It’ll probably take a while for virtual reality to develop the kind of software base that makes the pricey Oculus Rift or HTC Vive a must-have accessory for most gamers, but with the advent of Roblox in the VR space, that day may be coming a lot sooner.
Billed more as a game-creation toolkit and environment than a specific “game,” Roblox uses a simple (but deep) set of assets to allow users to design, build, and share their own games. We had a look at the system last year, when Roblox announced plans to launch on the Xbox One, which they did in January.
Now that Roblox is available in VR, company CEO David Baszucki says the possibilities for user created experiences are even more exciting.
“It’s a very new and different thing,” he said. “The level of immersion is so high that I believe, over time, that there’s great long term growth potential.”
VR adds some hefty requirements to the normal development process – for example, it’s crucial for VR experiences to maintain 90 frames per second in order to avoid players feeling sick or getting eye strain. Baszucki said that since they’ve already ported Roblox across mobile, PC, and now Xbox, the processing headroom for VR was mostly already present.
Some already-existing Roblox games already make for exciting VR experiences: the Roblox team showed off “Survive Disasters” – as the name suggests, players have to survive “disasters” such as boxes of TNT raining out of the sky. “Bird Simulator” lets users fly through a virtual forest from the perspective of an eagle.
But some of the Roblox experiences that have proven popular aren’t games at all, and are more reminiscent of the early attempts to make tech social, like the multi-user dungeons of the BBS era, or Second Life’s hangout spots. “Club Sanity” is where Roblox users can “chat, hangout, and dance,” or collaborate on ideas for new game creations.
“The idea is using technology not just to augment communication or storytelling, but to help us actually do things together,” Baszucki said.
With an as-yet-tiny install base for virtual reality, most software developers will probably have a difficult time financially justifying work on VR games for the near future. However, Roblox’s free-to-use business model and 300,000-strong creator community (by company estimates) could make it a valuable proving ground for concepts that eventually shape the future of VR.