A Day in the Life of the ROBLOX Content Team

May

06, 2013

by JacksSmirkingRevenge


Archive

ROBLOX 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. For our first in this series, we took an in-depth look at the ROBLOX Web Team. For this, we’ve shifted our focus to the ROBLOX Content Team.

Software Engineer Kip Turner slips into the ROBLOX offices at 9:02 AM Thursday morning. After making some tea, the 23-year old University of Santa Cruz alum settles down in his chair. In an instant his computer flashes to life. A window appears on his vertically oriented screen, filled with code.

“What if we made this item shoot fireballs?” comes in ear-shot from the south-east corner of the room. Kip grins, then walks over to Dan’s standing-only desk. His monitor sits atop a mountain of boxes–the result of a recent office-wide move. They both stare into the cryptic code and start pointing at which lines they can alter to enable this feature.

9:12 AM: Early morning collaborations

Thus, a day in the life of a ROBLOX Content Team member begins. It’s important to illustrate this interaction between two team members because it’s analogous of how the Content Team gets things done. Constant communication, every hour of every day.

Senior Software Engineer Deepak Chandrasekaran heads up the team of seven design engineers, scripters and programmers. He describes a day in the life of the Content Team as chaotically organized. “I realize that’s an oxymoron, as chaos implies a lack of organization,” he says laughing. “Let me try and explain.”

He goes on to illustrate the bizarre nature of such a job: constantly shifting deadlines (some new features are completed in a matter of hours, some, a matter of days or even weeks), project-juggling between different members with different skill-sets, and the difficulty of managing time when something urgent pops up in the virtual world that needs to be addressed or patched immediately. (Remember the last time ROBLOX crashed for an extended period of time? Yeah, we don’t either.) For a team of only seven workers organizing and releasing updates and items for an audience of millions, the job seems impossible sometimes. Communication is what keeps it all manageable.

1:28 PM: Organized Chaos

It’s 9:40 AM, and Kip is staring into his screen. Dan has since walked over to Luke Weber (who you may know as stickmasterluke), and they’re hunched over his desk pointing at different parts of the screen. I want to go over to see what they’re looking at, but as the clock hits 9:45, each member of the Content Team gets up and heads to the meeting room. It’s scrum time.

If you’ll recall our previous article about the Web Team, you’ll be familiar with this notion. Scrum meetings are commonplace these days, especially among scrappy start-ups like ROBLOX. Basically, it’s a methodology that focuses on organizing, then achieving tasks. Each member of the team stands and shares what they’ve achieved the day before, and what they hope to achieve today. They also take the time to discuss any and all potential setbacks that could stop each team member from completing their individual goals.They work together verbally to formulate solutions to each problem. It’s very direct and methodical.

This is to streamline work. If you spend your mornings methodically anticipating every potential problem or challenge you’ll face throughout the day and consider their solutions, the only thing remaining for a productive work-day is focus and determination. It’s dynamic in that each day brings a unique set of hurdles to jump, in a wide range of fields. That’s one of the things that makes working at ROBLOX such a unique experience, especially in the field of engineering. Deepak tells me that a Content Team member could be working on gameplay for one week, working with UI the next week, then working on the back end of the game the week after that. ROBLOX is such a huge platform that there are so many different parts that need to be refined to keep running, and continue improving.

Sitting in on a scrum meeting really illustrated how methodical the planning of each and every task actually is. They’re organized into a time-sheet–each task is attached to a team member, and is also given an estimated completion time. Some of these times are a few days down the line. Others have a time window of as little as 15 minutes.

“The bottom line is, every engineer is responsible for what he or she is tasked with,” says Deepak. “They have to see it through, from beginning to end. Our engineers are involved in every aspect of our platform.”

3:35 PM: Content Team members Dan Healy, Luke Weber, and Tara Byers meet to go over some GUI designs for ROBLOX Battle

By 2:00 PM things seem to be coming together. The team is getting through their work load–several smaller, more personal meetings have taken place amongst those working on the same or similar projects. Morale is up. Jokes are being told. Loud and sometimes obnoxious laughter is a common sound that echoes through the hallways of our office (you owe it to yourself to hear Shedletsky laugh, at least once).

At the end of each and every day, ROBLOX is different. It may not be drastically different, but something has changed. Gear has been added. Code has been written or re-written. The Content Team is on a constant mission to make ROBLOX better, coding changes that happen in both baby steps, and massive strides. It’s a never-ending mission, because ROBLOX is ever-evolving.

It’s 6:35 PM, and Kip Turner sits in a way that looks strikingly similar to how he had settled in his chair earlier in the morning. He has a pen in his mouth, and he’s squinting. Three desks down, Deepak rubs the fatigue out of his face. They’ve been working on an in-game building prototype that users have been testing during our weekly Behind the BLOX visits. I walk over to offer salutations for the evening. Deepak and I chat briefly about the type of people he looks for when hiring members of the team.

“The ideal candidate is someone who will fight,” he says with a laugh. “Someone who can battle with other people about what he or she feels is the right thing to do. We also look for people who can act on a problem quickly. I expect every member of my team to call out, loudly, the minute something isn’t working right, then work to find a solution.”