On Friday, Roblox laid out a vision for the future of its popular social gaming platform, gradually ushering its community into a new era that may not always look like what has gone before.
At RDC, its annual developer event, the company showcased new features designed to improve the platform, with a focus on expanding the platform to deliver more sophisticated experiences for groups of age beyond the 13-and-under crowd that has long been its bread and butter. Going forward, Roblox will implement age guidelines to draw clear lines between content that is appropriate for all users, those nine or older, or only those over 13.
Some new experiences, such as interactive video billboards and portals that transport the user into a branded experience, will be limited to the older age group. Other new features, like proximity-based voice chat, are also closed to children under 13 for safety reasons. The company previously announced an age verification system that would make experiences aimed at older audiences possible. The company says experiences designed for users over 13 could include moderate violence and realistic gore, while games aimed at younger users are limited to “mild” violence.
In its latest earnings call, the company revealed that people between the ages of 17 and 24 are the fastest growing segment of its current audience, a fact that is sure to shock anyone who has dipped a toe into its endless candy-colored portal of simple games. and virtual meeting spaces.
Roblox has grown daily active users by around 10 million over the past year, so the core experience is clearly working for a lot of people, even if its appeal and aesthetics are largely incomprehensible to most. adults. This modest growth might not be enough for a company determined to outgrow its image and appeal to an older demographic.
To expand the platform as well as its user base, developer community, and increasingly the brands interested in moving there, Roblox wants to deepen its experiences at every level. While Roblox offers overwhelming breadth, it’s not exactly known for its depth. But layering improvements to avatars, chat, and even its physics engine, Roblox plans to evolve. Most things on the platform still look a certain way at the moment, but increasingly the old will mix with the new – and the chunky Lego-like avatars will also mix with their brethren. with long limbs.
Last year, the company announced that it would overhaul its simplistic graphics with new in-game textures, push for realism with normally-proportioned avatars wearing more realistic virtual clothing, roll out improvements to its toolkit for hobbyist creators and professional game developers, tinkering with voice chat and realistic in-game audio and introducing an age verification system that would help it push away some upcoming advanced features from its core group of young users.
In 2020, Roblox bought Loom.ai, a startup that created realistic digital avatars with facial animations. Now it’s experimenting with video capture to enable facial and even full-body animations, which sounds like over-the-top realism for now, but could one day become more mainstream beyond animated unicorn and shark faces. ‘iMessage.
“It’s very cool because now you start adding things, facial animation and communication makes 3D immersive communication 10 times more realistic than it was before,” said Manuel Bronstein, product manager Roblox at Metaverse Marketing.
Creators could capture Fortnite-like dances in the future, selling them through the in-game economy. “The explosion in self-expression will be huge,” Bronstein said.
Getting around in Roblox
As Roblox deepens its graphics, games, and tools, it also strives to create more literal depth within the platform itself with tunnels that transport users from one experience to another. . Advertisers can first play with the toy through “immersive ads” – in-game portals that users can navigate to teleport into branded experiences. Roblox is also introducing billboard ads that display videos when interacted with.
Eventually, the same portal design could expand outwards, transforming Roblox from a 2D experience with a flat, mobile-style app menu to a more immersive 3D space. Instead of selecting the small square on the screen that represents the game you want to enter, you can simply walk through the correct portal from a central space.
“Today, when you’re inside an experience, you have to leave the experience to move on to another experience,” Bronstein told Metaverse Marketing. “And I think portals will be a way, as an app, to do that navigation without leaving the experience.
“We have some great ideas that again are more in the future, that you have your own personal portal, that when you open them you might be able to see your favorite experiences and access them. So that we can make it more continuous, without having to interrupt ourselves to go from one experience to another. But, I think for us, this will be our first iteration.
This sort of thing is already widely used in VR experiences and other proto-metaverses like Epic Games hit Fortnite and Core, another game-making platform running on Epic’s Unreal Engine that boots players into a central lobby full of portals to UGC content.
Discovery and community
Because Roblox relies entirely on user-generated content, it also struggles with some of the same issues that other social platforms have stumbled upon in recent years. On the developer/creator side, that means making it easier for users to discover off-the-beaten-path Roblox experiences beyond the hit games that rack up billions of hits.
Bronstein told Metaverse Marketing that involves “huge investments” in research and discovery, some of which is already underway. “If you’re a new creator or have a new experience, how is new content discovered? Bronstein said. “How do you find your top 10 users, 100 users, 1,000 users? … We’re going to put a lot more emphasis on making sure that new content has a very early chance of being discovered.
According to Bronstein, these improvements won’t be immediately visible and aren’t a single silver bullet, but the company will prioritize changes to its algorithm to improve the discovery experience. “It’s a collection of algorithm tweaks and tweaks,” Bronstein said. “But it’s something that’s very important for our community to hear about. »
Roblox also plans to create more experiences outside of its… experiences. The company offers basic group features that allow users to follow their favorite developers, but these features are pretty superficial at the moment. With Roblox’s acquisition of Discord competitor Guilded a year ago, the company plans to layer more of the community-building services its users currently find elsewhere on services like Metaverse Marketing,verse Marketing and Discord. Bronstein believes that many Roblox developers would prefer to have these tools in-house and much closer to where the content itself is.
“One of the things we’ve learned from our developers is that they still want to be able to engage with their community, they want to build communities around their content so that when they’re hosting an event, when they have an update, when they have a new experience, they can communicate,” Bronstein said. “What we want to do is start bringing a lot of that functionality together…so we’re going to start building those communities inside of Roblox. »
Like all other changes to the platform, users will notice these new community features being introduced slowly over time – not all at once. Roblox may look and feel the same right now, but a lot of changes are on the horizon, coming closer.
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