Roblox – Go in and Play – December 11, 2012


“ROBLOX – Go in and play”
Learn how ROBLOX has crowdsourced almost 10 million online games (and counting), turned players into creators, and sparked imaginations worldwide.

Six years ago, Silicon Valley game startup ROBLOX bet the entire farm on user generated content (UGC). The result is a YouTube for games. Three million active users spend an average of 7 hours per week on ROBLOX. Our success did not come without difficulty – building a game around user generated content presents unique design challenges. This talk will discuss these challenges and how we solved some, and how we continue to wrestle with others.

Embracing UGC requires surrender of control. The tension is which game elements do you entrust to the users? Which “metagame” elements (features that should be common across all universes) do you retain control of? Two common hotspots: character advancement and monetization. The desire to own both of these top to bottom is obvious, fueled by the need to provide an experience of constant self-improvement to the player, and the need to make money. In the case of character advancement, we surrendered ground to level creators, with a system of user-created achievements. Monetization has been trickier. We’ve sold equipment that has in-game effects across all games (modest failure). We’ve allowed builders to sell VIP access to their levels (successful but vague value prop). We’ve given site-wide perks to paying members (very successful among creators, but leaves players behind). We’ve done integrated in-game ad deals with Disney, Fox, LEGO, Hasbro and others (win-win for us and players).

UGC is voluminous and most of it is garbage. 1% of all digital objects saved at Amazon S3 are ROBLOX asset files. Luckily, access patterns for ROBLOX assets follow the Pareto principle; in our case 90% of requests are for the top 5% of assets. This allows us to mirror a fraction of our content store on various edge servers to keep streaming fast and cheap. In terms of discovery, we rely on a combination of analytics and social infrastructure to help users find good games to play. We use a realtime popularity sort, sliced by a variety of user segments (gender, age, platform) and weighted for quality (based on engagement analytics). At the same time, we use social networking features (profiles, groups, favorites, parties) to elevate the work of established contributors.

How do you scale moderation of UGC when you have millions of creators? It’s all about leverage. Leverage your player base to report bad content. Leverage machine learning so that when your human moderators mark something as objectionable, your automated systems become smarter. Leverage moderation time requirements with dollars and charge users to upload anything that is laborious to moderate (like audio). On top of this, track reputation scores for all users and pre-filter content from untrusted sources. A tricky one we haven’t figured out 100% yet is how to moderate copyright disputes between users – this is especially important when you allow creators to sell their UGC or profit directly from it. We plan to implement a virtual copyright court that leverages users as jury members and compensates them for their time in virtual currency.

John Shedletsky, Creative Director at ROBLOX
Life long game developer and designer. Professional dreamer. Maker of grandiose claims. Liar. Scoundrel. Thief.

Brad Justus, VP of Marketing and Brand Experience at ROBLOX
Brad Justus has just joined ROBLOX as VP of Marketing and Brand Experience.
He brings more than two decades of experience with consumers, including several years as Senior Vice President at the LEGO Company where he created and led the company’s global direct-to-consumer business. While at LEGO, he built into a top 3 online brand worldwide, developed the company’s e-commerce business, and led product development for the company’s core enthusiast base. Most recently, he was CMO of Care Architecture, an aging-in-place initiative for seniors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Qualcomm Inc.
Building B
3165 Kifer Road
Santa Clara, CA

6:30 PM Registration and Networking
7:00 PM -8:40 PM Presentations

$20 at the door for non-SVForum members
No charge for SVForum members
No registration required