MMO Family: Winter fun and cool cash in Roblox

EverQuest Next Landmark might be generating a lot of buzz over the impressive creations that players are putting together, but Roblox has been doing it for years, and many of those creating are still in grade school. Indeed, Roblox has continued to improve the structure of the game and give players great tools to become amateur developers. Recently, the developers showed off those tools with a series of winter games. But the real excitement is found in their Developer Exchange system, which now allows arm-chair developers to earn up to $2,000 a month from the games they create.

Let's take a look at what Roblox has been up to this winter in this week's MMO Family.

Fun, games, and lots of cash

Roblox is unique in that it's a kid-friendly MMO, but almost all of the content players enjoy is built by other players. Rather than corral kids into tightly controlled content with concrete limitations, Roblox opened the doors and invited players both young and old to learn and create. And the studio continues to improve upon those building tools. Just last month, the devs made it easier for designers to download useful plugins, and they launched Developer Stats, a feature that allows builders to track user traffic by day and by hour. Through Developer Stats, builders can see how many players are visiting their games and how long they are sticking around. In the future, this system will expand to include other areas, such as monetization.

In addition to the improvements with the building tools, Roblox recently added the ability to create and edit character animations. The Editor gives builders the ability to make unique movements to their characters and eventually even monetize them to earn revenue. In fact, builders are already earning some serious cash thanks to the Developer Exchange system. The best builders can cash in their Robux virtual currency for real money, and so far, 111 developers have cashed in over $46,000. Even more exciting, the monthly cap on revenue earnings is increasing from $500 a month to $2,000 a month.

What began as a physics simulation has now blossomed into a training ground/laboratory for armchair developers and young designers. Roblox doesn't hand-hold; on the contrary, if you really want to be in the top tier of builders, you'll need to learn the complexities of the tools, but there are some young players who have done just that. Kid-friendly MMOs stress safety in-game, which leads to regulated chat and limits on what players can do to the world and to each others. Roblox directly challenges that approach. They're giving young players the freedom to create and innovate, but they're also not trying to "dumb things down" just because part of their playerbase is young. What kids (and adults!) have done in Roblox is truly impressive, and each time I pop in to catch up with things, I'm amazed at how the games improve each time I do. Not only do they look better and play more smoothly, but the creativity that goes into the games themselves is amazing.

Winter Games

Not surprisingly, some players have pooled their talents and collaborated on larger scale projects, and some are even starting up their very own indie studios within Roblox. And recently, several worked together to launch a Winter Games event, inspired by the Winter Olympics. Players could enter the Winter Lodge and from there head out to compete in several different winter games, including snowboarding, snowball fighting, kart racing, and a winter-themed tank battle. Competitors could see their scores after completing an event and view their standings on the leaderboard. Players could unlock badges and win a variety of prizes, and there were over a half a million visits during the course of the event. If you missed it, no worries because there are still many other winter-themed games available to play, and you can catch the highlights on the website.

There are many ways to interact with Roblox. You can be a PvP star in paintball games or swordfights. You can explore a city or castle or ride a roller coaster. You can design a popular in-game item and run your own in-game store. Or you could step behind the curtain and become a top builder. What's exciting is that the studio is focusing its efforts on improving the building tools and the game mechanics, leaving much of the content design in the hands of the players. That's a refreshing change from what we're used to seeing in MMOs, particularly kid-friendly ones.

It's hard to look at Roblox as just a game because the core is really about learning the ins and outs of game design. To be the best, you need more than just a great idea for a game. You need to learn how to use the tools and be able to work with the Lua script. You need to be a savvy advertiser to market your game and bring players in. You also need to understand what metrics tell you about how players are interacting with your game and use those lessons to improve your games in the future. On one level, you certainly can just log in and pop into the game of your choice. But to get the most from Roblox, you really end up becoming a game developer, and it's exciting to see that even young players have risen to the challenge. These are the potential developers of the future, and if their current creations are any indication, the future of gaming looks very promising.

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