A mere two months after launch, Murder Mystery has amassed more than six million visits, a stunning accomplishment that has made it a fixture at the top of the ROBLOX game charts. In that time, it has only been bumped from the top slot a few times, which is all the more impressive considering ROBLOX has millions of active users creating high-quality content all hours of every day. Murder Mystery is a phenomenon unlike any other — a surprise hit even to its creator — with serious staying power. What keeps it at the top? And who is Nikilis? Mysteries indeed.
It was only a day after Murder Mystery got the top spot that we wrote about it the first time. He offered then that there were several updates he was planning on making — a store, modified weapons, a way to change your appearance — all ideas that have now been implemented, in addition to even more features he hadn’t thought of at the time.
“I think what’s kept Murder Mystery fresh is the concept of the game itself. It’s really simple and addicting, and players want to stay in the game long enough to actually become the murderer,” he tells me.
It’s worth the wait. Being the murderer or sheriff can take several rounds (your chances heighten the more you play), but, once you’re playing the role, there are few games on ROBLOX that make you feel so powerful. This is why players spend an average of over 20 minutes of playtime per session. (The game peaked in the last two weeks with 83,000 hours of playtime in a single day.) Becoming the murderer is a blast, and there’s something strangely compelling about isolating an innocent from the group and stealthily taking them down. Equally gratifying is defeating the murderer as the sheriff — deciding based on contextual evidence to shoot the right person is rewarding. On the flip side, it can be devastating when you shoot the wrong person (my bad!).
It helps too that Murder Mystery has been receiving constant and consistent updates. Building upon an already-solid foundation has garnered even more interest from players, particularly those who were curious about recent updates, like Developer Products. Murder Mystery was one of the first ROBLOX titles to have a functioning store with consumable products in it, the day the feature was released.
“Developer Products work too well,” Nikilis told me with a laugh. “I haven’t added any items to my shop since the release, so my game fell off the Top Earning sort. I think a lot of my players are recurring players who either can’t afford to buy things, or have bought everything already. If the latter is the case, then I need to add some updates to get back on the Top Earning sort.”
Nikilis is far from finished with Murder Mystery. He has a lot of goals — he wants to expand the use of the in-game currency he’s created, give players the ability to transfer purchased items between accounts, and even wants to rewrite the source code of the game with a framework that make it easier for him to add new features.
“I wasn’t as good at scripting when Murder Mystery released as I am now,” he says. “Just to put people at ease, this doesn’t mean you’ll lose any of the items you currently own in my game. No data will be lost.”
A crazy part of this story is its unexpected success. Murder Mystery started out as one big iterative experiment. He had no intentions of his game becoming the smash hit it is today. Every step that lead to the eventual creation of Murder Mystery started as an experiment.
“This was my progress: ‘I wonder if I can make a random name and coloring system, that would be cool,'” he recalls. “‘Oh it works. I wonder if I could add footsteps, that would be a cool. Hey, works too. I wonder what would happen if I added a knife, and so on.”
Murder Mystery’s success wasn’t accidental, but it wasn’t anticipated. Nikilis is a 16-year-old Canadian and, unlike many successful ROBLOX developers, he isn’t set on pursuing game development. For now, it’s a hobby — one that happens to be very profitable. He’s stashing his earnings from the Developer Exchange program to put toward a car or college tuition.
Will he be the first developer to earn enough ROBUX to cash out at $10,000 per month?
The story of Nikilis and Murder Mystery speaks volumes about what can be done with the ROBLOX infrastructure. Nikilis originally posted this game to his fan group for testing, went to sleep, and woke up to thousands of concurrent players. This just goes to show what can emerge when an interesting idea, a solid work ethic, and ROBLOX’s robust infrastructure collide.