When I spoke to Roblox in 2020, the company was in the midst of rebuilding its entire underlying infrastructure. It had been running into issues with downtime due to insufficient resources to meet demand and needed to build a modern, cloud-native system to handle its growing user base.
But beyond the nuts and bolts of that system rebuild, Roblox had some ideas for their developer users as well. The gaming platform was also looking at its developer tool set and how it could prepare for a world where the venerable web browser was no longer its main delivery mechanism.
Roblox aims to democratize game development, letting its users build games regardless of their technical skill. You could be a 10-year-old in Peoria or a team of professional game developers in Tokyo — whatever your skill level or motivation, the idea is to provide a platform where people can build games.
But the company believes that the Roblox platform could have more uses and is building a new approach to accommodate the required flexibility while keeping it easy to use. By hiding the underlying complexity from less experienced developers and building a flexible new system for more technical users, Roblox is looking to move beyond games into other experiences like virtual concerts, commerce and more creative approaches.
“We look in some ways like a very specialized cloud provider, and our community comes in and builds all this stuff on top of it.” Dan Sturman, CTO, Roblox
We recently caught up with Roblox CTO Dan Sturman to get an inside look at how this project is coming together, the challenges of building a tech stack for the masses and the company’s foray into virtual currency.
Rethinking the tool set
While the terms “web3” and “metaverse” get tossed around quite often these days, especially when talking about a social gaming platform with a monetization engine, Roblox wants to avoid the jargon. Instead, the company wants to build a flexible platform that moves content seamlessly across device types, whether it’s phones, headsets or desktop computers.
“Metaverse is a term that’s been blown up and overused and it’s non-specific. But I tend to go back to these two core elements: 3D and social. There’s so many interesting things you can do when it’s a 3D environment. It’s within a collaborative sort of mode with some group of people — your friends, your colleagues, people with the same interests, whatever that is. Those two coming together, I think, have a ton of power behind it,” he said.