This week we’ll be looking into Abracadabra, the studio which brought you great games like SharkBite and Backpacking! The developers behind the studio are Simoon68 and Opplo, two veteran Roblox developers — both have a decade of experience behind them. In this spotlight, we’re going to explore their origin story.
How long have you been a part of Roblox?
Simoon68: I joined Roblox in December of 2009 when I stumbled across a friend playing an obstacle course. Since signing up to get into the action, it’s almost been a whole decade!
Opplo: I joined Roblox in December of 2008 after seeing a Roblox advert on a different website. Since then nearly half of my life has been spent on the platform!
Simoon68: Abracadabra Studio was founded in 2017 by myself and Opplo. We had made games together prior, but along with the group games update and the release of SharkBite we coined the group Abracadabra to publish our games together.
What inspired you to begin developing on Roblox?
Opplo: Games such as Ultimate Paintball by Miked and Sword Fights on the Heights by Telamon were my source of inspiration to start developing games on Roblox. However, most of my inspiration came from owning a Roblox group. When I was younger, I used to own an air force on Roblox. Creating games and content for this group is what helped grow my game development skills in both 3D modelling and programming. The constant excitement in seeing players from my group try out new features and equipment inspired me to start creating games for the whole of Roblox to enjoy, which led to my first successful game called RoBowling.
Simoon68: When I discovered Roblox Studio in 2010 and experimented with the tools, I found that I loved to build and I wanted to make my own place. I was inspired by the quirky games on the 2010 front page. My first games were inspired by obstacle courses, marble riders & train crash survival games, which led me to create the first of my games, Marble Ride Storm & Monorail Crash. I had also created and led several groups in the past from battle clans to the Trade group, which also influenced my development skills.
Your team, Abracadabra, is known for SharkBite. How would you say it got so popular?
Simoon68: I’d say SharkBite naturally gained traction through its thrilling gameplay, as we’ve never ran advertisements for SharkBite. What I think made SharkBite popular was the juggernaut implementation. The juggernaut concept is a really popular genre throughout Roblox and no other game on the platform had introduced a player-controlled shark at the time, which is what made our shark-attack game unique when compared to the other shark games on the platform.
During our alpha testing phases SharkBite had little to no players at all as we were still developing the game. Sometimes we invited followers from twitter to test the game, so the first few players who came to test our game sometimes brought along more attention. Each day the numbers were slowly multiplying as more players introduced their friends & each other to the game. YouTubers were shooting videos, people were tweeting & favoriting our game, and the game unexpectedly climbed up the Xbox front page. It took some more time for the game to get recognised on PC but we eventually reached the PC front page and we hit a 35,000 concurrent player peak. At this time we had no choice but to release the game even though it was not finished, and take advantage of the front page. We were shipping updates as fast as we could on the side of university, and to this day the game is still running.
What was the creation process behind SharkBite?
Simoon68: The creation process was quite spontaneous. We had both developed games together in the past such as RoBowling and we were thinking of new ideas for our next project. Initially we brainstormed through lots of different game ideas for our next game, after a few days of brainstorming we both favoured a juggernaut shark-attack concept and started with an empty baseplate as all games do. We made a minimalistic prototype starting with a blank plot of water, a single shark and a couple of boats to see if the concept worked. Once we implemented the game/round loop we were set to start updating the game with actual content.
The game was designed to fit a deep-sea aesthetic, such as the user interface that has a shift in its blue gradients, the central lighthouse lobby that contains ocean assets within it & the open bay of water — yet at the same time we wanted to add a hint of quirkiness. For example, it’s not every day you’re being chased by a great white shark whilst cruising on a ducky boat equipped with a bazooka. I feel like these crazy/quirky elements really amount to why users are drawn to our game. You get a great thrill but have great fun at the same time. We made sure to make good use of tweening interface and feedback to give the players an intuitive experience.
An interesting fact is that, as we were building SharkBite, Roblox had only just introduced mesh parts, so the first half of the boats are made out of Roblox parts and the second half of the boats are imported meshes from Blender, so there’s a mix of buildings and quality as I had only just started to learn how to model 3D mesh parts at the time.
You were part of Roblox’s Accelerator program. How was that experience for you?
Opplo: Being part of the Accelerator program was a fantastic experience. The program gives developers a small taste of what it would be like to develop a game for a major company full time. As an accelerator I pitched our game idea to a room full of Roblox staff, and took part in daily meetings with our manager to report on deadlines and anything that was slowing down development. I had direct contact with Roblox staff, and participated in meetings to give feedback on new potential Roblox features such as the Studio Packages system. It was great to have an opportunity to shape the future of a platform I develop for and have used for so long.
Simoon68: The accelerator program was an extraordinary experience. Working at Roblox’s HQ was a great opportunity to provide Roblox with feedback and delve with fellow developers also taking part in the program. It was interesting to experience what working life was like in Silicon Valley — we had great facilities such as meeting rooms, electronic desk setups, tasty snack rooms and we even got the opportunity to pitch our game Backpacking to the developers, staff and CEO of Roblox which was awesome. We were both over 5,000 miles away from home so living in California was an exciting opportunity as we also did a lot of traveling to landmarks whilst we we there.
How does it feel to have toys based on your game SharkBite?
Simoon68: Surreal, the last thing I expected when I was modelling the Ducky Boat was that it would become a toy. As a kid I was a huge fan of action figures & toys, so knowing that players around the world can play with something you’ve created feels special, especially when you see users tweeting and youtubing their ducky boat & surfer toys! We are impressed by the quality of the Ducky Boat set, and are super thankful our game can be a part of the Roblox toy collection.
On top of that, how is it being featured in a Roblox book?
Opplo: It was great to have SharkBite featured as part of the Roblox Annual 2019. Reading about our own game in the book was fun and knowing that other Roblox players can read about the game among other exciting games is a fantastic feeling! It’s currently displayed on a shelf in my room among the other SharkBite toys!
Are you currently participating in any Roblox programs/opportunities?
Opplo: Currently both of our games, SharkBite and Backpacking, are featured in the 2019 Roblox Egg Hunt. Coming up with interesting yet challenging ideas to obtain the eggs was fun. In SharkBite players have to lure the shark to break the bunny boat in half whilst surviving to get the Shark Eggtack egg. Meanwhile in Backpacking, players have to explore the map and locate fuses which can be used to generate the Eggnado that players have to dive into to claim the Eggle Scout egg.
SharkBite is also participating in the Roblox Global Content Initiative program. As part of this program, we trial and give feedback on new features to help translate games into multiple different languages such as cloud stored translations. This is part of an ongoing effort to expand Roblox around the globe where English may not be people’s native language. Being part of this program means SharkBite is translated into many different languages, some of which are German, Korean and Chinese.
Your games have been featured in multiple Roblox events in the past. How was that experience?
Opplo: Both RoBowling and SharkBite have been featured in Roblox events. As part of events players win virtual items to wear on their avatars such as the Strike Crown. Our first event was the 2017 Roblox Sports event and another was the 2018 Atlantis event. Being a part of a Roblox event helped bring new players to the games and expand our audience. It’s also a great opportunity to communicate with Roblox staff. It’s always fun to see the community come together to take part in events. I still have fond memories of competing in Roblox events when I was younger to receive cool new items to put on my avatar!
Nature is a beautiful thing. What made you decide to go from SharkBite to Backpacking?
Opplo: As part of our accelerator program, we needed to pitch a new game idea to our manager. Viewing trends of what’s popular in and outside of Roblox helped us come to a decision on what type of new game we should make. The majority of Roblox players love to be social, talk together and roleplay. A camping game would facilitate a social experience as well as being a potential gap in the market as there’s currently no big camping games on Roblox. Just creating a camping game wasn’t enough; there needed to be unpredictable aspects to the gameplay, such as tornadoes and bears, as well as activities, vehicles and other immersive content. SharkBite is a small round based game, so taking on a monumental project such as Backpacking has been a challenge but also a fun new experience for us both. If we were to do it again, maybe we would have invested in a larger team!
How big is the map of Backpacking, and do you plan to make it any bigger?
Simoon68: The Backpacking map was actually imported using a height map from the Rocky mountains. The map is 6,500 by 6,500 studs wide and the tallest mountain elevates at 1,500 studs high. We believe this is pushing the boundaries for Roblox currently and ultimately the game is too big for mobile & tablet to handle. We hope that some of the updates on this years roadmap will optimise our game to provide everyone with a smoother experience. Expanding the map is not on our minds yet, as we’re still overcoming the challenge of actually finishing off the building for the map. This is possibly the biggest challenge I’ve faced on Roblox because it’s such a massive open world map.
Any cool things you’re looking forward to having in Backpacking by the time it exits Beta and officially releases?
Opplo: I hope to have added a housing system by the time Backpacking is fully released. This would allow players and their friends to go inside of tents and place down items such as tables and chairs. We also want an assortment of musical instruments to be in the game, allowing players to have fun making music and singing songs around the campfire! Before release there will be more activities, map content and animals! Maybe there should be a shark…
Simoon68: We’re currently working on making the campsite more interactive and adding in more events, Backpacking is an open world game so there’s many possibilities of what is to come yet. My current priority is creating lots of more camping items & equipment, tents, houses, vehicles and destinations such as restaurants and quests for people to explore and camp at.
It may not be a shark, but have you considered adding a mosasaurus to SharkBite?
Simoon68: This has been considered multiple times with great interest, although with the mosasaurus being so gigantic it may be hard for the mosasaurus to catch players in shallow/concave areas and it would be bias. Ironically we actually have something even bigger than a mosasaurus planned for the next update, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled!
You attended RDC 2018. How was that experience? Do you plan to attend RDC 2019?
Simoon: I’ve attended many Roblox events in the past since the maker faires, and I would say RDC is my favourite. RDC is a great opportunity to communicate with the staff and meet fellow developers from all over the globe. I’ve already purchased my tickets for RDC 2019 and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone there!
Opplo: I’m looking forward to attending RDC 2019, if it’s anything like RDC 2018 it’ll be great. My favourite part of RDC events is attending talks, meeting friends and new developers. As an older developer on the platform it’s always refreshing to meet new younger talent and see what other developers are working on. The game jam is an exciting way to see what other developers have created in a small amount of time. I remember being impressed by Blast Hook from the 2018 US game jam, as it was a new, innovative take on how a Roblox game could be played collaboratively by multiple people sitting together in the same room.
Do you have any advice for fellow developers?
Opplo: Start by creating a game you enjoy, making use of free content from the Roblox library, and inviting your friends or players you meet to play and give you feedback. The most important steps are learning how to use the tools Roblox provides, and then from there look for game trends or even create a portfolio of work for other developers to hire you! If you’re stuck half way through a project do something different for a week then come back to it. If you’re anything like me you love starting new projects but have to work hard to finish them.
Simoon68: It’s good to know that everyone starts somewhere and becoming a Roblox developer is a little like a roller coaster ride. Creating that front page game can be an unpredictable process as most front page developers began years ago as kids (like ourselves) and have released all sorts of games ranging from the bottom to the top. It’s important you keep dedicated & motivated to your projects, if you do then I believe that anyone can be a front page developer! You don’t have to be the most talented builder or scripter in the world, what matters is actually shipping the game, as a solo developer or even better as a team — making it happen is the key element and there’s lots of talent here on Roblox but not enough shipping games!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Opplo: Recently Simoon68 and I went to visit a Roblox education partner in London called Code Kingdoms. We helped give feedback on a project they were working on and participated in a very interesting podcast you can all hopefully listen to soon! Official Roblox education partners could be a good way for young developers to start learning if you’ve visited the Roblox Hub for help and still need further guidance to create games.
Thanks to Abracadabra for taking the time to answer all of our questions! You can keep up with Simoon68 and Opplo on their Discord server, their Roblox group and their Twitter accounts, Simonblox and Rblxopplo.