estates, but in the future, we will expand it with 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 phone, desktop, or laptop.

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

No, unfortunately, there are performance constraints limiting how high you can build. There is a formula that calculates the height limit according to how many parcels you have. We choose to add some healthy limits on how high you can build to ensure that everyone has a positive user experience. Another reason why we choose to put 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 that we see is promoting adoption with mainstream users: getting people to build ever bigger, pushing the capabilities of Decentraland, and getting people interested in those new experiences. One of our biggest concerns is delivering a platform which provides a positive and truly memorable user experience. At the moment, there are a lot of dapps out there that fail to offer a great UX. Breaching that gap is our biggest challenge, but it’s one that we are confident we can overcome.

Are SDK’s out?

Yes, our developer SDK is out, 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 enable multiple players to interact with others 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! We don’t know, to be honest, we are very focused on building the platform for this first virtual world. 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 anything that our users’ imagination can think of, and build using our current SDK.

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

If everything goes well then the value of MANA, our ERC-20 token should increase, so everyone who has MANA will profit. When MANA was created we created a pool for contributors, everyone from the Decentraland core team has a “MANAvesting”. Essentially, it motivates us to work for the greater good and to make Decentraland the best it can be for everyone.

Anything last comments that you want to share with the’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, let us know what you think about Decentraland and whether you are planning to join in their auction as well in the comments below.

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