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RGC 2012: Prototyping the Future Look of ROBLOX

July 18, 2012

by Gemlocker


Over the past several months, Client Engine Lead Simon Kozlov has been working on some prototype videos that showcase the potential look of ROBLOX in the future. He shared them at ROBLOX Game Conference 2012, and now we’re showing them to the community at large. It’s important to note that these videos are prototypes and there is no projected release date, but the differences are staggering.

“We spent a lot of time talking about what kind of look is right look for ROBLOX,” said Kozlov. “We looked at a lot of different types of effects to determine what works and what doesn’t.”

The end result is an impressive blend of effects, combining photo-realistic textures and lighting with the aesthetic ROBLOX users are familiar with. ROBLOX has always been a virtual toy, of sorts, but these prototype videos show the pieces to build worlds could one day have a more realistic appearance.


In this video, one of the earliest and most famous levels on ROBLOX, “Crossroads,” was re-done with prototype materials and effects. We used  3D Studio Max’s preview window for prototyping–all shaders, textures, and effects run in real time, which allows us to gauge realistic frame rate expectations. The video features dynamic shadows and textures blended in real time that change based on eye-distance.


“Island” was created in order to show off a wide range of terrains — it features the same geometry of the original ROBLOX map, but with new shadows, shaders and the use of ambient occlusion, which creates realistic and dynamic reflections. The water was re-rendered as well, but more on that later.


Each of the materials in ROBLOX could feature their own dynamic textures and shaders that vary depending on the material. In this video, you can see that the textures sharpen the closer you move to the object, and the reflections change based on perspective and sources of light. Simply put: grass looks like grass, stone looks like stone, and wood looks like wood.


The new lighting system demo features two distinct models — the one on the left is highly detailed but can’t be computed in real time; the one on the right can. The world was built with a volumetric grid laid on top of it, which allowed the team to dedicate lighting to dynamic objects. You’ll notice global shadows that change based on the source of the light (which can now be changed too!), and ambient occlusion effects as well.


There were several concepts for water, and ultimately simplicity was the deciding factor. In fact, the water you see in the first section of the video is running with no shaders, just layers and layers of textures. The benefit? Water can run smoothly without the need for expensive hardware. The underwater portion of the video is still being conceptualized, as the team is still determining whether to include moving geometry to make it run more realistically.