Reaching a +40M playerbase: advice from Trihex Studios

Redcliffe Games cover image

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard of Roblox. It’s a gaming platform with over 30 million games – which they call experiences – 52 million daily active users (DAU) and 12 million creators at the time of writing. One of the keys to its success is that it makes it exceptionally easy to create and release games on its platform.

We spoke with Tae Kim and Eric Park, co-founders of Trihex Studios and the minds behind Redcliff City – one of the most popular titles on Roblox which has, this year alone, amassed a community of more than 40 million unique players. During our conversation, we asked them what mobile developers could learn from Roblox and how they could make the move over to the platform.

Here’s their advice.

First up, what is Redcliff City?

Redcliff City is a young person’s Second Life – a social simulation game. It’s similar to titles like Club Penguin or Habbo. Rather than linear gameplay, Redcliff City plunges the players into a bustling city, filled with secrets, locations to explore and other players. The players then roleplay and create their own entertainment, from putting out fires to racing their friends.

Redcliffe city gameplay

“We wanted to make something that’s more friendly for a larger audience,” Tae explained to us. “The players decide what they want to do, and the possibilities are endless.”

1. Non-linear games lend themselves to brand deals

Because Redcliff City is a completely open world, it makes it easy to add new brand experiences into the game. Brands can include many different things, whether that’s buildings, cars or outfits.

“This is possible because our game doesn’t have the typical progression. We just provide the environment for the brand, and they can drop themselves in wherever they want,” Eric explained. “It’s almost like brands have an empty canvas to work with us – and us with them. Particularly because we’re a city – it’s much easier to drop a brand into our game than it would be for some fantasy RPG.”

This is very similar to how, in other articles, we’ve described how brands might advertise in a metaverse. It definitely seems like Redcliff City gives an insight into how the metaverse might evolve. In fact, Eric and Tae said that the concept was nothing new – it was something they were always aiming to do.

2. Smaller teams can strike big on Roblox

One of the key benefits of Roblox, Tae and Eric explained, is that it’s incredibly easy to develop and update their game. They can run sprints every week and release the updates instantly. Adding new content is much simpler than coding updates for more traditional games.

“The developer to user ratio can be very high – we’re a two-man team, and we saw around 400,000 daily active users just on Monday,” Tae said. “That easily goes up to 700,000 on the weekend. So even if you’re a single gaming experience on the platform, you can see numbers and metrics that would be uncommon for a small mobile studio.”

Redcliffe City Fire example

It isn’t just the speed at which developers can update their games that helps keep their numbers high. It’s also the sheer number of players on the platform. Roblox has a lot of traffic from all over the world, so it’s a huge opportunity for developers.

3. You need to understand your community

It’s important to research the Roblox community before you dive in and make a game on the platform. There are nuances that can make or break whether you’re successful or not.

“The Roblox audience is very young,” Tae said. “We’ve noticed that teams from the gaming industry often assume that Roblox seems kind of easy. If you look at the assets and the complexity of the gameplay, it’s understandable that veterans might think they can do better.”

“But they quickly discover that’s not the case,” Eric added. “Many large teams come in and try to develop the same games they usually do, but those games flopped. They just didn’t understand the audience.”

The age of the audience is key here. Eric and Tae explained that for most players on Roblox – this is their first multiplayer game – if not their first game. Ever. So it needs a different approach to the game design. Some industry efforts fail because they attempt to piggyback on existing concepts that they assume the players are familiar with. But you need to throw those expectations out of the window.

“It’s like a movie director making TikTok videos, “Tae said. “Sure, you understand your craft. But it’s a completely different style. If you just dive straight in – you’re going to have problems.”

4. Data can give a voice to the silent majority

It’s important to use analytics to learn what’s working and what isn’t in your game. Roblox only recently released a dashboard to cover the basics, so developers will need to plug in third-party tools like GameAnalytics for additional insights, which is what Trihex Studios decided to do.

Redcliffe city game art with helicopter

“It’s not the user’s responsibility to tell you what they want,” Eric explained. “It’s our responsibility as developers to figure out what the player wants and needs in the game. But you need to be careful. It’s very easy to set up a Discord server and get stuck in an echo chamber of a vocal minority who end up controlling everything. Nothing speaks for the silent majority better than data.

Data speaks volumes, the team explained. Where a vocal group of hardcore players can tell you that an item is unbalanced or a section is perfectly fine – the data will reveal the truth. For Redcliff City, they track the out-of-the-box metrics, such as retention and session length. But they also setup and track custom design events. For example, did a user spawn a house when they first started the game? If they don’t, that suggests there’s a problem with the change Tae and Eric made to the user interface.

Download our Roblox SDK

If you’re considering hopping onto the Roblox platform to begin your journey there, hopefully this advice will help you make sure you go in with the right mindset. And if you need a hand making sure that you’re giving a voice to your silent majority – download our Roblox SDK.

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