Roblox Debuts Its New In-Game Voice Chat Feature
Roblox’s acquisition of Guilded was a surprising and unexpected move from the ‘metaverse’ platform. Roblox makes a point of reassuring parents that their platform is age-appropriate and that parents can oversee their child’s activity, based on what’s seen in their safety section as well as the ‘Parents’ section of their corporate website. Voice chat complicates a lot of Roblox’s fundamental design of being a friendly and safe space for kids, especially when you consider the difficulties other companies have moderating toxicity in voice comms.
Roblox Voice Chat: Rovox?
Rather than incorporating voice chat into a layer of functionality that sits above or integrated into the Roblox client, Roblox weaves voice chat seamlessly into the experiences where they’re testing its functionality. According to the official Roblox blog, their goals for voice chat are threefold: it must approximate the methods people use to communicate in real life while simultaneously overcoming the physical boundaries of communication and prioritizing a safe and civil environment.
Immersive 3D speech brings the same rules of speaking in-person to Roblox’s virtual experience. Speech plus associated gestures, mannerisms, and facial expressions are meant to assist in the conveyance of meaning. It’s not certain how Roblox users can achieve this on the fly, but the blog mentions that immersive 3D voice chat will adapt to changes in a user’s speech, from whispering to shouting. It’s possible that users already have the muscle memory and library of animations to articulate meaning through their avatar’s motions, but the goal of replicating genuine, physical speech is ambitious.
The voice chat made available to developers and community members today was demoed by the Roblox_RTC account on Twitter. In the video, we can see how the 3D voice chat works as characters speech from far away in comparison to up close, becoming louder the closer you are to the speaker. Muting yourself and others is easy as you can simply click the microphone icon above a character’s head to mute that character, including your own. This process can also be accessed through the options menu, as well as which audio devices Roblox will use for voice chat.
Roblox also wants users to communicate with each other regardless of whether they’re in the same instance/experience. In their blog, they remark that “you will be able to have conversations with friends elsewhere on the platform… You will also be able to seamlessly shift between modes of communication, from text, to voice, to video, to immersive.”
This goal in having both voice chat as an immersive communication tool as well as a default VoIP option in the Roblox ecosystem may explain their acquisition of Guilded. In an interview with Techcrunch, Roblox chief product officer Manuel Bronstein said that “Guilded has an amazing road map” and that Roblox wants to support its development “without any hardcore integration at this point.” Still, Gilded’s developers can lend Roblox insight on how to craft their own extraneous voice platform that can sit on top of Roblox without interfering with custom game experiences.
Moderation will definitely gain an additional level of complexity with the launch of voice chat for all users. Bronstein claims Roblox will slowly expand voice chat’s features while creating new moderation and safety tools at each step of release until their tools can handle the load of Roblox’s entire userbase.
The Roblox blog notes that the Roblox “community will be able to self-regulate and flag a user that is not adhering to community standards, and that user may be removed from an experience or lose speaking privileges.” While this trust in the community’s judgment is commendable, it doesn’t foresee how reporting can be abused to bully users or harass them. There needs to be an element of human oversight to ensure these systems are used for their intended purposes.
Roblox intends to use voice chat as the next step to consolidating its ‘metaverse’ concept and making it more cohesive. But before they finalize that, they need to ensure their game’s infrastructure and moderation can support the new types of problems that voice chat could introduce to the Roblox ecosystem, or else voice chat will join the bevy of problems Roblox is already facing.
East Brickton with voice chat will definitely be an experience to look forward to.