Population: One's Sandbox Builds Between Fortnite & Horizon

New sandbox creation tools launch this week inside battle royale title Population: One.

I toured through some of the worlds creators have made and briefly tried out some of the creativity tools. I found myself impressed by their ease of use and the included asset library should make it fairly easy for players to get started with tweaking their own worlds. Like any platform’s building tools, though, it’ll take time to see how far people can take their game-making in Population: One.

The sandbox addition is a high-profile change as Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney made clear Fortnite isn’t coming to VR anytime soon, while Meta employees working on Horizon Worlds have been directed to focus on “quality gaps and performance issues” inside their platform. Rec Room and VRChat continue to raise significant rounds of funding, too, with varying approaches to how they support VR and traditional screens. Population: One, however, pushes forward into sandbox game-making focused solely in VR in a very interesting place between what Fortnite and Horizon Worlds offer players.

“My view has shifted to the following: games with full locomotion are just way better,” Sweeney wrote on Twitter. “So, if VR can’t hold its own as a game-design-neutral display device, it’ll fail.”

POP1, with its stick-based movement and wingsuit-gliding to traverse vertical gaps, is about as close to “full locomotion” as a VR title gets. So with gun-driven gameplay anchoring BigBox VR’s foray into user-generated game modes, we’ll be watching to see how far players and creators take the tools in comparison to Fortnite and Horizon Worlds.

During my demo, I visited a few different worlds including a recreation of a level from the classic multiplayer James Bond game GoldenEye 007 that someone made. The map served as one small example of what may soon be an explosion in recreations of classic games inside POP1. There are three templates included at launch — grass, moon, and snow templates.

“You can keep your map completely private so people have to play it the way you want them to play it,” said Eric Morrill from BigBox VR. “Or some people will make their map copyable, or their game copyable, So anybody can search that game, save it to their own slot. And either edit it or change the rule set up.”

For those unaware, BigBox VR is one of eight VR-focused development studios acquired by Meta over the last few years. Not one of these studios has announced a new title since acquisition, however, as the developers are likely focusing the thrust of their work toward Quest 3 and what’s expected to be a major jump in processing power with the XR2 Gen 2 chipset.

The POP1 sandbox will be available alongside the traditional battle royale mode in early access starting around noon Pacific time on December 14th. The developers hint that they’ll be planning seasonal updates for the mode alongside updates to both the main game and sandbox.

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