At Facebook Connect 2021, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg gushed about the company’s plans to shake up the metaverse market by infusing virtual reality (VR) and Facebook’s most beloved features into stunning environments that simulate the real world.
Meta already got the ball rolling with Horizon Workrooms, which replicates office spaces in the virtual realm. You can collaborate with your co-workers, manifested as cutesy 3D avatars, in a fun, interactive manner — you can even teleport from one desk to another. Now, Meta’s turning things up a notch with Horizon Worlds.
Horizon Worlds is Meta’s new social VR app that not only lets users explore virtual worlds, but also create them. In Horizon Worlds, you can choose to be a consumer, a creator, or both. As a creator, the world is your oyster. You can design games that attract scads of users, construct quirky, wacky worlds for just you and your friends, or just create hangout spot for strangers and loved ones alike.
As the picture above illustrates, you can throw a birthday bash for your buddy, decorating the virtual world with balloons, ice cream and towering cakes (that you unfortunately can’t eat).
The Meta team gave me a short tour of Horizon Worlds, which launched last year in invite-only beta mode. I got a chance to interact with the app’s worldbuilding tools. I’m no VR designer, but with a wide array of polygons at my disposal, I could bring my imagination to life.
For example, you could select a circular shape and tweak it until it looks like a Ferris Wheel for your virtual amusement park. Or you can play around with a bunch of rectangular prisms to create a staircase — the possibilties are endless.
I also had the time of my life exploring the interactive environments inside Horizon Worlds. I played Arena Clash with the Meta team, which is like paintball, but in VR.
I teamed up with two Meta staff members to square off against three other Meta employees. It was a vicious battle where the map was littered with grenades, sniper rifles, pistols and more. The opposing team refused to give up without a fight. Despite being blown up several times, I managed to get a few kills. I had a blast!
I also explored some solo games, including a horror title that featured zombies, spiders, robodogs and other creepy entities. It’s up to you to take ’em out with your gun and impeccable aiming skills.
If the Oculus Quest 2 headset becomes more mainstream, Horizon Worlds could certainly become the next big thing. Not only is it immersive, but it excels at bringing that social element that Facebook is known for. For example, although you can’t use emojis in VR, you can throw your arms up in the air to make celebratory streamers appear as if to say, “yay!” or “woohoo!”
There is always room for improvement, of course. The loading times for entering worlds are too long for my tastes. The world designs, though attractive, are very simplistic and elementary (but I’m willing to overlook this because intricate environments would likely increase load times).
Horizon Worlds is now available for free on the Oculus Quest 2 (the app will no longer support the first-generation Quest after Jan. 13, 2022).