The Day 1 of 'Enter The Metaverse' event saw several prominent business leaders from the Metaverse share their thoughts. One such hugely anticipated session was the chat with Earth2's CEO - Shane Isaac anchored by Tech Circus founder - Luke Reed.
Key things discussed were:-
Shane explaining the Earth 2 concept
Early challenges and dealing with hyper-growth (and resulting delays on a few things)
Rewarding retrospectively early believers
Decentralization is high on agenda
Thoughts on Metaverse and comparing it to early days of Internet
Various aspects of Earth 2 Gameplay
User generated content important in the long term for Earth 2
Earth2 building for the long term and will allow experiences as technology catches up
Q&A with Shane
Excerpts from full interview below:-
Shane: Earth 2 is the beginnings of a Metaverse of which core foundations are based on geo-location links between virtual and physical reality. We'd like to think of Earth 2 as a digital twin of Earth1 - say where you are standing in Earth 1 the corresponding location could be active on Earth 2. I personally like to think of this as a living Metaverse which is literally on your door-step anytime. We launched in Nov 2020 with Phase-1 which saw us release a digitized layer of virtual land segmented into approx. 10m x10m virtual tiles which users can buy/sell/trade over a marketplace.
Then in second-half of this year we started releasing elements of Phase-2, which would ultimately become a global economic simulation. This will be pivotal to how we create experiences inside the Earth 2 Metaverse. Although the full-blown Metaverse may not be available right away, we believe we could build the foundations today
Inspiration to create Earth-2
Shane: I've always been into gaming and also the concepts of a Metaverse. Particularly the idea of how you can immerse yourself into a game and into its environment. A while ago when I had still had some free time I would read up, particularly science fiction. In any fiction book, I guess they have the time to build up the narrative, you can visualize and even immerse yourself into the world that the book builds over successive chapters. A lot of time games don't have that time to build that narrative , so I thought for a Metaverse kind of concept to be successful, it may need to feel real like it exists. I came up with the idea of Earth 2 as people know their real world surroundings and therefore it made sense to build a digital layer around world that people can relate to and feel like it actually exists.
In the future I'd like to feel that when I'm on Earth 1 that some thing is happening around me in an alternate reality which is Earth 2. At some stage, I'd love to be able to hold up my phone and create a portal and see what's going on on Earth 2 and maybe a reverse portal from Earth 2 back to Earth 1, where someone in Earth 2 could see this portal appear - so just create this real connection.
Struggles and early challenges
Shane: We experienced hyper growth - we didn't expect so much attention so soon. We were hoping with the basic initial roadmap Phase 1, 2, and 3 we'd get about 18 months to build this up gradually. It just blew up in December 2020 and we found ourselves working 22 hours a day and just monitoring everything, trying to keep the service online and handle the traffic. We had to scale things back. Another challenge we had was someone reporting some security exploits, which we had to patch quickly.
All these challenges were one of the reasons I was nervous to add blockchain in the early phase of the project, We didn't want to be in a situation where we oversaw something and couldn't fix that. In hindsight we were lucky that we could look at more data, issues that hackers came in with. Then we needed to look at things like 2FA and KYC.
We had a number of issues like these when we were launching and 90% of the community has been very understanding of this, but you still get a minority of people who are very disgruntled - maybe since money it involved so it natural to expect people get emotional.
Shane: We had hundreds of thousands of users in the first few months and we decided to scale that back. If we had been growing that rapidly we wouldn't have been able to keep up and maybe have resulted in some disaster or something. We had to implement mechanisms to slow us down. It may sound crazy since everyone goes like - growth growth growth, but we saw the situation and knew we wouldn't be able to keep up with it.
We launched with 2-3 people on the team in Nov 2020 and some part-timers. well leading up to Christmas things got beyond insane. We were pulling people off people from other businesses I have - lawyers, accountants and get us support. I remember my Christmas was 20+ hours working and very little time with family. This year we are better prepared.
Managing expectations and rewarding community
Shane: I do take responsibilities seriously and don't want to see anyone adversely affected. The one thing we have not done is trying to create hype or say that this going to make you rich or anything. We could have easily done something like this - now of course we have announced that we will be retrospectively reward our users who hold land, but we could have announced this when we launched saying there will be a reward one year down the line and create bigger hype. We chose not to do it - but we'd rather now reward users who believed in us and want Earth 2 to succeed.
It makes me happy to reward these type of persons not that type of person who would come in, maybe multiply their investment and then they are out, and then ridicule Earth 2 for everything they are trying to do. Yes there are different members in the community and its hard to manage varied expectations - I already mentioned how we tried to scale back. What's worked for me is to block the negativity and keep pressing forward.
Plans Ahead - Many possible directions, Blockchain, Decentralization :
Shane: From day 1 the message on the website hasn't changed. When we started not many people were talking about the Metaverse - very few were. Now over the last few months many have have come out, claiming they are a Metaverse. But right from the beginning we have kept the scope broad which is needed for it to be a Metaverse. Its hard to articulate that our Metaverse is one thing or something else. Our Metaverse is based on the real world, built on a digital layer on top of the real world geo-locations - which allows us to take various different directions.
From Day-1 we built-in a backend for blockchain, some people noticed it in the settings (referencing 'Etherscan'). Our plan is to decentralize Earth 2 at some point. Although we remain centralized today, decentralization is a direction we want to head towards and deliver to our community.
If you want to have a brief vision - I see Earth 2 as an evolving platform. We are working on available technologies, slowly creating foundations and all possible features we can implement that make sense in the broader Metaverse ideology.
Building the Metaverse as technology catches up
Shane: Although we have published videos explaining the open world terrain system, at present users can access the map on a web browser while we actively work on the next level access allowing a 3D environment. I first see our 3D world being initially accessible through everyday devices - PC, phones, maybe AR; and from there to expand to other devices as and when technology catches up.
I know some people criticize us that you don't have this 3D world yet, but I don't see any downside to creating an open world slowly, that will support a multitude of devices however starting with initial version that caters to everyday devices. There are a multitude of companies doing haptic suits etc., and many of them have approached us for collaborations. However the state of Metaverse today is similar to how we saw Internet in late 90s - you had command-line interfaces, which moved to basic web browser with HTML, and now we have other languages and web browser capabilities which are nothing compared to what they were even in the early-2000s. Its a similar approach to building a Metaverse.
We not saying we will come up with brain chips or plug you into the Matrix right away. Today we are building the foundations. So right now in Phase-2 we are releasing some key features which will be relevant in longevity of the project - like Essence, Jewels; but this not the real game-play. This was released earlier to reward our community and for them to have a head-start.
Different Areas of Play and Play-to-Earn
Shane: There are few different type of players in Earth - some sections own large land, some are in there for the eco-sim. The eco-sim I guess will be easy to play but difficult to master. There are PvP elements planned so players get to dive into active gameplay. So you may have someone who participate in all of these, but we think there will be players who'll have talents within a specific area while they collaborate with others who specialize in other areas, and then creating together. I guess we are touching upon the play-to-earn concept with these different areas. But we don't want to label it just 'play-to-earn'. We want people collaborating.
User Generated Content - Tile-art/ Mega-cities/ Holo-Buildings
Shane: The fourth area that's important to us is User Generated Content. One of the things that surprised me is the tile-art and the creativity that came up even in a very restricted environment. We had country flags with the thought that people could associate themselves with any country they want. What we didn't expect were these amazing tile-art and people coming together to build Megacities.
That opened our minds and we said whatever we do we need to allow people to be creative, to let them create experiences that other people can consume. That's something that led us then to the Holo-Building concept in collaboration with Mapbox. So while the base tech is from Mapbox our team created the editor for Earth 2 that allows people to create these amazing Holo Buildings. Its also something we are working right now and to allow players to trade blueprints of their holo-buildings. Players can decide to create limited edition holo buildings and trade on the open market. This can be extended to other items as we add more things. This is something important to me over the long-term.
Experiences within Earth 2
Shane: The VR experience is sometime away and mainly because I don't think that the virtual Reality industry is still nascent and not quite there yet in terms of mass adoption. Even if we released something like that it wont have a high uptake in a short period of time. In the short term I see Earth 2 being accessed on the PC, maybe Consoles or even hand devices. This is also why we chose Unity as its mobile friendly. On a high level you will have something like the Terrain video we showed, and users building within that environment and building various experiences within that.
Will Earth2 be a niche or a mass platform?
Shane: Obviously we want to have as many people as we can, and its very hard to put a number on it. But we are thinking big and we have the partnerships (to be announced shortly) leading towards that. We have partnership with other projects who like us are thinking long-term. We want to build foundations for something that will be around for 10-15-20 years. So of course we want every person to access Earth 2 and when will that happen is anyone's guess, however we want to create the foundations to enable that. We are also hiring experts from relevant fields to help us. Additionally, we are looking at green solutions and we are mindful of having sustainable ways to have this Metaverse.
Putting the hyper growth in perspective (Users and investors)
Shane: We had a crazy few months, we got called by big venture funds. There was a lot of temptation there early, but we played into the experience I built over time and tried to keep a level headedness about this and not make a rash decision. We wanted to build this more for the people than for the corporate space and what does that mean when making deals early on. We certainly got that validation from people in the space and that they have seen something like this for the first time and we've been getting that a lot.
Q: What do you think of Metaverse Tokens?
Shane: I think the Metaverse was a long time coming - we've been on Web 2.0 for too long so its about time to move to Web 3.0 and there are a lot of exciting projects out there. A lot of people are approaching the Metaverse from a different angle. I would imagine buying Metaverse tokens would be a great thing if you believe in open world 3D communities. Hopefully Earth 2 wont be too long away launching a token (Earth 2 recently announced Essence as their crypto)
Q: What is the current user-base of Earth2?
Shane: Well we are not disclosing that at the moment.
Q: Do you think the Metaverse is a temporary trend or the Future?
Shane: I think its the Future. Think back when the gaming technology was blossoming throughout the 90s, and if you imagined the world we live in today with people broadcasting themselves across the world via Twitch or Facebook, and you'd think that person was crazy. You can also look at these old interviews from technologists predicting things that would happened from the 90s and which have happened in 200s and 2010s. So I think we will have these 3D environments and I think everybody will see the recent acquisition we have made you'll see we want to move in that direction. People will be able to create these 3D experiences and they can invite their friends and experience this together.
Q: You mentioned about a partnership coming soon, Is there any information you can share what that might bring in to Earth 2
Shane: The announcement is focused on Earth2 moving from current centralized state into potentially a decentralized state in future, and ensuring that transition is smooth in the future for our community.
Final thoughts from Shane:
I don't claim to be the smartest person in the world, but I try and make decisions that are beneficial for people that have come together and who believe in the Earth 2 project. I am trying to ensure that the journey we have ahead is aiming decentralization and towards the goal of benefitting the community and players and I guess just build Earth2. I may not be the smartest person but I do want to do the right thing and want to ensure that its get delivered to our community over time.