They say it’s roughly 10% finished. It might see the light of day this spring. It’s already been scrapped and restarted a few times. The quality standard is insanely high. They call it Borderline, an upcoming ROBLOX first-person shooter, and you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Yet, after talking with two of the game’s three developers, it’s clear they have their ducks in a row. The team, known as StudioMM, uses a Skype hub to discuss and review building progress – everything from altering the engine to creating a new logo – and has clear direction: a balanced play experience where the user controls their game experience. There is reason to believe one day, you’ll be playing this.
Borderline’s development is being led by user mat852, a 15-year-old student who shifts gears between building in ROBLOX, studying and playing Far Cry 3. While the development process has started over several times, he’s been there all along, slowly progressing forward because he finds it fun and he’s grown to know ROBLOX well. Over the past few months, mat852 has been releasing video updates of first-person shooter tech he’s developed for Borderline, and they’re striking.
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As you can see in the above video, the game features a level of detail that is largely unmatched on ROBLOX. Much of the detail lies in the animations: your arms gently sway with your breathing, you tuck your gun while sprinting, there’s a smooth transition to peering through a scope, and there’s physicality to reloading. This all works great from the first-person; they’re working on enhancing the animations seen on other characters.
There’s even more detail in the weapon attachments, which alter not only how a given weapon appears, but how it functions. According to mat852, “usually you see that you can add maybe one or two attachments, like optics or under-barrel foregrips. But in this game, we want it so that you can change the way the gun works, from the type of stock and barrel to the gas system inside.”
These sorts of fundamental changes will alter the effectiveness of a weapon, as based on research and data from various sources.
“Really, my knowledge comes from playing other video games. But of course there’s a limit of what you can see from gameplay. There are websites such as symthic.com that collect the data from games like Battlefield 3. I look at that and see how they do things, then put a twist on it to meet with what we want the game to be like.”
Many of the weapons are sourced from ROBLOX’s extensive collection of models and modified with an assortment of perfectly CFramed attachments. Once in game, the code determines which attachments the player has selected and removes any others, then reads a table of data to determine their actual effects.
“Take for example the extended magazine,” mat852 says. “The table says that it adds 25% more ammo, so add 25% more ammo and round it to an integer. You can’t have any decimals when using bullets, can you?”
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While weapons will be a major source of user customization, players will also have a choice of camouflage patterns and protective vests, where the more you play, the better protection you unlock. The appearance and effects of each defensive item are managed in the same way as the weapons.
There are even plans to integrate vehicles of the wheeled and winged varieties in a balanced way.
“If a jet is heading toward you, and you have the right launcher, you have the same chance to take down the person controlling the jet as he has to get you,” mat852 says.
With so much granular detail, so many visions for grandiose battles and aspirations for rock-solid performance, it seems like somewhere, something has to give. But when asked whether their ideas are technically feasible, especially with 20 or 30 players in a server, both mat852 and his German scripting cohort Bauer102 seem confident they can pull it off. One of the key reasons is their strong framework – their engine within the ROBLOX engine.
Using their framework, they can “easily spread the whole game engine into multiple scripts, which is useful for multi-threading and because ROBLOX’s scripts have a maximum of 220k lines,” says Bauer102. Essentially, the framework allows them to split their code into independent, portable pieces, meaning they can call on them as needed and even use them in future projects.
Another reason to believe is the team was once on the verge of a solid play experience, until running into some “badly optimized movement code,” mat852 says. “Once I took that out it ran flawless with 14+ players shooting all at once.”
Since then, they’ve totally revamped the code and Bauer102 has joined to write and optimize code. It sounds frustrating, the idea of doing work a second or third time, but each restart of the development process has brought more efficiency.
“You could say we all learn from our mistakes and make the end result we expected before, better than ever,” says mat852.
Finally, Borderline’s level designer, MahPizzaIsHere, has a simple building aesthetic, allowing him to make a few blocks go a long way and build expansive, vehicle- and performance-friendly maps. The few maps that have been made public look great, a testament to the power of simplicity.
The pieces are in place for a great ROBLOX game – maybe the definitive ROBLOX shooter. While it’s too early to make that call, this small team appears to be on the right track (not to mention committed and persevering). You can keep tabs on StudioMM’s progress by following their Twitter account and subscribing to their YouTube channel.
Will Borderline be an unforgettable, polished game that seizes the attention of ROBLOX’s millions of players, or a glorified tech demo? Here’s to hoping it’s the great game the team is aspiring to build.