Practice: Facebook Horizon Worlds review

Hours after Meta (née Facebook) finally opened Horizons World, her first small step in the Metaverse, to virtually anyone with a Facebook account and a compatible Oculus headset, I found myself talking to a floating community manager. of how to go from teleportation to more naturalistic gliding.

It wasn’t that easy to get into the first wave of what’s supposed to become a rich, multiverse digital environment where we can work, play, go out, and build our own new worlds. It took a key Oculus Quest system upgrade, and then not one, but two Horizon Worlds updates, one of which changed key UI elements I had learned hours before.

Before you get excited about the potential of Meta’s Metaverse, understand that Horizon Worlds is largely Alpha software, and if you don’t have the most recent hardware, you might not be able to access it at all. My Oculus Quest version 1 VR headset is expected to end support for Horizon in January. I don’t know if that means I’m going to lose the software on my headset, as well as access to this crazy world.

While some parts of Horizons World are awesome, like how the remote viewing disappears for animated hands (although I wish I could just use my hands, which is supported in some Quest applications) and how the sound is spatial and localized, most of the environment seems small and sparsely populated.

Inside the Meta Horizon Worlds

I was able to customize my own Horizon Worlds avatar with everything including pants, even though I often didn’t have legs. (Image credit: Facebook)

Welcome to a new world

After going through the major system update that drastically changed my Oculus Quest home interface – for the better, I could say – and the updates for Horizon, I launched the app and was at inside Horizon Worlds where, thanks to my quest linked to my Facebook account, I was immediately identified by my full name. Between that and the system that by default projected my voice inside Horizon Worlds, I felt exposed, but tried to go ahead and follow some of the guidance advice.

There was also a prompt – one of many that seemed to float too close to my face – to create a new avatar. I was warned that while I could choose a full outfit, not all experiments would support the legs (hence the floating legless avatars).

I had a lot of choices for hairstyle, facial features, skin tone, and clothes. Still, they weren’t detailed enough to make something that looks a lot like me. I either need more control or more time. Anyway, I left Horizon Worlds with a digital self that looked a bit like Moby.

Another prompt showed me that if I turned my left hand over, a small menu would appear on my virtual wrist. I use it to navigate through three main environments Play, Attend, and Hangout.

Everything loaded slowly, asking me to wait as the system was “Paint the scene” and “Prepare visitors”. None of these experiences are transformative.

I started by stepping into the rather pristine play area where I quickly found a game called Action Island Teams. In it, a group of users without legs picked up guns (single shot and machine), shot at each other, and as a team tried to capture the flag. I could hear the chatter of players all around me and apparently they could hear me too. One guy complained that his avatar looked messy and other players who reviewed him quickly agreed.

Inside the Meta Horizon Worlds

Your top three options for activity and engagement in Horizon Worlds. (Image credit: Facebook)

Retro games

At this point, I still identified a place in front of me and teleported there. Others seemed to move more easily, and I was quickly shot on sight again and again. Reloading brought me back to the game.

A second game involved Minecraft-like zombies emerging from the shops and closed corridors of an old mall. You had to shoot them before they ate you to earn enough coins to buy new weapons. It was just me and, I could tell by the voice, a frustrated kid playing. I quickly left.

These games I was trying out were apparently user-created, which is why they look incredibly crude and have rudimentary functionality.

“Attending” is just a series of events that I may attend later today and into the next few days as long as I respond. Most of them were about learning the ropes of the Horizon Worlds trade.

Finally, I ended up at Hangout’s The Plaza (currently the only meeting place). Immediately I noticed much better graphics, more people (I think everyone ends up getting there), and a handful of enjoyable activities.

Inside the Meta Horizon Worlds

The Plaza is currently the most active VR space. (Image credit: Facebook)

Learn the basics

As soon as I got there and started teleporting from place to place, a community guide (there were about half a dozen standing in the space waiting to greet visitors like me) had noticed how I was moving. “You’re still teleporting, let me show you how to get high,” he said helpfully.

Then he crept up next to me and walked me through opening my setup menu, which had moved between yesterday and today in this update and showed me how to change my style from movement and how to make sure that the screen view does not constrict while I am moving.

He also showed me how to jump by pressing the right joystick on my Oculus controller. I wanted to reach the top of a building. He said I didn’t need to take the stairs and if I walked through a dark arch in front of me I would be instantly transported.

On the roof, I found paper planes. The guide, who appeared next to me, said they were just for fun, and I could throw them anywhere I wanted. It was a good way to get used to the mechanics of Horizon Worlds. I later threw and grabbed a boomerang, trying to hit a floating target, to practice some more practice.

There were more guides than first-time Facebook visitors, but when we saw each other we would wave our hands nervously (which was really us waving our controllers) and, because we could get along, we would say hello.

I went upstairs to an auditorium, but nothing was happening. Then I walked around exploring, but soon found out that the space was quite small. I heard someone say that some of what was here today was not there yesterday.

So I guess Facebook / Meta is constantly building and changing. Later, when I reconnected, I found the space decorated for the holidays.

There was direct access to new worlds that people were building, and a tree that we all kept climbing, trying – and mostly failing – to reach the top and then jump to the clouds nearby.

Inside the Meta Horizon Worlds

I have easy-to-access controls on my virtual wrist, including a camera that lets me take selfies. (Image credit: Facebook)

I practically ran into a woman (you can get past the people) who said a surprised “hello”! then quickly moved in front of me. Most of us – but not the community guides – were just too shy or nervous to initiate a conversation.

I could use the menu on my wrist to open a camera and take selfies or a photo of what was in front of me. The camera images looked completely blurry. I hope the final rendering is better.

Unfortunately, I can’t export them from the platform to, say, my computer or email. I can share them on a moderate part of Facebook dedicated to the Worlds. I posed with one of the guides for a selfie and she gave me a big yellow emoji floating with her thumbs up. I’ve also seen guides who know how to sprout confetti from their digital characters like virtual Rip Taylors.

After successfully learning how to press the right combination of buttons to give a thumbs up, I got bored. There just wasn’t much to do here.

I also think I know why Facebook / Meta doesn’t want to support my Oculus Quest 1 VR headset. Nothing in the whole experience looked so good. There have been irregularities and aliasing everywhere. The more powerful Quest 2 and possibly Rift could be better equipped to handle it.

My Quest is also a bit uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time (Quest 2 is lighter). I can’t imagine immersing myself in these worlds for hours.

Meh-ta

Horizon Worlds was a fun and eye-opening experience, my first true in Meta’s idea of ​​an immersive virtual world. I wouldn’t call Horizon Worlds inspiring or awesome. It’s sparsely populated, visually blah, and, for now, painfully small. He’s also unlikely to convince anyone that the Metaverse is just around the corner.

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