Facebook is soon to launch the invite-only beta of Horizon, on Quest and Rift, the company’s latest attempt at creating a first-party social VR experience. We previewed the beta and got to see several user-created mini-games and explored the built-in creation tools.

Horizon is designed as a place for Oculus users to hang out, play together, and create together. You can apply to join the beta here, which Facebook says will begin opening up “in the coming weeks.”

Rather than being one continuous space, Horizon is organized into discrete rooms called ‘Worlds’ which can support up to eight players at a time.

Everything in Horizon has been built with integrated creation tools which allow users to make their own rooms with hand-crafted 3D models and basic scripting, allowing for the creation of some surprisingly complex mini-games. Horizon also allows for real-time collaboration, enabling users to build and test Worlds together.

In 'Horizon' Facebook Can Invisibly Observe Users in Real-time to Spot Rule Violations

I had the chance to jump into Horizon, see some of the user-generated Worlds in action, and take a look at the integrated creation tools that make them possible.

Starting in the Plaza

The Plaza is the area where you’ll first appear when you launch Horizon. In the Plaza you’ll find links to ‘featured’ Worlds, which are hand-picked by Facebook. You can also call up the Horizon menu from a button on your wrist and use it to browse and search for other Worlds.

Moving from the Plaza to another World is as simple as clicking a button and waiting a few moments while the new World loads. If you’re in a Party with other Horizon players (up to eight), you’ll all end up in the same instance of a World if you visit at the same time.

Worlds as Mini-games

While Worlds can be as simple as decorative spaces, they can also be fairly complex mini-games thanks to built-in scripting which allows creators to imbue their creations with game logic. In my preview I got to see several examples of mini-games built inside of Horizon.

One was ‘Balloon Bash’ a playful shooter game where each player picks up a water balloon gun and runs around the map shooting down targets worth various points. After a time limit expires, the total points are listed to determine the winner of the round.

Another World I visited, ‘Interdimensional’ was built as an escape-room like experience with multiple puzzles designed for two players. One of the puzzles was a chamber with a cube and symbols on each wall. The goal of the puzzle was to guide a cube into boxes inside the room by changing the direction of gravity and causing the cube to move in the direction of each box. The challenge is that only the player outside of the room has the gravity controls, which means the players need to work together to figure out which controls to activate in which order to achieve the goal.

Creating Worlds

One of the coolest parts of Horizon is that the tools for making new Worlds are built directly into the platform and are easy enough to use that you don’t need to be a 3D modeler or a game designer to figure out how to get started.

When in creator mode you can become a giant to work on large-scale structures, or scale yourself down to work on little details. The core of creating is Horizon is a set of light-weight modeling tools which allow you to combine and modify primitive shapes to build environments and props.

Many of the features you’d hope to see are there: grouping, painting, basic texturing, plane snapping, and axis sliding & rotation. There’s also arrays, which allow you to quickly and precisely duplicate objects or groups of objects, making it easy to make repeating structures like stairs, windows, or entire buildings.

Basic scripting is also possible in Horizon, allowing creators to add game logic to their Worlds. I haven’t had the chance to dive into the scripting tools yet, but from my experience as a player, it seems that they can enable some surprisingly complex behaviors.

For instance, in the water balloon launcher game I played, the launchers would shoot a water balloon with the pull of the trigger, but holding the trigger down allowed the launcher to charge up and shoot further upon release.

In the escape room puzzle game, there were buttons outside of the room which would change the direction of gravity acting on the cube (but not the rest of the world), causing it to fall in different directions.

I’ve also seen Worlds where one object could be used as a sort of ‘remote control’, meaning the movements of one object would be mirrored by a much larger object. This allowed players to ‘puppeteer’ a large robot at a distance.

Building Together on Both Headsets

Unlike some other VR creation tools, creating Worlds in Horizon is not limited only to those running the app on PC. Both Rift and Quest have full access to creation tools, and can even work together collaboratively.

In Horizon you can add friends as collaborators to your Worlds and work with them side-by-side in real-time. While you’re modeling a skyscraper, your friend can work on the colors, or take your completed skyscraper, duplicate it several times, and then arrange the buildings into a cityscape. Or you can both work on an entirely different part of the world while bouncing ideas off of each other.

– – — – –

From my hands-on time with Horizon so far, it feels like a cross between the mini-games of Rec Room and the user-generated creations of VRChat. I expect that Horizon’s collaborative building tools will be nearly as popular as simply experiencing the Worlds on offer, thanks to the relative ease-of-use and collaboration capabilities.

Facebook says it expects that one day Horizon will support many people in one World, but for now there’s a limit of eight. And while its nice that Rift and Quest users can play and build together, unfortunately Facebook isn’t yet committing to supporting any other headsets—making Horizon more of a ‘social Oculus experience’ than a ‘social VR experience’.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Ryan McClelland

    Looks like Rec Room, but one my parents would play. RR now lets you use the enemy AIs which opens up worlds of Quests.

  • kontis

    Not even Inverse Kinematics for the legs. They can’t track legs so they removed them completely. What a mind blowing technological progress.

    2017 = Full Body tracking in social VR.
    Add 20 billion from Facebook and best VR researchers in the world + 3 years = no legs

    Brilliant! This is the kind of technological progress that Facebook enabled and ONLY Facebook could achieve. Exactly as Abrash explained in his 5 copy-paste Oculus Connect keynotes. (HYPE!)

    Meanwhile there are people in VRChat for YEARS tracking their legs with Valve’s technology made with probably less than 1/10th of the investment Facebook made.
    There are casuals who never owned a gaming rig, never play video games and bought FBT just to have that experience. But Facebook is beyond that.

    I mean, it’s not that surprising actually, huge investments without passion are not effective. Musk had only something like 100 million to start a rocket company, which is now the world leader. Bezos spend many billions and after almost 20 years still hasn’t achieved orbit.

    • Kevin White

      I do appreciate the snark. ;o)

      You’re on to something as far as the effects of over-investment without clear drive and direction. I think it can become a bureaucracy with a heavy administrative burden and a lot of aimlessness, past a certain point. Overloaded with excess money and not enough vision.

      That said, I see potential in this.

      On another note, about body tracking, I saw a demo vid on Twitter just last night (not sure if it was brand new or just recent or not so recent) showing two people, one playing a guitar and moving around and another dancing, and they were showing real-time body tracking duplicates (in the form of teenage anime girls) of them offset by a foot or two (think of the green screen XR demos we’ve all seen, but in reverse) from each of them. The tracking was outstanding. I *think* it was using Lighthouse tracking and tracking pucks but I’m not for certain. It was impressive (if a little frivolous in presentation).

    • Can’t disagree, that is kinda stupid

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I really don’t see the problem with no legs.. I think it looks appropriate for this kind of graphics. And maybe there are prople in VRChat doing tracking their legs through Valve’s technology, but only a very few people are using it, and the needed trackers are f-ing expensive, so what’s the point of trying it in a suite that’s meant for a large crowd who’ll have not so expensive hardware.. This all runs perfectly on the current Quest already, without PC-power..
      Also having no legs means less to worry about and no useless power spend on useless options..

      Is it my thing? no, but I can imagine people liking it.

    • Jeremy Kins

      Sure, there’s no legs. But would you rather them put in something that isn’t perfected and it ruin the experience? Or focus on what they can do well? Because the avatars are actually very impressive, with mouths moving as someone speaks, hand gestures, facial gestures based on context, etc. They’re very lifelike and I think, outside of Altspace, the best available. Not to mention, Facebook Labs just released a video on photorealistic face scanning that doesn’t require cameras anymore. Their progress is amazing, and just because they aren’t putting beta software into their experiences, doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. Remember, their hardware and software is aimed at adoption, and wonky mechanics make people leave.

      • Ad

        I was about to say they took them from alt space. I’m interested in seeing comparisons of the Quest vs PC version.

      • Pikapetey

        you sir have only run into surface level impressions of Vrchat. I can assure you that creators on vrchat have made VERY expressive avatars. Look at the shiba community on vrchat and you will see everything you described with facebook Horizons.
        Yes I agree that surface level vrchat is garbage, but the amount of discoveries and concepts generated in that platform is far beyond what facebook has come up with.

    • jimmy

      vrchat is weird just like you

  • Ad

    Rec Room should take out a loan or look into a Sony buy out. They could beat this for sure with their support for all headsets, PS4 support, and mobile support. Plus they support way more than 8 people in one room and treat their creators really well. It just needs better discoverability and some tutorials for newbies to create with their friends.

    • Jeremy Kins

      Take a loan out? Their entire free-to-play model to this point has been investor backed. Why do you think they’ve prioritized porting to mobile and flat platforms instead of, you know, actually fixing Unity and the horrible performance of the game in VR. They’re already making the game worse by having to pay back investors/loans, they don’t need more.

      • Ad

        Fair enough. I actually tried it out recently and the degree of monetization is not great to see considering how young the playerbase is and how social it is.

  • Sven Viking

    I’d been expecting things like this to act as Trojan horses for voluntary Facebook account linking, but I guess they felt there was no need for subtlety.

    • Kevin White

      They’re so big now there’s no need to dissemble.

    • Jeremy Kins

      Please keep in mind, before we let the hate train leave the building, that in-game only your Oculus ID will display (despite requiring Facebook to log in to the game). This is the best of both worlds, because they know who you are, this enforces better behavior, while still allowing anonymity to those in game.

      • Ad

        This is the best of both worlds, because they know who you are,

        People don’t want this either. And I understand why people think this will help, but in reality platforms like facebook are not at all safe, even with their real name and single account policy.

    • jimmy

      you suck

      • Sven Viking

        That is an interesting counterpoint, admittedly.

  • xyzs

    If this fails anyway, they will just put a big dollar under the nose of Rec Room or VRChat boss and boom, popular VR social network fixed.. Nowadays, that’s how it works……..

    • wheeler

      I have a feeling that Downpour is next and possibly Virtual Desktop or Bigscreen.

      And when this fails, god I hope it’s Recroom and not VRChat. To see all of that creativity squandered would be such a travesty. Thankfully we also have NeosVR.

      • Patrice Rey

        Can’t agree more, Neos VR is bloody impressive.

      • jimmy

        vrchat is full of weirdos just like you

      • Ad

        Neither VD or BS are going with facebook, unless it’s a hostile takeover. Downpour for sure. I realize the dev behind it has an impressive story of success coming from one young person to a whole team and a big game, but he has made it very clear what his priorities are.

  • TechPassion

    Crap looking. Will be fail like that one from Microsoft. Also, enforicing human-looking avatars on people. It is made by people who do not understand VR.

    • jimmy

      here take a downvote

  • ale bro

    Those avatars are hardly going to pull in the crowds, they should at least have a furry avatar somewhere.

    I don’t think the video is showing game play footage – look at 24s, the character punches himself in the headset – that must be an animation because nobody would do that.

    Maybe this is supposed to be a child friendly VR space, but children are not allowed to have facebook accounts. Hard to see who this would appeal to – VRChat runs just fine on the Quest.

    • Kevin White

      “children are not allowed to have facebook accounts”


      Facebook does not allow children under age 13 to create their ownFacebook accounts. However, experts estimate millions of children under13 may already be on Facebook after using false information to sign up.

      I don’t think this will stop them. My step-niece is 15 but has been on Facebook for years.

      • Ad

        Which is a more uncomfortable reality in VR.

  • blue5peed

    8 people is just not good enough. Cool for private sessions but its not really going to create the pubic mayhem that makes VR Chat and others so much fun to play and watch.

  • The sweet spot between VRChat and Rec Room would be an age limit. You’ll never hate children as much as you will walking into either of those games.

    • PK

      vrchat’s age limit is 13. the only way to enforce this is through an army of invisible ghost moderators spying on its population at all times, creating the sort of panopticon i don’t think many of us actually want. i personally rarely run into kids in vrchat but then again i don’t hang around public instances of these worlds.

  • RobotVsBird

    No love for Anyland? Seems like the world-building, game logic side of things is a direct copy.

  • I like the rec room vibes, but 8 people in a room is a killer for all possible business applications (like events)

    • Ad

      It would be a very bad idea to do business in an app like this, if they would even let you. Like having a meeting in a Chuck E Cheese, even if you have a private booth.

  • sebrk

    This is good news for Rec Room and VRChat where some degree of privacy and freedom still exists.

  • Jim P

    I’m just waiting for another company to build an ecosystem and makes first party games every year. Then I will jump ship quick.