‘Open’ Metaverses versus Meta’s Horizon Worlds

Ade M. Campbell
7 min readNov 4, 2022

Plus some personal experiments there…

For users seeking a creative VR platform, Meta’s Horizon Worlds is a tempting option. And that’s a lot of users by the way: its Quest headset buyers, Instagramers, Facebookers… (and more recently, Meta account holders).

Via the Quest 2, the progress for VR social encounters and creativity is certainly more immersive and promising nowadays.

Horizon Worlds could even be the killer app for Meta in the longer term, as Quest 2 users look for a bit more depth or longevity in their usage of VR, beyond isolated purchased games and experiences. It could bring about a revolution in game and space creation, architectural appreciation via VR design. It could even ‘vacuum up’ the game experiences on offer in the app store and become the automatic start-up location on all meta headsets. Just remember it will want to track your preferences and sell you stuff.

The platform owes a lot to Second Life, and it could go the same way, or it could be wildly successful down the line, as its ‘Worlds’ (which anyone can create and publish like a website), offer creative, entertaining and artistic possibilities, extremely share-able via social media outlets. This kind of metaverse is certainly useful now.

But there’s a problem. While these Meta ‘Worlds’ are great for manifesting personalised, creative, fun, scalable social shared spaces (which can grow into communities and bigger worlds) users will want the option of web3: where they truly own the virtual land, stored assets and have a say in governing the platform on a decentralised network. It’s an option also primed for decentralised payment and NFTs too. [I don’t know what’s going on with Second Life’s Linden Dollar, but there must be a reason I don’t know.]

These alternative web3 metaverses ‘competitors’ exist today in the form of The Sandbox, Decentraland, Voxels etc… but without headset / VR integration, I’d say it remains to be seen if these can platforms will see the sort of growth Horizon Worlds will glean, or even stand the test of time. (However, they are by their nature pretty unstoppable. Meta on the other hand, could just collapse as a company.)

So is Meta really in competition with web3? Perhaps right now, but… later on too? It should be a matter of choice which path you want to take, even both. Everyone can make use of Horizon Worlds, Workrooms etc, and everyone may also (truly) own virtual property in Decentraland. There is a lot to learn from both arenas, and people will likely end up with a foot in both.

Super-annoyingly however, Meta might make it tricky for users to get into web3. It’s Microsoft Windows all over again, as if they really have to worry about losing business.

The lesson of Facebook is that early adoption and onboarding is key. Remember Farmville? Everyone was checking on each other’s farms and sharing virtual veg. ‘Worlds’ is looking like a similar, cleverly-made tactic. Don’t get too sucked in? This time, things could be more immersive and fun, at least. You can throw virtual paper darts and frisbees at each other, for one thing.

Personal use of Horizon Worlds

Personally, I’ve had some fun with Horizon Worlds and have made some Worlds on subjects close to my heart, here in Sept 2022+…. I’m also more happy that I can have a separate Meta account and not go via Facebook.

You can also use pre-set templates for your Worlds, which really help in getting going and then editing just like a website, for the direction you want to go. Many of the following Worlds started from one of a diverse range of templates (eg. medieval world, mysterious jungle, winter wonderland etc.).

Search for (and bookmark, + many have related FB Group pages):

  • The Nature Space
    Green inspiration, games, art, asset showcase and discussion.
  • A Place for Permaculture
    Discussion and resources space, with layout/design ideas too. Early stage but hopefully more resources and tips will be added.
  • The Chivalry Inn
    An ancient concept (from 1998) for an online social media pub/tavern combining text adventure with message board. Now resurrected into FB’s VR metaverse (a little ironic in fact). However, it celebrates myth and legend (Arthurian and Robin Hood tales) and is seeking like-minded collaborators to help it evolve over time.
  • La Dordogne
    A virtual world in honour of this fine region in France, where many English ex-pats struggle to speak decent French.
  • The Glade
    A spooky forest campfire forces small groups of visitors to stay close to the campfire and only go exploring together. Bring a torch…..
  • The Organic Metaverse
    Traverse a nature-inspired landscape (features a few self-made assets such as a money tree) to find a single, hidden doorway to ‘the next world’. There are multiple paths, just like Life. Still a work in progress, and related to ideas about being miniaturised within a ‘natural’-ish world.
  • Sisyphus World
    This was an experiment or party game where visitors have to work together to push that rock up that hill. I’ve not got the scripting as it should be, so I suppose Life’s struggle is harder this way.
  • The Spiral Tower
    A portal of portal doorways, as first described here in my early pre-VR creative writings. I’m still working on this World, but in case this page not updated, you can search inside Horizon Worlds and see….
  • Fountellion
    You can search for this but it may not be open to public… yet.

Note: If anyone reading is interested in being a ‘collaborator’ for these worlds, then add me/contact via Horizon Worlds (ade.mc) or contact here.

Addictive Space-Shaping

There are better VR creation tools within the app Store. However, the creation / building mode set within Horizon Worlds is very easy to switch into. You can also use (as mentioned above) template worlds and assets which are pretty ‘killer’ in that you can customise them and take them in whatever direction, filling them with party games or features you like. It’s widgets for the metaverse age. The big difference is that artists, architects, sculptors etc. are going to love this, compared to meddling about with 2D websites.

There are finnicky aspects. It took me time to get used to the fiddly nature of creating. However, using assets (so you don’t have to start from scratch) makes things quicker. Given the choice of editing in 3D/on a computer, I’d still use VR. There is something awesome about instant placement and editing in VR, a bit like sculpting. There’s an addictive, killer app potential in between the fiddly stuff. This is why Horizon Worlds will be important to the growth of metaverses. And when it improves, when it incorporates drawing and pen tools, importing from other apps…. yes…

Interestingly though, it has an overall simplicity it should try to retain, and via the limited assets available might be a strength at this stage for people starting out in this brave new world of 3D website space creation.

However, it’s just a shame that it’s not a more open project, governed by a community with assets and features being contributed and extended by community. Instead, there’s the ghost of Mark Zuckerberg’s clean, super-positive vibe everywhere.

Web3 platforms: you can take your time, or you can hurry it up. Either way, there’s a welcome space for you, and a future alternative. But for adoption you need to take a leaf out of Meta’s company push. Just don’t compromise or bend the knee…

In the meantime, it’d be nice to see Meta open itself up as much as possible. Horizon Worlds could be so much more, and they could (somehow) integrate web3 apps and give users a choice between their speedy Worlds and true, decentralised ownership. Or there could simply be more features to allow users to integrate external items themselves, like NFTs, SBTs etc. This may happen anyway, whether Meta likes it or not.

And what about exporting assets/creations for use in other metaverses? Instead of over-protecting business models, you’d see one super-fast — even exponential — growth in metaverse creativity across the board. But one gets the feeling that these Worlds just won’t collide… for quite some time.

September 2022

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A further note about VR designing:

It’s the first time I’ve actually set aside the time to create — or edit — a virtual world. It says something for Horizon Worlds accessibility. But creating in VR brings up all kinds of questions. What will make a user walk into an area, or climb a tree, exploring a space, instead of just chatting around a campfire? There has to be a wow factor or a useful rendition of something. Or a desire to learn, a thirst for knowledge or to experience something on offer…. All these questions come to mind, and will put pressure on those seeking to create a truly engaging world, one which holds atmosphere (limited graphically atm), and a feeling of wanting to re-visit.

Can you import artwork and images into Meta’s Worlds? No, as this was a question I searched for online. You’ll have to use a web3 metaverse to showcase your real world-made images in a gallery etc. Interestingly though, it retains a feeling that you have to create VR-native creations instead within Horizon Worlds…. Better for concept, or installation artists out there!

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Update(Nov 22)…….
Widespread media and user criticism of Horizon Worlds continues… but it’s early days. Instagram is adopting NFTs. Can we see Meta interoperate more with web3 and move towards a mix of technologies?

Will the next Meta headsets and VR tech soon break down the ancient, physical barriers between people enough to promote a renewed optimism about what can be achieved via teleworking, in the face of climate change and energy crisis?

My feeling is that the likes of Elon Musk (with his distrust of teleworking), has little idea of how far VR has come to confront old ways of working. The teleworking VR meetings and revolution may come sooner than people think. It will challenge or replace the likes of Zoom, and it may also redeem time and money spent today on the Metaverse.

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Published orginally via Ade’s Press blog on art, VR, NFTs etc….



Ade M. Campbell

Writer, artist, permaculture explorer of new tech, generative AI, VR, web3, NFTs: Ade’s Press: adespress.blog