Roblox is taking its first steps to introduce voice chat by opening up a feature it’s calling “Spatial Voice” to select developers in an invitation-only beta, the company announced Thursday.
“With Spatial Voice, Roblox creators will begin to test developing experiences where conversations can happen in a realistic way, mirroring how we listen and respond to the world around us each day,” Roblox’s chief product officer Manuel Bronstein said in a blog post. Based on this limited description, it sounds like Spatial Voice will attempt to reflect the way voices carry in the real world and require you to be close proximity to another player to speak to them.
Adding voice chat raises concerns about moderation
Adding voice chat of any kind into Roblox immediately raises concerns about how the company will moderate conversations, especially given Roblox’s massive popularity with children. But Roblox plans to roll out the feature slowly, according to TechCrunch, giving access first to 5,000 developers and all of them will be 13 or older. And in an interview with TechCrunch, Bronstein suggested that the company may never give access to kids.
“I think we want to take it slowly and we want to learn as we go through it,” Bronstein said. “We may start, as I mentioned, with the developers. It is likely that right after that, we may go to an audience that is 13 plus and park there for a while until we understand exactly if all the pieces are falling into place before deciding if we ever open it to a younger audience.”
As for moderation, Roblox will let users self-report issues. “Our 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,” Bronstein said in his blog. That could be a helpful tool to root out bad people, but it puts the onus of reporting on the users.
Roblox is also planning a voice chat experience that will allow you to chat with your friends wherever they are in Roblox, TechCrunch reports. That experience sounds more like what you might be used to if you’re hanging out with your buddies on Discord, where you can be playing different games but still hang out in the same voice channel.
This broader voice chat will be apparently be bolstered by Roblox’s acquisition of the chat platform Guilded, which it acquired in August. “Though Roblox’s work on voice pre-dates the acquisition, Guilded will lay the groundwork for Roblox’s future voice plans,” according to TechCrunch.
The addition of voice chat could make Roblox an even more popular place to hang out and help it better compete with other metaverse-y games like Fortnite. But in taking this slow approach, Roblox seems to trying to get ahead of challenges voice chat could bring the to platform.