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Spencer Arons of Rodeo Interactive: “I would be lying if I said we could have made our game without extensive knowledge of the platform and engine.”

Rodeo Interactive’s lead programmer talks tech to innovate on Roblox
Spencer Arons of Rodeo Interactive: “I would be lying if I said we could have made our game without extensive knowledge of the platform and engine.”

Roblox has exploded in the past decade from the niche block-building, game-creation multiplayer platform to arguably the closest thing we have to a metaverse that’s living and breathing today.

So what’s it like to develop for the platform? We chatted to some of the biggest studios working on Roblox today about the highs and lows of working on the platform, what sort of experience they’ve had and most importantly, how they found success.

The last of these groups is Rodeo Interactive, creators of Riotfall. Whereas Frontlines took inspiration from Call of Duty and Ruin went for a fantasy roguelite angle, Riotfall is a take on the more fast-paced formula created by games such as Counter-Strike.

We spoke to the lead programmer at Rodeo Interactive, Spencer Arons, about his experience on the platform and how their skills with Roblox tech helps give Riotfall the edge. How did you approach building your game on Roblox?

Spencer Arons: Looking at the stack of technology Roblox was beginning to amass around summer 2021, we thought there were just enough pieces there to make a compelling game that would no longer "look like Roblox" and be a lot of fun too. We wanted to make a game for an older audience compared to the general Roblox audience because there was a clear demand forming. We're always right up to the edge of what the engine can handle given how Roblox distributes games.

Did you have any development experience beforehand, and if so how did that inform your game?

When we were just getting started, the core of our team consisted of "lifelong" Roblox devs. A handful of us had worked on projects together since we were in high school, despite us all living in different regions of the world. One of the games did quite well in terms of Roblox games in the mid 2010s. But RIOTFALL was the first game where we were all full-time developers from the onset.

What has your experience been like working on your game via Roblox, and how does it differ to other platforms?

Partnering with Roblox through their Game Fund program allowed us to expand our team to include people from a variety of backgrounds, from hobbyists to industry devs. This was mostly a trial by fire and a story of learning completely as we went. We weren't a studio before RIOTFALL, more of a passionate group of collaborators, but now we functionally are a (young) studio.

Although some people on our team have worked on numerous well-known titles, as a group we have not yet tried shipping a game on a platform other than Roblox.

How do you manage and utilise user interaction on Roblox compared to other platforms?

I think if you asked people with kids if they know about Roblox, the answer is often a "yes - and they're obsessed with it". There's a reason for that. The platform undeniably has something magnetic, and now an entire generation has grown up with it. The content is delivered so fast to the user on Roblox - as close as any game platform has gotten to the speed of social media - so they come to see the latest cultural trends on the platform.

The platform is also providing a genesis for wider trends in its own right. A large reason for this is because players on Roblox don't just observe content in the way that they often do on social media. Here, they are active participants in the content. The social participation itself sometimes is often the content. It's certainly not unique for video games to do this, but to do this seamlessly on such a large scale between different user created experiences, that's a bit unique. I think there's a lot of societal value in this, considering how diverse and worldwide the audience is. The world really comes here to interact in a unique way.

What do you think the future of Roblox will look like?

In the past, the draw of the platform has been there despite the graphic fidelity or game quality. But from what we're just starting to see, a surprising amount of the appeal applies to non-kids as well. People just need an excuse to give the platform a shot, and that will happen when the graphics and game quality are no longer a detractor. Bonus points when they're actually selling points. Despite this starting to happen, it will still take more time and more games that try to push the engine. By no means do I think Roblox "is" the future gaming industry, but it is clearly starting to carve a portion of the appetite for people who would have previously given it no chance.

Despite once being far from the mainstream, internet culture is now starting to bubble on Roblox the same way it does on the most relevant media platforms. The successful devs on the platform see this. Often it's all about building features that don't get in the way of Roblox's default social pipeline, because people already know how to interact there. Observe what works for the biggest games on the platform and incrementally build on top of it with your own identity.

How do you innovate and use technology for your title?

I would be lying if I said we could have made our game without extensive knowledge of the platform and engine. I hope more devs from the wider industry become enticed by the platform, because their expertise will really help push the engine where it needs to go technically.

I think Roblox as a company is often in a position where they invent a solution to their problems, because the problems are often novel given the unique way they distribute games and experiences. But I think so many of the solutions could be expedited if there were more industry veterans in the room on the game creator side. Feedback would be firmer.

Maybe not everything would be as novel as it seems. There are many top talented people at Roblox and the developer community is amazing. As creator ambition grows, I think people will be even more surprised by the platform's future.