Meta’s most ambitious social VR project, Horizon Worlds, which has been in the making for nearly two and a half years, has finally reached open beta. Starting December 9, 2021, the platform is available to Quest 2 and Oculus PC users in the US and Canada who are 18 years of age or older. If you’re part of this group, you’ll be able to explore the worlds built on the platform and get your hands on amazingly impressive in-app collaboration tools.Contents:
Horizon Worlds was originally announced back in 2019 as Facebook Horizon. Facebook has since changed its name to Meta and Facebook Horizon has become known as Horizon Worlds.
Despite the name change, the vision for Horizon Worlds remains the same: a virtual reality social platform where users can create experiences and connect with each other. Being a standalone app, it’s not quite part of the metaverse yet, but it’s the company’s first big project built around many of the same ideas – like having a shared identity in interconnected, immersive interactions where you can hang out with friends.
The app has been in closed beta for over a year, and during that time the company says it’s been honing the experience by getting feedback from users and creators alike.
Now Horizon Worlds is finally opening its doors, at least for some countries. As stated, anyone in the US and Canada over the age of 18 can join Horizon Worlds on Quest 2 or Oculus PC (Meta is ending support for the original Quest on January 13th).
We recently checked out the latest version of Horizon Worlds and found a very enjoyable experience with some of the in-game tools. While much of the main body here is the same as what we’ve seen before, the various systems have been improved and overall the experience seems streamlined.
For example, when we last watched Horizon Worlds, the spaces inside the world could only hold up to 8 players at a time. It is now possible to fit up to 20 players in one space, depending on the complexity of the scene (creators can reduce the total number of players to add more geometry, animation, logic, etc.).
Another update is that Horizon Worlds now uses Oculus’ latest avatar system, which replaces the previous proprietary avatar system. When you load into Horizon Worlds, you will automatically have an avatar that is (probably) already set up in your headset.
Construction tools have also been expanded and improved. Creators can now control an object’s texture, material properties, and more. You can even light scenes in general (at the skybox level) and in particular (by placing lights that illuminate nearby objects). The lights are not dynamic (they don’t cast shadows or respond to moving objects in real time), but set up quickly enough that creators can easily use the game’s built-in lighting tools to work with lighting on the fly, add an extra character to their scene.
The meta says that everything you see in Horizon Worlds has been completely built into the game – environments, game logic, scoreboards and… that’s it.
Building tools in Horizon Worlds are inherently collaborative. You can create objects together with up to four friends at the same time, and everything you see and do is synchronized between users, creating a feeling of co-creation that looks powerful. This even applies to the script panel (which allows users to add logic to their creations); if you make even a tiny change to the script, your friend next to you will see that the change is reflected on their side as well – I’m sure this is great for helping each other debug.
It’s an impressively powerful and easy-to-use set of tools, and I expect the creators to scratch the surface of what’s possible so far. Along with the open beta, Meta has published a comprehensive introduction to everything from building to scripting and publishing to Horizon Worlds.
Horizon Worlds is an impressively stylish package, even in its beta version. Whether or not he sees real popularity will likely depend on the quality of the content available on the platform and how easy it is to find and share the best content.
Too early to draw conclusions and even call Horizon Worlds “Alpha Metaverse”. The Meta recently announced a $10 million fund to try and launch creator projects on the platform, but has not commented on plans to create any sort of structured compensation for creators spending their time building the platform. This could make it difficult for Horizon Worlds to attract high-end professionals who would otherwise prefer to spend their time building platforms that offer structured real money payouts like Rec Room or Roblox.