A great one-liner almost obscures the possibilities of its TERRA coin system for creating content and ensuring security.
A few weeks back we looked at Terra Virtua, and its plan to provide a Netflix-like subscription service for users of virtual reality hardware. Last week, a launch event at BAFTA’s London headquarters added more than a little flesh to the bones of that already eye-catching offering, hinting that it’s one-line sales pitch may not actually be the most interesting thing about it.
The event also showed a glimpse of what could soon be possible with its system, the TERRA (TVT) coin, and the interesting world-building tools it is developing in conjunction with Unreal – the creator’s of the Unreal Engine, a widely used suite of games creation tools.
On display was a pre-build example of the main, ‘mall-like’, zone of the virtual world, where people will – Terra Virtua’s team hopes – meet, browse, and choose from various virtual reality experiences. Also on show were examples of the kind of games that should be on offer there when the platform go live, supposedly in Q4 of this year.
Attending the event was the team behind the tech, including games industry veterans with experience dating from the 8-bit era through to the present day. Hosting, was Gary Bracey – Terra Virtua’s CEO. A games industry vet, Bracey’s career spans from retail in the early 80s, through working as Ocean Software’s Head of Development during its film franchise-porting golden period in the late 80s/early-90s, on to founding facial mapping tech company Digimask in noughties, and beyond.
The first thoughts on Terra Virtua itself, however, came from the company’s founder, Jawad Ashraf, who cut straight past the Netflix comparisons to one of the most intriguing elements of what Terra Virtua can potentially do with its blockchain-based economy.
“Within our virtual world, we want people to have the ability to own tangible assets,” he said. Continuing by adding that Terra Virtua’s business model would be “allowing people to take ideas, create money from their assets, and also secure them via the blockchain.”
To do this, Terra Virtua plans to leverage blockchain as a way to “generate trust” in a space rife with piracy and hacking thefts. It will do this by allowing those creating products for it, and those buying from it, to have “something tangible, [that] cannot be stolen or copied in any way”. The TERRA coin will also allow assets owned in the virtual world to have implicit real world value.
Content From Creators – Big And Small
When Gary Bracey took to the stage, he expanded on this idea.
He explained that Terra Virtua would eventually contain a set of tools that would allow “everyone – users, gamers, everyone – to create their own virtual reality experiences”, secure in the knowledge that what they were creating would be uniquely theirs to own, and making them able to monetise their creations using its TERRA coin (TVT) economy.
Big-name games creators – like Epic, which will be providing its title Robo Recall as part of the “large portfolio of great VR video games” that should feature on Terra Virtua’s opening roster – can provide their titles to the platform and be paid in Terra almost instantly using its smart contract system. Perhaps more interestingly, though, what Bracey described as “a suite of simple, but very sophisticated tools” based on the Unreal Engine, will allow smaller creators and enthusiasts to provide content of their own and get paid in the same way.
“Roblox, Minecraft and that sort of thing has captured the imagination of many, many creators,” Bracey told the assembled crowd, “and we’re creating that kind of platform within Terra Virtua – so not only can they create that kind of content, but they can also have it hosted on Terra Virtua so everyone can enjoy. And actually, the creators can make money from it as well.”
He went on to explain how the team hoped that integrating a mobile-centred augmented reality experience into Terra Virtua – allowing users to browse it even when they were on the move – would allow users to overcome the “isolationist” experience of VR at present, and create a community element allowing friends to meet, plan and play together.
The Security Of Blockchain
Next to speak was Peter Bergstrom, a Bitcoin Foundation evangelist whose career has taken in stints at Microsoft and Sony Europe, and who is founder/CEO games publisher Giant Mobile/Giant Media Group (US). He quickly got on to the utility of bringing cryptocurrency into the virtual and gaming worlds by noting how it breaks “walled garden” of in-game currencies gamers are used to.
“In 2011,” he began, “I started looking at Bitcoin and I go: ‘This is brilliant! This is going to be something revolutionary for the games business, and for the entertainment software business.’
“That’s because, instead of having a walled garden of coins – y’know World of Warcraft, Candy Crush… even Mario – it’s all within the games. With crypto, you can potentially just take it out and buy a pizza if you want.”
Expanding on the security aspects of TERRA, he added:
“The fraud business in the games industry on PC is huge – hundreds of millions, some sides say. This will go away with blockchain, we have a system to combat that. Also, when you trade a virtual item, instead of having to go through a complicated system with PayPal, we have a smart contract based on Ethereum where you basically just push a button – nothing will happen until the money and the item is verified within the smart contract. No fraud.”
In practical terms, Terra Virtua plans to issue TERRA (TVT) as its utility token that will be tracked on the Ethereum blockchain. Customers will use it to buy items and experiences within the system, and creators can use it to buy ‘zones’, via which they can market their creations – be they games; other specific ‘experiences’ such as live events, concerts or eSports events; or something else entirely.
TERRA transactions will be initially tracked using an ERC20 smart contract. The total supply of TERRA will be capped at 1,200,000,000, two-thirds of which will be available to trade (400m pre-sale and 400m for the main ICO) – with the other third held in reserve as a liquidity pool for airdrops, bounties, funding future growth and incentives. The token price is set at $0.08, with ICO purchase possible via Ethereum and Bitcoin.
Terra Virtua feels like a great idea. It certainly has a great pitch and an enviable pedigree in terms of its team. In person they are as convincing as they are on paper, too. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and Virtual Reality as a medium is almost certainly going to be huge. There are, however, still lots of issues with it and its cousin, Augmented Reality, that are far from being solved.
Terra Virtua does seek to address at least one of these: easy access to a engaging range of content. Whether or not it can actually solve that issue by getting enough content on board is, of course, what will ensure its success – and thus the success of its TERRA coin. That’s by no means certain – but then again, nothing is.
However, it has proved it is already a viable product – that is, granted, in its early stages but definitely real – and the team are very aware of its own limitations. It has also sought to mitigate the issue by coupling its content to creative tools that offer a chance for its own invested community to keep any initial momentum with their own contribution. That does appear to offer some hope that it will not wither-on-the-vine over time.
If you are already a relatively early adopter of PC-based VR tech, then this offering demands some very close examination. If you are a creator of such content, that is doubly true.
In the words of BAFTA Games’ Nick Button-Brown, who also took to the stage in Terra Virtua’s support:
“We haven’t seen anything that has the kind of impact that Netflix had on TV and film entertainment. Creating the Netflix of virtual and augmented realities is a fantastic mission. It can truly change the gaming industry. I’m also excited because there are new forms of entertainment that haven’t been invented yet. There are people coming through who don’t understand what they can’t do. And this is a great place for them to have a home.”
They, are possibly who will make or break it in the long term.