Who wouldn’t want to be “The YouTube of Video Games”? User-generated games portal Roblox is doing its best to apply the model to video games as opposed to just videos, by lowering the bar for content creation enough so that anyone can build something interesting, then push it out to as many platforms as possible.
“We believe we’re the best place in the world to build and develop your first game,” says Roblox Chief Marketing Officer Rick Silvestrini. "We have created the only platform in the world where you can build a game once and have it deploy across PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and now Xbox."
Just one user-made Roblox game.
That platform boasts 15 million monthly visitors, and Rick and his Roblox team stopped by IGN to show me the Xbox One app, which launches on November 12. All the games will be free for anyone to play, with Roblox sustaining itself by selling augments to its existing community-shared asset packs and creators able to make money by incorporating in-game microtransactions (of which Roblox, like iTunes or any other service, takes a small cut).
Twenty Roblox-curated games will be available on the Xbox One app on launch day. All of them are rather simplistic, both visually and mechanically, but that’s the point. Roblox isn’t equipped to let you design your own Mass Effect. It can, however, give you fundamental, building block-level experience with creating what you need to make a game: an idea, a level(s), rules, etc. Besides, that doesn’t mean they’re not fun.
More UGC from the Roblox community.
“We scale the platform with the talent of the developer,” Silvestrini explains, adding that their proprietary set of tools take care of a lot of basic functions. “You don't have to worry about networking, you don't have to worry about multiplayer."
While I didn’t see the actual editing tools themselves – those need a keyboard and mouse, so the mobile and Xbox One versions of Roblox only support the actual playing of the user-created games – it all seems very similar to the XNA toolset released by Microsoft back on Xbox 360.
Among the first games playable on Xbox on day one is Heroes!, a top-down dungeon-crawler with Ys-style just-run-into-your-enemies combat made by a 19-year-old Indiana teenager who’s using in-game microtransaction revenue to help pay his way through college.
I also saw Tiny Tanks, a top-down eight-player tank shooter where you control a tank inside a fort created on the floor of a child’s bedroom; and Natural Disaster Survival, a goofy romp where up to 30 players roam a map until a random catastrophic event such as a volcano eruption or blizzard occurs, leading all the players to scramble for cover and safety as the elements destroy the Lego-like world around them.
Roblox claims that it’s now been around long enough – it was founded in 2006 – that some of its longtime users are now graduating into full-fledged professional game developers. They cited indie Steam hit Unturned as the product of a former Roblox user.
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own Xbox One game, Roblox now gives you that chance – for free. The power is now in your hands if you’re curious to learn how the video game sausage gets made.