RDC 2022: Our Vision for the Future of Roblox
by Daniel Sturman, Chief Technology Officer & Manuel Bronstein, Chief Product Officer
Product & Tech Events
At the Roblox Developers Conference (RDC), kicking off today at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, thousands of top 3D artists, programmers, builders, and content creators are gathering—in person and virtually on Guilded—to network and discover new ways to drive their success.
RDC is also a great time for us to share the key technological innovations we’re building right now. As we accelerate our vision to reimagine the way people come together, we are constantly looking to open up new creative, social, and entrepreneurial possibilities for our global community—evolving our technology while always keeping our foundational commitments to the safety and privacy of our users.
Creating Meaningful Connections
As our community continues to grow tremendously, to 58.5 million daily active users in more than 180 countries, one priority is enabling deeper, meaningful, more natural and more engaging forms of communication and connection.
One example is making Chat on Roblox more dynamic so it functions similarly to how we connect in the physical world. People aged 13 and older can now speak with one another in voice-enabled experiences. The feature is built to mimic in-person conversations, and so is based on avatars’ proximity to each other—meaning you might whisper to a friend nearby or raise your voice to carry across a room. Since rolling out this feature, close to one million experiences have enabled voice communications.
And next year, people also will be able to use their webcam to express themselves in real-time through their avatars. Your camera will automatically map your facial movements as you speak, so your avatar can express how you’re feeling, adding a new layer of immersion and connection.
Later this year, knowing how much more fun Roblox is with friends, we’re adding a new, easy way for people to discover people they know on Roblox. This feature—which you opt into and can change back any time you like—will use phone contacts to enable connections and friend recommendations.
Enabling Creativity Through Self-Expression
Avatars enable people to express themselves and their identity creatively, and we look to continue to support that in ways beyond communication. Millions of people come to the Marketplace every day to experiment with new looks and try on different personas—sometimes even multiple times a day. With the launch of Layered Clothing in April, we took self-expression to the next level, giving people even more ways to show off their style. One hundred fifteen million people have tried out Layered Clothing so far.
What we have planned next is bringing higher-fidelity human expression to avatars. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing Facial Animations in the Marketplace, allowing users to create avatars to convey a wide range of expressions that best fit your mood and better capture emotions and gestures.
At RDC, we’re showcasing our Animation Capture tools for bodies and faces, now available in Studio for developers to test in beta. The tools leverage our novel machine learning models and significantly cut down on the time and resources needed to create high-quality full-body and facial animations. Just by using their device’s camera, anyone can make professional-grade animations for avatars in minutes.
Building Tools to Create
Creation on Roblox often involves large teams working together seamlessly on megascale experiences. To better support that coordination, we’ve made a number of advancements to Studio, our free development software for building and publishing 3D content on Roblox. Studio now has a refreshed look and feel, and we’ve updated the interface with new features that allow creators to customize their workspace layout and collaborate with teammates with just one click.
We’ve also added several new features to Cloud including Place Publishing, Data Stores, and Cross-Server Messaging. With Cloud, our vision is to allow developers to access all their Roblox resources programmatically, via an API. Opening our cloud via these APIs will enable a rich ecosystem of tools that improve and allow incredible customization of creator workflows.
Providing an Engine for High-Fidelity 3D Experiences
We define a great engine as having four key traits: it’s fast; it’s reliable; it provides the capabilities developers need to bring their imaginations to life; and it keeps simple things easy and makes complex things possible. Our engine has always been designed with these traits in mind, and over the last year, we’ve made significant advancements to make it even better.
We’ve increased performance so developers can create larger, more immersive worlds without sacrificing framerate or stability. A major release was parallel scripting, which allows our Luau language to do lots of world computations simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.
Our materials system got a huge boost in capabilities as well. We’ve upgraded our material library so that, with a single click, developers can apply materials that look fantastic right out of the box with our new lighting system. These upgrades also provide advanced features for custom materials, making it easy for developers to achieve unique visual styles for their experiences.
And we’re about to fully release our real-time CSG (constructive solid geometry) system. This will allow developers to build sophisticated modeling tools in experiences. For example, they could build a lathe that works in real-time to create a unique piece of virtual woodworking.
Growing Your Community
We’re fortunate to have such a vibrant ecosystem of developers and creators from around the world bringing incredible 3D experiences to life on Roblox every day. To help them connect with a global audience of people who will value their content, we’re focused on innovating in a number of key areas.
The first is Discovery. Our goal is to make it easy for anyone to find the perfect experience for them. We use signals like engagement, retention, and monetization to personalize the recommendations we show, and we continuously invest to ensure new experiences find their audiences. As an example, as of July 31, 2022, approximately over 6% of the top 150 experiences on Roblox were created in the last 90 days. We expect to continue investing in Discovery for many years to come by applying more real-time signals to the model.
In addition, to support the discovery of experiences, we’ll soon be introducing Experience Guidelines which offer age recommendations on Roblox. Experience Guidelines are meant to help users and their parents continue to make informed decisions about the content they interact with on the platform. The age recommendations are grounded in child development research and informed by industry standards. Parents will be able to use Parental Controls that restrict account access based on these age recommendations, ultimately deciding and managing what is appropriate for their children.
Fostering a Vibrant Economy
Our platform drives immense economic opportunity, with 2.7 million people earning Robux from their creations in June 2022 and over $580 million in developer payouts via the Developer Exchange over the twelve months ending June 30, 2022. Now we’re providing more ways for our community to earn on Roblox—through Immersive Ads and Marketplace.
Knowing advertising will naturally exist in the metaverse just as it does in other parts of people’s lives, we plan to launch Immersive Ads next year. This is an innovative 3D advertising experience that will be clearly labeled as such and will be native to the platform. Brands and developers alike will be able to build never-before-seen ad experiences on Roblox, including portals that can seamlessly transport users back and forth between experiences. This will create new opportunities for developers to generate revenue and enable brands to reach their communities more effectively.
Another major focus is the Marketplace, which is quickly scaling toward becoming fully user-generated, with 90% of avatar items currently from the community. In the upcoming months, we’ll introduce new mechanics for our community to build sustainable businesses, including giving creators full control over the scarcity of their items and allowing all users to resell or trade items. With these systems in place, we envision a future where all items will be in limited supply and everybody can find the items they love in a marketplace that’s personalized to them.
Every announcement we’re making at this RDC is tied to the original vision David and his co-founder Erik Cassel had when they founded Roblox over fifteen years ago. We’re steadily moving toward an even more exciting future, in which billions of people come together to connect, create, and express themselves in the most creative ways. With constant innovations, including these to our avatar technology, our engine, and our virtual economy, we continue to make advances on realizing our vision of reimagining the way people come together.
This world is ours for the making—together. The future isn’t one that will be built by us at Roblox, but by all of us—as one global community.
We’re grateful and excited to continue this journey with all of you. We look forward to the many thoughtful, inspiring conversations that will be happening at RDC this weekend and beyond.