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Meta Horizon Worlds Spotlight: JHeff.CS

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Welcome back to our weekly spotlight on the people building for Meta Horizon Worlds and their amazing creations.

Last week, we unleashed our inner Gran Prix winner and roared around the track at Aaronbeasley98’s Meta Racing! It felt great to give into that need for speed while tearing through bat-infested tunnels, rainstorms, and around and under a giant windmill, all while trying to earn the podium.

This week, we checked in the JHeff.CS, who’s created a wide range of worlds including the whimsical Cat Wrangler, which pits you against your friends in a game of, yes, herding cats. Meow!

What got you interested in VR?

I’ve been interested in computers since I was a kid. I worked in the technology industry for a while, and then I got a Ph.D. in Computer Science. Now, I teach computing at the university level.

As for VR, my first headset was a PSVR, and I was immediately amazed by how immersive the technology is. It even got me back into gaming after a decade of not playing video games. And when the original Quest came out, I had to get one because it was so simple to use.

What do you draw upon for inspiration when building in Worlds?

I want to build things I haven’t seen on the platform, especially when doing so involves a technical scripting challenge. When I built my latest world, Mdex: The Metaverse Index, I was attempting to help people find worlds that match their interests.

What do you want people to take away from their experience with your worlds?

I want people to have fun and return again and again. That’s why many of my worlds are games you can play over and over. For example, Maze Gobbler is my take on a famous old-school arcade game. Each time you play, you can try to get a new high score and climb the leaderboards.

I also built The Darkest Depths, a cooperative RPG dungeon adventure where you can play as a different class of character each time—and where you may need a few tries before you make it to the end. And in Word Walker, players try to spell out words formed from six letters. You can play alone or competitively, and it’s a lot of fun when there’s a crowd shouting hints from the gallery.

Are you a programmer/creator as your day job, or do you see this as a hobby?

It’s ironic, but as a Computer Science professor, I actually have few opportunities to program for my job. Instead, my Ph.D. students do most of the programming. But I’ve always enjoyed coding, and building worlds lets me scratch my programming itch and easily share my creations. There are numerous social VR platforms you can build for, but nothing compares with Worlds’ combination of intuitiveness and power.

Do you collaborate with others, and if so, what’s that experience like for you?

Definitely, and it’s one of the things I love most about building for Worlds, because it’s so easy to do. I usually collaborate with people who are much more artistic than I am—that way we complement each other. For example, in The Darkest Depths, I wrote all of the scripts and collaborated with someone who’s a master of making large worlds look great.

And sometimes, I also help other creators add interactivity to their worlds.

What’s your best advice for getting started on building worlds for Horizon Worlds?

Don’t be intimidated. Find some tutorials and go through them, and then create a world just to try out what you’ve learned. Work on learning the snap to grid, snap to object, and array tools. And if you want to script, start small with something like making an object appear when a player enters a trigger.

Also, make friends with other creators and hang out in build mode together. That way, you’ll learn tips and tricks by actually watching them work.

And don’t worry: Your first world might not be the masterpiece you hoped for, but you’ll get better with practice.

What do you think the ultimate potential is for Worlds?

Because you can create just about anything you can imagine, it’s potentially limitless. There’s already a wide range of experiences from games to dance clubs to support groups to educational worlds, and who knows what’s next?

How do you think VR fits into the future vision of the metaverse?

The term “metaverse” means different things to different people. My hope is that in the near future, we’ll get to a point where the metaverse has open standards so that anyone with a server can host a destination that supports all VR platforms. Worlds will have a huge role in that future because it’s so easy for anyone to create and share content.

What’s your favorite VR experience?

I spend most of my time in VR in Worlds, but I love playing epic 2D games in VR, like Skyrim, Resident Evil 7, and Borderlands 2, as well as Beat Saber on Meta Quest. I’m a huge horror movie fan, and The Exorcist: Legion VR gave me one of the best scares I’ve ever had in my life. And I Expect You To Die is amazing because it’s the perfect combination of humor and puzzle.

Also, for sheer emotional punch, Traveling While Black is an experience I’ll never forget.


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