The feature was glitchy, clunky and easily abused, but it was integral for a lot of Worlds creators: Without it, users would have no way of knowing when events were happening unless they were members of specific Facebook groups or Discord communities. Not only that, but hosts wouldn’t have moderation powers.
“We’re very sad to see that feature dropped,” Linda Ciavarelli, founder of HouseCallVR in Worlds, told Technical.ly. However, “honestly, there have been a variety of challenges to the Horizon events system for some time, so it’s not surprising.”
The old way
If you’ve never attended an event using the defunct Meta feature, it worked like this: Users could scroll through events from their dashboard to find the meetups. The featured events were Meta concert experiences that stream constantly, like J Balvin or a virtually resurrected Notorious B.I.G. Few up front were events put on by independent creators, with exceptions like the popular Soapstone Comedy Club. Finding small, niche events was a challenge made more difficult when creators would do things like spam multiple launch events to draw people to their world.
Once you arrived at a world for a scheduled event, users would mill around for a while in the space until a host would create an instance — basically, a copy of the world with a temporary portal each attendee would have to pass through for the event.
Why this step? It gives hosts tools for event moderation that they don’t otherwise have, such as the ability to remove people if they’re being disruptive.
The events feature appeared to be an in-development feature that would upgrade over time. But creators were less than happy with it, to the point that Meta conceded that it wasn’t working out.
“While events have been a powerful way for some of you to connect with your engaged communities, we’ve also heard your feedback,” Meta posted on its Discord when it announced the change. “It’s clear that our current events system isn’t living up to the needs of our community at large, so we’re making the tough decision to discontinue this feature in Worlds.”
Some observers saw it as another death knell for the metaverse, which, if you’ve been paying attention, has been declared at the brink of death pretty much since Facebook attached itself to the concept and changed its name to Meta in 2021.
The loss of the events feature wasn’t exactly good news for Worlds creators, but it opened up an opportunity. Independent creators are the real innovators of Worlds, after all. It was unimaginable that these creators, some of whom have their own full-time businesses inside the VR platform, weren’t working on solutions.
It took nearly no time to find creators who are doing just that.
A calendar for Horizon Worlds
Tanya Perez, known in Worlds as anonymom, is a designer and marketing specialist from Cleveland who started exploring VR during the COVID-19 lockdown. Immediately, she said, she started creating using Worlds’ tools. Today, she makes tutorials for other Worlds creators and is an integral part of the creator community.
When Meta dropped events, she saw opportunity. Over a year earlier, in March 2022, Perez and a couple of other creators had a group chat where the idea for a new events tool was born.
“One of the creators was like, ‘I wish we had a way to promote our events outside of Horizon,'” something Meta’s event feature didn’t do, she told Technical.ly.
Perez started building Horizon Worlds Calendar, an event system where Worlds users can add and look up events both in VR and on its website, whether you’re looking for a ’90s dance party, a meditation class or an AA meeting. At the time, it was left unfinished: “Because of the integration part of it, it would be a lot of work to have to do manually,” she said. “So, with the help of my two friends, we worked together, and were able to get it working.”
In Worlds, you can drop in to the calendar like any other world, see what’s happening now or about to start, and join from there. And since its launch, the project has been catching on. People are adding events, there’s no spam, and it’s easier to find things to do than with Meta’s own events feature.
The calendar is still a work in progress. Perez said they plan to add a sorting feature, so users can browse by category and date instead of scrolling through the whole list — something that is increasingly necessary as more people use it.
Calendar can connect you to events at least as well as — or better than, this reporter would say — Meta’s events feature. But it has no features for the other component of events: moderation.
Scripting moderation tools
Ilina Badea had no tech background when she bought her Quest about a year and a half ago.
“I just bought the headset because I wanted to watch movies on it,” she said. “The idea of being able to watch a movie like you were in the movies, oh my god, that seemed amazing.”
Badea never did watch movies on it. Before she even connected her Netflix account, she downloaded Horizon Worlds, and found herself drawn to the low-key social aspect of VR.
“At that point, I was working like 60 hours a week,” she said. “There wasn’t really anything socially happening for me, because that involves getting ready and going out of the house, and after a long day of work that was just not something that I was looking to do.”
She started creating, she told Technical.ly, because it was free, and she figured she should get in on that easy access while she could. (Creating is still free, for the record.) Before she knew it, she was learning scripting and was able to quit that demanding job to start her own virtual reality development company in Worlds. As a freelance scripter, she’s worked on more than 160 projects, including HouseCallVR, the popular A Very British Pub, and her own hangout spots, where she holds laid-back events for adults to connect.
Like Perez, Badea had been scripting solutions for events before Meta pulled the plug on its feature. In Badea’s case, she worked on popular worlds that were full of people 24 hours a day, not just during scheduled events. That was a challenge, because moderation tools are very limited outside of the old events feature.
Normally — without the events feature — the only way to remove a disruptive person is for other users in the room to vote them out. One downside of this is that users can also try to kick out people who aren’t breaking any conduct rules, which can in itself be disruptive.
Badea’s solution was to script moderation tools that can be assigned to selected users who will then have the ability to mute or move disruptive people to an isolated part of the world where they can’t bother anyone.
All that, and no awkward portal.
It remains to be seen how Meta itself will handle events in the future, though the company has made it clear that it’s still working on something better.
When it does, creator-made features like the calendar will likely still be there.
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