ROBLOX: Gaming in the Cloud

February

28, 2013

by John Shedletsky


Archive

Servers

A hot topic among game studios in recent years is the notion of “cloud-based gaming”–a tectonic shift in the infrastructure behind multiplayer online games. Gone are the days of hosting your own server, opening up your firewall, forwarding ports in your router, and sacrificing a goat in order to be able to host your own multiplayer environment.  In a traditional solution, if you wanted to play game with friends on the internet, you’d set up a game server and have your friends connect to it. We decided early on that this was a method we wanted to avoid–encouraging users to set up local hosting often results in a plethora of problems that interfere with stable gameplay.

Home network connections are limited in regards to upstream bandwidth as well–this severely limits the amount of network traffic your game server can send (thus creating lag). And you’ve got to deal with the fact that your server won’t be running at all times, making it tough to attract a steady following of players.

Sure, you could purchase dedicated hosting from a server provider, but this creates several new problems. Dedicated machines cost $40-80 a month at least, and there are no assurances against the hardware going down (and if it does, you can lose your data in the blink of an eye).

We wanted to make sure our math was right, so we looked up web hosting rentals for Minecraft to see what the average monthly cost was. The total average came out to $48.00/month for servers that can host up to 48 players. We also checked out server costs for Call of Duty–which would cost an average of $62.00/month for support of up to 64 players. If your server becomes popular and thousands of people want to play on it, that would cost you even more cash.

We’re one of the largest cloud based gaming companies out there–we have built a vast array of machines whose sole purpose is to power your online games. Let us worry about the infrastructure while you worry about gaming. The expense and operational complexity of running a server farm is a hit we take so you guys can get in and out of games as quickly as possible.

Outside of the realm of gaming, another great example of how cloud-based services are transforming the way users share content is YouTube. With YouTube, if you want to share a video, you simply upload it. Anyone who wants to watch it, at any time, can. All content is always available. In the early days when we were making ROBLOX, we kept asking, “If we’re creating an online community and want to create a 3D virtual space that is persistent, how do we do it?”

We answered that question with our cloud platform. When we made ROBLOX six years ago, cloud gaming had yet to take off. Now, it represents the powerful simplification of the multiplayer gaming experience. And, as evidenced by our growing platform, as well as other major industry announcements, like Gaikai on PS4, it could represent the future of gaming as we know it.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes in our ever-shifting industry. We’re all about making complex things simple on the user end–we want anyone to be able to start a game, at any time, with the press of that “Play” button. ROBLOX is a unique service in that it’s totally free to upload your creation to our storage cloud where millions of people can play it, any time, day or night.