As one of the pioneers in the construction race metaverse, Roblox think in advance about what virtual worlds really need. And while the platform hasn’t lacked growth on its current trajectory – as of July, it had 47 million daily active users – it seeks to pave the way for deeper, richer virtual experiences that will engage users. people to come back for years to come.
To this end, Roblox takes careful but decisive steps towards the integration of voice chat into the platform’s base experience. The first step: Invite a group of trusted developers to explore how they can integrate proximity-based audio into the wildly popular experiences beating at the heart of the platform – from cool and vaporwavey party games successful kickflips in a Skatepark sponsored by Vans.
With spatial voice, users will be able to talk with other people nearby through live voice chat. Roblox sees its new voice product as a natural extension of how text chat works today, but instead of the text bubbles that appear above an avatar’s head, visible to anyone around them, players will be able to speak naturally. to other people they run into.
Suppose you were hanging out in a virtual skatepark in Roblox with spatial audio turned on: the skateboarders in the halfpipe with you would sound loud and clear, just like they would in real life. But you wouldn’t be able to hear someone walking on the sidewalk opposite because they are too far away. To have a private chat with a friend nearby, you can take off and head to a store down the block.
“As we think about the future of communication in the metaverse, we think it needs to be very natural and feel very similar to the way we communicate in the real world,” said Manuel Bronstein, Product Manager. from Roblox, to TechCrunch in an interview. “But it can also transcend some of the limitations that physics and space create in the real world.”
Bronstein joined the company in March, leaving Google to help realize Roblox’s particular vision for the Metaverse. Prior to switching to Roblox, Bronstein worked in product teams at Zynga, Xbox, and YouTube – three very different companies that are likely on equal terms to his current job.
“If you think of the metaverse as the next incarnation of where you know I could go shopping or go to a concert, I could go to school, I think you have to be relevant to everyone in the world. society and you both have to create the content, the rules, the functionality that supports all of these behaviors, “Bronstein said.” And part of the voice on the platform is to ensure that our older audiences have a natural way of communicating. “
Voice chat is on its way to Roblox, but that doesn’t mean it will appear overnight – and that’s by design. The company invites an initial group of 5,000 developers, all ages 13 and older, to try out the new spatial voice chat features in a custom Roblox community space.
“We’ve put a bunch of cool features in there and places where they can chat and hang out and they’re going to be able to learn from the code that we wrote for this community space… So a few weeks later or a month later, they can put that into their experiments and activate it, ”Bronstein said.
Bronstein points out that Roblox will take this process slowly, creating new moderation and security tools in parallel as we go. Voice deployment will be slow, starting with the chosen circle of developers and gradually expanding from there, as the company believes it can create a sufficiently safe environment with its moderation tools.
“I think we want to take it slow and we want to learn as we go,” Bronstein said. “We can start, as I mentioned, with the developers. It’s likely that right after that we could go and see an audience of 13+ and park there for a while until we understand exactly if all the pieces fall into place before we decide if we want to. let’s open up to a younger audience one day.
To moderate its sprawl of virtual worlds, Roblox uses a mix of automated analytics and a 3,000-person security team made up of human reviewers. As in any social network, players can flag, block, and mute other players to make their own experiences more comfortable. And because half of its player base is under 13, Roblox gives parents options on what types of age-appropriate experiences to allow and switches to things like text chat. If voice chat ever reaches younger age groups, parents could turn it off altogether.
Roblox’s under-13 customer base comprises a large portion of its user base, but a surprising number of older children and young adults hang out there as well. According to the company, 50% of its users are over the age of 13, and the most explosive user growth is among those aged 17 to 24. Roblox is attracting new users, but its core users are also growing and the company knows it needs to grow alongside them.
Whether or not voice chat is deployed for young users, Roblox seems well aware that maintaining a virtual environment with safe and user-friendly voice chat is a tall order. The company plans to build on user-initiated reporting as the voice unfolds and is exploring other tools that could bolster those efforts. The company is looking at a few different tools, including automatically saving a conversation snippet just before a user is flagged as a way to capture bad behavior for reviewers. He is also interested in the expansion of reputation systems that automatically restrict users who have a number of attacks against them.
Much like any social platform, Roblox will likely rely heavily on user reports, which disproportionately shifts the burden of hate and harassment on users – an unfortunate outcome that no social enterprise can do. ‘properly dedicated human resources to the resolution.
Next on the voice roadmap
Bronstein describes the spatial voice as “a component” of Roblox’s vision for natural communication. The next step is to build a persistent voice chat experience from one experience to the next, allowing users who know each other to spend time even when they’re not doing the same thing. For all those who paid attention to the business discreet acquisition of a company called Guilded last month it won’t be a surprise. Although Roblox’s voice work predates Acquisition, Guilded will lay the groundwork for future Roblox voice plans.
A competitor to Discord, Guilded has also built a chat platform for gamers, doubling the competitive gaming scene where Discord has broadened its horizons beyond gaming. Beyond group voice chat, Guilded offers players built-in community planning and management tools that make it easy to organize complex online social events, such as getting 20 or so players to stage raids in World of Warcraft.
“In the short term Guilded has an amazing roadmap, we just want to continue with that roadmap and develop it without any hardcore integration at this point,” Bronstein said.
In the metaverse
Moderation challenges aside, there is basically nothing in Roblox’s path. The company went public in March and is now worth $ 49 billion, easily making it one of the most valuable companies in gaming. Investors, content creators and tech giants the same go all-in on the metaverse, and really, that sounds like a pretty safe bet.
Metaverse is a buzzword right now, but it’s more of a shortcut than an empty hype. When people talk about the metaverse, they usually want to conjure up a futuristic vision of interconnected virtual worlds – online spaces in which we can move, socialize, and shop (for better or for worse, that last part is key. ). Whether this is all in virtual reality or not and when is up for debate, but in reality the interconnected part is the biggest challenge. In the age of applications, software was siled by design. But to fulfill the promise of the metaverse, our virtual selves and virtual content will need to be able to move smoothly through online worlds.
A few companies are ahead of the game on this, and it’s no coincidence that two of the bigger ones, Roblox and Fortnite-maker Epic – best known for their virtual worlds filled with personalized avatars, savings in the world. game and a transparent social layer – sums elevate user-created content. These experiences, and the ability to easily hang out with friends while doing things within them and elsewhere in the virtual space, can end up being the essence of the metaverse.
Most adults find it hard to grasp the allure of the blocky suburban worlds their kids love to hang out in, but Roblox understands something basic about living online. Go. Or rather where we’ll all go – in online worlds like Roblox.