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Responding to User Feedback: Community Edition

January 21, 2013

by John Shedletsky


Every so often, we ask our users to let us know what they’d like to see in ROBLOX, then respond to some of the most insightful comments and pertinent questions. This time, John Shedletsky, ROBLOX’s Creative Director, talks about a variety of ROBLOX topics, including NBC trading, video tutorials, the ROBLOX film community, group documents, and a whole lot more. We pulled these questions from this active thread, which we’ll continue to keep an eye on. 

jeffstewertalt: Let NBCs (Non-Builders Club members) be able to trade. And, let NBCs be able to buy Limited Unique items after they are all gone. And maybe NBCs could get a weekly stipend of 10 Robux? Think about it and try to write me back admins of ROBLOX. Thanks!

ROBLOX is a free-to-play game. We make a small amount of money from advertising, but for the most part, we are supported by our players who choose to buy Builders Club or purchase Robux. In order for us to continue to develop ROBLOX, we need to be a sustainable business, which means we need to make money somehow. In our case, this means we have to convince people that upgrading to Builders Club is worth at least $6/month. So it becomes a question of what benefits do we wish to extend to our premium members?

From our various user surveys, as well as talking to hundreds of current Builders Club members, I know that most BC members sign up because they get extra places, a daily stipend of ROBUX, and the ability to sell things (there are a lot of other benefits, but those are the main ones). So it’s very risky for us to open these features up to all users. We might lose a lot of subscribers. In particular, I think it’s safe to say that getting Robux will always be a premium feature. Selling stuff will probably always be a premium feature. We’ve talked about opening up the trading system to free members, but trading and selling feel like very similar activities.

One thing we’re definitely not going to allow *anyone* to do is buy Limited Unique items after they are gone – the whole point of limited items is that there is a limited number of them.

Ultimately the real game in ROBLOX is building stuff and exploring what others have built. That part is 100% free. If you want extras, we feel that $6/month is a very fair price.

IceKingFinn938: Remove Builders Club-only from Personal Build Servers. NBCers have many rights, but at least let us have personal servers. More people would use them. A lot of us like to group build.

ROBLOX is actively working on a new multiplayer building experience that will likely be available to everyone. Personal servers are only for premium members because unlike other ROBLOX games, the cost to operate them is high. This is due to several factors: 1) personal servers get twice the compute resources as other games, 2) personal servers often only have 1-2 people in them because they’re not public and 3) personal servers are constantly saving data to the cloud (and we pay for this bandwidth). Making them available to free members is not viable from a business standpoint.

ethanfireeyes: How about a sort of “tutorial” level for newer players? It would cover things as basic as moving around, to intermediate- level scripting. It would also make newer users feel more welcome.

This is a great idea. We are actively working on adding tutorials to two areas of the product. First we’re going to be overhauling the “Welcome to ROBLOX” level with more in-depth tutorial content and missions. Second, we’re going to be adding a series of video tutorials that will teach users how to build stuff in ROBLOX Studio.

Pexec: Make a ROBLOX tutorial for new accounts. Like when it pops up “Info is missing from you” instead of that, have a youtube video of a great tutorial of how to get started on ROBLOX.

This is another great idea. As long as watching the video is optional, I think people would find it helpful.

TheRoblox138: You should add in a tutorial feature to how to join or make games on ROBLOX. I have gotten lots of messages asking how to build.

Yup – we’ve had a lot of requests for better ROBLOX Studio tutorials. We’re on it.

eTempest: More acknowledgement/support for the film community. I mean outside the fact of place’s gallery videos. We could have, for example, a yearly film festival and the videos are all put up on the contest page.

ROBLOX loves YouTubers and we want to support them as much as possible. We’ve shied away from video contests as the site has gotten larger, due to the impossibility of us watching 1000s of entries to try to pick the best ones. One possibility is to leverage our existing contest system, extending it to support video contests. Then players could be the judges. If we had this, we’d be running video contests at least once a month.

BenMck: I’m sure you all know about the total Spam in the Catalog’s Items Commentary.

Here are two suggestions:

  1. Stop people from commenting on it altogether.
  2. If it’s a limited item, the people who own it should be able to delete comments.

I have two other possible solutions to fight comment spam (and its insidious cousin, forum spam): Reputation system. If enough people report your comments for spam, and moderators agree, we stop letting your account post comments. New accounts would need to build up their reputation level before they would be able to post comments. This is a complicated technical solution.

1. Reputation system. If enough people report your comments for spam, and moderators agree, we stop letting your account post comments. New accounts would need to build up their reputation level before they would be able to post comments. This is a complicated technical solution.

2. Commenting costs 1 ticket. Most comment spam is advertisements. There’s no way that advertising is effective enough to be worth even 1 ticket to be able to do it. Meanwhile, for many ROBLOX players, 1 ticket is not much money. This is the simple solution.      

I prefer either of these to turning off comments altogether.

Blueice506: I’ve had an idea for a group feature that I like to call “group documents”.

This is something that’s been on my head for a very long time. The idea of group documents is that certain ranks in a group can write articles for the group, such as rules, what times their HQ is open, raiding plans, etc. Now, next to the Members (Personal Servers/Allies/Enemies) button on the group page, there a button that says “Documents”. If a user clicks it, the Documents portion of the page pops up below the button, with a layout the same as Members, Personal Servers, etc. In the “Documents” area, there will be medium-sized icons of written documents listed. There are numbers/arrows to go to other pages with documents, but there will also be a search bar to quickly search a document up.

Now, how to make a document: In the group admin page of the group, and the rank privileges section of the page, there are two new checkbox sections. One is “Can Create Group Documents”, and the other is “Can Delete/Archive/Edit Group Documents”. The group owner selects which ranks can have these abilities. To start writing a document, a user presses “Create New” in Documents. Writing a group document is just like writing a forum post, but only one difference. To the right of “Title”, there is a box with an arrow on its right side, and the user creating the documents uses it to select which ranks can see the document. The user can make any rank below his/her own unable to view the document, but not her own or a higher rank. All members of his/her own rank and higher ranks can view the document. When the document is done, the creator presses “Post” to publish, but just like in the forum, there is a “Preview Before Post” button next to “Post”. The owner and any chosen ranks can delete or archive this article at any time.

If a group owner or chosen rank wants to remove a certain article from the group for any reason, he/she goes to the Documents portion of the page, and clicks the arrow pointing down on the top right of the document. This shows four options: Delete, Archive, Edit and Report. Deleting a document permanently erases it, and it no longer exists. Archiving a document, however, takes it off the group’s page but doesn’t erase it. It goes into storage in the group admin page, where the group owner or any selected rank can go to unarchive it. The article’s creator, the group owner or any selected rank can edit any article whenever they want. To publish the edit to the article, the user clicks “Update”, which is in the same place as the “Post” button used to be. A user cannot delete, archive, or edit an article if it was made by a user of a higher rank than him/herself. The “Report” button reports the article to ROBLOX admins for abuse of the rules.

This would be especially useful for:

  • A group’s rules
  • A war group’s enemies/allies list
  • An automobile company’s list of official vehicles
  • A list of an airline’s fleet

For those of you reading this, the TL;DR version of this suggestion is that we build the functionality into groups to allow them to basically have a group blog/forum (both or either, depending on how permissions are set up).

I think there is huge value in giving ROBLOX groups the tools they need to essentially create their own little communities. Blogs, forums, permanent records of group wars, a place to share models, chat, etc. All of this stuff would make ROBLOX groups a much more powerful feature for connecting users of similar interests.

Implementing everything suggested above is obviously a ginormous project, but I think we’ll see incremental improvements in this area over the course of 2013.

rockintyler8: A community helper system, where selected users are chosen to help out new members. Like the coaching system in TF2.

Ha. I use this example all the time when I’m talking to people about what other games do to make their new users feel welcome. The guys behind TF2 are geniuses.

One idea I had along these same general lines is to add a chat room to ROBLOX Studio, maybe with different channels for building, scripting, and game design.

DarkGenex: Could you add some sort of way to quickly delete messages (specifically from the ROBLOX system)? I have over 2k messages (unread) mostly from friend requests and trade requests–there’s got to be an easier way than archiving them…

Yes. The current system hasn’t been substantially improved in 6 years. Eventually we want to have all the functionality of a basic email client: search, filter, sort, mass delete.

XXXFlashBackXXX: In-game microphone use. Requirements: must be 13 or over, and the account must be at least a week old.

While we would certainly never allow this for our younger users, it’s an interesting idea for our older users. It would be good for coordination in team games, and it would add a social aspect to building games.