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.
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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