Introducing Custom Material Variants and New Enhancements to Materials
by Josh Anon, Product Director
Product & Tech
Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve officially rolled out a number of advancements to our material system, moving them out of beta and into the hands of our broader community.
With this release, we’ve enhanced the visual quality of our entire existing library of materials, which includes brick, glass, metal, and many other common materials, to make them look and feel even more realistic than before. These material upgrades will be the default option for all new experiences moving forward. Creators can upgrade their existing experiences as they see fit (read our documentation here to learn how), and our classic materials remain available if developers wish to continue using them. In addition, creators now have access to a new, user-friendly Material Manager tool in Roblox Studio allowing them to make custom variations of our base materials to better suit their aesthetic vision. Now, before we dive any deeper into the details, let’s first take a step back and understand what materials are and what makes those on Roblox so unique.
Materials on Roblox are akin to materials in the real world. They’re used to not only define the surface appearance of a 3D object but also its physical properties (like friction), which influence how the object behaves. For example, if you’re driving a car, the rubber material of the tires should behave as you would expect depending on the surface they’re on—they might skid on wet asphalt, or get stuck in the mud. This level of interactivity is essential to making experiences on Roblox feel like living, breathing worlds.
Our engineers understand that in order for creators to build best-in-class experiences on our platform, we need to provide them with innovative and powerful tools. So, when we set out to ship all the aforementioned new components to our material system, we had two major goals in mind.
First, building on the work we’ve done to make physically-based rendering (PBR) available via our Surface Appearance construct, we wanted to provide creators with access to high-quality materials that look and feel as realistic as possible out of the box. So, we built our materials from the ground up to fully utilize PBR, which recreates how light interacts with surfaces by simulating phenomena such as shading, reflections, and shadows in a realistic way.
What’s more exciting is that by combining these new and enhanced materials with our “Future is Bright” lighting technology, creators can take the visual quality of their experiences to an even higher level.
Second, in line with our vision to enable a fully user-generated content platform, we also wanted to give people a user-friendly way to create, manage, and apply custom variations of our base materials in Roblox Studio. For example, creators could replace our built-in brick material with their own custom anime-styled brick, making it easy to achieve unique visual styles for their experience. And, because these are variants and not new base materials, they will automatically benefit from future emergent behavior based on the materials’ inherent simulation properties—no extra work required.
Taking the Long View
Our upgraded material system will enable creators to take their experiences to new heights while also providing us a foundation we can continue to iterate on. Our vision for materials is to make them an integral part of the development process, giving people even more control over the look and feel of their content without requiring them to write code for behaviors we know to be true in the real world.
For example, an object made out of wood should catch on fire when it’s exposed to a flame. Rainfall should pool on the ground and gradually seep into porous materials like dirt. Sounds should be muffled when passing through walls. These are the types of things we will enable by default so creators can focus on building engaging experiences rather than worrying about the nitty-gritty technical complexities. Over time, we will also continue adding new base materials with simulation properties to our material library, giving creators an ever-expanding palette to work with as they bring their imaginations to life.
Our work with materials is never-ending, but with the launch of our new system, we’re excited to empower even more creators to build the most immersive and dynamic experiences possible on Roblox.