6 questions to ask before you build your metaverse experience
It’s early days in the metaverse. And that means it’s the perfect time for digital product designers and developers to start building. To start experimenting. And to start learning.
Of course, no one knows for sure where the metaverse is headed. But we do know that brands and businesses will have a place in it. And like the early days of the mobile revolution, we know our clients will look to us for advice, guidance, and best practices for building metaverse experiences. And the same processes we’ve perfected over the past 15 years for designing and developing lovable app experiences will apply to the metaverse.
ArcTouch recently completed an internal project to build a metaverse experience. We recreated our amazing workplace in Florianópolis, Brazil. Not exactly a “digital twin” of the space, but something that feels like a natural, virtual extension of the ArcTouch office and our brand.
Here’s a tour of the finished project:
In this post, we share how we planned our virtual office – and provide 6 questions to consider before you build a metaverse experience.
1. What are your goals for building in the metaverse?
Before ArcTouch starts any project, we want to understand the business goals for the final product and define any metrics for success. In this case, our goal was, simply to better understand how to build a lovable experience in the metaverse.
And we succeeded. This proof-of-concept showed that we have the internal skills needed to build in the metaverse. It also confirmed that our agile app development process (Read: From Great Ideal to Successful App) can also yield lovable metaverse experiences.
2. Who is your target audience and what are the use cases?
In these early days of the metaverse, there’s value in building simply for the sake of building — and learning. But even if experimenting is your primary goal, you should still identify your target audience and define some key use cases for what you build.
In our case, we primarily wanted to create a virtual space that our extended team at ArcTouch could experience. We thought that if we created a relatable experience to experiment in the metaverse, we would spur future ideas and innovation. (That’s also been a success, as we’re in the midst of a few ongoing discussions with clients about varied experiences we could help them build for their different audiences).
We also thought about other use cases for office space in the metaverse. We could use our virtual office for recruiting. After all, what better way to give candidates a sense of what ArcTouch does than through a digital product that might be similar to the kinds of projects they may work on?
Eventually, we might use an office in the metaverse to host internal company events, hold meetups on emerging technology, and maybe even have initial consultations with customers about our design and development services.
3. What are your metaverse space requirements?
We did this in parallel with Question 4 below. The team wanted to learn what it takes to build in Decentraland (more on that in a moment). In theory, you should define your requirements before you narrow in on a metaverse platform — however, the platform you choose may put limits on the requirements.
In any case, we defined the key features of our virtual space.
Some of the basic factors we considered:
- How big should our office space be?
- How many floors should the space have?
- Can we fit the desired features inside this space?
Like the physical world, to build a space in the metaverse you need land to put it on. Even though land in the metaverse is essentially unlimited, in most cases it’s not free. There’s an actual cost to buy or rent land in the metaverse. The cost increases based on the size of the land you need for your space. (More on the costs of virtual real estate in Question 5). Because we didn’t have an unlimited budget — and the business goal was to learn — we didn’t want to build a massive virtual office space.
Partly because of space constraints, we defined a few important features that we believed would help make our metaverse office space lovable. It was similar to our approach with building any digital product: We narrowed in on our Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) features. Because, as we’ve written in the past, “apps should be like steak knives — and not multi-purpose Swiss Army knives” by doing a few things really well.
The key lovable metaverse office features — which mirror our physical office — include:
- A front desk to greet office visitors
- A shipping container that has been converted into a kitchen
- An office slide from the 2nd floor to the 1st
A shipping container (left) that serves as a kitchen, along with the front desk (right), are modeled after similar areas in the ArcTouch office.
The physical and virtual versions of the ArcTouch office feature a slide from the second floor to the first.
4. What metaverse platform to choose?
There are dozens of metaverse platforms for a wide variety of demographics. Some of the most popular include Roblox, Fortnite, Sandbox, Horizon Worlds, and Spatial. We built our virtual office in Decentraland, one of the oldest and mature metaverse platforms. Decentraland was our best option for several reasons:
Technology: Built on the blockchain
By using Ethereum blockchain technology, Decentraland is both trustless (it isn’t owned by a company or group of people) and offers a higher level of freedom for individuals to innovate. By existing on a blockchain, Decentraland allows people to perform peer-to-peer transactions and transfer ownership of digital assets and NFTs such as music, art, identity, etc. Trust is not built through an intermediate agent, but through cryptography and collaboration. While these capabilities weren’t central to our initial project, we liked the idea of exploring these.
Independent and open source
We also liked the fact that, because Decentraland is not entirely owned by a company or group of people, it can’t just be shut down at any moment. Decentraland is governed by what’s referred to as a DAO — a decentralized autonomous organization — a bottom-up organizational structure with no central authority. The DAO owns parts of the experience, including real estate contracts and objects like wearables. The DAO also manages a substantial portion of Mana, the currency used within Decentraland. However, there is no CEO making decisions or choosing how to spend money — everything is collectively decided through a voting process. Community rules are completely transparent. The code itself is also open source — everyone has access and anyone can offer proposals on possible improvements to the community.
Credibility and maturity
We liked the fact that companies like Grey Goose, U.S. Open Tennis, Snapple, Coca-Cola, and Samsung have already built in Decentraland. As the oldest metaverse platform, it also has mature design and development tools. Its cryptocurrency economy is also healthy: The circulation of Mana has an estimated total value of $1.84B.
There are plans to make Decentraland interoperable with other worlds. So, anything you build in Decentraland could possibly have utility in other metaverse platforms.
5. How much does virtual real estate cost?
Decentraland has a limited number of virtual land parcels available — 90,601 at the time of this writing. Two adjacent parcels combined are defined as an Estate. Depending on the complexity of the experience you want to build, using multiple parcels may be necessary.
And just like regular real estate, location and size help define the price of land. It’s also highly dependent on real-time activity. Because the metaverse is still in the early days, events and marketing campaigns by big brands can dramatically affect the total number of active users at a given time — and have a significant impact on real estate values.
Parcels are acquired through Decentraland’s Marketplace, where you can navigate among the different options in terms of size, location, and nearby points of interest.
The details of a single parcel that can be found inside the Marketplace section of Decentraland.
Purchases in Decentraland are made with Mana. During the course of our project, parcels ranged from 3,329 Mana (approximately $2,200 USD, depending on market fluctuations) to more than 1 billion Mana.
The Marketplace in Decentraland shows the recent history of land transactions.
Should we just rent?
Just like in real life, you can also rent parcels rather than buy them. Renting offers monthly use of parcels for various initiatives or campaigns.
Rental rates have similar influences as in real life, such as proximity to popular nearby attractions, the value of a neighborhood, and access to infrastructure such as roads.
Of course, in the metaverse a user can travel instantly between different properties — however, busy neighborhoods mean more avatars circulating around your land, and consequently more visibility and business opportunities.
Renting a parcel ranges between 80 and 325 Mana per month (about $30 to $125 USD in December 2022).
Some of the rental options in Decentraland.
6. How do physical limits apply to a virtual world?
We decided to build our virtual office to fit the size of one parcel in Decentraland.
Our next challenge was to design our virtual space and include the most important elements of our physical space — the slide, the container/kitchen, and the front desk. Knowing that our experience was built in one single parcel, we wanted to avoid trying to squeeze too much into a confined space. After all, no one likes to work or hang out in a claustrophobic environment, whether physical or virtual.
To create a more open feeling, our ArcTouch design team used glass walls for half of the office space. And we decided that, instead of designing multiple rooms inside the office, we’d create an open floor plan. That open space would include different experiences and features that can all be viewed without forcing users to move from room to room.
As for our three key features — visitors can check in at the front desk, explore the snack/drink options in our kitchen, and take a ride down our slide. And as an added bonus, avatars might discover a bottle of the ArcTouch Secret Sauce. If they touch it, our portfolio video starts playing on the main screen in the office.
Touching the bottle of Secret Sauce launches a video featuring some of ArcTouch’s projects.
With all the key elements in place, our team continued to optimize our virtual office space. We’ve opened it up to our internal team to explore.
We accomplished the key business goals of our project — to better understand what it takes to design and build an experience in the metaverse. In the process, we developed a solid understanding of Decentraland, its avatars, and its mechanics.
Next up: How do you design for the metaverse?
One of the biggest keys to creating a lovable space in the metaverse is 3D design. In our next blog post, we’ll share what we learned and some best practices about designing for the metaverse. So make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay updated about our blog posts.
Want to build a space in the metaverse?
ArcTouch has helped brands and businesses create lovable apps and digital products on a wide variety of platforms for more than 15 years. Want to bring your brand into the metaverse? Contact us to get started.