As soon as I spawn into City of Rome, Italia, there’s a person waiting for me in some sort of militaristic get up. The stranger walks up to me and says, “where can I take you sir?” I’ve never been called “sir” in ROBLOX before, but I shrug that thought off. I tell him I’m here to see Juliane14, the creator of this place. “Right away, sir”, he fires back. We jump in a faded brown car and hit the freeway toward the capitol (within a capitol) of Rome.
Well, not the real capitol. The capitol we’re heading to is a massive fictitious building with a big red stripe running around it, and I’m told that Juliane14 is in it. Upon arriving, my former chaueffer tells me to go ahead inside, and instructs other uniformed ROBLOXians to guard me, which they do.
I’m being escorted into a virtual building by armed guards. Shrug that off.
At this point I’m starting to think, “This is not your normal ROBLOX experience.” Inside are a bunch of people trying to talk to Juliane14, the creator of the level. “Sir, I have something urgent we need to discuss” and “sir, the attack is imminent” are among the barrage of chat messages flying in. Finally Juliane14 breaks his silence and proclaims, “It can wait.” They hush up, and the attention turns to me. “Alan,” he says. “Come with me.” He speaks some magic commands and we teleport out of the room.
Sitting shotgun once again, Juliane14 drives through the bustling virtual city, stopping at real-life landmarks like the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, The Pantheon and the aforementioned fictional capitol he created. The amount of detail in this place is staggering—every building, even the ones you can’t walk into, are furnished and decorated with Italian art and pieces of memorabilia. Cafes have tables set up outside, with minute details like vases and decorative bits and pieces strewn about. It really does feel like a city.
Equally surprising is the order being maintained all around us. Drivers are following the rules of the road, and staying in their respective lanes. Armed soldiers are patrolling the streets. Certain areas are fenced off to the general public. There are laws that need to be followed, and strict punishment for disobeying them. It’s a very different ROBLOX experience than what I’ve come to expect.
You can trace the law and order back to the Italian Republic (ITA), a group founded by Juliane14 that has become the largest Italian “country” on ROBLOX. Being a part of the ITA means not only maintaining order in Rome, but fighting off warring factions as well.
In the middle of our tour of Rome, Juliane14 is informed that an enemy raid has just begun, and that his presence is needed. I offer to tag along. Before I know it, I’ve left the sunny, peaceful streets of Rome and entered an all-out warzone. I immediately get behind cover as Juliane14 comes pulling up in a tank, and instructs me to hop on the turret. I haven’t said “no” to anything so far during this strange day, so I oblige. With a heavy trigger finger we rip through Brindisi, Apulia, a level designed by Juliane14 specifically for raids. Then a sniper puts me down for the count. I don’t want my lack of skills to cause Juliane14’s team the game (I realize that I’m basically bullet fodder), so I tell him I had a blast and that I’ll meet him in Rome after the battle.
He explained to me later that this was simply a part of being in a large group—often other factions will raid groups because they’re close to the front page of Military games on ROBLOX, or to raise their status. Being the leader of ITA, Juliane14 has to answer the call for battle each and every time it’s sounded. After the firefight Juliane14 and I returned to Rome and once again there was a driver waiting for us to take us to the capital. He greeted Juliane14 by saying, “Welcome back sir.”
That’s truly what makes Rome, Italia such a fascinating place—yes, it’s totally beautiful, but it has its own culture that demands respect, honor and truthfulness. His recreation of Rome was made possible by collaboration—different members of ITA worked on scripting, texture design, map designs, and more. When asking Juliane14 about the different facets of Rome, his most common answer was “I got a guy for that.”
Juliane14 was inspired to create Rome, Italia, after returning from a trip to (real life) Rome. The city was built entirely with bricks and meshes, and he’s working on a way to add more creations to the city while keeping the frame rate stable. The place is already made of over 20,000 parts. Juliane14 and his team used photos of Rome as well as Google Maps as reference guides. It was a huge undertaking, but a fun and unique explanation to hear.
What I can’t explain is where the overall levels of respect and camaraderie came from within ITA. I can easily say they were the most respectable bunch of people I’ve met on ROBLOX–once you see it, or feel it I should say, you start to understand the scope of what Juliane14 has created. And that makes it even more remarkable.