Roblox: Everything you need to know about the online gaming platform and the creation system
The power to create and fully control a world seems unfathomable unless we are talking about a virtual world. And Roblox lets you do just that. It serves as a free social platform that hosts a variety of games and experiences that one can participate in, while providing a robust chat system.
Players can create their own custom avatars by browsing a variety of options such as hair, clothing, accessories, and emotes. Then with a few clicks you can pick a server and jump right in the middle of a gaming session. Here you could escape the police, play a multiplayer shooter, or make new friends in the built-in Robloxian Highschool. , to name a few.
Created by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004, Roblox grew rapidly in the second half of 2010, when YouTubers started using it to create memes or play pirated versions of popular games. The pandemic-induced lockdown has been another driving force, prompting children around the world to sign up and interact with each other, bringing the player base to more than 164 million active users as of August 2020. It has also hosted virtual concerts, similar to Fortnite, where artists like Zara Larrson and Twenty One Pilots performed on several interdimensional stages.
Besides the consumer aspect, Roblox includes downloadable software called Roblox Studio, which is the main engine on which the game runs. Players can use it to create virtual spaces and objects by tinkering with 3D models or coding them with the “Lua” programming language to create new modes of play for others.
The assembly step, however, does not require any coding knowledge. Much like Unreal Engine 4, users can directly import and interact with the provided models to scale and resize, change angles, and move them using drag axes.
The built-in properties tab adds more depth to your models, offering color options, a transparency slider, shadows, and highlights. It even lets you choose textures. Collisions can also be enabled, via a simple checkbox so that your character doesn’t walk through models or walls like a hologram
Once the game or virtual room has been created, users can publish it for everyone to play or set it to “private” or “friends only” by going to permission settings. You can also select on which devices the game will be run – PC, phone, tablet or consoles.
Robux and exploitation of child developers
Robux is basically a virtual currency used to make in-game purchases. Most of them are cosmetic, while others enhance your Roblox experience by unlocking paid games. For example, in city simulation game modes, players can purchase boosters that speed up the rate of progression or give them extra money to complete certain tasks, instead of having to earn them while playing. These are called microtransactions and are generally frowned upon due to their degree of manipulation – offering an unfair advantage to those willing to pay for them.
In-game currency can be acquired through the official store in packages, for which you will have to pay real money. Spending the lowest level, $ 4.99 (approx Rs 372) grants 400 Robux, while the highest amount, $ 19.99 (approx Rs 1490) grants 1700, allowing you to purchase upgrades and abilities for your LEGO type characters. There is also a monthly subscription model called Roblox Premium, which offers a Robux bonus, as long as your card is attached to it.
The company has been repeatedly criticized for these exploitative practices, where children have spent large sums of money on the platform without their parents’ consent. Additionally, there have been instances where accounts that have filed chargebacks or requested refunds have been deleted, or players have been tricked into clicking summary links in exchange for free Robux.
Now, to be fair, there are ways to earn free money which mainly involves developing a Roblox game with some form of monetization or referring friends using the affiliate program. However, in mid-2021, an investigative journalism YouTube channel – “People play games” accused the studio of exploiting children’s developers. This would involve promising “serious money” in return for monetized games, when in reality would offer them little or no money.
To put that in perspective, Steam takes a 30% share of all its sales, while on Epic Games the value is set at 12 – which is why many developers choose to release games there. Roblox follows a similar formula to the Steam platform but pays the remaining 70% in Robux – a virtual currency that has no real value. Now, if a user intends to withdraw those Robux and turn them into real currency, the minimum withdrawal amount is 100,000 Robux, which equals $ 1,000. This means that if you happened to earn $ 950 in virtual currency, your actual paycheck would still be $ 0. You might as well wait until next month for more players to join your game, or re-invest your hard-earned Robux.
Roblox’s ever-growing player base makes it difficult to find small games in the vast ocean of what the company considers “the best games.” To be successful, you can scramble and stay hopeful, or pay Roblox to advertise your game.
For this, a user needs to convert their money to Robux and then participate in an auction to earn ad slots. Afterwards, it’s a matter of luck. In short, child developers end up investing more money in the game, instead of profiting from it.
Communication system and harassment
Unlike Minecraft’s cluttered chat interface, Roblox offers cleaner solutions. There is a text chat system that causes a speech bubble to appear above the head, making it easy for players to recognize who is talking to whom. A voice chat feature is also included, but to access it you need to be over 13 years old. And yes, parents can control who their children communicate with and there are filters for games that are prohibited for minors.
But there are some unscrupulous elements there. It can be to rip off kids with their hard earned items through the integrated trading system or to do something horrible like sending inappropriate messages. In fact, that was the case with one of Roblox’s own developers who lashed out on a girl for months. Ironically, when the incident came to light, the victim was humiliated for “trying to ruin someone’s life”. Although the developer’s account was banned soon after, there was no word on the actual repercussions.
Additionally, there is adult content spread across the platform with black market casinos and virtual sex / strip clubs taking center stage. However, the company can only shut down these rooms / games instead of moderating or regulating them, given that most of the users here are using third party apps for communication. Or at least that’s the excuse they keep falling for.
Mid-2020, a survey conducted by Fast business led to the discovery that many digital sex parties were, in fact, hosted by children under the age of 17. Nicknamed “games in co-ownership”, these spaces served as a free refuge for all those who wanted to pay for their deviations. Players would create nude characters, role-play, and have them perform sexual acts, with options for them to switch positions. Others were just there to use slurs and make offensive jokes.
Roblox was created to be a vast digital playground for children: more than half of American gamers are under the age of 16. Today, the company is waging a technological shadow war against “timeshare games”: digital sex parties where children act like adults. https://t.co/OCknlcSwrt
– Fast business (@FastCompany) August 19, 2020
Finding a condo game is a difficult task, and in most cases, the kid developers would create them themselves. The process involved paying a certain amount of Robux to an owner on a private Discord server, who would offer models and code for the game. The buyer would then modify certain aspects, advertise it as their own sex club, and, As you would expect, would gain more ground than it would have if it had created its own original game.
To enter such clubs, customers would have to purchase shirts or virtual items through Robux, which go into the designer’s pocket before eventually returning to the business. The thriving environment also makes it easy for pedophiles to prepare children for sexual abuse, although most moderators claim to keep suspects away from their servers. This would involve setting up message filters, listening to their voices and banning those who offer to share illegal images on Snapchat.
There have also been cases of sexual violence in the game, most notably in 2018, when an American mother noticed that her 7-year-old daughter’s avatar was being raped by two people. At the time, Roblox banned the player and apologized to the victim and his family, and discovered that their protection system had been hacked and tampered with. The culprit had changed the code to make custom animations appear, which also added the male genitals.
It seems that some of these issues could have been avoided if only Roblox had better content moderation. Simply implementing a pre-accommodation game review and approval system could dramatically improve the experience for children. Adding a verification process to limit the ease of creating new accounts or just adding a more robust payment system that requires direct parent authentication is also a great solution. But, the company continues to take the safer route and ban people instead of adding appropriate measures, which would be costly.