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Roblox pushes avatar realism, plans to add NFT-style limited edition items – TechCrunch


At its annual developer conference on Thursday, Roblox painted a picture of the future of the fast-growing online multiplayer portal that looks like catnip for kids and teens.

In his keynote address, Roblox Co-Founder and CEO David Baszucki outlined plans to beautify player avatars, introduce new in-game monetization streams, and streamline the experience for developers imagining generated content. by users that has made the company a massive success in between gaming and social media.

Roblox is known for its blocky and relatively unsophisticated character models and in-game graphics, but the styling has not held back the company’s explosive growth. Still, Roblox strives to make player avatars more realistic and customizable, choices that fit well with the company’s aspirations, both to keep the platform attractive as its young user base ages and to enable many forms of self-expression through its endless hub of virtual worlds.

“I think people are going to realize that Roblox is not just a thing,” Roblox chief product officer Manuel Bronstein told TechCrunch.

On Thursday, Roblox announced some significant changes in that direction. The first is layered clothing, a visual update that will make the avatar outfits more realistic and dynamic, so that your favorite Roblox virtual denim jacket will fit your character model, whether you are a humanoid version. of yourself or a dinosaur. The clothes will fall around the avatars and drape naturally, like in a more photorealistic game.

The recently announced Roblox avatar updates aim to inject both more customization and more realism into the Lego-like blocky looks that are now synonymous with the platform. Bronstein described the changes as a “huge evolution” in the avatars at the heart of Roblox’s social experience. “Personal identity is a crucial pillar of the Metaverse, and the ability to accurately customize your clothing to match your unique avatar is paramount in personal expression,” Baszucki said in the speech.

Considering the booming business of selling in-game items, Roblox has plenty of financial incentives to make its virtual fashion scene more sophisticated and realistic. It also has to keep up with rivals like Epic Games, which are raising the bar very high with their Fortnite character designs and branded partnerships, which can gross $ 50 million in one go. Roblox has its own brand and its own IP agreements, but the most beautiful virtual thing you have to sell, the more interesting these offers will be.

Image credits: Roblox

In the vein of building towards more realism, Roblox is also giving developers beta access to what it calls “dynamic heads” – facial animations for avatars that could even be interspersed with face tracking to get them moving. the mouth of a character model with what he says. Roblox is leveraging its acquisition of Loom.ai, a digital avatar startup the company bought in late 2020. The company says developers will start playing around with the new facial animations starting with a handful of head designs that evoke the roots. in platform blocks. The first iteration of facial animation in Roblox is yet to roll out to users, but the company wants to put it in the hands of developers as the first step in that process.

With Roblox continuing the large voice chat rollout it announced last month, the company is quickly pushing its previously focused text chat experience towards more natural and immersive interactions. The company also noted Thursday that all eligible users aged 13 and over can now opt for age verification, a screening process that will give some players quick access to new features as they go. they’re heading to the full player base. Verified users will start accessing Roblox’s new voice chat capabilities “starting this fall”.

Beyond improving the avatar experience, Roblox also announced plans to introduce limited edition items, an exciting new way for people to make money (in the form of Robux , which can be redeemed for real money) thanks to its lively game economy. The creators of Roblox can list the items they design for a set period of time or in a limited series for sale, creating a collectable item in the game’s well-established virtual economies.

Creators can also make money on subsequent sales by activating royalties – a perk Roblox’s in-game items will share with some NFTs. “The idea is that you [will] being able to possibly set the rules for what goes into the resale of an item, ”Bronstein told TechCrunch, noting the NFT connection.

Developers will also be able to enjoy more flexibility when creating content for the platform through a new system that Roblox calls Open Cloud. Open Cloud will allow developers to create content in third-party tools and then connect it to Roblox, rather than being limited to Roblox Studio, the company’s own development environment.

The company is pushing the cloud, giving content creators on Roblox more data storage and generally making the platform an attractive and versatile development destination. Roblox also announced a few graphical improvements that developers can start playing with, like more realistic collision physics and aerodynamics that could portray a visual like the deployment of a parachute.

In 2021, the company is on track to pay $ 500 million to developers who create content for its user-generated game worlds, up from $ 70 million three years ago.

“We believe the metaverse will be entirely user-generated,” Bronstein said. “And we think that by allowing everyone to be a creator, we’re going to get more immersion and a greater variety of [experiences] On the platform. “