Stumbling upon a deserted Area 51 or floating on a psychedelic flower, pulsing and undulating underneath cotton candy skies, is the kind of weirdness that Decentraland ropes you in with. As a “decentralized virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain,” Decentraland is the poster child for VR in Web 3.0. While it might resemble an economized Roblox or trippy Minecraft, Decentraland has more substance than pure crypto hype.
I first encountered this platform at the suggestion of Amelia, VP of the Phoenix Crypto chapter. She was explaining how NFTs were tightly woven within Decentraland, with there being “virtual galleries” of NFTs you could purchase with your Metamask wallet. After a few troubleshooting sessions and confused Discord messages, I was a full-on Decentraland girl, teleporting between scenes and attending livestreamed events like the Coingecko monthly meetup.
This article will hopefully serve as a first-impression review, technical guide and overall decrypter to the Decentraland protocol. And while many of the existing reviews are negative, Phoenix Crypto thinks the platform is incredible for crypto newbies and experts alike. Be sure to drop by our event this Friday at 7pm PDT - we’ll be meeting at Genesis Plaza with Jessica, a seasoned Decentraland tour guide!
Before getting into the details, I wanted to summarize how to set up your Decentraland account and start exploring:
Make sure you have the Google Chrome browser installed. Other browsers like Brave, Safari or Firefox aren’t optimized for dcl software. Playing on mobile also isn’t possible right now.
Install the Metamask wallet chrome extension and set up your wallet. This serves as your unique Decentraland login and will allow you to interact in the Marketplace.
Go to https://decentraland.org/ and press “Get Started.” This will prompt you to verify your login through Metamask. Press “Play.”
Even if you have $0 in your wallet, you can still access the world
You’ll also need to choose a username and avatar
Congratulations! You’ve landed in Genesis Plaza, the first scene created in Decentraland. Press “E” on the keyboard to talk to the robot and get some basic Decentraland training.
Basic keyboard commands are WASD for front/back/side movement, and the space bar makes your avatar jump. Press V to switch between first person and third person view, and B to dance, raise your hand, first pump, etc. Right clicking allows your avatar to move in the world (using WASD) while pressing “esc” brings up your mouse. Type /help for more commands
Explore! You can click the map in the upper lefthand corner to teleport somewhere or click the “Explore” magnifying glass in the lower right hand corner.
Once you get the tech working, Decentraland is an open, censorship-resistant playing field. If you want to participate in the world economically, you’ll first need to acquire MANA, the fungible token that allows you to purchase items in the Marketplace. To buy MANA, login to your Coinbase account, choose “buy crypto with cash,” and select the Decentraland MANA token:
Note: you’ll also need some ETH in your wallet to pay for gas fees. Once you buy all your crypto, transfer it to your Metamask wallet that’s connected to Decentraland.
In addition to snatching swanky Binance-themed clothing and names like “ManaMillionaire” in the marketplace, you can also purchase parcels/estates (governed under the LAND contract). MANA is spent or burned in exchange for buying a LAND NFT, which is one of the virtual plots in the game.
A few more quick notes - go to https://events.decentraland.org/en/ to see upcoming and live events hosted in Decentraland or submit your own using this form. There’s also a Decentraland DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) that lets you vote on upcoming proposals/changes to the protocol if you own MANA or LAND.
The biggest detractor to Decentraland is that the world feels...empty and isolated. There’s fantastical imagery barraging you left and right, but there’s no one - not even an avatar standing for a human spirit - to keep you company. Well, it was because I was using Brave, an ultra-secure browser, to play the game. I could access the world, but I couldn’t establish a peer-to-peer connection on the same servers as other players. Once I switched to Chrome and loaded the Metamask extension, there were plenty of avatars. Decentraland is still a large, mostly solitary world, but I don’t think it’s a detractor - if anything, it’s an avenue for my imagination to run wild and be at peace.
I traveled to the Museum District, countless Japanese gardens and pagodas, the Unsafe Open Sleigh, Tominoya Casino and more. I would choose an unmarked, grey parcel at random and teleport to it, encountering bizarre models and sounds along the way. I played this safari monkey banana game (sorry, that was the best I could describe it) and whacked moles on the head in some nethercorner. Although the virtual world seems miniature on your screen, the variety of scenes is endless.
I was never a gamer girl in high school or college, so that’s probably why I’m floored by Decentraland. I have a trendy character - pink sunglasses and all - and am intrigued when I see NFTs hanging on intangible walls or birds chirping through an AWS server. I wish I discovered Decentraland when COVID first started - it’s the definition of an “escape,” but it’s also more than that. It’s an economy. It’s a community powered by international participation. And it’s accessible to anyone, even with $0 in your Metamask account.
Building in the Decentraland Protocol
For developers or anyone with a curiosity in world-building, Decentraland is a massive, 3D sandbox! Grassroots development and design is encouraged, and anyone with an existing LAND token can publish their new “scenes” directly to the protocol. The only drawback is that you need to own LAND or an estate (a collection of adjacent LAND tokens) in the first place, which costs thousands of MANA on the marketplace.
Back to building though - you can either use Decentraland’s Builder tool (which allows you to drag-and-drop popular 3D elements without code) or the SDK (software where you can locally write code for scenes). Amelia created this amazingly detailed scene, Gyndle Forest, using the Builder tool while I struggled with placing ramshackle couches around a pond. The object choices in the Builder are limited, but it’s a great place for coding novices to dip their toes in gaming dev. Meanwhile, the SDK gives you greater freedom in developing scenes, but the tool is complex and unintuitive if you’re not already a programmer. Decentraland has published reams of GitHub example code to help in development, but it’s all Greek to me.🤷🏻♀️
And that’s the scoop on Decentraland! I’m probably starstruck because of my lack of gaming experience, but I think it’s fascinating how the metaverse is trickling into our lives. The Decentraland team is mostly based in Buenos Aires, but their technology is uniting cryptopunks worldwide. Don’t forget to RSVP to the Decentraland Phoenix Crypto event this Friday, April 23 at 7pm PDT- it’ll be a casual hangout with a personalized tour from @dcltourguide. We’ll be chatting through our Decentraland voice channel in Discord, so be sure to join beforehand - hope to “see” everyone there!