If you missed it, fear not, because this week's MMO Family has a rundown of all the highlights!
The virtual BLOXcon kicked off with CEO David Baszucki's state-of-the-game speech, in which he shared what led him to create the company. When he was young, his love of building sets meshed with his early experiences using an Apple II. He began to work on a physics-based program that he felt would be a useful educational tool. What he immediately saw was that people were playing around with it and making funny games. He decided to go with the tide, and as he built up the company, the team made the crucial decision to open the game up to the users. They saw that the players were creating things that were better than the team could do, so they focused their energy on building the structure and the tools that would allow fans to build impressive worlds.
Since it launched, ROBLOX has continued to grow, and it now boasts over three million users each month. And #BLOXcon was a trending topic on Twitter in several countries during the virtual convention. To celebrate what the players have been able to create over the year, ROBLOX has established a Hall of Fame, and has been giving out awards at each of their conventions for the best creations and fan films.
During the virtual con, the company presented awards in six categories for games: best use of in-game purchasing, best co-op game, best horror game, best first-person shooter, best roleplay/city sim, and the users' choice for developer of the year. The co-op winner, Juggernaut, pits players against one randomly selected player who is buffed up and labeled the Juggernaut. Teamwork is key if players want to survive and take him down. Meanwhile, the winner for best horror game, Possession, makes excellent use of the recently added dynamic lighting. One player is "possessed" and it's up to everyone else to survive and take him down. The possessed player, meanwhile, can possess others, so players have to be wary of who to trust.
And the nominees for Best Roleplay/City Sim included a virtual Washington D.C. and a virtual Rome, with perfect replications of key buildings and landmarks. The winner, Robloxity, is an enormous map of over 14,000 bricks, and has everything you'd expect to see in a major city.
During the virtual con, players were able to participate in two question-and-answer sessions with the development team. The team fielded questions from the BLOXcon forums and Twitter, and it estimated that there were about 150,000 fans tuning in. The team highlighted several exciting changes as well. There is a new character customizer which allows players to edit and save outfits and character looks. Building items are also getting an overhaul. There are improved textures for wood, concrete, rock, grass and granite. Players can also build with ice and rust-colored items, as well as a newly-textured plastic.
Lastly, the team talked about two new features for players who build. Developers Central is a repository of information about the games they create. They'll be able to see metrics, like how many players are visiting, how long their play sessions are, and how much ROBUX they are earning. The devs can evaluate the data to help them in future creations or to improve current games. Meanwhile, the Developer's Exchange is going to give builders the opportunity to trade in some of their earned ROBUX for real currency. In short, it rewards talented builders who create and sell popular items. Lastly, they didn't go into details, but the team announced that they are working on a new type of consumable item for ROBLOX.
ROBLOX continues to explore ways for both kids and adults to take on the role of game developer, and what some fans have been able to build is on par with what professional game studios create. For kids, they're not only using their imagination and thinking like a developer, but they're also learning to code, understanding marketing, and diving into educational topics like city-planning, history, physics, and math. It's learning, but it's also fun (which is something Raph Koster would be proud of!).
Overall, the Virtual BLOXcon was a success, and a nice way for fans to participate in a convention even if they couldn't attend one in person. With the growing popularity of livestreaming, game studios have a real opportunity to connect with their fans outside of forums. That direct connection helps speed up conversations between players and developers, and it also puts a human face on those who make the game (and who sometimes feel the brunt of player discontent). Hopefully, more studios will follow suit and hold their own virtual conventions, or at least stream some shorter question-and-answer sessions on game changes.
The Virtual BLOXcon is saved for posterity on YouTube if you want to check out the details. You can also get a glimpse of all of the Hall of Fame games and films at the ROBLOX website. And because the game is free-to-play, you can log in and try out most of the winners!
The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to firstname.lastname@example.org.