Who needs a bridge?!

I figured my neglect of this online journal hit an all-time high so I thought I’d do it while Angel investigates Roblox Studio, a tool used to make games for Roblox. “Who needs a bridge?!” was just triumphantly shouted as a bridge was blipped out of existence in a game anyone in the house right now can play, load, and (now) find an absent bridge.

Of course the resident 7yr old, being a Roblox veteran, piped up in reply to the rhetorical question “YOU NEED THE BRIDGE TO CROSS THE WATER!”

This is already fun.

So I didn’t know too much about Roblox, and I still don’t, I have research to do. What I did know was…

  • Platform, not a game – relies on users to create content/games for other users
  • Multiplayer online focused
  • Games looked very primitive
  • Plagiarism galore, from movies to music to assets from other games (“Mario”, “Mickey”, etc. etc.)
  • The kids like it

That was my information launching point as my news feed started getting spammed with how much revenue Roblox Developers were pulling in. The same flurry of news articles let me know that the company has recently started being publicly traded and is has a pretty high evaluation. Those two things alone really piqued my interest, based on what I already knew!

Back in the days I was working for corporate entities (fingers still crossed I can avoid that scenario in the future) I put together a business plan for self published games. That plan was the seed of what I’m attempting to accomplish now and had a time-frame of around a year and a half. Part of that plan was to leverage the flexibility I have by not convincing dozens of people a decision is great (not even just great, but you won’t believe how great it is! Let me show you in this 22 slide Power Point presentation! So can I do the 1hr of work now?) before making it. The pandemic has already thrown any specific examples in the plan for a fairly significant loop, but that’s cool, I get to lean on that flexibility! Lean right into Roblox Development.

I’ve finished my first project Read Play Game, and what I’ve accomplished with it I’m very proud of. I’m in the process of Game #2, intended to be available on PC (itch/steam/etc) and Mobile, and potentially consoles as well if things look good. I had estimated Game #2 to be around 6-8 months of work to launch with monetized features, and additional couple months to iterate and check the metrics and see if it’s a good candidate to bring in enough money to pay the bills. I’m still quite a bit of work away from showing anything publicly for it, so right now seems like a great time to put a pin in it and see how viable it would be to bring in revenue from a Roblox project.

Now, to the people who I pester to read my things, you may be asking yourselves “what about those agnostic systems, those seemed cool and beneficial” – yes, and they still are, for Unity or almost any other engine that would support C# as a language. Also I have every intention of revealing Game #2 at a future date whether this Roblox experiment yields positive results or not (I already have the title copyrighted, once you have the fancy paper you just gotta finish the thing), so those systems and tools will definitely get lots of use. Due to Roblox’s unique development pipeline it would be difficult to bring in work or tools from other game engines in general, so that’s one negative in Roblox’s favor. I have the list about what I knew about Roblox, now here’s what I’ve learned so far about developing for Roblox:

  • Creators see 24.5% of revenue generated from their games
    • Face-value this doesn’t seem like much, I’ve included an image of how that’s split below these bullet points – as an independent developer my App Store Fees are 30% and I don’t have to worry about platform or support infrastructure
    • Even if I 100% make a game myself and put it on an app store, after fees and taxes I’m realistically seeing less than 50%~ by the time I actually get to claim any money, cutting that in half to not worry about a whole lot of things (including managing multiple platforms like Play Store, iOS, Steam, Itch, etc. etc. etc…) is actually not a horrible deal
  • Roblox Studio is… not horrible
    • I think only other developers would understand what a big deal a brand new tool not being horrible is, I may grow to loath it (or love it!) once I start actually creating with it instead of just poking around, but it’s a good initial impression
    • It is in a weird space of competing with Unity or Unreal, but instead of building out to multiple platforms (PC, Console, etc. etc.) Roblox provides the platform, just one for me as a developer to worry about
  • The company is now publicly traded, and the current content is rife with plagiarism and copyright infringement
    • Why is this a big deal to me? Well, the estimated $250,000,000~ dollars developers are expected to earn this year is probably going to earn the attention of license holders, since a good chunk of those dollars are earned with an IP that some Roblox developer doesn’t own
    • License holders are more likely to start paying attention, I think there’s a good chance content within the Roblox Platform may start getting taken down due to infringement… which may create a comfortable vacuum for small original games to fill
  • Lua is their programming language of choice, and I am very familiar with Lua
    • In Dawn of War 2: The Last Stand I built the behavioral AI entirely in Lua, an AI that was adaptable enough to replicate all player heroes on Wave 16 and getting me very angry yells across from the office as the AI beat players with their own abilities
    • During my time at Relic I was asked by a lead engineer to look at all their single-player scripts, they were apparently running at > 100ms~ sometimes spiking to > 1000ms~ (this is real bad, that’s a full second of a frozen screen) on the Xbox 360 – got it down to a chill 0.01ms~ spiking at maybe 0.1ms~ and kept all the behavior the designers wanted, they didn’t need to lift a finger and they could build off my work to add new content without sacrificing performance
    • I even have Lua experience in a server:client relationship thanks to a mobile project I worked on!
  • Expectations are low on the platform currently, games are fairly primitive
    • I expect competition to heat up due to other seasoned developers seeing what I’m seeing, but most of them work for corporations and will still be debating over power-point presentations while I can jump on this and hopefully get in early
Shamelessly snipped from https://developer.roblox.com/en-us/articles/developer-economics

So while I’m stepping away from a big comfort zone (Unity + smorgasbord of systems I’ve made, tools I’ve made or purchased, and assets I’ve made or purchased), those perks will be traded by my bullet points above. I expect to have a game the whole household here can play in a fraction of the time it took to get Read Play Game on itch. Within a month I’ll be able to judge if generating revenue as a Roblox Developer is actually plausible for a real-life adult with a real-life household to support, and even if I find out it isn’t plausible perhaps a break from Game #2 is just what it needs for me to come back to it refreshed and roarin’ to go.


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