Emergence in ROBLOX

Emergence in ROBLOX: Hard to Define, Easy to See

Emergence in ROBLOXIn gaming, emergence happens when players use a game’s basic systems in a way that is unexpected, unpredicted and unique. It’s built into the entire ROBLOX platform; users have the freedom to create almost any type of game, experience games, moments and physics that rarely – if ever – play out the same way twice, and even discover emergence in ROBLOX’s social space and virtual economy.

Depth of creativity

One of the beauties of ROBLOX is the creative freedom it gives users. Builders start out with a blank canvas and can build anything, from architectural displays to complex vehicle models to competitive, multi-player arenas. While the sophistication of a game or place depends on its creator’s abilities in both construction and scripting, ROBLOX offers users a free-form tool that lends itself to discovery, what-if scenarios and experimentation.

That experimentation emerged early in ROBLOX’s life, when users took advantage of our Lua scripting framework to create airplanes and, in turn, spark the ever-popular and evolving flight-combat genre on ROBLOX. It was emergence in a classic sense; users created totally new gameplay and content using nothing but our standard tool set.

While most builders start simpler than planes, a little persistence and learning open a lot of doors to emergence.

Personal Build Server "Island" Screenshot

ROBLOX’s Personal Build Servers, too, encourage emergence by allowing up to 30 users to join a single server and collaborate on large-scale building projects. While users can build anything they imagine and even wire up interesting, unique contraptions using customizable triggers, levers and timers, it’s the player interaction occurring in the Personal Build Server that’s especially emergent. For example, ROBLOX users have created sprawling cities, complete with custom houses and towering, decorated buildings, where role-playing and socializing tend to take place during and after the construction.

Real freedom, simulated physics

According to Penny Sweetser, a game designer at 2K Australia and emergence researcher/author, emergent gameplay registers with players because it puts them center-stage. It gives them “the freedom to experiment, greater control over the game, a sense of agency, and less of a feeling of uncovering a path set for them by the designers.” 1

While some ROBLOX games funnel players through a scripted experience or change ROBLOX into a closed-off, single-player experience, ROBLOX games are usually open spaces where users congregate and play within the game’s mechanics and ROBLOX’s systems – our so-called “magic circle”.

ROBLOX Game ScreenshotWe’ve asked ROBLOX players for their interesting in-game experiences and, for the most part, they involve more than one person, open-world freedom and some aspect of our physics simulation. With a formula like that, emergent gameplay is almost inevitable. One ROBLOX user recounted this memory, in response to our recent call for interesting ROBLOX stories:

“Playing Heli-Wars: Desert Attack, a guest got in my jeep. I drove it half way to the other team’s base and jumped out, but the guest and jeep kept rolling into the base. The guest got out and started shooting, but was killed. The jeep came out of the other side of the base so I jumped in as it was moving and drove it back to my base.”

Another had a similar experience on the battlefield:

“I was in a war group; we were in a helicopter flying to a raider base and our boss said, “deploy parachutes but don’t jump!” When we arrived at the raider base he said, “Jump! Go go go!” We parachuted in but were outnumbered by the raiders and the helicopter was shot down. Our next plan was to get in a heavy jeep. It was white and had no windows except in the front. There was a door in the back, our boss was driving. When we arrived again there were only two raiders. We fought them and left for another fort.”

Then there’s ROBLOX user Lucariobeam, who recently played Natural Disaster Survival and “rode a falling building into the ocean, and somehow, miraculously, survived.”

These are bits of the greater narrative a ROBLOX game can tell, driven almost entirely by the player’s freedom and ROBLOX’s flexible engine.

“I just love how ROBLOX’s physics engine can create different scenarios … It makes the game so much more interesting, not to mention addicting,” said ROBLOX user navysealsnake.

Emergence in ROBLOX’s web services

Many massively multiplayer games have virtual economies and social systems that allow players to purchase and sell items using an in-game currency. ROBLOX’s virtual economy, for example, allows users to earn and spend Tickets and ROBUX.

As noted by Sweetser, “virtual economies are emergent systems that change dynamically with supply and demand, based on the trading patterns of the world’s inhabitants.” 1 This is what we’ve seen in ROBLOX’s virtual economy with limited-quantity items. ROBLOX users who are vigilant of newly released gear (or just lucky) can snatch up rare items and sell them for a profit to users who didn’t get them during the original sale. There’s only so many to go around, so users can charge a premium. It’s supply and demand at work.

Emergence in ROBLOX QuoteSince ROBLOX uses its website as a distribution channel for users’ games, we’ve even seen emergence in game promotion. Cunning users have learned to market their content not only through effective game design, but also competition: being the most responsive to user feedback, persuasive in use of text descriptions and screenshots, and successful with on-site advertisements.

Emergence manifests itself in all the major facets of ROBLOX, from creation, to sharing and gameplay, to the economy and community running behind the scenes. From a gameplay perspective, it’s not guaranteed, since our users are capable of creating scripted, linear experiences. But there’s no denying that, from front to back, ROBLOX encourages discovery, experimentation, freedom and, with all that said, emergence.

There’s plenty of room to dig deeper, so stay tuned to our blog for detailed explorations of emergence in ROBLOX.

1. Sweetser, Penny. Emergence in Games. Charles River Media, 2008. Web book.
About Andrew Haak

Sr. Communications Manager. blockhaak on ROBLOX; @andrewjhaak on Twitter; blockhaak on Twitch.

142 thoughts on “Emergence in ROBLOX: Hard to Define, Easy to See

  1. firefarts123

    I was playing “Destroy the giant hotel” (older version) and a guest shot at me with an RPG and it went through my torso then some other guy shot the hotel and it fell on me. They then surrounded me and without the new menu with the reset tool or reset in my starterpack I had to surrender and get blown up. D: Fail for me

  2. Funbot3000

    One time i was playing heli-wars. I was on Desert Team. Then i saw my brother (on the same team as me) driving a car. He didn’t notice but there was a guest from the green team in the back seat! I shot the car in half with my VIP heli. My brother survived and then i shot the guest. At the end of the game we captured the flag!

    Another time, as i was on desert team, i stole the green team’s flag. As i walked back, I was low on health and a few noobs from the other team were chasing me. I then gave the flag to my sister, the noobs had killed me but my sister returned the flag!!

  3. Shadowkid5602

    I’m glad about all this, but I think I would rather have the insert tool and the older tools, like copy, fixed, rather than improving the stamp system.

    1. Playrobot

      I agree, It would be much easier if we use that. Maybe a resize tool would work too.

  4. Plungeit

    At first I was thinking “0_0 EMERGENCY IN ROBLOX!? WHAT HAVE THE ADMINS DONE!?” Then I realized it said emergence in roblox. Sorry about that :)

  5. hotstuff38543

    I KNOW hot do do the old build all u do is download the roblox studio are however u spell it and go to places when u download click then go to place hit edit and then hit tools go to free tools are wutever and THERE U GO! :D

  6. gus4152

    once i distinctly remember playing in the old APN rec center with bobatheman and reaven. bobatheman accidently moved the water with his build tool so we where all like “TSUNAMI!” But then, when we got to the top of the rec center, a random helicopter fell on us and we all had to force reset. but when we respawned, raiders surrounded us and we all ragequitted in harmony :D

  7. CoD7BlackOps2

    You know people ROBLOX was made in 2005 not 2006 so…

    Learn The Rules!


    Add me, and Derp my name is at the top.

  8. DeepFreeze

    You better start getting experenced users thoughts or no one will care. ROFL.

  9. bubguy

    I only wish that the Roblox Administrators would understand how lame the stamper tool is… If insert was added to personal servers I would actually play them!

  10. slmnemo

    Minecraft and ROBLOX are two different games, Minecraftbis survival, ROBLOX is having fun and building.

    1. draconarutoking

      one time when i was in a survive natrual disasters game, the tornado took my right arm and my left leg only somehow and i just had to survive the rest with 1 arm and 1 leg torso and head it was awkard being the only one there looking like that

  11. TerrainCrypt

    Only one part really caught my eye, “Personal servers allow users to build large scale projects together.”

    No. They allow people to insert pre-made objects selected by you, of which are low quality. Maybe introduce studio to personal servers? It would be a more than fantastic addition.

  12. keatonmister

    I love sand box it was my favorite game but not anymore. i still play it though. but you know what i loved the insert tool and roblox need to bring it back!

  13. thelichking5

    Well I had a odd experience once. I was in a natural disaster survival game and was sitting in a chair when a tornado came to it and I was stuck, it picked it up and destroyed it but it threw the part where I sit across the map with me in it.

  14. Ninjagoh

    Ugh… FINALLY I can post without the CAPATCHA glitching and making me fail, or the whole website or proxy server or whatever glitching and saying I’m posting too fast on my first try.

    Something happened to me:
    I was playing one of my places, (changed now), and when the lava wave came, it destroyed a castle and I went falling to the lava, but I was able to jump onto a wall before I died. It was awesome =)

  15. Crazyguy124 (thats my Roblox name lol)

    Roblox is really fun and it is a “creative” game for kids and you can make friends and play cool games and…IT IS BETTER THEN MINECRAFT >:D

    1. Vikingboy8

      Many people think ROBLOX is a copy of Minecraft, which, idk, maybe it is, or maybe it was just INSPIRED by Minecraft. (There’s a difference.) Just wanted to put that out there. :D

      1. doomseeder

        hehe… roblox was made in 2006. Minecraft in 2010.

        Asked notch, none are copies.

      2. rainbowmario37

        minecraft isn’t a copy of any game its not a copy of infiminer its its own game notch came up with die he didn’t copy ut guys i know u have to pay for mine craft but i love it its awesome try it its pretty good p.s i love rob lox to

    2. leecoolgiy

      i dont think roblox is older the minecraft. Roblox is really good but i want OBC because roblox is better with bc. yey…. XD

  16. LaloXDXXD

    for I do not like because there are many who do not have good video card and ram, and Telamon this minecraft by copying the new blocks. im missing the old Roblox i want the old Roblox Roblox Today the smells without insulting:(

      1. me

        No I think hes saying that roblox staff is starting to copy minecraft (the map generation is almost EXACTLY like minecraft with the Terrain.)

  17. thedeathmaster01

    One experience I had was when my friends and I made a huge castle and then blew it up with C4.

  18. SecretAgentWolf

    One time, I was playing this space-battle game called “RFS Nova battle”. It’s pretty abandoned, now, and when I played it, but there were others there. When I was attacking one of the enemy ships, he charged me and knocked out my engines, causing it to topple vertically. Then, he finished me off by hitting a couple of important spots on the ship; including the bridge, where I was in. When the ships regened, I got him back in a space fighter.


    At first I thought the title said “Emergency in Roblox” so I was freaking out! xD It’s all good though. I have had so many amazing experiences in Roblox games, especially ‘Sandbox’. It gives players the creativity to build anything while others can visit it, all in the same server! Multiple times I have created really cool things for others to come and play with me. It’s a lot of fun!

  20. WhiteRain

    I once pressed the Spacebar on my keyboard and the most magnificent thing happened. I JUMPED! I was like :O

    1. Danewdude

      Quite interesting, because whenn I hit 1,I pulled out something called “gear.” I freaked out.

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