Massively had a chance to talk with CEO David Baszucki about the new mobile app, and he gave us some insight into how it works and what it means for Roblox. He also spoke about an exciting new change to the Roblox economy and hinted at plans for the future.
From the introductory hands-on I had with the app, I was surprised at how this app is not just some add-on minigame or offline tool but a fully developed app that allows users to play the game and build worlds. Baszucki said it was a dream since he and his team started; they began by setting up the ability for players to play and build together both on Macs and PCs. They then took the code, modified it, optimized it, and were able to put it on iOS. When you play the game, you're actually playing against people on Macs, PCs, and mobile devices all at the same time.
Roblox Corporation launched the project about four months ago, and the beauty of it is that 99% of the code can be used for the mobile app, so it really came down to optimization. Baszucki told us that some of the UI changes actually influenced the developers' decision to improve upon the desktop version, changes like click-to-move capability. With Roblox, they found that the tablet version made it easier to move around, zoom in, and play. They also had to add in an automated process to filter out the worlds that aren't playable on tablets. Users have created over 5 million worlds just in the last year, and worlds with lots of objects won't work correctly currently. So the team developed an algorithm to sort out worlds that are played successfully; the more those are played, the more they will rise to the top, making it easier for mobile players to get right into the worlds that are smooth.
The biggest struggle, Baszucki said, was that an iPad is similar to a seven-year-old PC when it comes to things like graphics processing and rendering. When Roblox Corporation first began testing the mobile app, it ran, but not as smoothly as the devs wanted it to, so they had to focus on memory optimization and performance optimization.
Interestingly enough, one way that Roblox's devs promoted the upcoming launch was to put virtual tablets in their virtual store. Each day at a random time, they would put one up for sale. The tablets were immediately purchased and became valuable items that were traded among the users. The best part is that players who have a virtual tablet will be able to turn it in for a real one.
Another exciting change is that players can now trade in Robux, the virtual currency in Roblox. Many users buy and trade items, and there are some that are even worth thousands of real dollars now. Players often arrange complex trades, and it was hard to make fair match ups just through items. Thanks to the updates, players can balance out those item trades with tradable Robux that can now be included in the transaction.
The mobile app has had a big impact on the game overall. As Baszucki said, you can safely design a user experience for mobile and have it translate to the desktop, but you can't have it go the other way. Mobile is the new design standard for Roblox, and long term, the devs want to make everything work on all platforms. Even though players can currently create worlds, click a button, and push them to the cloud for all platforms, Roblox's team hopes to provide the tools to produce a high-quality experience across the board.
As for future plans, Baszucki wouldn't go into details but did say that long-term players will see the quality of first-time user experience go up -- that the presentation for newbies will be much more elegant than it is right now.
The Roblox mobile app is available for free on the iTunes store, and players can check out all the details of what's going on in Roblox on the official site. Thanks to CEO David Baszucki for pulling back the curtain and giving us a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in Roblox!
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