Hands on with Roblox: an online platform with user created gaming

6 min read
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A paintball game I played too... so much of fun

If I asked you to share the first block sandbox game that comes to mind, I’d willingly bet my first unborn child that you’d say Minecraft. Don’t worry, it’s was the first thing that popped into my head too, at least until recently when I learnt about another platform called Roblox. For lack of a better comparison, it reminds me of Mojang’s open world builder. It’s different though, allowing users to not only create their own worlds, but also entire game experiences for other to play – all in the comfort of a browser window.

Overview

I am still honestly gobsmacked that I had never heard of Roblox before. Its been around since 2005! I got in touch with Andrew Haak, the Senior Communications Manager. He gave a brief explanation of what the platform is all about.

To boil it down to the basics, Roblox is essentially the easiest place to break into game development and make money off of it. We currently have hundreds of teens and 20-somethings getting millions of players into their games and earning thousands of dollars in the process.

Our engine is built for physics-based multiplayer games. We take care of all the dirty multiplayer connectivity, physics, server hosting, etc., so people can just focus on making a fun game, push it out there, and see what happens

He isn’t kidding. There is a HUGE community at work here. I’ll share some numbers a little later on. I haven’t had the chance to try out the development side, but I spent some time browsing the game catalogue, seeing what other users have put together. I was genuinely surprised by what I found.

Games

The initial download of all the required assets took some time. Thereafter, games took a couple of minutes to initialise and open properly. Many of the games are free, and they make their creators money with in-game extras such as cosmetics or improved experience gain for example.

Other than the titles that need to be paid for upfront, I have yet to encounter a game that hid core gameplay elements behind a paywall. These are just a few I spent some time with. Note that each heading is a hyperlink to the game should you wish to give it a bash. All stats given are accurate at time of writing.

Call of Robloxia 5 – Roblox at War

Created:12/21/2009
Favorited: 513,477
Visited: 35,296,858
Max Players: 10
Genre: FPS

This is of course, a glorious rip-off of Call of Duty 5 – World at War. It’s surprisingly accurate (at least to a certain extent). The sprinting is there, the weapons, the levelling… everything. Being on a South African line, I experienced lag, but the game was certainly playable.

Call of Robloxia 5

Work at a Pizza Place

Created: 3/30/2008
Favorited: 473,575
Visited: 26,865,123
Max Players:12
Genre: Town and City

I am almost embarrassed to admit how addictive this game is and how much fun I had playing it. The premise is simple – you choose where you want to work in the pizza parlour environment. You can be the cashier, pizza maker, pizza boxer, pizza deliverer, or even the supplier of the goods needed to make the pizza. Each job is simple, requiring some simple input. Every now and then, you receive a cheque based on all the work you have done. From what I can tell, that cash can then get spent on building and kitting out a house.

RobloxScreenShot11212014_115956205

Confined, a Story of Death and Shadows

Created: 9/14/2014
Favorited:12,459
Visited:214,199
Max Players:1
Genre: Horror

This was the only single player title I played. It took less than 15 minutes to finish, but it was awesome. The lighting, audio, and general creepy atmosphere is superb!

Being of the horror genre, I decided to record my first-time experience. Be warned, there are several manly screams – the most notable taking place at around the 11:45 mark.

Statistics

Andrew linked me to the metrics of Roblox. Check it out, it’s impressive!

– ROBLOX is ranked #1 among kids and teens entertainment sites in the U.S. for daily visitors, total minutes, total page views, total visits, and average visits per visitor (comScore, Dec. 2013)
– Over 4.4 million monthly active users
– Over 70 million hours of engagement time per month
– Over 15 million games created by users
– Over $850,000 paid to top game developers via the Developer Exchange

THE NUMBERS MASON

Overall

He also shared the following points with me which I found quite interesting:

– There are many game development engines out there, but no other platform offers such robust technology coupled with an audience of millions of gamers – for example, you could conceivably build a fully functional multiplayer game, publish it to our cloud of game servers, and have thousands of people playing it on desktop and mobile within hours.

– We have a Developer Exchange (DevEx) program that allows game creators to convert their virtual earnings (known as ROBUX) to real-world money. Developers can, for example, add micro-transactions (e.g., special abilities, in-game currency, faster progression) to their games to earn virtual currency. They also receive a small amount every time a player visits their game. Once they reach the 100,000-ROBUX threshold, they can make the conversion. We’ve now paid more than $850,000 to developers in the last year, with some earning more than $20,000 per month and paying for education, cars, better development hardware, and more.

– There’s a ROBLOX Mobile app available for phones and tablets on iOS and Android. It allows mobile players to play ROBLOX games in servers shared with players across any supported platform, as well as shop the catalog of virtual items, customize their characters, exchange messages, and more.

I’m really fascinated. I can’t believe this platform has stayed hidden from me for so long! I personally wouldn’t get involved in the game development side (it doesn’t interest me) but for those who wish to maybe pursue such a career, this may well be the best place to start. You can give your game concept some real world play testing and see if people like it or not.

I haven’t tried the mobile platform either. It must be amazing though, at least if it works anything like the browser component does.

Have you ever spent time on the Roblox website? There is a ton more to the platform which I sadly cannot cover in a single article. I can certainly recommend it though for both adults and kits. I myself have already started browsing the catalogue for other games to get lost in!

Last Updated: November 21, 2014

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