A Day in the Life of the ROBLOX Web Team

April

23, 2013

by Andrew Haak


Archive

ROBLOX Games PageROBLOX is about 70 people strong, with teams specializing in everything from web and client development to customer service and marketing. While each team executes starkly contrasting projects, we’re united by our shared values and the ultimate goal of making ROBLOX the best digital-creation experience. We’re going behind the scenes with teams across ROBLOX to provide some insight into the tasks and challenges associated with achieving that goal, starting with the Web Team.

You can think about a day in the life of a ROBLOX web developer as having three distinct areas of focus: planning, developing and releasing. Depending on the day, one might weigh heavier than another.

Planning

Web Team Lead Toby Teel says most days really get started around 9:45, when everyone has arrived, acquired their morning wake-up beverage of choice, and congregated around a large table in a third-floor meeting space. This is the time and place of the regular Scrum meeting, which sets the tone for the day – each developer has an opportunity to describe what they accomplished yesterday, what they’re going to do today, and what (if anything) is blocking them from completing it. The goal of starting days this way is to always keep the ball rolling on current projects.

Developing

With the proverbial ball rolling, the team goes to work on its projects for the lion’s share of the day. That means writing code – in development of everything from bug fixes to new features – for 20 concurrent projects at any given point. Don’t picture a drab environment where everyone sits in silence and solitude; the team works collaboratively on large-scale projects – web developers Cullen, Isaiah and Toby, for example, each built separate pieces of the trading system, such as the interface, library and trade processor – and coordinates with ROBLOX staffers across the company to make sure development stays on course.

The Web Room

The one, the only, the freshly renovated ROBLOX Web room

All the while, code reviews are taking place, there are group tests of new features and functionality, interviews with potential candidates are happening – the ROBLOX Web Team is keeping pace with the fast growth of ROBLOX as a whole – and, maybe most significantly, web releases are deploying to Roblox.com.

Releasing

The Web Team pushes a new release at least once per day – ideally early in the day, as there aren’t as many builders active on Roblox.com at that time – to keep releases from “stacking” and becoming too big to manage. There are a couple key benefits to this method: if a problem arises, it’s likely there is only one and we’ll be able to trace the root of the problem easily. With a big release, that process can take a long time, Toby notes.

One of the coolest spots in the Web Team’s space is the monitor that displays a variety of Roblox.com metrics throughout the day. This allows the team to keep a constant eye on the health and status of the website. If a release goes well, the monitor behaves predictably — it’s not exciting. That may sound counter-intuitive, but chaos and excitement do not bode well with releasing new code to 100 web servers. Ideally a ROBLOX web release kicks mediocrity in the face, bringing awesome new features to our users without bringing down the site or causing other adverse effects.

Metrics Monitor

This monitor displays telling metrics for Roblox.com throughout the day

What makes being part of the ROBLOX Web Team exhilarating, then? One key source of excitement is actually turning on features after a release. The web developers not only continue to monitor metrics to seek out problems (if any), but also read the ROBLOX forums to get a feel for the initial reactions and feedback from users. Another significant source of excitement is being super nimble, fast and flexible in supporting millions of monthly active users who are logging upwards of 1.8 billion page views each month.

“If it came down to it, we could fix a bug and release a patch to a software product being used by millions of people in a couple hours,” Toby says. “That is extremely fast.”

Plus, the team is always working on a variety of projects. Think back over the last year: the Web Team has implemented a trading system, which was built to be fun and has since evolved into a sort of meta game, a system for selling Game Passes, which builders have leveraged to turn significant profit, mobile-friendly versions of popular ROBLOX pages, and recently the functionality to own, sell and trade multiple copies of a single limited item. On top of that, there are bug fixes and automated tests happening all the time. Both play a substantial role in improving the ROBLOX experience.

“We’re always working on different things, jumping around,” Toby adds. “We’re working on a lot of very cool projects.”

As the Web Team expands, there will certainly be more.