The recent launch of ROBLOX’s virtual reality (VR) edition came as somewhat of a shock. The user-generated content platform has been hailed as an entry-level space for young budding developers for some time, allowing for a level playing field for eager gamers to put their own ideas into practice and, in some extreme cases, even monetise them. Bringing VR to ROBLOX opens up a whole new field of opportunity, but it’s not without concern.
The VR development community as it stands has spent a number of years working together to overcome the issues inherent with the medium, from user input to the dreaded simulator sickness. While opening up VR to even more potential developers can only be a good thing for the medium, it does raise a question as to how these younger creative minds will tackle such issues independently of more experienced developers.
ROBLOX already offers a number of worthwhile VR experiences, such as the popular ROBLOX Point – Theme Park, which are tailored to third-person cameras and high quality production from the start. However, enabling all experiences to be played in VR by default is most certainly a mistake; ROBLOX doesn’t have any special vetting or approval service for VR experiences, which is already resulting in some very poorly balanced productions.
One of the most popular titles on ROBLOX is StyLiS Studios’ Phantom Forces, a first-person shooter (FPS) currently listed as being in ‘beta’. Though on a traditional 2D monitor this videogame is a commendable effort at recreating a multiplayer FPS videogame without the toolset of a AAA studio or even a traditional engine, in VR it would take even the most experienced users of the new medium not to induce simulator sickness in minutes.
The problem undoubtedly arises from poor communication. ROBLOX’s efforts to enhance it’s service for VR currently consists of a single page in the ‘help’ section of the website tutoring users on how to enable the Oculus Rift compatibility. There are no directions, information or best practices guides available for those using ROBLOX Studio to create such experiences.
It’s a great effort on behalf of ROBLOX to continue its cross-platform ethos and allow users to build for VR, however far more curation of the videogame catalogue needs to be applied post haste. ROBLOX could well lead to a new generation of designers versed in the medium, but without tighter control ROBLOX is more likely to be damaging to the medium opposed to the progressive entry-level tool it deserves to be.