So, What Exactly is Roblox?

A Tour of Ten Games Which Help Explain Why This Kids-Focussed Platform Is The Future of Play

CW: discussion of online child abuse, includes a link to an article describing an incident.

Part I: What is Roblox?
Part II: Getting Started
Part III: The List (Jump To The List)

Part I: What is Roblox?

Image shows a launch page for a Roblox game called ‘Cart Ride into Nicki Minaj!’
Unfortunately, this is NOT on the official list

For me, Roblox was to games as TikTok is to social media: I know it’s there, I know it’s fun, but I’m just ‘too old’ and, frankly, content with my perfectly satisfying, healthy Twitter and Instagram habits. The first time I heard of Roblox sounded distinctly like the first of the many times I heard of Fortnite, Minecraft or, once upon a time, ‘dabbing’.

In 2020–21, for reasons I don’t need to mention, I found myself with a lot of time to play games with my friends online. Every Sunday, depending on who was available, myself and eight other videogame developers and curators would log on and decide what looked good to play.
We played a lot of one particularly great exploration survival game called Raft, and are currently enjoying popular Viking role-playing game Valheim. We played golf games, cowboy games, engineering games, puzzle games, hilarious games of virtual hide & seek, games about balloon popping monkeys...But most of all we played Roblox.

Roblox has proven to be a wonderful and deeply funny place to play together. Reminiscent at times of the way I played as a child; with nonsense themes, strange rules and pastiche-like roleplaying of the imagined adult experience. For kids today, Roblox can be a highly social platform, and I am sure that many of the young users will be learning plenty of real-world skills like conflict resolution and managing their emotions. Many will meet people who become their closest friends. For us adults diving in to take a look at this world, it was still a delightful, engaging and refreshing place.

Roblox is firstly, fundamentally, an engine for making games and experiences. The entire structure of Roblox is made up of two core parties:
The Makers and The Players. It’s free to be either; the players play the games which the makers make.

Most of the games on Roblox seem to be half-baked, broken, made by people who are either very young, or otherwise definitely not professional developers. Quite a few, though, including all of the vaguely popular ones, as well as the games on my list, are large-scale efforts which have clearly taken a ton of work and consideration. They may be made by people who are indeed very young, but also by people who are well past the point of amateurism. The best games we’ve played have felt as if they’re unrestricted by the common ‘rules’ of being a ‘good’ game developer in a professional context; ugly graphics and questionable physics are both expected and forgiven, which is conducive to a lot of truly novel experiences unique to Roblox.

By pairing beginner-friendly tools with fewer barriers between developers and players, Roblox is doing a lot to help budding developers design unique worlds and games where that childlike, pure creativity and free-play can really flourish and shine through.

The oft unintentional humour of Roblox is one of its finest features.
This accidental type of absurd-comedy comes from the both-at-once limited and seemingly endless catalogue of user-generated resources available to the game designers to use to build their games. This bizarre catalogue of game objects applies both to graphics and sound, with sounds often being out of place and utterly marvellous.

A photo of the common bottle asset, looks exactly like a Gatorade bottle except the label reads Bloxiade (that is spelled as: b l o x i a d e)
Oh, I’m sorry, it’s not Gatorade.
Can’t imagine how I was mistaken…

A common example I’ve always enjoyed is the designer who wants to put bottles in their game environment.

The designer may be limited in their options, forced to use a highly-detailed G̶a̶t̶o̶r̶a̶d̶e̶ ‘Bloxiade’ bottle, because that’s the bottle which exists on the asset store. Like some kind of gamedev Aldi.

There it will stand, neon purple, even if it looks quite ridiculous in the wider context of the environment they’re making.

The enduring effectiveness of the surprise I get from these absurd, high-definition brand objects always makes me laugh, properly. It’s nearly depressing, but not quite yet, because as far as I know Roblox hasn’t been approached on any legal grounds, or offered brand association deals by such wholesome, compassionate companies as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Amatil, Nestlé, or McDonald's, or, whichever of them realises what’s actually going on first. So, I’ll save my sadness for the inevitable moment someone cuts a deal which secures the rights to jump on these unsuspecting kids, like sharks, and bombard them exclusively with their own brand of batshit-wild product placements.

A player avatar stands in a rudimentary 3D shop. The shelves carry highly detailed packets of doritos and lays chips. The avatar wears a red shirt with a coca-cola logo on it.
How long it will be until some snack food conglomerate negotiates a huge deal for full sponsorship rights?

Most, but not all, Roblox game-makers also don’t seem to have an interest in some of the finer details of the visual art side of game development, such as colour theory. To them, green is just green, and that’s the end of the efforts to make their grass look appealing or tonally balanced in their world.
The same applies more often than not for object physics. Unless it’s so broken that it doesn’t work, it usually ends up feeling humorous, charming and most of all playful; carefree.

Initially, I did find the graphics to be genuinely off-putting, but the website and sign up process is straight forward and if you can get past the truly cooked aesthetics, there’s treasure to be discovered. Over time, we’ve uncovered some real Roblox gems. The games in my list are fantastic to play in a group, although, I have definitely sunk an embarrassing number of meditative hours into some of them by myself, especially last year. Eventually, the Robloxian visual style settles in, and the green grass looks completely fine, too.

Two player avatars sit beside each other on a roller coaster. They look completely different and are very unnatural, a little bit scary.
Wish You Were Here! Having a blast in Theme Park Tycoon 2

It’s hard to estimate the exact number, but the expansive library of user generated Roblox games contains many millions of titles. While some are fully realised, sophisticated, well designed games, and others are far more crude, all of them contain the extremely weird and slightly unsettling flavour of all other Roblox games. Also weirdly, it’s reasonable to say that there’s very few traces of the other type of weird on the platform at all.

Particularly on parenting forums, the main topic of discourse held around Roblox is the discussion of cyber-safety and risk: how much effort goes into making this platform safe for its child-led core user group? Presently, there are some strict and rigorous filters on the chat function, and games are supposed to be banned swiftly for any whisper of even suggested eroticism or adult content. Of course, in an acute fallibility of humankind’s integrity, any online platform which allows two-way communication with children will lead to the predation of kids, and it has happened on Roblox, much more than once.

Compared to the gaming sites and platforms of yesteryear, Roblox does seem to have a strong focus towards defending the freedoms and peace of its users, especially when I compare them to how my online experiences were as a child in the early 00s. After recently announcing very vague plans to introduce a voice-chat feature into Roblox, constantly demonstrating and improving efforts towards e-safety will surely remain a core issue for the company. Roblox has also highlighted their intentions to expand its user base to include more adults, so I will be interested to see if they can miraculously manage to be the first platform able to do it effectively.

Tasty, tasty user-generated, Trademark-breaking content

Roblox has been in the news more recently for very different reasons.
The company opened public trading last week with a valuation which grew as high as $45 billion bucks. That’s a valuation nearly twice as high as the leading industry-standard game development engine Unity, over five times the value of leading AAA videogame company Ubisoft, and about 8 billion in front of another leading conglomerate of studios, Electronic Arts.

The folks behind Roblox aren’t the only ones stretching their business acumen muscles. With over 36.2 million daily users, (around 56% of whom are under 12 years old, and wonderfully, 44% of whom are girls,) flocking to the most popular games which feature virtual trading economies. Kids are becoming juvenile kingpins of pizza restaurants, pet shops, and princess clothing empires to name just a few variations on the popular tycoon genre, which is absolutely rampant on the platform. It’s familiarly reminiscent of the ruthless child paintbrush moguls of early 2000s Neopets, and it’s easy to see how this style of addictive ultra-optimization, highly individualistic play, which here feels both so old-fashioned and new-wave, could outclass Ubisoft and EA, who specialise in comparatively prescriptive premium-plus-extras sorts of games.

The in-game currency for Roblox is Robux. That staggering $45b valuation would buy you ̶a̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ exactly 15,750,000,000 “Robux”, with one Robux costing around 35 real US cents. You don’t need to purchase Robux to play or develop Roblox games, but they’re cheap, and having a few hundred in reserve can be handy for equipping yourself with cool enhancements.
We have also spent our Robux on cheap private servers for our group, so that we can enjoy a session without random real-world children in our little 3D world, bless them.

Players spending Robux is the main way budding Roblox developers can try to make real money with the platform, earning a small percentage of the value of the Robux spent by players while visiting their creations. It’s not just extra lives, ability buffs or upgrades on offer. Often, games will tantalize more expensive purchases such as ‘VIP Access’, which will unlock enticing new areas of the map, promising exclusive experiences.
Developers can also earn real money based on the amount of time ‘premium’ subscription players spend in their games, and they’re rewarded when users subscribe to the premium service, from their game. Some of the most financially prolific Roblox creators don’t make games at all, but instead stick to making various outfits, faces, wigs or objects, and selling those on the marketplace — which also trades in Robux.
Regarding the ‘objects’, it is my understanding that these may be purchased and then used by developers, à la Bloxiade, to populate games being built.

A very lovely car ‘object’, made and sold by Roblox user ‘FarcasPaul’

Like all of the good things which you’re getting to just a bit too late, it takes a lot of luck (on top of your skills) to make a truly successful Roblox game. Development, though fun and relatively straightforward, is a risky way to invest your time if you’re looking for money or perhaps some kind of extremely weird fame amongst The Children. There are just so many games on the platform now — and not only do you need to get the players and retain them for any significant financial reimbursement to be vaguely possible, but you’ll also need to spend time helping to moderate and manage the community of players who hypothetically swarm to your content repeatedly.

The common intermediaries of other indie game development have been removed in this development ecosystem, too. During my research I did spot a little bit of curation and developer networking happening, so perhaps we will soon see budding developers being offered publishing contracts, marketing deals, or help with development in exchange for profit share, and so on. At the moment, within the games themselves, there’s usually no obvious trace of any self-consciousness regarding the audience’s reception. This lack of creative constraint gives the games a very welcome flavour of sincerity, and further lightens their tone.

However, I think it won’t be too long before the economic opportunities surrounding Roblox development, as well as surrounding the successful management of release to existing, curated audiences will be expanded on. I know for sure that the rudimentary tactic of buying ‘banner’ ad space on Roblox dot com to advertise your game is in full swing, at least. Perhaps the business experience these juvenile players are wallowing in will guide them towards starting this industry-within-industry up?
I hope it doesn’t change the games.

Of course, the glaring caveat to all of this is that Roblox will always own all of your content, and your rights will be very, very limited. Other user generated content creation environments exist, such as Media Molecule’s fantastic & experimental “game universe”, Dreams, in which users both make and play each other’s creations, or ‘dreams’.
Apart from being a far more sophisticated tool, Dreams, as I understand it, is not a place to exchange money at all, which for me softens the blow of losing ownership of my work.

Much of the discourse by indie game developers on the economic model brings to light Roblox’s absurdly large profits off the back of its user-generated content, content for which the developers are so massively short-changed. If I get really cynical, to me the whole concept of developing and releasing games within the Roblox universe feels a bit like making and releasing games in Plato’s cave.

The Roblox Dev Payout Split

Roblox is now bigger than companies like EA and Ubisoft that are by their nature, flashpoints of labour issues and content moderation problems.
Roblox is closer to a Facebook-of-Games than those companies, and how it handles labour issues (paying creators, especially) and content moderation (keeping kids safe) is going to matter a lot.

My friends and I played with the game editor for a while last year and, at a glance, it is surprisingly robust. It felt familiar to the industry standard tools, and there were some cool features which allowed us to develop live together in real-time, something the more advanced industry tools could learn from. I think it’s likely that I or we will jump back in, if just to have fun making silly weird experiments, which is perhaps exactly the development environment which makes Roblox so full of silly, weird, and fun games, unsullied by the pursuit of conjectural profits.

I wanted to make a quick edit to this article to mention two things —

Firstly, that Roblox has recently been tapped into by groups like Sony Music and, uh, Gucci. They’ve been making really gaudy but fascinating interactive advertisements for players to visit and collect promotional outfits, etc.

’Live’ Events by Sony Music, Gucci and others are being promoted.

Secondly, I wanted to mention and link to two indie developers who have been getting into Roblox development.

If you’re interested in the early uptake of the platform by established videogame developers, I recommend looking at Terry Cavanagh’s works:

And at Everest Pipkin’s work here:

Everest’s work in Roblox is very beautiful

Both developers have some great thoughts on Roblox so please keep an eye on them and their writings and works if you’re interested in the subject.

Part II: Getting Started

To begin with Roblox (on PC/Mac), you’ll first need to make your free account, and then spend a while customising your avatar to look as weird as sh*t. This will help you get a bit used to the layout of the site, too.

One of the wonderful Roblox CAPTCHA images.

If it’s just you, then you’re ready to dive in.
If you’re playing with friends, take a moment to add them to your friend list, so that you can easily join the same servers together. Navigate to their user page and click add friend. Once they have accepted your request, or you have accepted theirs, you will officially be friends. So far so good.

To find games,

  • After searching for literally any topic, a list of games will appear.
    You can also freely browse the entire catalogue. The sorting features leave much to be desired, however you can use the ‘popular’ tab to find some of the games with the most players in them to try out, at least. After a few months of playing, my ‘Recommended For You’ list still mostly sucks, FYI.
  • Once you have navigated to the page of the game you would like to try, click the big green play button, and the game will launch.
    (The first time you do this, Roblox will prompt you to download and install a launcher, go ahead and do this)
  • To play with your friends, just add this step:
    From the game page, look for the ‘Servers’ tab.
    Click on it, and then click ‘Server My Friends Are In’.
    Any servers your friends are in will come to the top of the list.
    Click ‘join’ on that server and you’re good to go.

These are the general controls:

W — Move Up
A — Move Left
S — Move Back
D — Move Down
Scroll — Change camera view
/ — Chat
Space — Jump
E — Interact

Certain games may have custom ones, for example G for grenade, F for flashlight, C or CTRL for crouch.

Most unknown controls are a quick internet search away if you get stuck, or are sometimes available to see on the pause menu (esc)

Part III: The List

Without further ado, here is my list of Ten Outstanding Roblox games,
in no particular order.

1. Scuba Diving at Quill Lake, by ColonelGraff

Scuba Diving at Quill Lake is a wonderful, tranquil introduction to the world of Roblox. Explore a lovingly crafted underwater world and find rather fun collectibles, story snippets and upgrades. Plenty of mysteries to solve, NPCs to aid, equipment to unlock and new areas to discover.

The level design is exceptional, which is core to the success of this design as you search the deep waters and caves of this idyllic, though mysterious lake.

Chillin’ on the pier of Quill Lake

This was our first foray into Roblox, and I must admit, I think we were all pleasantly surprised and charmed immediately.
I certainly wasn’t expecting what looked on the surface to be a probably broken, probably-badly-designed game to be so well made and, most importantly, fun to play and great to explore.

It’s perfect for both groups or solo play. It’s also a great game to play as a first timer, as most of the controls you’ll want for the other Roblox games are taught here, gently.

Go find some ocean-floor coins and buy a bigger oxygen tank!

2. Theme Park Tycoon 2 by Den_S

I have a lot of time for this game, and I think it was the closest Roblox match for the creative exploration of a game like Minecraft. Our theme park, called Shapes, Chains & ‘More’ is a truly special, wonderful place.

Building it gave me the same thrill I remember of Summer holidays in the 90’s, building a temporary clubhouse in some found clearing of the forest with my friends, slowly planning expansions and chipping away at the details between visits.

Some hand drawn plans for castle and railway upgrades.

With Theme Park Tycoon 2, we found ourselves sending hand-drawn blueprints into our group chat between sessions.
There was a surprising amount of customisation available, too.
In particular I enjoyed terraforming, which gave us a huge license for some really neat architectural ideas, and the addition of primitive shapes means you’re really able to fine tune your park’s attractions.

Screenshot of our theme park: Shapes, Chains & ‘More’ at night.

There is a lovely day/night cycle, and the lighting settings add a lot to the potential: our tall, gothic haunted house looks spooktacular — painted lilac, with neon green strip lights set to turn on at dusk. Our volcano roller coaster erupts into a magnificent, timed display on the other side of the park not long afterwards. It’s very professional.

3. Somewhere, Wales by 11Denver22, (edit: with contributions by others!)

Somewhere, Wales is so, so nearly my favourite game on Roblox. I’m having trouble picking my top three, but Somewhere, Wales is a strong contender for my top spot. I can’t believe we found it, and I don’t know where we found it.

Ahh, the perfect game.

Clearly made by an absolute legend who adores both trains and Wales, this atmospheric train driving simulator lets you spawn and drive little trains and cars around a gorgeously bucolic rendering of slightly damp Wales. The general atmosphere is very evocative of the Thomas The Tank Engine sets.

It took us a good chunk of time to get a handle on the controls, and it’s true that the trains do derail very easily. However, finding a new type of steam engine only to discover that the music it plays as you drive it is, for some reason, The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’, is extraordinarily delightful, and makes up for some rough edges.

It’s also a rare example of a Roblox game with good colour treatment, too.

My friends and I have gotten a lot out of Somewhere, Wales, driving around the hills and valleys, tooting our cute little horns and dinging our cute little bells, laughing our heads off. We’re all happy to see that developer, @11Denver22 , as well as the community which has flourished around this world, has recently been adding more content. There is also a very robust community-created wiki out there for the game, which I was tempted to link to, however I think discovering this place for yourself and then digging through the wiki would best benefit you…

…Because this game has some completely hectic non-sequitur secrets.

4. Bee Swarm Simulator by Onett

Oh dear, oh dear. What shall I admit here?

I accidentally got fair dinkum addicted to “BSS”.
For a few months, I was a regular on the discord server for BSS asking pro players for advice on how to level up my hive of bees more efficiently.
I watched more minutes of an extremely annoying YouTuber’s BSS tips videos than I care to admit in public, too.
Perfect for solo play, unless you’re shameless.

! I N F O R M A T I O N ! ! ! O V E R L O A D !

Efficiency is key with
Bee Swarm Simulator, where your goal is simply to make honey and level up your bees…so that you may make even more.
Forget the tycoon genre,
Bee Swarm Simulator is the only truly dirty capitalism simulator in existence. I am supposed to hate games like this!

And…in some cruel way, I do hate Bee Swarm Simulator.
I had a lot of 3AM chats with other mostly adult players, like smokers meeting in laneways outside parties, brusquely talking about kicking the habit; how long have you played, are you thinking about quitting, yes me too…but it’s just so satisfying and dammit, aren’t we so happy, here?

You begin the game with one little bee and access to a limited area of the most garish garden you’ll ever see. The music is constant and hypnotic.
You run around, literally just holding the L-mouse button down, until your backpack is full, and then you run back to your hive to convert it into honey with a click. But it isn’t long before you have two bees and can make
more honey. Soon an adorable bear gives you a quest. Cut to 8 weeks later and I have 38 level 10 bees, 12 simultaneous, ridiculously high quota quests, and am mindlessly playing this god damned bastard of a game, listening to gristly True Crime podcasts for hours, and hours, and hours at a time. Bright, loud random events and an endless barrage of particle and sound effects really drive home the ‘sitting at the slot machine ’til dawn’ vibes. But I was always either so close to the next hit, or just past half way there, so why stop now. The compulsion to play on was irresistible.

To be fair to myself, it was an awful year and I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, so my brain totally revelled in this mindless, bright, generous, dopamine-stroking brute of a game.

There are a lot of very addictive games out there which are far more predatory than this, too. At least Bee Swarm Simulator doesn’t hide its nature at all. Those addictive hits were expertly designed, unlocks and upgrades and levels came at sophisticated intervals, and all of the other tricks to keep you hooked were, simply, effective. Even though I played and climbed ranks for months, I was still keeping a critical eye out for the tipping point where solo developer, Onett, would lose control of the scaling. In a feat of very good game development, he never did lose control, demonstrating instead an honourable level of craft in this emerging, perhaps misunderstood genre:

the good type of hyper addictive, consciously mindless game.

Uhh…I was definitely the boss of those bees. BSS fan art, unknown artist.

Isolating it further from other more untoward examples,
Bee Swarm Simulator never asks for a real-dollar investment.
The obvious theming and writing do little to hide the fact that it is supposed to be this way, though I really wish it did a little bit more in its writing to encourage children towards critically thinking about labour.

Perhaps the relief my buzzing brain felt by being able to zone out and Do Meaningless Tasks in exchange for constant rewards isn’t such a terrible thing. At the height of my obsession, with the way the world was changing around us all, it may have been just about the perfect OFF-Mode I needed.
Is this genre going to expand as designers like Onett begin to emerge?

Are the kids alright, after all?

It’s certainly worth looking at.
Just…Bee careful not to get addicted without your own willing consent.

5. Tamira Reservoir *LUXURY CARS* by FarcasPaul

Beautiful Cartoon Modern vehicles

Tamira Reservoir is a good example of a Roblox game which balances sincerity with absurdity very well, in surprising ways.

A charming, stylish game with very beautiful cars to find and drive around a cool, pretty little landscape based on South-Eastern Europe.

You can stop for pizza, and the driving feels wonderful. You can get hungry and thirsty, and apparently there are jobs you can do, but we didn’t really look for those. The, honestly, stunning cars were enough for me.

FarcasPaul reached out to me with some insights into the game:

“Initially, I started it from the idea of creating a ‘nice place to go and relax, some kind of virtual holiday during the current situation’, but I plan making it more than that over time.”
— FarcasPaul

My friend Pat found a car, the only one like it, which had ‘CURSED’ written all over it in big white letters. We wanted to find him to see it, but he had stopped talking due to uncontrollable fits of laughter.
Eventually we heard this coming from miles away.
(VERY Loud Sound warning!)

It was such a bad fit in an otherwise rather relaxed world, and definitely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen (or heard) happen in Roblox. I want to know who forced FarcasPaul to put this thing in there, y’know?

Mostly, Tamira Reservoir is just super fun to just drive around in. For that reason, it reminded me of upcoming Aussie game, Dead Static Drive, by Reuben. Both games demonstrate huge amounts of care put into their very stylish vehicles and driving mechanics. From what I’ve learned, the developer of this project is part of an unofficial team of Roblox developers who were the first to work on car-steering mechanics, so this game is here for the real rev-heads.

Stunning. (via @DevTamira)

I’d like to see some more world flavour, perhaps an added mechanic for ‘digging through my friend’s glove box, listening to their random tapes as we drive around aimlessly’, but the radios are a pretty nice substitute, and keep the copyright infringements at bay.

Speaking of bays — the boats are pretty great too.

6. 🚩Expedition Antarctica by Playduo Studio

Expedition Antarctica perfectly captures, in the way videogames can, what I imagine it feels like to set out on a difficult cross-glacial mountaineering expedition. At time of writing, I’ve only had one play session of this game — but it really intrigued me, and it’s got a high place on my favourites list.

From what I understand, players have the option, at some point, to sign up for different roles needed in such an extreme environment. Namely the rescue team, which changes your goal from setting out on a climb (completed in stages, with perfectly realised base camps to rest and medicate and talk to other international teams of climbers along the way,) to being responsible for monitoring your radio for rescue or aid requests.
Fly your chopper to the climber or team in strife, look for their flare, and then make judgements on what to do. Do they need winching out of a crevasse, medical aid, food or water? Are they throwing in the towel, looking for a ride back to base camp in bad weather? I’m curious to play this again so that I can try that rescue ranger role out specifically, it sings out to me as it often does in real life, and this great game is well-made and considerate enough to potentially even scratch that itch. Videogames, huh?

Ready To Go!

Playing as a climber was delightful. We began the day in a large, wonderful and busy base camp which was covered in little international flags and information-dense signs.

There were sign-up tents for various teams, food and coffee shops, and a little practice course which helped us feel prepared.

The 40-minute climb, the first of a few stages, was very well designed. There were many parts of the ascent where you would need to wait for the climbers ahead to inch their way across a ladder, precariously positioned over a gaping polygonal chasm. This was the perfect, necessary time to check your gear, have a sip of water and prepare for your own attempt.

Our group would often become separated, either by death or just by taking things slow, only to reunite again at one of these lovely bottlenecks, catching up on the challenges and beauty we’ve seen along the way. Other times I’d be solo for a while, plodding along, a little bit fearful at some of the trickier steps, or enjoying my thoughts on a long, open flat stretch. A few times I radioed my friends ahead to ask for their advice on a particular manoeuvre or direction…it just felt good, and hard, and like a genuine (albeit virtual, and therefore safe!) representation of a level D mountaineering course, which was also heightened by the well-researched authentic looking markers placed along the routes by the clearly meticulous developers.

I didn’t get past base camp 1, but as I said there was a solid 40 minutes of climbing before we reached it, and I imagine it only gets more treacherous as you continue up into the mountains.

Great for group play, probably a little bit scary for solo, but maybe you’re more intrepid than me.

7. [🍦🍦 Truck] Backpacking by Abracadabra Studio

Backpacking is a great place to hang out online with your buddies, like a good digital playground. There are even a few skate parks and water slides scattered around the world, both perfect for canoe tricks.

Stopping for ice cream in the summer rain

Plenty of lenient, or perhaps half-broken physics make for lots of laughs and triumphs.

When you all pile in to an old combi van and drive it up into the mountains, you might find yourself actually leaning forward in your seat willing the little bus up the slopes as you would on a real camping trip.

Or maybe I’m just a bit too easy to charm?

Hang gliders, fishing, tornadoes, lava caves and more are all available to experience during your leisurely camping trip. Perfect for group play.

8. CONE by Josh Sheldon

I played the first section of this single-player game while listening to my friends playing it at the same time. They were a few minutes ahead of me, constantly gasping and complimenting CONE as it played out, before I’d reached those story beats. Their reactions were appropriate, because quite quickly CONE reveals itself to be surprising and delightful — thanks to something almost never seen in Roblox games: CONE contains a basic understanding and consideration of cinematography.

We all switched our games off to watch one player share their screen, moving slowly through a linear narrative.

Is…is this tasteful?

There were some parts of this game which could use a little bit of love, some of the obby* sections were too difficult, which was a mismatch to the narrative tone of the game, and some of the random object generation lead to players getting stuck in unsolvable situations.

There were also tasks along the slow path which just took too long, and were unfortunately quickly boring and arduous. A very strong start was let down by CONE’s later sections, but I want to include it in my list for what the developer, New York artist Josh Sheldon, is attempting here, and also to highlight something so visually unique and well done.

Hopefully no Robloxbros come after me for not loving CONE to bits, because my research tells me that its creator is a prolific Roblox designer, responsible for a bunch of titles, including the massively popular Lumber Tycoon 2, (“Deforest your surroundings and build your dreams!”) and possibly even some back end work on the engine or, an engine for making Roblox games? Seems maybe like some kinda curator too? Maybe?

(*An “obby” is Roblox shorthand for obstacle course. It will definitely permeate our gamer lexicon very soon.)

9. Workout Island by SynxChazz via Codesoft

Learn about the economic divide in The USA while you GET JACKED

Does what it says on the box.

Workout Island is crawling with classic, chaotic Roblox energy.

Very bizarre, probably a great tool to teach kids about the wealth divide crisis, and definitely not about lifting weights.

Fun for group or solo play, this should really come with the same addictive-substance warning as Bee Swarm Simulator…I didn’t want to get close enough to find out.

10. Piggy [BOOK 2] CHAPTER 6! (AKA: ‘Piggy’) by MiniToon

Piggy is one of the most popular multiplayer games on Roblox, and we had lots of fun with it. It’s a sort of loosely…detective…murder…mystery story, escape room, avoid the killer sort of thing.

Players are on a team, against the mysterious killer ‘Piggy’, a grotesque, large-headed swine who motionlessly glides around the house (or prison, or farm, etc.) wielding a big, f*ck off knife.

The squealers, though, are the players screaming with panicked instructions, questions, and occasional joy as they desperately run around the labyrinth levels finding various items, doors and keys in the correct order to unlock safe passage out of the house, and on to the next chapter. It’s chaotic, and requires good communication and focus under quite a nice amount of atmospheric fear and urgency. It makes sense that the thrill of even a short match of Piggy should be so popular. I enjoyed hearing my friend’s young children off-mic absolutely losing it, being overcome with excitement from tolerable doses of hammed-up (sorry) terror.

Customisation of your experience is good. We could choose to play with more than one Piggy, to play as Piggy, or to play with the same rules which get stacked on to regular playground games of tag/chasey — things like a rule where once you’re caught, you also become a chaser, and so on.
I think classic Piggy was the best, and I had fun taking on the role of tribute by kiting Piggy around the hallways and letting my friends know where we were, so that they may more safely navigate an escape. A few times I was tempted to let Piggy run free, but I suppose that’s the nature of that role, and it wasn’t technically cheating. Truth be told, without the kiting, Piggy is decently challenging.

Thank you, Doggy.

The characters and writing of Piggy are pretty funny.
I’m not sure, but Piggy feels like the most likely game in this list to have been developed by someone quite young.
The naive style certainly stacks on the charm and absurdity for me, an adult player, whilst being clear and straightforward for the kids who play this in droves.

It’s reminiscent, in this way, of the Australian Frog Detective series, whose writing has a similar child-friendly, adult-bemusing flavour. I’m not sure that Piggy has done it on purpose, though; it’s best jokes aren’t necessarily meant to be there.

Honorable Mentions:

Free Draw 2 by The Free Draw! Community, AKA Reselim

  • Note: Free Draw 2 will soon be retired and replaced by it’s very exciting-sounding successor ‘Inklii’ — Read More Here

I grew up learning how to draw digitally first on MS Paint, and then by hanging out on long gone or since evolved free communal drawing services and games like iSketch and iScribble. They were absolutely not safe places for kids to be, but if I was able to get past their seedy early-mid 00s underbelly, they were great. Not only did I get many hours of diligent practice in, it’s also where I first met someone who was happy to discuss PayPal, rates and other starting tips for a young commissioning artist, some of which I still use today.
Free Draw 2 is a wonderful evolution on this space for the next batch of developing artists, and it is great to see.

You launch in to the server, and are let free with a very limited (but standard) drawing tool set. You are walking around on an expansive white plane, which you can draw on. Wander to a blank part of the enormous canvas and then you can start drawing, whatever you want!

“If y’all like to copy my art it’s ok for me”- An anonymous artist leaves a friendly invitation for others to copy their work, so that they may learn from it. Looks like a healthy community flourishing on Free Draw 2

Basically, it’s just walking around on a huge piece of paper with other anonymous artists, most of whom are at various stages of learning how to draw.

Meet new friends and you may choose to collaborate. Heck, draw as a group of 20 people if you want to. Play classic pen & paper games like noughts & crosses if you’d prefer.

A few rules such as ‘don’t sabotage other artwork’ and ‘have fun!’ are a good starting point for what I am sure is a place where many future professional digital illustrators will earn their stripes. It was super lovely to walk around the Big White Plane, looking at each drawing, spread apart like little archaeologist’s digging sites on a large field, until the detail gets clearer. Artists were busily working on portraits of their favourite characters, their OCs (‘Original Characters’), or of their friend’s OCs underfoot. People would often visit my work space and scrawl little compliments, or even stay a while to make a little copy of my work. I was able to type tips quickly to help them get it down. People were drawing comics, doing one panel at a time. People were creating ‘line work’ for others to colour in, swapping half finished drawings for each other to complete, and so on.

I was also able to save. my. work.
This is huge. I was able to save my markings from the canvas, change servers, and reload it in. This means instant escape from ‘griefers’, arseholes who might occasionally join your server to troll by drawing scribbles of thick black lines across everyone’s work. Too many incredible drawings were ruined by griefers in the 00s, so this is really great to see — plus it should teach good habits around saving your work regularly. Two new improvements since my time are that the eraser tool now erases at about 50% opacity on its first pass, and 100% on it’s second, and that the paint brush colours can be set to any percentage of opacity. These changes will certainly teach budding artists more advanced techniques for texturing, colour theory, line work, tone work and more, all helping to prepare them for a future which may include professional practice.

The top-down perspective reminded me of Neil Buchanan’s Art Attack!, which always included fantastic segments called ‘Big Art Attack’. In them, Neil would slowly be creating a large-scale illustration on the ground, shown from the perspective of a very high camera, until at some magic point you had enough information to work out what he was depicting.

Big Art Attack!

Historically, new tools have led to new breakthroughs in art, and I have a feeling that this 3D canvas experience in particular may lead to artists thinking about scale, perspective and construction in ways which current digital artists haven’t been able to do through experience. To see a young generation of beginner digital artists getting to draw in a 3D space this way, especially during their formative, foundational years, is very exciting and I can’t wait to see the impact on their work in another 10 years.

Plus, being a professional old-school mouse-toting digital artist, it’s always fun to slap out a quick Garfield, Bart or even a contemporary Bluey to the delight and encouragement of their early pursuits…even if they could all definitely draw circles around me with my creative white whale, anime.

🍕Work at a Pizza Place by Dued1

Chaotic, surprising, wonderful, loud, and a little depressing. Work at a Pizza Place sees you…work in a pizza place in one of many roles from cashier to chef to delivery driver. Earn money, vie for bonus checks from your (real player) boss in the hopes of one day buying your own home and finally, ordering pizza to be delivered to it.

One HD Mountain Dew, please.

Hope that you may join a server with a friendly and kind high-level boss who may employ you, just for the awesome experience of watching them manage their business flawlessly.

Because you’re not getting that house any time soon.

Fun with friends, I think this has a pretty big learning curve for new players, and a few completely bizarre added features, it’s as if this project sprawled out randomly at times without much editing from the developers. I think it suffers from this, but it’s immensely popular so perhaps getting the hang of all of the moving parts might alleviate the sense of being overwhelmed, out of control of your own pizza-mogul destiny.

Marigold Bartlett is an artist and game developer from Melbourne.
(You might know her as Goldie, that’s perfectly good too.)

Twitter | Instagram | Folio

I wanted to note:
This is the first time since university that I’ve written more than 3,500 words.
I have a lot of practicing to do, but I hope this was a pleasant read and perhaps informative.
Thanks to my new ADHD medication for letting me do this.
Thanks, too, to my draft readers, and to my encouraging, helpful mentor for reminding me why we write, not just how to write.



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