Friday, October 13, 2023

Bad Management → Nice Progress

(This blog post was ported from an official Magical Mary community article on VK.)

πŸ’£The Destruction Platform

Roblox... Let's just say that making a game there is like building a house on a shaky foundation; You might not want to actually do it, as what if the shaking increases in intensity one day and makes your nice-looking house fall apart?

That may seem like a weird comparison, but it's actually a decent one. Roblox, being a live, online "game as a service"(?) platform, sometimes makes amendments and changes to their terms and rules that developers must follow, lest their experiences get taken down.

Recently, Roblox made a controversial and morally wrong decision, altering the terms to retroactively grant themselves almost every right (including sublicensing) to all UGC assets (including things developers uploaded). This violated the licenses of any users that imported models bought from Sketchfab's store, and left only one right to the uploader, "ownership", which ironically doesn't seem to determine who has usage rights, but rather who to blame for any violations involving the property.

That change was bad enough, but it looks like Roblox wanted to see how far they could go before users really became angry at them. On September 19th, they were planning to change developer policies to require prompting users to purchase any unowned clothing/accessories that they were wearing, stop players from equipping anything that's out of stock or unavailable, and, worst of all, disallow the use of any Roblox items!

✨The Legacy

Do you understand how bad that last point is? For years, Roblox has let developers use any of their many bundles (sets of character body parts), clothes, and gear (held items that do actions when the player clicks or taps), which made it easy for them to add gameplay to their experiences and decorate their world and characters. Now, however, they're taking those rights away from the developers!

Xane doesn't find the "classic Roblox aesthetic" too appealing, for two reasons:

  1. Models like the ones used by gear look like something out of the mid-2000's, which is fitting, since Roblox was created in 2006! They're usually rather low-poly meshes with a low resolution texture wrapped around it, and don't represent the capabilities of Roblox's current engine (which can use PBR textures and up to 1024×1024 textures).
  2. Though the classic R6 characters (which use six body parts) like the well-known “Noob” and the original LEGO® brick aesthetic are part of Roblox's legacy and are charming in some ways, they tend to result in more basic, barren visuals.

πŸ‘—(Don't) Be Yourself

Well, clearly that should mean that these changes wouldn't affect Xane, right? Well, unfortunately, they probably would. Roblox used pretty vague wording when describing the rule changes. The only place where they mention Roblox items is in the post's FAQ, which for some reason explains how to report experiences. (This is why users believe they will disallow using Roblox assets, in fact!)

If Roblox's assets might not be allowed in the future, or they're affected by the rest of the changes (including the annoying, shameless purchase prompt hounding), this could very well affect everything they've created, including their character bundles. If that's true, it could ruin any roleplaying game that includes a character editor, such as the one that's found in Royale High, a well-known experience.

In Royale High, your character can use any bundle, many of which you probably don't own… Uh-oh!

Just imagine you're playing Royale High on an account that doesn't own the “Boy” bundle, but you made an outfit that uses it. You enter Dress Up mode, check your list of outfits, then click the “wear” button on your alternative male character. Suddenly, a prompt appears somewhere, asking you to buy the bundle (even though it's free), just because you don't own it, and wouldn't use it on your regular Roblox avatar. Well, the rules still would require the developers to always show that prompt to get that stupid bundle!

🧍🏼‍♀️Execute: Plan B!

While other experiences have too many active players to limit what bundles and clothes that the player can choose from (as it would ruin countless saved outfits in some experiences), Project Magical Mary is still in its pre-alpha development phase, so spontaneous changes can be made without compromising players' saved content. Xane wasn't about to let Roblox inevitably sabotage his “house”, so he started doing something that he wouldn't have considered had Roblox not shot themselves in the foot (as they've done many times in recent years)…

He started making his own character “bundle”.

Yep, this is his first attempt at modeling a full R15 (15-part character model) bundle! This is based on Roblox's official “Girl” bundle, with the “Woman” bundle's torso size. Xane's custom character model has segmented arms and legs like Roblox's official offerings, but they have been specifically shaped so that their elbows and knees look smooth, no matter how much they bend.

Also, the hands and feet have been given specifically distinct shapes from Roblox's equivalents, with the former having all five fingers and the latter's thinner shape allowing it to represent bare feet, since Project Magical Mary's shoes will probably be extra models attached to your feet, similar to Royale High, but placing them on top of them instead of completely replacing your feet.

The Future of Project Magical Mary

So, how will this affect Project Magical Mary going forward? Well, while the player will still be allowed to join the experience using their current Roblox avatar, they won't be able to use any of their accessories, classic clothes, and bundles for custom outfits (which is different than Royale High). Players will also be unable to wear any Magical Mary-specific clothes, which would only fit the custom body part set.

To help any other developers work around these changes, should Roblox go through with them despite the heavy backlash in the announcement topic, Xane will release this character on the DevForums as both a native Roblox Studio model file (.rbxm) and the source .blend file so developers could tweak body parts as necessary to fit their experiences, and import the meshes themselves, for when the asset privacy system is expanded to support meshes too; If all meshes are made private by default (like audio is, as of this blog post's creation), Xane's character would be blocked from all experiences, which Xane could become unaware of, especially if something fatal such as his brain ceasing to function occurs.

For those needing a tl;dr for this whole post:

  • Roblox is not a good place to develop games that you want to keep alive for years to come, mainly due to their out-of-the-blue, destructive rule changes.
  • Roblox's most recent awful update tried to add new restrictions for the items that developers can use in their experiences, including Roblox's own assets (due to the post's ambiguous wording).
  • Any experiences with character customization could be required to ask players to buy anything that they equip, if they don't own it.
  • Project Magical Mary is going to use its own R15 character model, which will support its own clothing models. The potential rule changes will limit most customization to said model, however.
  • Additionally, Xane will release this model on the DevForums in both native Studio (.rbxm) and Blender (.blend) formats, in case developers need to modify body part shapes or adapt to any “asset privacy” updates, which might make the original meshes private by default, messing up any experiences that made use of this model.