Roblox Corporation has recently announced its intention to “democratize creation” and turn “all Roblox users into creators,” vice president of engineering Nick Tornow said in a blog post (opens in new tab). Some mighty big claims.
Roblox Studio, the game engine included in Roblox, has already opened the doors of game development for many players. The hyper-popular sandbox's most favored game modes are made by players. But one big barrier is coding, a complex skill, especially when combined with Roblox’s young audience. Thankfully, Roblox Corporation has a plan to lower that barrier.
“There's been a lot of discussion about how AI is going to change the creation process,” the head of Roblox Studio, Stephano Corazza, says. “The way we see it, it’s a little bit like how a calculator was for mathematicians.” When calculators were first introduced, people said they would make mathematicians obsolete. The truth is it opened doors for mathematicians to be more daring, and not bogged down in the nitty-gritty of calculations anymore. This is what Roblox Studio wants for its creators. The AI “does the boring stuff for them, and allows the creators to really think more about the abstract,” Corazza says.
The AI will act as a shortcut for creators, a tool to make game development more efficient. Now “you have faster ways to bring that idea or that concept art into something that you can test,” Corazza says.
One version of these tools described in a dev blog (opens in new tab) would let you write what you need in natural language, and the engine would produce it for you. A creator could, for instance, write ‘Scene with a forest, a river, and a large rock in the middle’, and Roblox Studio would generate a scene that fitted that description, giving a creator something to work from, rather than starting with a black slate.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen developers create tools to automate things that would previously require years of training and specialist knowledge. Back in 2012, Epic Games revealed a tool called Blueprints, one of the big innovations of Unreal Engine 4 (UE4).
With Blueprints, you could make simple programs without writing a single line of code. By arranging blocks of actions and connecting them together, you could create complex behavior scripts. For example, you could add a blueprint to a gun mode saying, ‘When the left mouse button is clicked, spawn a particle effect, sound effect, and a bullet projectile’. This created a smaller divide between programmers, designers, and technical artists. It also encouraged people who were new to game development to dive in and give it a go.
Blueprints fostered creativity, it didn’t make programmers obsolete, and allowed a new generation of game developers to build prototypes and games. It worked great for Epic back in 2012 to bring more creators to its game engine. Roblox Studio may receive a new lease of life thanks to its new AI.
What will the community create with Roblox Studio’s AI tools? Likely some great games, but I’ve my fingers crossed for a crop of truly weird and wonderful AI-empowered experiments.