Roblox Corp. is kicking off the Roblox Developers Conference this weekend, and is also rolling out a major development update for the Roblox platform. These new updates offer a number of new tools for developers, but also include some infrastructure improvements targeting issues like game cloning and age-appropriate experiences.
The topic of game cloning is one that’s darkly familiar to non-Roblox developers, particularly in the world of mobile games. In Roblox, it’s been a particular sticking point for creators trying to find success on the platform.
If someone does manage to make a fun experience that rises to the top of Roblox‘s discovery charts, quick-moving clone creators will often undo that success by making a fresher, more polished version.
Now, the back end of Roblox will host a “preventative cloning” feature, which directly targets stolen or copied source code. Roblox Corp. chief technology officer Dan Sturman told Game Developer that the tool has already been deployed to remove 40,000 cloned games from Roblox in the last few months.
“The result is traffic goes to the right creator, not a copy-cat,” Sturman said.
Roblox will soon have experience guidelines
Roblox Corp. has also faced public scrutiny in the last year over children’s interactions with the Roblox platform. Though today’s update doesn’t address all of those concerns (the nuances of young people doing underpaid development work for in-game currency Robux aren’t addressed), it does address concerns over how easy it has been for young players to access age-inappropriate Roblox experiences.
Those concerns are being addressed with a new feature called “experience guidelines,” a sort of pseudo-rating system for the world of Roblox creations. The feature will divide experience guidelines into three groups: All Ages, Ages 9+, and Ages 13+. Games that feature an experience guideline rating will also include a descriptor of the content inside the experience.
If you’re surprised there isn’t an 18+ rating, that’s because on paper, adult content is “not tolerated” on Roblox. In practice, many of these experiences have been repeatedly documented.
One does also wonder how effective an experience guideline system will be at preventing minors from accessing age-inappropriate content. The history of online games is filled with the surprise revelation that a literal child is hanging out in your voice chat.
Face the strange
Today’s announced updates to Roblox include some other useful tools for developers working on the platform. First, the game is rolling out a new facial animation tool that will let creators create and sell unique facial expressions and animations for Roblox avatars.
A new “Self View” system will also let players dynamically project their real-world expressions onto Roblox avatars using image capture.
Roblox Corp. says the goal of this system is to eventually allow players to have voice conversations with each other in-game where their avatars will be able to dynamically match their real-world facial expressions.
Currently, developers can use this system to create animations that run as long as 60 seconds.
Of today’s updates, this is definitely the system most aimed at cashing in on Roblox‘s vision of “immersive co-experiences” (the company’s alternative branding for the word ‘metaverse.’)
While someone somewhere is probably dreaming about Ready Player One-type full-body experiences in Roblox, this tech seems most immediately useful for recreating the success of animated Vtubers on Twitch and YouTube.
It’ll be interesting to see if this new cosmetic feature (and some new improvements to Roblox‘s user-generated content marketplace) will be a jolt for in-game spending, which has dipped in the last couple of financial quarters.