We recently spoke with Janzen Madsen, founder at Splitting Point Studios, to get his perspective on how to develop a hit on Roblox. Splitting Point has created multiple experiences, including Field Trip Z which this year alone saw more than 45M unique players. Janzen is intimately familiar with what makes a Roblox experience a success.
Roblox is an absolutely massive platform, with over 32 million experiences and 52 million active users. But making a game there is unlike making a game anywhere else. It’s much faster paced, the audience is much younger, and it’s much more tricky to design. The typical principles you might expect are quite different.
1. Don’t make it like a mobile game
“Often, developers coming from the mobile gaming industry will assume that they can replicate their success by rebuilding their games on Roblox. This just doesn’t work,” Janzen explained. “The players just aren’t receptive to this style of game.”
“You need to play on Roblox to understand it,” he said. “You’re not making a typical game with a typical game loop, you’re making a social experience. And a lot of developers that hop over to Roblox don’t really understand this. They just make a game with a few mechanics, but without thinking about the social element. And so it just doesn’t work.”
On Roblox, Janzen explained, “the players are vastly different from what you’d expect. For one, it’s extremely easy to switch to a different game. If you don’t grab their attention in the first thirty seconds, they’ll just head to another experience.”
“You have to remember that on Roblox you can switch whenever you like,” Janzen said. “Players will just jump over to another game at the drop of a hat. So you’ll notice that most Roblox games don’t have tutorials, for example. Instead, you’ve got to come up with other ways to teach people how to play the game. It’s all about making sure everything is active.”
“This creates an extra challenge for developers. Young players means that they don’t have the same arsenal of preconceptions that the average player might. You can’t piggyback off the symbols we’re all familiar with. But you also can’t have a tutorial. So it’s super important to make your design as intuitive as possible. And to test out whether it’s working.”
2. Focus on the social aspect
Roblox is a social platform. Janzen described it as the “TikTok of gaming.” It’s less about the mechanics and more about how the players will be able to interact with one another.
“This is another problem that developers coming over to Roblox find,” Janzen said. “They forget that every game on Roblox is multiplayer.”
A good example of this is Wacky Wizards, another of Splitting Studios’ most popular titles. In Wacky Wizards, the player solves puzzles and makes potions. These potions have a variety of effects on the player’s avatar – from turning them into a giant marshmallow man to simply stretching their neck to ridiculous proportions.
So what’s the hook? In a typical game you might have a specific objective – even a to-do list to guide the player to find each and every potion. Not in Wacky Wizards. It’s important to remember here that the player has an avatar they use across multiple games. So seeing weird and wonderful things happening to that familiar avatar is amusing in its own right.
But it also encourages other players on the server to make those potions. Did your friend just turn into a troll? That’s cool. How do I do that? And so the gameplay loop continues. This design principle – of thinking about the social element first – can feel quite foreign to newcomers. But it’s essential to making a Roblox game work.
3. Build a fun game and the revenue will follow
There are a lot of monetization options available to Roblox developers. But the key to making money on the platform? It’s making a game where people stick around. This is particularly true if you want to attract premium players – those who pay a subscription. The more those players are on your game, the more you’ll get paid.
“It’s best not to think about the premium player, though,” Janzen added. “Make the game for everyone – and look at how you can get them to stick around. If you happen to a bunch of premium players, that’s great. But there’s no real way of picking them out.”
This is probably because, unlike whales in mobile games, the premium player isn’t really any different from the rest of the players. They’re still young. Still new to gaming. Still wanting to just mess around with their friends.
Janzen explained that these premium payouts can vary wildly for different games. With Splitting Studios, some games get almost 50% of their revenue from them. Others, barely 10%. The important thing, either way, is to make sure that you’re improving your game and looking for ways to keep the playtime high. That way, you stand a better chance of attracting those premium players.
4. You need to be a lot more agile on Roblox
We appreciate that many mobile developers might scoff at the idea of working faster. The mobile gaming industry is extremely fast-paced compared to other techy industries with reports of excessive hours and “crunch” periods even at the most successful studios. How could you possibly ship releases any quicker? Well, the Roblox platform itself makes that easier.
“With Field Trip Z, we were releasing updates every single week. And most of the time we were only finishing the updates an hour or so before we went live,” Janzen said. “We were watching the bugs roll in and fixing them as soon as we got the report.”
This is possible because Roblox doesn’t have the usual red tape – when you update your game it automatically rolls out to everyone. Pretty much instantly. It’s also much simpler to make changes, as the platform itself relies less on coding and more on creativity.
And with that speed comes an expectation. Players won’t stick around waiting a week for you. They’ll just go to the next game. Thankfully, they’re also much more forgiving about mistakes and bugs. They care more about fun and regular updates – and will ignore a bit of jank here and there.
5. You’ll need live data
“Analytics was super important to our development,” Janzen said. “About 80% of the bugs we caught were because of GameAnalytics and the real-time bug tracker.”
When the community expects rapid development, it’s important to be getting live data about how your game is performing. You need to be able to react the same day, even the same hour. Splitting Point chose GameAnalytics for exactly that reason. We were easy to add into their experience to get real-time KPI updates.
So if you’d like to explore making a Roblox game yourself, or if you’re a Roblox developer looking for more data and insights, make sure you check out our Roblox SDK.