What Is the Metaverse - An Overview and a Deep Dive Into the Top Metaverses
Metaverse

What Is the Metaverse - An Overview and a Deep Dive Into the Top Metaverses

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10 months ago

A metaverse is simply an expanse of digital space where users can interact with each other in real-time and get similar experiences to what they experience in the real world.

What Is the Metaverse - An Overview and a Deep Dive Into the Top Metaverses

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Facebook's recent rebranding to Meta has now caught the attention of billions of users. The question that is being asked around is what exactly is the metaverse? Will it be a mere complement to our reality like AR? Will it be an external space that people will enter? How is it connected to the real world? These questions need to be addressed before we take a dive into the various metaverses that exist.

In this article, we'll take a look at what metaverses are (and more importantly what they are not), why they matter, and then explore some of the most popular metaverses that exist today.

Let's dive in.

What (Isn't) the Metaverse?

Before we dive into understanding what a metaverse is, it would be helpful for us to understand what it isn't. You would often hear people say that it is a derived form of virtual reality. But that is not the case since the metaverse isn't really limited to a digital realm in which the world of virtual reality operates. In fact, it extends far beyond that.
Some often say that it is just another theme park for the digital space. That again is true to a certain extent because the metaverse can have a space that is similar to a theme/amusement park. However, the idea of a digital theme park is limited because of what it offers. In that sense, while the metaverse can definitely offer that experience but it extends much farther than that.

Some even link the concept of metaverse to a game, like Fortnite. And this is where most people get it right because the idea of a metaverse (in some way) is quite similar to the idea of entering a new world of gaming, like Fortnite. Many features of the metaverse, like having a consistent identity across various closed platforms, giving users the ability to get compensated for content, and being a gateway to a multitude of features, are already offered by the game. However, because this is a "closed" world (read: metaverse), this again fails to encompass the much wider expanse of the metaverse. Thus, while Fortnite is definitely conceptually a metaverse, it is one that exists in itself and operates within the boundaries set by its creators.

This is where the true definition of a metaverse is derived.

What Is the Metaverse?

While it is quite hard to define it, we will give a working definition. A metaverse is simply a wide expanse of digital space where users can interact with each other in real-time and get similar experiences to what they experience in the real world, and in most cases even more. This definition of the metaverse highlights a crucial point - the fact that it is a wide expanse of a digital realm that can be said to be continuing the realm of the "real world". The only reason why we put the real world in double quotes is that it is conceptually hard to distinguish between what the metaverse is and what the "non-metaverse" is. This is where its core features come in.

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A Metaverse Is Infinite

The metaverse is an extension of what we define as real. Because it is not limited by the physical spaces of the world that we operate in, it can be said to be extending to infinity. There is no end to the metaverse.

A Metaverse Is Synchronous

A crucial point to add here is that it offers synchronous communication between users from all over the world. Thus, it offers (potentially) billions of users the ability to interact in real-time.

A Metaverse Is a Thriving Economy

This point is a complement to the first core feature outlined above. Since it is an extension to the real world, users have the option to offer and receive the same experiences that they would in the real world. For instance, artists can host art shows, philosophers can hold discussions, colleagues can host meetings and the list is simply endless. A simple token mechanism can be implemented for the exchange of value.

A Metaverse Is Interoperable

This is understandably a controversial point to make. If we say that the metaverse is simply an extension of our own reality, then how can we define its interoperability? And if there is a need for interoperability then it means that several different metaverses exist in siloes, right?

This is true. But when we say that the metaverse is interoperable, it means that whatever skin I choose for my character in a particular conception of metaverse can also be ported easily over to another conception that is being implemented by a separate entity.

A crucial point to note here is that several different entities can establish their own metaverse. For instance, Meta can create a social space for its users or Microsoft can create a dedicated co-working metaverse. The general idea remains the same, while the implementation is different.

Now that we have discussed what metaverse conceptually is, let's look at some of the most popular metaverses that exist today.

Decentraland

Decentraland is one of the most well-known metaverses to exist in the market today. The amount of money spent within the metaverse has seen a steady increase since it was launched in 2016. Given its age, a community already exists around the platform, and even some bigger brands have started marketing/advertising their products on the platform.
In a nutshell, it is a virtual world and community that is based entirely on blockchain. What truly makes it special is that it is wholly decentralized. That is, the holders of the MANA cryptocurrency can participate in voting events on the platform. It also uses NFTs to signify representation/ownership of in-game items like clothes, virtual real estate, and so on. These tokens are stored in users' wallets.

Let's understand how it works.

How Does Decentraland Work?

The metaverse uses the dual-token economy model with two primary tokens: LAND and MANA. The latter (MANA) is the native token of the platform and gives its holders the voting power to participate in the Decentraland DAO.
  • MANA: To vote on major governance decisions, users lock their wMANA (wrapped MANA) into the DAO. Thus, each wMANA represents a singular vote in governance proposals. The token can easily be acquired on the Decentraland marketplace by simply selling digital items that you have collected.
  • LAND: This is the NFT that represents ownership of the virtual real estate on the platform. This token, too, provides voting power to their holders.
Just like most metaverses, users in Decentraland can create and/or sell experiences on the virtual land that they buy/rent out. You can easily buy land on the Decentraland marketplace. In addition to that, when navigating through the metaverse, you need a digital wallet (like MetaMask) to participate.

What Is So Special About Decentraland?

It is the first decentralized metaverse that offers you the option to interact with other users in real-time and acquire virtual experiences and trade them. The lack of a centralized authority implies that you exert absolute control over how you want to participate within the marketplace, the experiences that you want to create and how you wish to maintain the virtual land that you already possess.

The entire metaverse is based on Ethereum, thus replacing the centralized authority with hundreds of different smart contracts that give you limitless options to what you can do within the metaverse.

Decentraland consists of three primary layers.

  • The first layer is responsible for recording ownership via smart contracts.

  • The second layer stores LAND content and all the data that has been uploaded to the virtual parcels on the metaverse.

  • The third layer is the peer-to-peer network which enables you to interact with other users in real-time.

The underlying programming language utilized by the metaverse helps create dynamic scenes and 3D models.

You have the option to trade MANA in the crypto market. The supply of the token is limited and whenever users buy LAND with MANA, some percentage of MANA is burned. This helps in creating a healthy price dynamic within the market.

Bloktopia

Bloktopia offers an incredible and slightly interesting story. It is a "VR Crypto skyscraper" that is powered by the Polygon network. It consists of 21 levels that are said to "pay recognition" to the limited 21 million supply of Bitcoins.
Bloktopia claims to offer an incredible collective space for crypto users of all experience levels. All of them have access to crypto information and immersive content, all in one place. Revenue generated within the platform is shared via NFTs.
The platform uses the "world's most advanced real-time 3D creation engine" which helps the metaverse provide a much immersive and stunning visual experience to its users.
The metaverse is comprised of what is known as real estate "bloks" that are available for purchase via the $BLOK token.

How Does Bloktopia Work?

Bloktopia has 21 levels through which you have to go to reach the "top". These levels are explained below.

  • Spawning: Just when you enter the metaverse, you are "spawned" outside the Bloktopia skyscraper.
  • Level One: This is the place that all Bloktopians have access to and is said to have the largest footfall. It consists of pricing charts, a helpdesk, a navigation area, and so on. You will also have the opportunity to register yourself for various events. Some of the space is commercialized with the likes of Binance, CoinMarketCap, and Coingecko promoting their products.
  • Penthouse and Gaming: This is the eventual destination for all Bloktopian explorers. It is the 21st floor of the skyscraper and it features a penthouse that is reserved exclusively for gaming. This is the space where you compete for BLOK by playing various games.
  • Auditorium: The auditorium is where most key events in the crypto world are hosted. When you register yourself for any event in the first level, you are directed to this level to attend them. Attendance within these events is rewarded via BLOK. The auditorium is considered a premium location within the metaverse.

What Makes Bloktopia Special?

The stunning visual experience! In addition to that, the metaverse also incentivizes you to learn and earn at the same time. Here are some core features of the metaverse that make it stand apart.

  • #learn: The metaverse provides a platform where you can join other users to learn the fundamentals of crypto.
  • #earn: Just like in Decentraland, you can own land in Bloktopia. You can use that land to earn passive income, for instance, by leasing it to a fellow user.
  • #create: You can use their provided builder tool to create different artworks and experiences for fellow users. Experienced developers can also use the SDK to create games within the metaverse.

Just like every other metaverse, you can enjoy a vivid social experience by participating in multiple activities. The visual immersion complements that experience incredibly.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is another metaverse and gaming ecosystem that offers incredible experiences. It gives you the ability to create different assets, like avatars and tools, freely.

How Does The Sandbox Work?

The metaverse is made up of three main products that are listed below.

  • VoxEdit: It enables you to create 3D objects in the metaverse like, avatars and animals. The only limit here is your creativity! All these objects are known as ASSETS and use the ERC-1155 token standard. Thus, they offer both fungible and non-fungible token mechanisms.
  • Sandbox Marketplace: This is the place where you can trade your ASSETS with fellow users. To do that, however, you need to upload them to the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).
  • Sandbox Game Maker: It gives you the option to create 3D games at zero cost.
All transactions within the metaverse are carried out using their native SAND token. It is an ERC-20 token that is used to play games, purchase equipment, or even customize the avatar. When the metaverse transitions into a DAO, it will be used as a governance token.
The token is also used for purchasing ASSETS and LANDS (virtual real estate). LANDS are represented by ERC-721 tokens, which means that they are NFTs. The metaverse only has 166,464 LAND plots that will ever exist. If you decide to combine multiple LANDS into one property, it is called an Estate.

A crucial feature of the metaverse is that it covers the Ethereum gas fees, thereby not having the user pay exorbitant fees. This creates a much more seamless and immersive experience for the users.

What's So Special About The Sandbox?

The metaverse alsooffers you the option to create customized avatars that can be traded on their native marketplace. Since these are NFTs, they are provably scarce digital items that can be used in the marketplace. Additionally, you can also lease your LAND for some passive income.

Star Atlas

Star Atlas is a one-of-a-kind blockchain-based multiplayer video game with an exceptionally appealing and immersive space theme. It is an MMO that is set in the year 2620 and has been built on Solana. The storyline revolves around the colonization of the universe. Your role is to look for hidden treasures and progress. Players earn in-game currency like $ATLAS and $POLIS, and use those tokens to buy assets within the ecosystem.

How Does Star Atlas Work?

The metaverse uses the dual-token economy model. These tokens are:
  • $ATLAS: This is the usual in-game cryptocurrency. Players generally earn that by engaging in activities like mining ore, creating assets, and trading on the marketplace. All the assets in the metaverse are NFTs, which means that every item within the game is owned by at least one player.
  • $POLIS: This is the cryptocurrency used for participating in the governance of the game. Thus, the holders of these tokens can form factions, communities, and even behemoth corporations that influence the core decisions of the game. The idea is to give players the chance to "out-vote" the creators.
A crucial point that the team building the ecosystem has often highlighted is the portability of in-game assets. While the assets that you create or buy on traditional gaming platforms are only usable within that ecosystem, the ones that you build in Star Atlas can easily be traded with players just like you. This plays into the core feature of the metaverse, which is interoperability.

What Makes Star Atlas Special?

Star Atlas provides players the opportunity to literally do whatever they want, and have utmost fun while doing it. For that very reason, they have created a governance system where players have as much right to the future of the metaverse as the creators themselves.

Imagine being able to build entire nations within the metaverse! Because you have control over how the economics of your community work, you can create micro-nations and form several sub-DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations). Since everything is tokenized, every player has ownership over the asset they possess. This creates a truly individualistic experience where every player feels special.

The metaverse also features an unconventional deflationary mechanism through which players can indulge in much riskier activities like exploring deeper areas of the metaverse in an attempt to gain higher rewards. Those who succeed in their adventurous pursuits might succeed or perish. If they perish, then other users can collect the NFTs that get lost in the battle.

Radio Caca

Radio Caca is known as the "GameFi" vehicle for the USM Metaverse. It is also the builder of the Metamon P2E game, which has become quite popular. While not a metaverse itself, it has helped in the creation of the USM Metaverse, which is a non-token-based community. It is built on Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and was launched in October 2021.

What Is the USM Metaverse?

It is a unique metaverse where each player is considered a "builder". Thus, you have the option to build your own social network, establish a custom economic system, and create an entirely new virtual civilization.

NFTs are used to denote ownership of digital items. One of the core highlighted features of the metaverse is the "Kiss-Up Dog" NFTs, which can be bought on their website.

Meta

Meta is one of the most recent (and much talked about) metaverses in the world today. Given that a platform like Facebook decided to dive into this digital realm is symbolic of the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is focused on creating revolutionary spaces where people can connect with each other.

Unlike Facebook, Meta will offer virtual experiences to users where they will all come together to share experiences. While the attempt is commendable, critics have highlighted the fact their version of the metaverse will be more like a separate world than being a continuum of the existing one. This is because to access it, users will have to wear external devices (which again are being produced by the company). 

How it works, what it will look like, and the extent to which the experiences will be available to users is still to be discovered.

The Bottom Line

While it would have been hard to imagine such a space not under the control of anyone, blockchain makes that possible. Again, just to highlight the definition of metaverse - it is not an isolated space (or spaces) that are controlled by different authorities. In an ideal world, all the different implementations of these metaverses will be bridged with each other, making the experience seamless for the users.

The "how" of all that is yet to be found.

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