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Community and the VR future of Roblox: Gaming Trend interviews Roblox CEO David Baszucki

Roblox CEO, David Baszucki, has agreed to speak once again with us here at Gaming Trend, in a follow up to our discussion ahead of the April 15th virtual reality launch for the popular user-generated content platform.  Roblox, a gaming platform where you create your own games, share your creations and in the creations of others, and play within a community, is pressing hard on VR as it emerges more and more.  

Virtual reality is the newest flavor on the block, and shows a ton of promise in changing the fundamental ways that we enjoy video games. With a game where the entire goal is full immersion, VR and Roblox seem like perfect partners. David and I discuss ways that Roblox plans to further embrace VR content, how the platform is changing the Roblox experience, and what the future has in store.  

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Gaming Trend (GT): How has the VR launch changed things for Roblox so far?

David Baszucki (DB): The feedback from the community has been incredible. We recently had several of our developers try out various ROBLOX experiences in VR for the first time during our ROBLOX Developers Conference in August, and the universal comment is that the immersion and the social connection are radically heightened. For example, if users play Bird Simulator, they will actually feel as if the trees and other creatures are flying past them in real life. For a gaming experience, this is extremely powerful and innovative.

In addition, we’re already seeing positive improvements in terms of comfort and control for our users since the launch of ROBLOX on VR. We have experimented with a variety of ideas to improve the comfort of the default camera and game/mouse controllers, and have shipped improvements to both. One example: We have redesigned most of the in-game GUI to be native VR, so it is floating and fixed in 3D space at a comfortable distance. We have also revamped how notifications work, eliminating slide-in alerts and introducing a centralized notifications review panel.

Given that ROBLOX is built upon the two cornerstones of VR – content and social – the deepened experiences make us even more excited about the future for this emerging technology.

GT: What plans for expansion do you have in the virtual reality market?

DB: With ROBLOX’s success on Oculus Rift, our plan is to ultimately expand to additional VR platforms and incorporate hand controllers in order to increase a user’s ability to immerse themselves in their environment. Our efforts are currently focused on two areas: clients optimized for premium, PC- and console-coupled VR hardware and mobile VR experiences. While the mobile efforts are currently constrained somewhat by the technical specifications of available hardware, our long-term goal is to make ROBLOX the world’s premier platform for both publishing and consuming VR game experiences.

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GT: Has VR had an impact on the number of creators, and the games being created?

DB: Ever since we shipped on Oculus Rift, we have seen tremendous support from our community. In terms of our total community, our peak concurrency is well over 500,000 users and our year-over-year growth has tripled. We’re exceeding 210 million engagement hours each month.  We’re surpassing all expectations, and we expect to see further success as we expand to other VR headsets as well.

The top recurring trend we’re seeing is that people want to be able to experience things together, whether it’s imagining they’re a bird, pretending to be a fashion model, or attempting to survive a natural disaster. Most of these social experiences are just “waiting” for VR. The user-generated content you see on ROBLOX today and in the future will continue to satisfy a core human need to do and experience things together.

GT: Do you have a favorite game, or type of experience using VR with Roblox?

DB: All of the games published in ROBLOX VR work very well. Obby Adventure is a great demonstration of a classic ROBLOX genre with camera control tuned for a comfortable VR experience, and Horde Survival shows how much fun ROBLOX can be with VR hand controllers.

Personally, I really like Natural Disaster Survival. In this game, you and your friends get transported onto an island in the middle of the ocean and you have to fight to survive. Every three minutes, a new disaster like a typhoon, meteor shower, lighting storm or tornado strikes, and you have to find places to run and hide. It is very fun and really gets your adrenaline pumping.

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GT: Have there been any issues, or are there any aspects you would like to see improved with Roblox’s VR experience?

DB: We have not seen any major issues since the launch of ROBLOX onto VR. But as always, we are looking to improve the quality of users’ experience and comfort. Prior to launching on Oculus Rift, our engineering team made a lot of improvements on our core platform to ensure best-in-class character and camera controls for VR. We will continue to optimize these systems over time.

Comfort is of the utmost importance to us. We believe that optimizing comfort will be crucial to keeping people playing VR in the years to come. Our engineering team looks to continuously improve the VR experience and comfort level, most recently offering settings that allow users to play games in either 1st or 3rd person. In addition, developers have the opportunity to create new control schemes, such as snap-to-look or teleporting, to reduce user acceleration and increase comfort. Here at ROBLOX, we plan on doing everything that we can on the back-end to ensure that ROBLOX in VR is as immersive and enjoyable as it can be for every user and we will continue to seek out every possible improvement.

GT: How do you envision VR helping Roblox to compete with other user-driven content creation games?

DB: ROBLOX is all about powering the imagination of millions of people around the world. Our mission has been to create an ecosystem where, every month, over 15 million users are joining their friends to play, learn and create together. We see the similarity between ROBLOX and other user-driven content creation games in that we allow people to build their own content, but that is where the similarities end. ROBLOX simply has a much broader variety of experiences than similar titles on the market, such as Minecraft and Second Life. You can play hide and seek with your friends, manage your own doughnut shop or hang out at your favorite diner. ROBLOX runs all of its services in the cloud and has the ability to allow 500,000 concurrent users to play at peak times across these environments. This is something that is unique to our platform.             

A budding game developer wanting to create a ROBLOX experience can utilize the platform’s Studio, create a game, and immediately push it to the cloud so that it’s instantly available on all platforms simultaneously. We are 100% committed to user-generated content driving the success of our VR platform and believe our vision to create the future of play and empower the imagination of kids and teens to think outside the box without boundaries or limits is what truly sets us apart from other games. The emergence of VR simply allows us to take this vision to the next level.

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GT: With VR and the social world of Roblox combined, what is the ultimate vision that you have long term?

DB: Since the launch onto VR, we are determined to make ROBLOX even more and more immersive as environments continue to look increasingly real over time. We truly believe that VR will only make it easier for users to find friends and have a robust social experience right in the comfort of their own home. Our developers will have the power to make their VR games even more transformative and immersive than ever before.

Everything that we do today and in the future will adhere to our vision of driving social immersion and co-experience, powered by user-generated content. Our mission from day one has been to satisfy a core human need, incorporating storytelling and co-experience – whether users are walking across the surface of the moon or working as a miner in a quarry – we want them to have the ability to do this together, and with ROBLOX’s continued vision as well as the added capability of VR, we believe we truly are creating the future of play.

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