Issues with the Developer Exchange: Testimonies from the Roblox Dev Community

When Roblox introduced the Developer Exchange, it transformed Roblox development from a hobby into a career overnight. As the platform has grown, the tools and engine have advanced as well, drastically increasing the scope of possible games on Roblox. The financials have not kept pace. Developers see less than a quarter of the revenue earned by our games, and this limit prevents Roblox development from being sustainable to developers, and in many cases, restricts them from moving beyond their role as individual creators.

While select top games are generating substantial income, and the development tools and resources available to new developers are better than ever, intermediate and veteran developers are forced to downscale their development or drop out entirely due to financial reasons. As other development outlets become increasingly viable (Epic Games offers developers 88% of their revenue in return for a storefront and a game engine, and is currently giving away $100M in grant money to students and dev teams), more developers will see Roblox as an unsustainable platform to base their livelihoods on. This is reducing the experienced developer talent pool, which in turn makes it harder for studios to find employees.

If Roblox wants to enable game studios to form and empower developers to create the nuanced higher-quality games that audiences demand, the Developer Exchange needs to change. It is difficult to outline in a single post the real world impact that these deficiencies have on the developer community, so below we’ve asked developers to share their stories.


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An official response from Roblox is welcomed and appreciated @DevEngagementTeam

Testimonies follow below.

405 Likes

Testimony for Onett

Roblox caught my attention 10 years ago as an innovative multiplayer building game with a ton of creative potential. I’ve kept an eye on it since then, and after reading about the success of the DevEx program for Jailbreak, put a halt to working on my own mobile game engine to give development on Roblox a try. I began work on Bee Swarm Simulator in December 2017 and launched it in March 2018 - a testament to the ease and speed of learning the Roblox API when you have previous experience making games. I’ve worked full time to expand it since then, but have recently reached a crossroads where I’m trying to decide if Roblox is the right long term decision for myself - this despite being one of the higher paid developers on the platform.

Roblox is uniquely accessible, offering a variety of different services (a game engine, app store, server hosting, and a social media platform) combined in a way that relieves hobbyist and amateur developers of many of the technical pains associated with creating an online game and grants them the potential to find success overnight. But Roblox is also unique in the level uncertainty developers are bound to experience when devoting themselves full time to the platform, seemingly as a consequence of that accessibility. As a solo developer I’ve had to take on many roles to keep Bee Swarm Simulator successful, including game designer, artist, composer, customer support and programmer - and even some I never considered like a community manager with a somewhat public persona. To maintain success on Roblox has demanded total commitment - concepts I had originally worked on years ago for independent projects have bled into my contributions to Bee Swarm Sim, and over the course of the last year, I found myself fully invested in what started as a relatively small project. The ease of entry into Roblox allowed me to quickly support myself full time, but also came with ambiguity of ownership and permanence. I began to wonder how much of myself I should give to a project that I may not have a long term future with. I’ve been fortunate enough that I can afford to shrug the concern off, but I consider this uncertainty to be the biggest hurdle Roblox will have going forward as it tries to attract new developers.

This uncertainty is the result of many factors, including the DevEx rate - essentially the financial ownership a developer has over their game on Roblox. The percentage of revenue a developer receives suggests that the developer isn’t so much an owner of their own game as they are a content creator for Roblox. This contradicts the number of responsibilities and the level of creative contribution we’re required to invest into our games. This is in contrast to paying Roblox a percentage for their services like would be experienced with game engines like Unity, or stores like Steam. Roblox is unique and has no direct analogues, but as it stands the DevEx system and rate seems appropriate for a content creator you’d see selling mods or assets for specific games rather than independent devs and studios using Roblox as a service to make and distribute their own game. In the early days of Roblox I believe this approach made sense - games on the platform acted more as showcases for Roblox’s novel features (eg. the lego-like sandbox physics engine). As the games grew more complex and Roblox transitioned into a full-featured game engine, the role of developers has transformed into something more legitimate, and the games that find success rely more on developer efforts.

This seems to be a foundational problem steering outside professionals and studios away from the platform. The creativity and effort required to succeed on Roblox approaches levels required to create games that can be uploaded on multiple outlets and owned solely by the developers. We don’t know the total cost Roblox has to bear to keep our games operating, but the problem here is one of optics and a sense of ownership. The DevEx rate suggests your contribution to a games success is around 25%, and the agreement of the DevEx program creates a looming uncertainty that even that percentage may be denied on a month by month basis. If top earning developers feel insecure about this arrangement, I’d imagine outside game studios would feel it even more.

The fact that most of the top earning games have been developed by small teams or individuals that have been on the platform for years seems to support this assumption. As of now, there’s little evidence that investing in large teams yields greater return for a Roblox game within the current system. The relatively low DevEx rate combined with uncertainty of the platform creates a situation where investing in a large team or studio carries a considerable risk without precedence of reward. In my case and the cases of some other high-earning devs I’ve spoken with, this is what has caused us to question if Roblox makes sense long term when compared to other platforms with proven opportunities for growth. If Roblox addresses these concerns, it will be in a position to retain and grow with their existing developer base as it matures and becomes more ambitious with the type of games they want to create. As it stands, it not only risks shrinking the established developer base, but is failing to attract outside talent. The goal of having 100-member studios working on Roblox games seems no closer today than it did a year ago - the top earning teams still consist of handfuls of players-turned-developers.

With all that said, I’m one of the few developers who isn’t immediately limited by funding - rather, I’m speaking openly about my long-term concerns with Roblox as a platform. I believe an increase to the DevEx rate is a necessary step in eliminating the uncertainty and sense of illegitimacy that comes with Roblox development, and is required for Roblox to evolve into the large and varied platform it intends to be. Taking steps to help Roblox grow overall will ultimately give developers the certainty they need to establish large studios and work on more complex and ambitious games.

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125 Likes

Testimony for Adopt Me / DreamCraft / NewFissy & Bethink

November 2018 was Adopt Me’s near worst month ever and things looked bleak for our studio’s survival. In 4 months, our metrics quadrupled in size, and we were the #1 game on roblox by playtime. What happened?

In Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 we made two strategic hires who drastically changed our trajectory. One was a talented UI designer who helped us reimagine our game’s look and feel. The second was a proficient scripter who drastically sped up our game’s development. Both of these individuals were living paycheck to paycheck (devex to devex) and struggling to pay rent prior to working with us.

The reality is that no outsider to Roblox ever applies for a software engineering role at a Roblox game studio. Roblox is simply too different of a platform, and none of us have the time to onboard an outside software engineer for 6 months, teaching them the intricacies of the Roblox API. Instead, the best candidates for hire are those who have developed their own small indie games and have shown a lot of promise.

However, low devex rates are threatening to uproot many of these same indie devs, including the two we eventually hired, forcing them to look outside roblox for work to make a living. This dramatically limits our ability to scale because these talented individuals we want to hire are leaving the platform at an increasingly alarming rate

Increasing devex rates helps make Roblox development sustainable for small devs. And those devs will either one day create large Roblox games or work for others on large Roblox games.

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83 Likes

Testimony for BuildIntoGames

Roblox is an extremely competitive and stressful environment. Developers are asked to manage games with MILLIONS of unique users, and we’re only given a tiny fraction of our gross revenue to do it. Most popular games are ‘one man ships’ because they cannot afford to take on artists, programmers, managers, testers, moderators, support, and everything else a game with this amount of traffic asks for. Managing more than one game on this platform is unfathomable for nearly everyone.

Pet Simulator was a personal example for me. For the first few months, I would stay up for very extended periods, sometimes for days, to push out updates weekly. It was absolutely physically and mentally exhausting. I’m thankful I was able to afford to get myself out of that situation, but 99% of other developers cannot say the same.

Roblox has exploded in popularity but finances haven’t kept pace. A Dev-Ex raise would allow developers to hire staff, create legitimate teams & companies, and persuade freelancers to take Roblox seriously.

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65 Likes

Testimony for Quenty

When I introduce Roblox to new people, I idealistically describe it as a game platform, on the cloud. A place where anyone can create anything. Roblox empowers kids to create. You can do anything. Roblox teaches kids how to program! Roblox is why I have a career today. However, I also think of this quote when I say this:

"A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.” – Bill Gates

Roblox will need to change if it wants to truly be this definition of a platform. It if wants to claim it’s bringing the world together, or powering imagination. You see, Roblox is capturing a majority of value.

Making games on Roblox is like being employed by a company without any of the job security. It’s like running a startup, except you don’t really get to own the final product. It’s the ultimate lock-in to a platform. For this reason, I come from the perspective of someone who is choosing to use Roblox as a hobby. I truly do love making things on Roblox. However, I would need to make and sustain a top 100 game by myself to earn as much as a can as an entry-level position at Microsoft. Or I could take the risk-free job with benefits. I’m sure other Roblox creators are doing the same math. I’m confident that if Roblox lost its top developers today, it would still chug along. However, it would be stupid to toss away such an asset. With a level of arrogance, I would say that Roblox’s creators are it’s greatest asset. Its life blood. Please, don’t lose touch of that.

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77 Likes

Testimony for Repotted

I’ve scripted a few games, including Survivor and Eviction Notice, but despite these games having tens / hundreds of millions of visits, I’m unable to afford hiring someone full time. As of right now, only the very top games are able to do so.

As a result, I’ve had to pay people for small, individual tasks rather than someone who works full-time. And I’ve had quite a bit of difficulty along the way.

A lot of the people I hire only develop as a hobby, and so their time is limited. From my experience, a lot of these people have had to leave the platform once they needed to start paying bills. Many of the people I’ve hired over a year ago—maybe even a majority—have since quit making games. The current environment is putting them in an unsustainable position that prevented them from continuing to do what they want. This hurts both them and the developers that hire them. I’ve hired some people that have had to drop the asset they were making for my games because of this, and it makes it extremely difficult to find good long-term developers on this platform.

I’ve also known many people that pay their bills by freelancing for multiple different people on the site. A lot of the time, though, these people have to work part-time because they don’t make enough, which can significantly impact the speed that things get done. In multiple different cases, I’ve also run into issues paying people because they weren’t able to meet a certain DevEx tier for the month. I can’t personally speak for the difficulties of not being able to pay bills for a month as a result, but I can say that it has definitely negatively impacted the development process for both me and the people I work with.

And as a result of these issues, I’ve been increasingly using off-site and off-platform alternatives. I’ve bought a variety of services from people who don’t use Roblox because I’m not able to find the talent that I want on the platform. This is not only inaccessible by many developers, but also results in hiring many people unfamiliar with Roblox, which can bring added difficulty to working with them.

In the ideal scenario, I’d love to be paying salaries to other developers on the platform. Right now, though, this isn’t possible for me to do. The current DevEx issues pose direct (lack of money) and indirect (lack of availability, talent, sustainability) problems which prevent me from doing that.

At RDC 2018, David Baszucki stated that he wanted a 100 person company developing on Roblox.
Let’s break that down:

  • Assume $60,000/year, which is less than the average pay for programmer in California
  • Needs to reliably make 6M usd each year
  • Over 1.7 billion robux required to do that (each year!)
  • After the marketplace fee, that means almost 2.5 billion robux need to be spent on a game

…and that’s the bare minimum. Realistically, to be sustainable, it would have to do significantly more than that for multiple years in a row.

As of right now, the top game on the site is MeepCity with 3.4 billion visits. It’s made 576,169,556 R$ from gamepasses at the time of writing, after years of being on the front page.

Roblox wants a future as a sustainable game platform. If we want to get there, improving DevEx is the way to go.

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71 Likes

Testimony for berezaa / Vesteria Inc (prisman, Polymorphic & sk3let0n)

There is an undeniable disparity between Roblox’s goal to age up their playerbase and the absence of the type of game content that older audiences desire.

So-called “kids games” are just easier to make. Simulators, tycoons, obbies and “social” games have few moving parts, and they don’t require nearly as much of a coordinated effort to pull off. This is why these games have dominated front page. Not because they are what players want, but because it’s what developers on Roblox are best equipped to deliver.

Players, especially teenagers and older players, want nuanced games. Games that are beyond the scope of what a single developer can accomplish, even with the lower overhead of developing on this platform.

The engine and platform tech for these games to be made is already there. The financials are not. As many devs on this thread have testified, a full-time commitment to a Roblox game is expensive. Employees and contractors need to pay for rent, food and the essentials of life. Current devex rates create a financial environment that is unfavorable and unsustainable for teams and studios to naturally form at the rate needed to come anywhere close to meeting the demands of an aging audience.

Older players are leaving Roblox because the suite of games offered isn’t meeting their needs, and veteran Roblox developers are leaving because the financials do not support their continued work on the platform.

Our game, Vesteria, has so far cost over $130,000 to develop. $70,000 of that was paid to our team by Roblox via the Incubator program as living expenses, and $60,000 has been personally invested by me.

This has been a highly successful venture, as Vesteria Alpha has been sold to almost 29,000 players at roughly $8 each. Cha-Ching! That’s about $230,000 of revenue!!

Unfortunately, my team has seen barely more than $50,000 of our earned revenue. We are still in the red and have not broken even yet. While we are releasing our Beta this weekend, the financials of our situation should give pause to anyone considering the current development environment on Roblox.

At last year’s RDC, Mr. David Baszucki stated that Roblox wants to support development teams up to a hundred people. It is my belief, as a developer who has been on Roblox for a decade and an entrepreneur who started a company to develop on this platform, that the current Developer Exchange rates fail to support teams of any size. My team is incredibly lucky that we were supported for five months by the Incubator program, and that we were able to financially support ourselves for the six months that our game was making Roblox six figures but wasn’t making enough to support minimum wage for our team.

It looks like we’re going to make it out of the frying pan. With the current developer exchange rates, most teams won’t.

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93 Likes

Testimony for Rogue Lineage / Tales from the Valley / Arch_Mage

Tales from the Valley is a game that has been featured 3 times, and was involved in the recent Egg Hunt event. Despite this exposure, the game failed to generate much revenue, due to a lack of user retention on the game’s behalf. Even though the income from the game was fairly consistent, I was only able to hit DevEx tiers every few months.

Being separated from my income in this way cast doubts on how viable it would be to pursue a career in Roblox development, when other platforms offer much more accessible payment methods. I’m sure that I would have continued to make games on the platform, but the prospects of basing my career on Roblox seemed unlikely.

In April 2019, we released Rogue Lineage, and the game has been successful far beyond our expectations. We didn’t go forwards with the concept based on an assumption of profit, we just wanted to make a game that we ourselves would enjoy. Now, the game is generating enough profit for us to consider maintaining the game as a career option, and not just as a passion project.

However, as it stands the game cannot support the income of a larger team. Despite at one time being the #2 game on the PC top earning sort, we can only afford to pay a few developers a suitable salary. Expanding the team is not something we can consider with the current state of DevEx.

There is also little guarantee of our paid relationship with Roblox. We could be cut off from our livelihood at any time by accidental moderation, or by some other incidental circumstance. There is very little stability to working on Roblox as it stands. It can feel like Roblox is paying us as a novelty, and not as an agreed exchange of payment for our labour.

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61 Likes

Testimony for Cindering / Roblox High School 2 / Cinder Studio

Back when I joined Roblox in 2009, I started making small games just as a hobby and for the fun of sharing these creations with everyone on the platform. I never took it too seriously until after the introduction of DevEx in 2013 (and the subsequent expansion of the program with higher rates and more cash-out tiers). Soon after that, I, along with the help of two of my friends, released the original Roblox High School in 2014 to great success.

In 2016 I entered college and began studying computer science. I no longer had as much time to devote to Roblox, so things slowed down around that time. However, as the years went by and Roblox continued getting bigger and bigger, and after Roblox again increased the DevEx rate from .0025 to .0035, I felt like Roblox was solidifying itself as a more serious, viable place for me to stay.

I stuck around in college to ensure I had a plan B in case Roblox development wasn’t a viable option for me anymore, but after a certain point I felt confident enough to go all-in on Roblox. With a larger team of my friends/developers, we created Roblox High School 2 in 2018. (I scripted this game full-time in the accelerator program, while my team members remotely worked part-time on building, modeling, etc.) After the game started taking off, I wanted to take full advantage of this new opportunity, so I made the decision to drop my college classes and do Roblox development full-time.


The success of Roblox High School has truly changed my life and given me a lot of financial security, and I’m eternally grateful for everything that Roblox has given me. That being said, while it’s enough to support me, it wouldn’t be enough to support a whole team of full-time developers like Roblox envisions in the future. I’m currently the only person who works full-time on our games - the other team members work part-time and generally have other life responsibilities to deal with as well. And honestly, if I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a front-page game, there’s no way I could even consider doing this full-time. Right now I’m juggling scripting Roblox High School 2 and our other upcoming game at the same time - it’s quite the challenge, but it just feels too difficult to recruit full-time top talent to help me out with this.

Naturally, the fact that indie game development is a very volatile path also impacts my decisions on how much money to invest in a game. Since I’ve dropped everything else to work on Roblox, I need to keep a large safety net in case Roblox High School 2 dies down and our future games don’t reach the same level of success. With a larger safety net, I’d feel more comfortable investing more of that money into expanding our team and creating future games.

On another note, speaking for some of the people I’ve worked with, the DevEx cash-out tier system also makes it difficult for people who make a low/mid level of income (including my contractors/some of my team members) to actually cash out the full amount they’ve earned. This is especially problematic when they need to cash out a certain amount to pay their bills, but they don’t have enough to reach a certain DevEx milestone. In some cases I’ve paid people extra for a certain month just so that they can cash out at the next milestone.

I see a really bright future ahead for Roblox, but right now I think the quality bar for games is going to reach an upper limit with the current DevEx rate, as it’s not financially viable to put together a large team and pay them all a salary which matches that of a traditional game dev job. The current rate is also not enough to attract more outside talent onto Roblox when the other gaming storefronts offer a much larger percentage for developers. Roblox is truly amazing for individual devs, but I believe the DevEx rate will need to increase if it wants to become a sustainable home for larger studios.

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65 Likes

Testimony for Wheatlies (Feed Your Pets, Mount of The Gods, Ninja Wizard Sim)

In 2016, for the first time, a game I created hit the front page. I made it while working at roblox, and I was incredibly passionate about the project and what it could mean for me. I thought it meant I could have a stable source of income and could spend the time I really wanted to on making games. Quickly though, I realized that the amount I was making, even after the rate increases of 2017, wasn’t anywhere near substantial enough to get me anywhere. It wasn’t even enough to reliably pay my rent.

If I made 650k robux and wanted access to all $2,275 of that, I would have to cash out once at the 500k rate, wait a month, cash out at the 100k rate, wait a month, and then try and earn enough to cash out at the 100k rate again. That’s not sustainable, and it’s what the majority of developers have to deal with when they’re trying to get access to the money that their games earned.

At the higher end of the rates it is easy to go without cashing out all of your robux each time, but at the lower end it makes sustaining oneself on the platform nearly impossible unless you’ve got a net of support to fall back on. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been forced to really reconsider whether making things on roblox at all is something I can afford to do. For me and for many people like me, this isn’t a hobby that I’m getting money for, it’s me getting money because the things I make earn money. The devex rates have real consequences on the lives of developers who work on the platform.

When I heard a couple days ago that roblox released more devex tiers, I was really happy because I thought it would finally mean more access to income at lower levels. I promptly discovered the lowest new tier was 7M robux. The majority of developers still make a lot less than this from their games, and don’t have access to the money that they earn from their work. Roblox developers need to have better access to the money they make from their games, and they need a bigger cut.

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Testimony for Coeptus

Roblox has grown rapidly and the quality on the platform has improved substantially over the last few years, partly as a result of the Developer Exchange program. It allowed hobby developers like myself to dedicate more time developing, thus making it possible to create better and more refined games.

However, after the introduction of DevEx the rates haven’t changed much and developer still receive a relatively small percentage of the gross revenue. This despite the fact that games are growing fast, the associated workload is increasing and more responsibility is being shifted onto developers.

Combined with other issues with the platform, this not only makes it harder for developers to sustain themselves but also makes Roblox seem less appealing compared to similar sites causing experienced developers to leave. For those wanting to form larger studios, this in turn makes it increasingly more difficult to find talent and makes long-term developing on Roblox less viable from a business perspective.

The current DevEx rates obviously play a part in this, but so does the relationship and trust between Roblox and its developers. As of right now it feels like the Terms of Use are very one-sided and there’s little financial stability developing on the platform. Think a lot of developers would appreciate being treated more like business partners than kids, especially if the platform wants to be taken seriously by the game-dev industry.

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Testimony for Freshly Squeezed Nerds
(Aotrou, Beeism, buildthomas, cinnamonpancake, evaera, Ravenshield)

We are all super passionate about video games and about game development, and we have a combined 45+ years of experience creating and developing on this platform. A few months back, we decided to combine our technical knowledge and our practical experience on the platform, and form a small studio, Freshly Squeezed Nerds, to develop and publish games through on Roblox (and other platforms).

Since then, we’ve been hard at work designing and developing our games, but we have been running into the issue that we are all uncertain whether we can provide for ourselves financially even if we hit it off big as a development team (considering we have to split any profit over 6 people), and whether it is actually worth doing this on Roblox under the current DevEx policies and the fact that Roblox has such a large lock-in with their platform and features compared to other platforms out there.

The major issue is that, even with most of us having been part of several successful projects, we cannot afford to live off of the platform financially at the moment. All of us need to run part-time jobs next to our busy development/university schedules. This severely impacts the amount of time we can spend on development and also makes us wonder whether it is actually worth spending our efforts in game development altogether (and instead taking a job that has actual job security or esteem from professional communities), or perhaps whether developing on a different platform would be healthier for us in the long-term (since we won’t be suffering from lock-in and we perceive that we are able to grow much faster on a personal/skill level than on Roblox).

One of us nearly had to quit pursuing Roblox development altogether because of the stressful environment and the low financial incentives, as well as that many people do not hold being a Roblox developer in particular high esteem outside of the platform unless you are one of the top developers (quite frankly, many professionals are not familiar with Roblox or dismiss the idea of development on this platform entirely).

Needless to say, we want to grow out our team on this platform, but we currently see no feasible way of doing that beyond a certain point. We have a high standard for quality, and we simply cannot hire individuals from within or outside the platform that fulfil these requirements, because we cannot provide them with enough financial incentive to join our team. This severely limits our growth. There is a ceiling here for forming larger teams that we currently cannot break through.

It would be an incredible waste if talented developers feel like they are being pushed out of the platform for financial reasons or a lack of time to seriously pursue development as a result of financial disincentive. Roblox currently only provides us with 20-25% return of the profits that they see over game development activities. While Roblox provides a great array of services and features to developers, we think they should provide better financial incentives so that we can house more talented developers on the platform and more quickly grow out our teams, so that we can produce more and higher quality content for all sorts of audiences.

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51 Likes

The following testimony was requested to be anonymous.

This individual was a former accelerator at Roblox HQ. Their views do not necessarily represent mine.


I’ve been using Roblox for over a decade. And it will always have a place in my heart for being a platform that allows people to express their creativity for free. However, Roblox has changed throughout the years in a way I think damages its sustainability. Roblox boasts it has millions of developers, though only ~1500 are proficient enough to achieve the “Member” role in this forum. According to VentureBeat’s stats from 2018 that’s 0.0375% of Roblox’s apparent 4 million creators.

Roblox hasn’t done enough to entice users into development on their platform since 2009. Though, adding DevEx was great for sustainability.

Join dates of top developers:
Badcc: 2009, Coeptus: 2009, Asimo: 2009, alexnewtron: 2007, NewFissy: 2009, Taymaster: 2007, callmebob: 2007, litozinnamon: 2009, Onett: 2009, Nikilis: 2008

Roblox used to have large “EDIT/BUILD” buttons next to your game’s “Play” buttons, of which were right next to the avatar on your profile. Now that player’s own games are hidden away in groups or profile tabs. They’re not as exposed to the average player, hurting the chances for more potential developers. Roblox should do more to advertise to potential developers. More developers means more games, and more games means audience expansion as well as increased income for everyone. It would also benefit studios as they’d have a larger talent pool to choose from.

Not only are we not getting many new developers, but our veteran developers are dropping off and losing motivation. This is due to how hard it is to make a minimum wage living off of Roblox. I estimate there’s less than 300 developers on Roblox that make over CA’s minimum wage of $21k annually (based on my income and income of my colleagues on top earning). Adding new DevEx tiers doesn’t help this situation.

Roblox gives us less than a quarter of our income. In contrast, Roblox’s competitors are providing developers with many times our current share. One of the key differences in the industry is that Roblox provides servers, datastores and network code. We believe these features and others are no longer worth the large chunk taken from our income.

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Testimony for TheHyb

I released my first serious game in June of 2018, and my first frontpage game in January of this year. In the case of the first game, I had weeks of time where I was in between rates. Faced with the choice of waiting for the next tier or devexing a significantly smaller amount now, I usually waited. What would have happened to someone who couldn’t wait and was sustaining themselves off that income? It is so much easier to wait when you are cashing the higher tiers, so why are there more tiers at the top and not at the bottom? It is almost impossible to support yourself when your income is varying by 100 percent in one direction each month.

Something that’s deeply worrying to me is how often I’ve seen promising people just quit Roblox development on the verge of something huge, because it simply was not economically viable to continue working on it. How many revolutionary games have never seen the light of day because the developer(s) could not afford to work on it any longer? A ton of people enter the accelerator/incubator program with incredible products and never finish the game because they can not work on the game without directly receiving salary from Roblox.

Beyond our walls, I wonder about all the talent on places like Upwork that have never and will never consider Roblox a legitimate means of obtaining development work. Roblox has grown to a size that forming studios is becoming a reality for many, but how do you form studios when your hiring pool is handicapped by a force you can’t control? I’ve mentioned Roblox to everyone i’ve hired off site, whether it be graphics or modeling etc, and from my personal experience everyone has heard of it but no one has considered it a real place for job prospects. Devex rates don’t just impact developers already on Roblox, it attracts developers everywhere to the platform.

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Testimony for ChadTheCreator

It brings me a lot of joy to make games using Roblox. Roblox offers a giant platform with great development tools. I didn’t expect it would still be playing such a large role in my life today, almost 12 years later. I’ve developed the After The Flash series, Club Boates, Mystic Tower, the Far Lands, and Blackout. I’ve assisted with The Normal Elevator and Apocalypse Rising 2.

DevEx is how I pay for my food, my rent, all of my living expenses. In December of 2017 I graduated from UNCW with a BS in Computer Science, and the following year I attempted to do Roblox game development full time. For 11 months of the year I was struggling to make it work. In November when ATF7 came out, I started making enough to finally call Roblox a full-time job, as well as be confident in its future earnings. Thankfully, Roblox staff has been very helpful in times when I’ve been hacked or lost Robux from other issues.

DevEx Tiers
One of the issues I faced in 2018 was the exchange tiers. The jump from 500K to 1M Robux is a big one, and if your game is the size mine was (80 to 150 players) and you live month to month on this income, you’d be stuck awkwardly choosing 500K. If you have any Robux left in your account (up to ~$1,600), getting hacked and not having a ‘courtesy account restore’ left could be the end of your time doing Roblox full-time. To better assist aspiring developers with smaller games, I’d recommend implementing 750K and 1.5M tiers, or doing away with tiers entirely if possible. The wait time between developer exchanges is anxiety-inducing for many developers. Having to cash out an amount much lower than what you have saved up and hoping you don’t get hacked in the intervening time and lose months-worth of rent and grocery money or valuable virtual items isn’t something I’d wish on people.

DevEx Rates
Currently I am running ATF7 with some contractors involved here and there. In the future I’d like to work with more contractors and even open up my own studio with part/full-time employees. At the current DevEx rate, I’m not sure if that would be possible. Of course anyone would say they want the DevEx rate boosted, but I believe a significant portion of that extra money for developers would be put to good use by hiring more artists, 3D modelers, animators, and especially sound designers. This would boost the quality of Roblox games even further, and perhaps allow more Roblox game studios to start popping up. Based on most calculations I’ve seen done by Roblox math whizzes, Roblox can afford to boost the DevEx rate. It’s incredibly low at the moment.

We are receiving less than 25% of what a player spends in our game. The services, community, and opportunities Roblox provides are definitely worth a premium, but I don’t think it should be over 75% of our income.

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Testimony for zKevin

Let me start by saying Roblox has given me many many opportunities that I am extremely grateful for. I had the chance create the games of my dreams and projects that I am genuinely proud of. That being said, it’s been frustrating how monetization always takes a large chunk of focus when creating anything. I have considered many times to move on to a different platform or to use cheap and easy tactics to financially support myself. I understand strict monetization strategies optimize income, but I can’t help but feel like I’m exploiting children to get a reasonable cut for my work. Ideally, I would want casual bonuses for those who are interested and supportive for my projects. Instead I’m left to fight with lootboxes and skinnerbox techniques. Doing what’s morally right isn’t advised if you want to make a living here.

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Testimony for FamedChris

Roblox has always been a huge part of my life since I was a kid, and for me to have the opportunities I have now is awesome. Growing up with Roblox was an amazing experience; however, there’s so much to be said for how developer income rates have discouraged me over the years.

I started developing seriously in 2015 when I stopped building just for fun and started aiming to go somewhere. For me to get where I am, I had to make a lot of different showcases and maps for free just hoping to be noticed by anyone that could provide some sort of income for my services. Only by around 2017 was I really noticed and made my first devex with the help of some top developers and now my close friends.

By 2018 I released my first serious project which was Work at a Coffee Shop. Work at a Coffee Shop was spent months in the making, and the income it was generating didn’t seem with the investment of my own time and money I put into it. After a month, because we weren’t earning much from it, we stopped updating heavily despite the amount of hours and investment we put into it because both me and my programmer didn’t see it as a viable income source. Updates from then on were mostly aimed at some cosmetic changes like different themed maps.

Around late 2018 my commissions slowed down a bit and my family life was difficult due to a loss of income. I frantically started rushing to find any commissions to help out with the situation and after working many hours made only close to what I had made months before. At this time, I was heavily considering leaving Roblox to focus on college and get a part time job as it seemed more manageable.

I stuck around for a bit longer and was happy I did, but it makes me think about if things went a little bit differently and were a little bit worse. If I was in a worse situation, I would have left Roblox a long time ago, and I think with rates this low, we’re losing a lot of talent. I have met countless people over my years here who left Roblox because it wasn’t sustainable enough for them to even consider it worth their time and energy.

Roblox is an amazing platform, but due to the low exchange rate, people within the platform are struggling to get by, and developers who see us from the outside either don’t take us seriously or have never heard of us because of a lack of competitive pay. If developer exchange rates were increased, we would see a lot more of these people sticking on the platform for longer and would see outside professionals coming in, which could be great for competition, larger team sizes, and more risky projects that push the boundaries of what’s considered good.

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Testimony for TheAmazeman (Virtual Valley Games)

Today, @Inyo22 and I work full time on our game Roblox Titanic, but due to the current DevEx rates, I was only able to start Roblox full time in 2018 because I had scored free rent (while heavily paying off debt) for making family proud having graduating college. I then invited Inyo22 to live with me so we both have free rent. Roblox has been sustainable enough for my entire college career and debt so far to be paid for with DevEx, but it wasn’t easy or without intense periods of financial strain and stress. Higher DevEx rates would relieve financial stress for many more developers, and increase the quality of games by having more developers become full time. For reference, going full time for a year and a half has allowed us to double our “projected long term income” by focusing on improving our game like never before.

It’s very exciting knowing our game is trended to make Roblox multiple 6 figures/yr, but due to the developer cut and our percentage earnings for each of us working on it, this dries up quickly. After all the cuts, the earnings feel like they’re in the make it or break it zone. It is both awesome and frustrating to know that we have “made it”, with how much value added our game makes (players purchasing enough Robux to count as multiple six figures), but the end result is not quite there yet due to the low DevEx rates. I could easily drop everything and get a job in my college major to supplement my income. Roblox could easily accelerate people’s success by increasing the DevEx rates.

While it is partially our own fault that our game has caused us financial stress, the current DevEx rates are holding us back as a development team as a whole. We want to create a new game for this summer, but we are constantly having to postpone development while we maintain our current game. With a raised DevEx rate, we would be able to stall updates while working on a potentially promising new game. Whether or not this is the correct strategic move, we as developers with gigantic loyalty to Roblox would like to feel more secure while we develop on the platform. There would be a huge morale boost if DevEx rates were to raise, the excitement would create a boom of so many more high quality Roblox games.

We’re happy to do what we love even if for me it doesn’t currently make all of what a starting salary of a job using my degree could make. Our game is a huge passion project that has gone on for many years, only because of previous DevEx rate raises. If there is more room for Roblox to raise DevEx rates, it should be done. We wouldn’t have been able to continue without the DevEx rate increase in 2017, who knows what struggles or missed opportunities are ahead without another increase.

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42 Likes

Testimony for MrWindy / Flee the Facility / A.W. Apps

Where do I begin? Back in 2008 I started playing Roblox in middle school after watching some school kids play it. In 2010 I created my MrWindy account (same as my Club Penguin) and realized I could make my own games and play them with friends. I had no idea how to code or build, but was very eager to learn. After making some tycoons with some easy to use free models, I fell in love with the game development process. I even wanted to grow up and work for Club Penguin (RIP). At the time, Roblox was just a fun hobby of mine creating and playing.

In 2012 my life changed direction once I saw a local high school teenager on the news. He was able learn and write code for various mobile games for iPhone and sell them on the app store. He went though almost the exact same design process as me by writing down ideas and making them a reality. At this point I was locked into becoming a game developer as a career no matter what.

As I went into high school I left Roblox since I felt I out grew it and I saw better game dev opportunities else where. I picked up an iphone 4 development book and an ios 6 development book drew some level designs for my first game and turned to the first page of the book. “Why do I need a snow leopard to make iphone games?” I thought to myself after reading. It felt pretty impossible to learn xcode from just these books but I still felt determined to make a game. Later after searching and learning my first mobile game “Cave Spider” was created using drag n drop programming in GameSalad and published to the App Store early 2014 my junior year of high school. barely anyone played it but I still felt proud of what I accomplished.

A few months later I competed in a few Ludum Dare game Jams and published a new mobile game that summer “Zig Zag Run”. Not a lot of people played that one too until something big happened a month later. After Flappy Bird died a new era arose in the appstore. Ketechapp just started making simple clicker games and one of them just so happened to be named “Zig Zag”. so for that summer I had my first taste of success with having a popular game in the top 100 free to play action games thanks to SEO. But it eventually died down and I made around $10,000 for college and a VR PC I still use today.

The next massive pivot in my life was my senor year of high school. I was accepted into a technical school in my area to take two semesters worth of java programming class. I had an amazing teacher and since java is really close to C# I was able to teach my self unity and learn unity game development from other ludum dare youtubers like quill18 and ETseeki Games (aka MasterIndie now a days after the Ant Simulator crowdfunding mess in 2016). Throughout my senor year of high school and first year in college (late 2014 - early 2016) I published 2 mobile games and serveral Ludum Dare games using Unity. It felt great knowing If I endure and learn I could get into a game development career with my early experience resume. But my 2 mobile games ‘Sky Scout’ and ‘Neon Core’ didn’t do to well and I wasn’t sure what to do. It was getting impossible to get any visibility on both app stores.

Then by the end of my first year of college (spring 2016) my childhood friend told me at lunch one day about how Roblox is now paying their developers real money through DevEx. I tinkered around in a few test places to learn lua (Roblox API and Roblox University helped a lot) and I remember looking through roblox articles about how this was life changing for roblox developers, like the blog post about Taymaster in 2015. After playing the most popular games at the time, I realized the key to successfull games on Roblox was building social interactions into the core gameplay itself. I saw an opportunity to be a big fish in a lake rather than a small fish in an ocean, and thus Flee the Facility started development in summer of 2016.

It felt like a big risk switching platforms but I knew it was riskier on the app store and I had a Hail Marry for Roblox. My parents and relatives thought it was insane to pursue roblox, they thought I had better chances with app store, but I did my research, I had experience learning quickly, and I had a plan. Summer of 2016 - Fall of 2017 was the last shot I had before my appstore funds and college savings ran out.

I continued my second year of college and 2017 was a tough year for me and my family for various reasons. I was pretty close to broke and only had enough money to barely make the fall semester tuition that fall. I looked for summer jobs everywhere in the area and summer computer internships and no got back to me, all while I was still working on roblox development.

In the July of 2017 I released Flee the Facility to the public, it still needed work but was ready for the public to try. I threw out small ads every day but only got crickets and around 10 concurrent players at most. At this point I figured my options were to drop out of college in spring, get a working job, and stick to roblox development as a hobby. Or start taking on student debt and continue Roblox as a hobby. Things looked pretty bad until a spark happened a month after release.

Out of nowhere thousands of Xbox players started playing Flee the Facility and it grew on other devices too. I finally had a successful game again. Going off of my past experience I thought It would only last a few months, but it just kept growing long term throughout late 2017-2018. I struck a cord with roblox players through my game. I felt like I accomplished the impossible. It was unbelievable that my college and car was paid for thanks to DevEx.

In Summer 2018, I had the opportunity to move to Roblox HQ and work there as an accelerator on new game. As soon as I walked in on the first day It felt unrealistic standing there and introducing myself with my username and real name. It honestly felt like the best of 2 worlds colliding. I had a lot of great experiences seeing roblox first hand and making friends/working with some of the greatest developers I know.

Backstory Over.

Now it’s 2019, my game is still doing well for me. But, I’m past the ‘honey moon’ phase of receiving my first paycheck for my roblox game and now looking at long term goals and career. I realized that Roblox is know a career path, but it is only good for solo devs like myself or small teams. Talking to other devs and hearing their experiences and listening to Roblox’s goal for the future, everyone wants higher quality / bigger games on roblox. Right now I have to stick with making smaller scale games within my skill set because I do most of development work myself and contract out some parts of development. From all my years of game development I know my limits, if I want bigger games, then I need a bigger team with full time workers. I also want to find workers from out side Roblox too, there is simply not enough talent from within Roblox right now to start +100 studios. There is also not enough revenue to fund a team that big.

For a while now DevEx rates stayed the same at around 20% for devs. We know Roblox provides many services like free servers, the engine, and the ad/player ecosystem. But the competition is catching up. Google Stadia, Unity, and Unreal are starting to setup there own servers for developers to use. If Roblox wants to survive we need to bring in outside developers like myself, but not just for solos like me. With even a 40% or 50%, that would attract more outside developers and form bigger teams.

A higher DevEx rate would also let smaller devs work more and put time into more unique games with niche audiences and not worry about the financial risk. Right now if you want to pursue Roblox as a career you need to make games for all of Roblox’s players, this is why simple easy simulators are popular. It’s easy for kids to understand. What happens once those kids grow up and want to play more complex niche games? they are hard to find today and the devs behind them don’t have the funds to give there niche game frequent updates.

In the end, I love Roblox. Roblox was the start to my almost 10 year game development early career, even back when I knew nothing and was just excited to learn and create new virtual worlds for others enjoyment. I’m glad it came full circle and now I can pursue indie game development as a viable career. I have Roblox and DevEx to thank for that. I’m just afraid if DevEx rates don’t change, Roblox and its players base is missing out on all the talented devs and teams (big or small) outside of Roblox and what amazing unique experiences they can bring to the table. My experience shows that any dev when determined can switch and learn new platforms when needed and I’m afraid some of the more talented teams in Roblox will leave to other better paying platforms to develop bigger games and niche games.

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55 Likes

Testimony for Explod_e aka RBXKyle

I’ve been with Roblox as a player since 2009. Since then, it has grown gradually from just another game to a way of living. I’ve grown from a player, to an indie developer, to owner of an indie studio- each step more ambitious than the last, and with greater results- the issue is Roblox has not increased the financial resources they offer in proportion to my growth, and the platforms growth.

Many of us here have incredible credentials- from hundreds of millions, even billions, of unique play sessions, to tens or hundreds of thousands of peak concurrent players. Some of us have even worked directly with Roblox to partner with huge brands like Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Marvel and more- but the financial return in comparison to these statistics and achievements are non-comparable.

As a developer running a studio that is currently taking on a huge innovative task in terms of our upcoming project, we’re struggling for resources. We have published several games, signed several brand deals, signed several licensing agreements- but none of it is enough to finance the project at the scale we need to, and the scale that Roblox want us as developers to be working at. If Roblox wants to see content that represents their platform in the way they want it to be represented; innovative, inspiring, next generation, then they need to give us the resources to produce this kind of content.

If something doesn’t change, then these large scale innovative creative ventures will die off, and the platform will slow in growth over time as content becomes stale and repetitive.

We’re telling you what we need to keep up this growth as developers, to keep fuelling your platform the way we have been for years now. Many of us are ready to move off-platform, on to other ventures. Action is imperative.

The ball is in your court now.

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