A Retrospective Look at BLOXcon London

July

29, 2013

by John Shedletsky


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I just stepped off of a plane after participating in our first-ever BLOXcon in London, England! In Chicago, Alan wrote a retrospective piece that focused on the the happenings at BLOXcon – so I thought I’d take a look back at the craziness I just experienced, and write about it. If you’re into the whole “brevity” thing, take a look at the video below for a quick summary of BLOXcon London. If you’ve got a few minutes, read about my BLOXcon experience, from setup to tear down.

The Venue

We had an incredible venue for BLOXcon London, in the Royal Airforce Museum. If you are an aeronautics fan, the RAF museum is host to an embarrassment of riches. There are three huge hangers full of aircraft. Just walking around before setup I saw a Chinook helicopter, a Phantom fighter jet, a nuclear bomb, a plane that looked like a flying rowboat that was entirely made of wood complete with wicker furniture, and a Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter (the RAF is actually the only place in the world to have one on display).

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Setup

It was a whirlwind weekend for most of the ROBLOX team. The majority of us flew out Thursday from San Francisco to London on a 12-hour flight. Friday morning we arrived at the museum at 8:00 AM to set up the our first BLOXcon outside of the United States. The 20 or so members of the team were divided into smaller groups, each responsible for setting up a specific area. We had teams devoted to the Hackathon, the ROBLOX booth, the R&D computer lab, registration, and the main stage. It was an intricate logistical ballet putting together the components of BLOXcon – the banners, computers, brochures, trading cards, lanyards, pre-ordered merchandise – all orchestrated masterfully by Reese McBlox.

These collectors cards were a real hit!

These collectors cards were a real hit!

Matt Dusek and I were responsible for setting up the ROBLOX booth area. This is the main area where people could meet ROBLOX staff, get autographs, collect pre-paid merchandise, and play games to win fabulous prizes. At BLOXcon Chicago the ROBLOX booth area featured a spin-the-wheel game where each conference-goer could spin for a random prize. We had no such wheel at BLOXcon London, so Matt and I had to come up with a different game that would keep conference-goers entertained. As an additional constraint, we could only use materials at hand, which was basically nothing. Inspired by the aircraft around us, we rose to the occasion and devised a build-your-own-paper-airplane contest, where contestants could try to land their plane on a special runway in order to win 10,000 R$. This turned out to be a rather challenging endeavor – only 15 or so people were able to earn prizes for accurate plane tosses. There were other smaller prizes as well, such as free rides on the RAF flight simulator.

After we finished setting up, Matt and I spent the rest of the afternoon helping the registration team stuff the 1000 goodie bags that were to be handed out to each conference attendee. After doing this for two hours, we both agreed that manual labor is not our strong suit and agreed that engineering degrees certainly aligns better with our talents. Study hard in school kids.

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The Event

Doors opened to an excited line of BLOXcon attendees at 8:30 AM Saturday morning – I was at the door to personally greet people and give them a general sense of what was where. The complete BLOXcon experience included: taking in the main stage presentations (which featured what ROBLOX is working on now, what we’re doing next, and the Hall of Fame awards, which we’ll be announcing on the Blog shortly), marveling at the assembled aircraft in the main hall, getting an exclusive preview of some amazing updates to our physics engine in the R&D lab, creating perfect crystalline fortresses of logic while being constrained by time pressures in the ROBLOX Hackathon, collecting a complete set of ROBLOX trading cards, and competing in my diabolical paper airplane competition in the ROBLOX booth area (at the end of the day the room was littered with thousands of wrecked aircraft).

The People

I’ve participated in each of our previous conferences – the ROBLOX Rally in 2011 and the ROBLOX Game Conference in 2012 – and every time by far the most interesting part of the event is meeting and talking to the attendees. BLOXcon London was no different. While many of the conference-goers were London locals, I also spoke to a number of players from Scotland, as well as Tennessee and Sicily.

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I signed lots of things.

I spoke briefly with some well-known ROBLOX users such as arbirator and TheGamer101 (who is actually two people!). I also got to talk to a lot of people about ROBLOX as a product. Many users wanted to know what new features for groups were in the pipeline – many of them were excited by the answer, which is not something we’re ready to talk about in the blog, because we’re months away from implementing. A number of hardcore Studio users that I spoke with wanted multiplayer debugging for Studio (which is coming!) The most popular feature request was the ability to change your username. The second most popular request was that we bring ROBLOX to more platforms, including PlayStation, Xbox, and Android. In-person direct feedback with our customers is invaluable, and we were thrilled to hear your ideas. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be working with David (our CEO) and the rest of the team to integrate this feedback into our product plan, and make sure that what we are doing is consistent with that feedback.

Wrapping Up

When it was all said and done, we hopped on an airplane and flew back to San Francisco on Sunday. We all agreed: that was one of the craziest, hardest, and most intense weekend many of us have had in recent memory. Crazier still? We’ll be doing it again in two weeks in New York city! So if you’re heading our way for our final BLOXcon, be ready. It’s an experience.