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Crossfire: A Tale of Two Cities

June

21, 2013

by JacksSmirkingRevenge


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crossfirecitiesCreativity and sharing are two qualities that fuel ROBLOX. It’s in that spirit that we created Crossfire, a series where we chat with ROBLOX game developers about their game design choices. For this outing, we interviewed Nightgaladeld and Juliane14, creators of Washington DC and Rome, Italia respectively. Each of these cities is more than just a detailed recreation; they are tied to their respective groups, where members can join, rank up, and participate in each of their local economies.

ROBLOX: The most obvious similarity between your two places is that they’re both incredibly large in terms of studs and brick counts. Was it a challenge building something that big?

Juliane14: Yes, as you can see, Rome is absolutely massive. To build it, I used Google Maps to pinpoint where all the landmarks are, then I had to bring them closer together. Rome is actually not as big as the actual place, because if I chose to do that, it would take you forever to see everything. So I kind of had to pull it all in.

ROBLOX: Like in Grand Theft Auto!

Juliane14: Exactly. That game brings landmarks together as well.
rome
Nightgaladeld: I’ve never actually been to Washington DC, so it was pretty hard to recreate. I think we only had a week. So we reached out to people who could take pictures of different areas of Washington, and used those pictures to build the place. We’re in the process of creating a more detailed White House.

ROBLOX: More detailed? We were wandering through your White House and started to think your dad was a congressman or something. It’s crazy you did that by referencing pictures.

Nightgaladeld: [Laughs] It was pretty challenging.
whitehouse2

ROBLOX: This next question has to do with the scale of the levels. We noticed that Rome is a megagame and Washington isn’t. Were these conscious choices?

Nightgaladeld: We kept Washington from being a megagame because hacks are becoming more and more sophisticated.

Juliane14: Whenever I create a place, I make it a megaplace. The idea behind Rome was to create one massive, multiplayer chatroom. In Rome, you’re given the chance to talk to everyone playing the level with you, and you don’t have to worry about finding your friends on the right server.

ROBLOX: We noticed that really no matter what time, there is almost always people in your cities. What are they up to?

Juliane14: Shopping, eating, buying things. They’re doing the things you would do if you were on a real life vacation in Rome. Tourists like to visit landmarks. You’ve got Vatican City for religious people. You’ve got a fully staffed police force, who punish bad behavior. You’ve got Kestrel’s store to buy clothing. There’s a lot to do.
Nightgaladeld: I think Washington is a game to a lot of people–it’s kind of become like “cops and robbers.” This unfortunately means that a lot of builders who break the law are thrown in jail. We’re also working on a business system. I like the idea of having a store in Washington like Kestrel, where you can buy things right there in the game.

ROBLOX: How many people does it take to build such massive cities?

Nightgaladeld: We have a small department that focuses on different aspects of creating Washington. The White House, for example, wasn’t made by me, it was contributed by another user.

kestrelitalia

Juliane14: I built most of Rome myself, but like Nightgaladeld, some of Rome was contributed. A friend of mine actually built the Colloseum, and had this unique script that made it extremely circular. I edited the sides to give it kind of a ruined look, which is how it looks in real life. Then, you’ve got Kestrel, which is a store created by FighterAce. I’d say we’re a pretty small but focused team.

ROBLOX: We’ve always wondered how teams work together on building something collectively. Like, does each team member have a copy of the level? Do you each just add a little bit at a time to the same project? What’s the deal?

Juliane14: [Laughs] You want to hear something funny? Rome is so big, I can’t send it anywhere. Any time I’ve tried to send it to someone else, it stops responding and crashes my machine. It’s also hitting limits in Studio as well.

ROBLOX: That’s terrible. Our new binary file format will help with that. Or maybe you’re low on disk space?

Juliane14: That’s not it, trust me. Rome is just a really big place.

ROBLOX: Have you guys had problems with exploits?

Juliane14: As much as any popular game I suppose. We deal with them, find out who’s exploiting and get them banned.

Nightgaladeld: Yeah, we have guys who come in and steal scripts. We just have to keep a close eye on it.
washingtonmonuments
ROBLOX: It should be impossible to get a perfect copy of a place because the server-side scripts in your level don’t replicate. Also, we’re implementing some new architectural changes that will make it much harder to get a complete copy of a ROBLOX place, because the data won’t be there to steal.

Juliane14: Interesting. I guess until then, we’ll rely on our own anti-exploit script. The guy who made it works specifically on security in Rome, he’s awesome. He gets stuff done, and quick.

Nightgaladeld: We have a similar script. It really helps keep Washington DC safe.

ROBLOX: It must be useful having scripter friends who are willing to contribute.

Juliane14: Rome’s Minister of Technology is our official scripter. His name is RobotTestGear.

Nightgaladeld: NCISRox and Moolah60 wrote our safety scripts.

ROBLOX: If you were in charge here at ROBLOX HQ, what’s one thing you would change to help make games better?

Juliane14: Lag is the hugest problem I have to deal with on a daily basis. I would definitely focus on finding ways to get rid of lag.

rome4

Nightgaladeld: The cars cause a lot of lag in Washington, and it’d be awesome if there was a way to lower brick count when creating and building highly detailed creations. It’s a fine line to walk, because you want detail, but you also want people to be able to have a smooth experience. I would also like to see like, a “Top Groups” list, where you can choose your favorite groups and follow them more easily.

ROBLOX: We noticed that both places use dynamic lighting. What was the implementation process like?

Nightgaladeld: Dynamic lighting is so awesome, and I think it’s the biggest change to happen to ROBLOX yet. It allowed us to create a realistic day and night system in Washington.

Juliane14: We also added a day/night system, but it took some tweaking. At first it got way too dark at night and people were super confused by that. So we changed some of the ambient light settings to brighten things up a bit. I agree with Nightgaladeld, dynamic lighting is awesome.

ROBLOX: We’re glad to hear that. It seems every time we release a new features only like 70% of users actually really like it. This is the first time we’ve had 100% of users tell us, “This is awesome.”

Juliane14: So worth the wait.

Nightgaladeld: I’ve been dealing with this weird glitch lately, where I try to select one part and I click it, then another part becomes selected.

jail

I did some hard time in Washington’s Prison for manslaughter

ROBLOX: I’ve been in Studio a bunch lately and have noticed a similar problem. We’ll look into that.

Juliane14: Just use Crazyman32’s C-Frame plugin, it works wonders.

ROBLOX: Interesting. What plugins do you guys use?

Nightgaladeld: Anaminus’ Cmd Util plugin.

Juliane14: Crazyman32’s C-Frame plugin.

ROBLOX: It’s interesting to us that each of your places are tied to groups.

Juliane14: Yeah, Rome is like, the main meeting point for our group. Basically, we harvest a ton of money in that place, which is why I think “Group Funds” is an amazing idea. Earned money doesn’t go to one person, making it hard to steal or exploit. There are so many ways to earn money in Rome–you can buy a license, you can buy all sorts of clothes, including our very own personalized uniforms. Then we take that money and use it on buying ads for the group, so more people check out Rome.

Nightgaladeld: My only problem is that you can’t transfer Robux. Buying ranks is cool, but it’d be cooler if you could do more.

ROBLOX: Why not just put the funds in the currency exchange? We have a lot of ideas, but haven’t implemented a whole lot around group funds yet. It’ll be an interesting experiment when we get around to it. Maybe groups should be able to buy their own forums?

Nightgaladeld: That would be so awesome if we could have our own group forum thread.

Juliane14: That’s kind of how I see Rome, though. That’s what the capital is for. It’s where everyone in our group knows to go to discuss issues.

rome3ROBLOX: We recently released in-game transactions–are you guys having any luck selling stuff in your games?

Nightgaladeld: We’ve got a user selling game passes for us in-game, and he’s making a ton of Robux. We’ve made lots of money, which then goes straight to purchasing ads.

Juliane14: FighterAce, the creator of the Kestrel store, was the first Prime Minister of Italy. I think he feels he owes me debt for sort of giving him a place to make his clothing popular. So some of the money he earns goes to funding our ads. We also generate a lot of revenue from people buying uniforms. Again, that money doesn’t go to me, it goes to the group.

ROBLOX: All right, we always ask this final question at the end of Crossfire interviews: What’s your favorite part about the other guys’ level?

Nightgaladeld: Rome is highly detailed. Details make exploration that much more rewarding, and there’s certainly a lot to discover in Rome.

lamboJuliane14: Washington feels much more interactive than Rome–where’s there’s more to see in my place, I feel like there’s more to do in Washington. I want to make Rome more interactive, but I’ve got to find a way to do that without creating lag.

ROBLOX: Yeah, those Lamborghinis are begging for car chases.

Juliane14: [Laughs] We’ll see.

ROBLOX: Guys, thanks so much for your time, this has been great.

Update: I got to take a sneak peak at a super secret project Juliane14 has been working on. It’s based on another part of Italy that features, well, a bit more water. Don’t want to give anything away, but here’s a screenshot.

Venice